REVUE / Spread a Little Happiness - Whitehall, London SW1

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The Independent Culture
Vivian Ellis is the last survivor of a forgotten piece of history, the early years of the British musical. The main achievement of Sheridan Morley's tribute, a compilation of about 30 of Ellis's songs, is to remind you just why those years are forgotten, and why Broadway dominated the musical for so much of this century.

The production lets the songs speak for themselves, with a minimal set and desultory choreography. Some survive - the title song and 'I'm on a See-Saw' are two - but Ellis's melodies are mostly too fluffy and undistinguished to stand the exposure. His gifts as a lyricist are limited, his rhyme-schemes even more so, though in 'Me and My Dog' - a streetwalker's lament about being a poor girl with a dog, lost in the fog, listen to my plaintive monologue - this adds to the pathos.

Ron Moody's late withdrawal from the show has cleared the way for Thelma Ruby to dominate the young cast, with superbly hammy versions of 'Other People's Babies' and the bluesy Sophie Tucker number 'If Your Kisses Can't Hold the Man You Love'. But it has also left the show without any real centre of gravity. The cast is likeable, and Maurice Clarke, particularly, throws himself into some sweet romantic numbers with admirable seriousness. That is not, unfortunately, enough to sustain the evening.

Bookings: 071-867 1119.

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