Music: George Fenton and Simon Chamberlain
Lyrics: Don Black
Director: Terry Johnson
Reviewer: Laura Hesketh
Famous for never closing its doors, the Windmill Theatre comes to Bath in the world premiere of the brand new musicalMrs Henderson Presents. Directed and adapted by Terry Johnson and based on the film made famous by Judi Dench and Bob Hoskins, this patriotic production oozes sass, and with a stunning score and gutsy cast, the musical promises to be a triumph.
Set in the 1930s with the Second World War looming, the story focuses on the eccentric Laura Henderson, performed by West End heavyweight Tracie Bennett, and her desire to make something of the derelict cinema in London’s Great Windmill Street. Along with the aid of the feisty Vivian Van Damm, portrayed by the remarkable Ian Bartholomew, Mrs Henderson’s determination transforms the run-down theatre into a sparkling success. One never to be overshadowed and with business threatening to fail, Mrs Henderson literally has a light-bulb moment – much to the delight of the audience – and taking inspiration from the Moulin Rouge, makes the bold decision that the clothes must come off for the doors to stay open.
The production boasts a delightful score from musical legends Oscar-nominated George Fenton and Simon Chamberlain, and lyrics from Don Black, including impressively catchy tunes such as the title song, and heart-rending ballads.
Under the direction of the Olivier and Tony-awarding-winning Johnson, Bennett thrives in her rôle as Mrs Henderson, a widow who firmly refuses to grow old gracefully. Bennett embraces the challenge of playing an older woman and, although her Mrs H is a somewhat supporting rôle, her performance is an unforgettable combination of naughty one-liners, mischievous charm and melancholy reflections about youth and love.
The chemistry between Bennett and Bartholomew is infectious, their witty exchanges make for the best scenes and the two are a mesmerising duo.
However, it is the talented Emma Williams who steals the show, with her stellar voice and fearless performance as the tea-lady-come-showgirl, Maureen. Samuel Holmes’ flamboyant performance of Bertie is a fabulous comic relief and should also be applauded.
With a larger ensemble and perhaps a review of the somewhat tiresome compère, this unmissable production will inevitably shine in the West End. The much-needed retelling of an inspirational real-life story,Mrs Henderson Presentsbursts with glitz and glamour, and the musical embodies what it means to be British in the face of adversity: patriotism, bravery, and not forgetting beautiful bottoms and bosoms.
Runs until Saturday 5 September 2015| Photo: Nobby Clark