My One and Only, Piccadilly Theatre, London

Blondes have more fun
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The Independent Culture

The luminous presence of Janie Dee is not the one and only reason for attending My One and Only, the artificially cobbled-together Gershwin musical just transferred from Chichester to the West End. But, let's put it this way, she alone is worth the price of a ticket. Playing a reluctant cross-Channel-swimmer-turned-star-bathing-belle, Dee sports an adorable blonde bob and a trim floaty white dress with an undulantly wandering hemline. The sight of her would make any red-blooded male want to grab her by the waist and lead her in the dance of his (if perhaps not her) dreams.

As for the sound of her, well, it puts you in mind of shimmering silver plates spinning in suspended animation – despite the fact that, in Loveday Ingram's peppy production, she is not miked sympathetically. Sitting lonely and lovelorn on a diving board above the detested, ripple-lit pool, our leading lady delivers a version of "Nice Work If You Can Get It" that is a miracle of witty, understated melancholy, the poise of the voice giving way, in the final verse, to a heartfelt growl of woe under the weight of suppressed passion.

Some have likened Dee's gifts to the scrubbed, clear-voiced charms of Julie Andrews. But the latter always brought a whiff of the nunnery and the nursery with her. Dee's wicked smile has more than a hint in it of Bette Midler, who brings with her a whiff of the bathhouse. It's a heady combination.

Dee and the likeable Tim Flavin, who plays the chump aviator from Hicksville for whom she falls, bring just the right degree of amused, sizzling sex to the preposterous plot (the knowing, almost post-modern book, stuffed with glancing in-jokey references to other musicals, is by Peter Stone and Timothy S Mayer). Stranded on an island, the pair perform a charmingly carnal copycat dance routine of desire to "S'wonderful, S'marvellous" that winds up with them kicking so much water over the excellent band that the musicians will have to watch out for rusty string syndrome. The orchestra's first act finale of "Strike Up the Band" is so electrifying you could run London's Christmas lights off it.

The show is dance-driven, with hit-and-miss (mostly hit) synchronised tap choreography from Craig Revel Horwood. The synchronisation is far from perfect, however, and the actor playing the dodgy cleric would be better advised to keep his tongue in his cheek rather than lick his lips at his own sheer funniness. Genuinely hilarious are Hilton McRae as the dastardly Prince Nikki and Jenny Galloway as the hero's butch, tough mechanic. S'wonderful, s'marvellous, s'patchy.

Booking to 11 Jan 2003 (020-7369 1734)

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