Two Strangers (Carry a Cake Across New York) review: Boy-meets-girl musical is a self-referential treat

A bumbling English boy and a spiky New York barista collide in the Big Apple in this unsentimental Christmas musical about trying not to get swallowed up by the city in your messy twenties

Alice Saville
Friday 17 November 2023 12:41 GMT
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<p>Dujonna Gift (Robin) and Sam Tutty (Dougal) in ‘Two Strangers (Carry a Cake Across New York)'</p>

Dujonna Gift (Robin) and Sam Tutty (Dougal) in ‘Two Strangers (Carry a Cake Across New York)'

If you’re after Christmas cheer without the sentimentality (or wince-inducing panto puns) you’ll be captivated by this seasonal gem of a musical. It’s the handiwork of newcomers Jim Barne and Kit Buchan, who’ve taken the trite theme of boy-meets-girl in New York and turned it into something self-referential, witty, and gorgeously, undeniably festive.

After landing an Olivier Award for playing a warped teenager in Dear Evan Hansen, Sam Tutty does a stellar job of showcasing his sweeter and (slightly) more grown-up side as bumbling English country boy Dougal. He’s in New York for his estranged Dad’s wedding, and has big dreams of a family reunion with all the trimmings: skyscrapers, hotdogs, and ice skating, just like in the movies. But when sister-of-the-bride Robin is sent to pick this hopelessly naive 25-year-old from the airport, she can’t resist bursting his bubble. Hamilton alumni Dujonna Gift is compellingly spiky as this disillusioned barista, gradually unfurling the pain behind her knife-sharp exterior.

In the hands of director and choreographer Tim Jackson, the jokes land like a blizzard of falling snow. Comedy number “Under the Mistletoe” is especially funny, with Tutty and Gift lurching into mock-suave crooning (him) and a grotesque girlish screech (her) as they send up the cringey misogyny of mid-century Christmas songs.

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