Easy on the ear and eye, the musical Promises, Promises more than lives up to its name. Those of a certain age, nostalgic for Burt Bacharach, will adore it. His schmaltzy score and Hal David's corny lyrics, based on Neil Simon's The Apartment, and immortalised in Billy Wilder's 1960 film, move along as smoothly as the elevator in Angus Jackson's stylish production.
C C (Chuck) Baxter has, he tells us, "aspirations and ambitions". So do his two-timing bosses, who use his apartment to bed their bits on the side. The grey-suited corporates of Consolidated Life make promises that turn to pleas when they realise they're not insured against shy Baxter falling in love himself and reclaiming his space.
The hard-working Richard Frame is touching as the hapless, smitten Baxter. Emma Williams is appealing as his love interest Fran Kubelik, who has been seduced in turn by the dubious attractions of Sheldrake (Martin Turner). The excellent little band beautifully perform Bacharach's tunes, especially "I'll Never Fall in Love Again". The versatile chorus belt out the big numbers with gusto, giving the Christmas party scene a special ghastliness. The show just gets better with Sarah Ingram providing witty schtick as tipsy Marge.
Adam Cooper's clever choreography and tableaux infuse the show with a real zest and the opening number gives a whole new meaning to the term hot-desking. The dialogue is fun, but never as sharp as the iconic designs by Robert Innes Hopkins. His costumes capture the flair of the Sixties, from gauze headscarves over beehive hair-dos, rain macs and pencil skirts, down to stiletto-heeled shoes, while the office, bars, Chinese restaurant and apartment are deftly sketched with an economy that's on the lean side.
Not quite a cracker, Promises, Promises is far from being the "Turkey Lurkey" of one of its numbers. Reflective numbers such as Williams's sweet "Whoever You Are" tug at the heartstrings, and the scent of disillusion is just about seen off by the musical's happy ending.
The most striking, almost shocking, aspect is not so much the tackiness of the men's behaviour as the fact that all the bosses are male, all the minions women. I wonder whether anyone has thought of a gender-bending production with the roles reversed. If so, my apartment is free...
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