I know the smoothie Sixties composer Burt Bacharach has been enjoying a comeback in the last decade, and, after sharing a stage with Noel Gallagher and playing cameos in all three Austin Powers movies, he has become "a post-ironic sex symbol". Now, in the Crucible's first Christmas show under Sam West's artistic directorship, we have this rare revival of Promises, Promises: Bacharach's Broadway musical based on the hit 1961 screenplay, The Apartment.
Neil Simon's dialogue is enjoyably droll and the storyline is neat enough. Chuck Baxter is one of life's little guys, working away unnoticed on the 72nd floor of some mega Manhattan corporation. "It makes a person feel so awful puny," he says.
He dreams of wowing pretty Fran Kubelik from the canteen and of getting a top job, but it's all a fantasy till, after hours, one of the bosses casually asks to borrow Chuck's handy apartment because his curvaceous secretary needs to "lie down". Word spreads rapidly about what an obliging employee Chuck is, and soon he can hardly get one quiet night at home for all the sleazy execs using his place as a knocking shop. He is recompensed with promotion, but he's shocked when he realises Fran has been round there and is smitten with Mr Sheldrake, the slick cad from personnel. She falls for Chuck in the end, of course.
Directed by Angus Jackson (of Elmina's Kitchen renown), with choreography by Adam Cooper (original star of Matthew Bourne's all-male Swan Lake), this production certainly has plenty of promise. The firm's offices look grand, with gleaming black marble floors and chic PAs milling around in stilettos, pearls and pencil skirts. Richard Frame's Chuck (pictured), stepping out of the action to chat to the audience, is sweetly nerdy, rather like Lee Evans but without so much physical clowning. He has one highly entertaining drunken scene in a jazz bar, lurching and spinning with Sarah Ingram's splendid old slapper, Marge, both of them gradually drooping and jiving with their foreheads together. Emma Williams' Fran also sings "I'll never fall in love again" with outstanding vibrant tenderness. But much of Cooper's choreography fails to fizz, straining to animate Hal David's vacuous lyrics with businessmen doing half-hearted line-dancing. And Bacharach's score mostly sounds like lift muzak. Is the big silver elevator, centre stage, meant to be post-ironic?
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