If, like me, you’re a big fan of musicals, it’s likely that you will have a hit list of shows; revered masterpieces that you hope will be revived so you’ll get to experience them at least once, writes Nicky Sweetland.
Recently I’ve managed to tick off a couple (with wonderful productions of Side Show and The Wild Party) but with the return of the Julian Slade and Dorothy Reynolds’ Salad Days at the Union Theatre, there’s a real classic in town.
The 1950s musical is well-known for its glorious and uplifting score, with songs like “It’s Hush Hush” and “We’re Looking for a Piano” immediately putting a smile on your face.
But if you look closely beneath the froth and frivolity you’ll find a huge amount of social comment. Written in the post war era, there are observations of the classist system and the pressures of entitlement as well as an insight into a time before the decriminalisation of homosexuality and all cleverly disguised as a kitsch and gentle piece of musical madness.
And it is completely bonkers. We find Timothy and Jane at the end of their university education wondering what the future holds, with overbearing parents breathing down their plummy necks. Timothy must find a job and Jane a husband, but after happening upon a magic piano, their fortunes take a different tack and a fairytale adventure ensues.
Director Bryan Hodgson extracts every inch of comedy from the script and, along with some vibrant choreography from Joanne McShane, there’s an addition of some jaunty innuendo to help alleviate the dated feeling of the action.
It’s magnificently over done, with Lowri Hamer steadying the ship as the enchanting Jane and keeping up the sunshiny pace throughout. Laurie Denman is charming as Timothy, although his somewhat cloudy diction does mean the dialogue is lost at times.
The musical highlight is provided by Maeve Byrne in an energetic Cleopatra Club scene and even with the ‘weird factor’ ramped up in act two (with the appearance of some aliens), the story is filled with touching subtext and intricate characters if you are observant enough.
Photos by Scott Rylander