Alick and Suzanne Glass’ new musical throws us into the glamorous world of the 1930s; a world where Hollywood is King and major studios are throwing money at new phenomenon: ‘talking pictures’.
In a time where women are expected to be prim and proper domestic creatures, those who are career-focussed are frowned upon. Nevertheless, our heroine Michelle Grant (Maddy Banks) defies the odds and strives to write a novel to be considered for the screen. It isn’t until she submits her work to a phoney advert published by crook, Freddy Larceny (Jeremy Secomb), that she hits into some trouble and finds herself in a plagiarism case to fight for her own ideas.
Maddy Banks plays Michelle with a touch of whimsy, but with a burning inner-strength; her voice is sweet and well controlled, but it begs for more challenging and interesting material.
Areas where Glass’ material is perhaps most strong is in the ensemble pieces where Michelle’s friends sing in harmony – the opening number in the second act ‘Laydeez’ is an example where their vocals are used well, and Tamsyn Salter’s choreography shines. It’s in these ensemble scenes that we see individual personalities of the women evolve, which is the best part of a modern musical set in the past; history can we rewritten to include some female narrative!
Freddy Larcery is a crook you love to loathe, and Secomb brings across his confident, smarmy character well with his slick stage presence. His numbers are fun and well accompanied by three showgirls who patter around him in shady sunglasses.
Michelle’s case is taken on by lawyer heart-throb, Archie Bright – played with charming awkwardness by Ed Wade, who truly shows off his vocal ability in ‘I Knew’ in the second act.
Overall, the narrative is clean and well paced. However, some of the script could do with some polishing to avoid clunky exposition, and there are perhaps far too many reprises of Michelle’s song ‘I Nearly Had It All’. Nevertheless, ensemble song ‘Manhattan New York’ is a catchy number that leaves you humming on your way to the tube station.