Sail Away, Lilian Baylis Theatre: Sadler's Wells, London
Monday 23 June 2008
When a handsome young man assures the older star of Noël Coward's 1961 show Sail Away that, "Songbirds still sing/ Later than spring", and later croons, "Don't turn away from love", one feels there's some wishful thinking in this musical about, ahem, cruising. The star, however, is the ship's social director, Mimi.
Mimi conducts a demure romance, two younger passengers have another, and various Americans exhibit their ignorance and obnoxious children. There is, however, no conflict and no real narrative, with none of the naive, pushy travellers doing anything outrageous.
With such a paucity of plot and disregard for character (a near-illiterate alludes to The Forsyte Saga in one line, a Victorian ballad in the next), the focus is on the songs, which, though not in Coward's first or even second tier, are full of professional charm. The title number is a light but heartfelt yearning for what's beyond the horizon; the line "When you feel your song is orchestrated wrong..." amuses not only for the deft metaphor but the thought that this was enough of a sore spot with Coward the composer to make Coward the lyricist discard his usual fastidiousness.
The best song, however, is "Why Do the Wrong People Travel?", an anguished catalogue of the sins of tourist hordes: "What explains this mass mania/ To leave Pennsylvania/ And clack around like flocks of geese/ Demanding dry martinis on the Isles of Greece?"
An even greater pleasure is, as usual, the splendid cast in this latest of Ian Marshall Fisher's "Lost Musicals". The one exception, sadly, is Penny Fuller, who has an appealing good-sport personality but seemed unfamiliar with the role of Mimi and, in a part that demands belting at speed, was halting and frequently inaudible.
Otherwise, though, the company includes such delights as the juicy camping of Stewart Permutt's author of bodice-rippers, dictating scenes of throbbing passion; the lovely, plaintive voice of Henry Luxemburg as Mimi's young man; and the self-parodying smoothness of James Vaughan as an unflappable purser. Seated at the piano is Chris Walker, his sympathetic and enthusiastic accompaniment keeping the musical's engine cheerfully purring.
To 13 July (0844 412 4300)
GlastonburyWI to make debut appearance at Somerset festival
TV reviewIt has taken seven episodes for Game of Thrones season five to hit its stride
FilmPalme d'Or goes to radical and astonishing film that turns conventional thinking about immigrants on its head
Potter's attempt to create an Essex Taj Mahal was a lovely treattv
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Saudi Arabia mosque bombing: Two volunteer security guards hailed as heroes for stopping Isis suicide bomber reaching worshippers
- 2 Maisie Williams has an excellent message for one confused fan
- 3 Puerto Rico, island of lost dreams: People are leaving the debt-hit territory in droves as near neighbour Cuba's star rises
- 4 Tampon tax scrapped in Canada after petition convinces conservative government
- 5 Kate Moss on the naked Calvin Klein shoot and the obsession that ended her relationship
Jay Z's Tidal could be about to lose Beyonce's music in ultimate humiliation
Britain's Got Talent 2015: Jamie Raven divides Twitter as fans expose mind-boggling magic trick
ASAP Rocky gives nauseating response to explicit Rita Ora rap: 'I'm not saying she's a terrible person'
Big Brother 2015 new housemates: Simon Gross returns as stripper Marc O'Neill, model Harry Amelia Martin and X Factor reject Sam Kay join
Burning Man festival revellers accidentally torch prehistoric artefacts in Israel
EU referendum: David Cameron's rules are a 'democratic disgrace', says French-born Scottish politician set to be denied a vote
British tourists complain that impoverished boat migrants are making holidays 'awkward' in Kos
A nation of inequality: How the UK is failing to feed its most vulnerable people
Australian man punched in the face for defending Muslim women from abuse on train
David Starkey 'tells Amal Clooney to shut up and stop over-promoting human rights'
EU referendum: David Cameron to deny EU migrants and under-18s the chance to vote