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High Society – Theatre Royal, Plymouth

Music &Lyrics: Cole Porter (additional lyrics bySusan Birkenhead)
Book: Arthur Copit
Director: Anna Linstrum
Choreographer: Andrew Wright
Reviewer: Kathryn M Bartlett

High Society is not an astounding, mind-blowing show, but it is good. Very good. Initially a slow-burner, with scenes of extended dialogue in the first half that, at times, nearly feel a little too long-winded; it redeems itself at each juncture in the nick of time, with a quick scene change or a peppering, witty banter or an upbeat number. The rest of the content is frenetic and fast-paced and with a bubbly, action-filled, hugely happy second half, the end result is that it is a very enjoyable show.

The storyline set in 1935 revolves around the imminent nuptials of Tracey Lord (Sophie Bould) and her new fiancée George Kittredge (Keiron Crook). Throw in Tracey’s family-favoured ex-husband who just won’t go away (and is still in love with Tracey), suave Dexter Haven (Michael Praed), two undercover reporters trying to dig up some dirt on the wealthy high society Lord family – Liz Imbrie (Alex Young) and Mike Connor (Daniel Boys); Tracey’s mother Margaret Lord (Marilyn Cutts) and her estranged husband Seth (Craig Pinder), along with wannabe-lothario Uncle Willie (Teddy Kempner), precocious cheeky younger sister Dinah (Katie Lee) and an 11-strong group of house-staff, with all their interesting well-developed characters, intertwined lust and love, and a cracking catchy musical score and fantastic all-action polished dance routines, you have an interesting fun show, with never-a-dull-moment, that will keep you on your toes.

Great musical numbers such as Let’s Misbehave and Who Wants To Be Millionaire are given extra verve and dimension from superb, crisp sound-production of excellent, lively orchestrations including plenty of jazzy wah-wah brass and toe-tapping intricate piano work; while first half closer – picturesque, starry, love-story-scene melody, True Love, is beautifully supported with sumptuous strings.

A simple set is effortlessly transformed between scenes by the cast’s unobtrusive smooth movement and repositioning of large louvred white-washed doors, that form many a versatile onstage period backdrop, and each scene is ideally lit with varying degrees of soft lighting and warm hues.

In a high-quality ensemble piece such as this in which every cast member delivers great, believable, in-character acting, and neat, energetic, exact dancing ability; along with perfect comic timing, while exuding warmth and charisma; it is difficult to single out any individual performances as better or more proficient than another.

However, special note must still be paid to Michael Praed’s captivating and charming, twinkling smooth-voiced portrayal of Dexter Haven. In addition, Daniel Boys’ attractive, endearing depiction of Mike Connor is surpassed only by the depth and strength in his engaging, warm vocals.

With many humorous scenes and witty comic pairings throughout that are almost farcical, mixed in with fantastic, fun, catchy songs and big impressive lively dance routines, numbers such as She’s Got That Thing and saucepan-tastic Well Did You Evah are a delightful winning sight and sound to behold.

A great show that will appeal to all ages.

Runs until 23rd February 2013.

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