The New Yorkers, Lilian Baylis Theatre, London
Wednesday 01 April 2009
The songs are not so much integrated into Herbert Fields's lightweight book as flung at it, and many of the lines have been overtaken by advances in smut. But, since many wisecracks and all the digs at corruption defy age (the bootlegger gets in trouble only when he forgets to send champagne to the policemen's ball), Ian Marshall Fisher's production burbles merrily along.
The main attraction is the score by Cole Porter, who dips into the blues idiom for the casual-but-intense song of lovers meeting, "Where Have You Been?", with its foreshadowings of "Why Can't You Behave?" from Kiss Me, Kate. There are high-stepping numbers, such as "I'm Getting Myself Ready for You", a dieting song in which the girl nixes fatty foods to prepare for the moment she reveals all and the boy downs oysters for the same reason. Best of all is the coolly hypnotic "Love for Sale", offering a second-hand passion that's "only slightly soiled" in rhythms that anticipate the even greater "Night and Day" of two years later.
Anna Francolini is delightfully droll as the debutante, though her manner is more slummy than slumming. And Dawn Spence's nightclub singer limply displays her songs rather than selling them. But Craige Els is utterly charming as the suave bootlegger and Michael Roberts surprisingly successful at impersonating the original comic, Jimmy Durante, that sublime faun from Brooklyn. And Sandra Marvin provides a welcome ballast of earthiness with her contradict-me-if-you-dare rendition of "I Happen to Like New York" and her no-nonsense gold-digging. "Don't put us in a draft," she orders a maitre d' when out with her rich and ancient beau. "He's gotta last till I get him home."
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