Pros: A magnificent orchestra and superb cast set the musical genre in a refreshing new context.
Cons: Are you kidding? There weren’t any!
I’ve never been especially keen on personal milestones, but will make an exception as tonight’s show marked my one hundredth review for Everything Theatre. So, I wondered what those gorgeous folks at E.T. would give me on such an historic occasion. They didn’t let me down, as I savoured an excellent concert version of Honeymoon in Vegas.
Conventions were thrown aside with no set changes, costumes or choreography; dialogue was stripped down to the bare essentials, while 30 musicians broke out of the orchestra pit to fill the stage area. The cast were restricted to a strip in front as they delivered each turn with real aplomb. The London Musical Theatre Orchestra conducted by Jason Robert Brown were quite simply on majestic form. A full orchestra is an increasingly rare sight in theatre. Tight budgets and restricted space often force it to be reduced in size or, worse still, replaced by a backing track or virtual orchestra. But it was a joy to hear a powerful ensemble, including strings, woodwind and horn sections, giving full effect to an expansive score.
The musical is based on the 1992 film starring Nicolas Cage and Sarah Jessica Parker, most memorable for parachuting Elvis Presley impersonators. You need to use your imagination when it gets to that part of the story, but otherwise it’s a faithful reading. Bea Singer makes her son Jack promise never to get married and a mental block sets in as he avoids commitment with girlfriend Betsy. They finally decide to marry in Las Vegas, but a wealthy gambler Tommy Korman arranges for Jack to lose $58,000 in a poker game. He then offers to clear Jack’s debt for a weekend with his fiancée. Suddenly, pangs of jealously strike Jack as he pursues Betsy and Tommy to Hawaii, still tormented by the memory of his dead mother. The story fits snugly into a musical format and I find it baffling that the show hadn’t been staged here previously.
Another first: a musical with a male lead called Arthur Darvill! He really belongs on the pre-war bill posters that adorn the Palladium interior. OK, that’s my playful dig done; Arthur has a fine name and was excellent as the nervous, likeable Jack, getting the show off to a flying start with ‘I love Betsy!’ Samantha Barks, an Andrew Lloyd Webber discovery, was perfect as Betsy and sang beautifully throughout. Maxwell Caulfield, of The Colbys and Emmerdale fame, was also well cast as Tommy Korman and pulled off a convincing Brooklyn gangster drawl.
Music and Lyrics: Jason Robert Brown
Book: Andrew Bergman
Director: Shaun Kerrison
Musical Director: Freddie Tapner
Producer: United Theatrical
Booking Information: This show has now completed its run.