High Society, The Old Vic, London. June 2015.
As a rule Rebecca and I don't see many musicals but this one proved too tempting - a venue we like, at least one actor that we admire and an impressive artistic director - it all added up to a must see. Added to that very reasonable ticket prices and no planned engineering works/strikes on the trains meant we skipped off to London midweek quite happily.
I certainly wasn't sure what we were going to see - I'd neither seen the film version of High Society nor The Philadelphia Story but that didn't matter as the story telling on stage was very clear from the beginning. We were in a wealthy American household, somewhere on the East Coast, to celebrate the second marriage of a wealthy woman. That the groom to be wasn't suitable or liked was obvious. Thrown into the mix was the ex-husband (much loved by the rest of the family) and a threatened scandal involving a journalist and photographer...
That the plot was so clear was a real plus point as often I found the sound balance to be out meaning that the dialogue was unclear, occasionally inaudible, especially during some of the musical numbers.
The staging also baffled me. Currently the Old Vic is configured into the round and so the stage space itself felt very cramped, and in some seats the audience had no where to put their feet save on the acting space. This stage design did allow for multiple entrance and exit points which were well used and it was well used in an acting sense - no part of the auditorium felt like it was neglected/unplayed - but for me I thought the production needed the pomp and status that a proscenium arch theatre can give. As for the number of props needed for each scene and carried on by the ensemble, well I think that they may have had more stage time than the main cast.
Oh dear, this is all sounding terribly negative and while it wasn't the best afternoon at the theatre I've had it was still entertaining and a feast for the eyes. I think I'd compare it to a Chinese takeaway - at the time you are satisfied but very quickly you realise that you are hungry again!
The highlights for me were certainly the male leads - Dexter, Mike and Uncle Willie plus the little sister Dinah. They had great roles to perform and fabulous voices to do them justice. There were some funny lines and witty staging but overall no more than pleasant fluff. It all felt a little overblown in the wrong way and it really pains me to have to say so,