Theatre: Definitely Doris King's Head, London

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The Independent Culture
The audience for Definitely Doris: The Music of Doris Day is almost as interesting as the musical revue itself. No, scratch that. The audience for Definitely Doris: The Music of Doris Day is infinitely more interesting than the musical revue itself.

Take the two ladies to the right of the deadwood stage on press night. Nice hair, nasty blouses and wraparound fluoride smiles that somehow failed to interfere with singing along with every lyric rendered by a five-strong - three boys, two girls - cast. Unlike the performers, they're not faking bouncy, cheery, cheesy or any of the other seven dwarf emotions a certain branch of showbiz clings to. They're blazingly authentic; their ecstasy in old pop forms, and an old pop idol, makes them live again.Their pleasure fills up an outmoded model and explodes it.

Nothing as transforming happens in Larry Pellegrini's lacklustre production, a collection of 33 tunes cut with banal biographical data ("And then I made Romance on the High Seas"), fan-speak ("Miss Day, I was once your stand-in's stand-in!") and the wisdom of Doris: "Our destinies are pre- destined." Hopefully, that last utterance will comfort the star in the face of a tribute barely distinguishable from a betrayal. There is actually more to Day than the show's ruthlessly antiseptic portrayal allows, and it barely allows even that.

Apart from quoting the inevitable Oscar Levant crack - "I'm so old I knew Doris Day before she was a virgin" - even the mistaken image goes unexplored. Day didn't actually play virgins as such: she impersonated professional women who didn't suffer wolves gladly and whose blonde prettiness couldn't quite disguise their strength. A strength the actress enjoyed in real life, coping with a first husband whose wife-beating formed the basis of the most electric scene in Scorsese's New York, New York and a strength that powers later movie turns - the bruised but unbowed Ruth Etting in Love Me or Leave Me and the threatened wife in Midnight Lace, to which Day contributes possibly one of the most convincing, and underrated, displays of hysteria ever committed to celluloid.

One offers this information because Definitely Doris definitely doesn't. Pleasantly enough sung, adequately enough staged,it fails even on the musical front, given that many of the songs - "Ten Cents a Dance", "When I Fall in Love", "Tea for Two" - were standards long before Day got to them, and her treatments, though professional, lacked style and signature. You could go as far as to say that the music of Doris Day is the most uninteresting thing about her - a fact this show drives home with, gee whiz, of all things, exuberance.

To 26 May, 8pm. Booking: 0171-226 1916

JOHN LYTTLE

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