Writer: Ken Ludwig
Director: Matt Devitt
Reviewer: Michael Gray
Cut to the Chase are on cracking form in this riotously funny revival of Ken Ludwig’s backstage farce.
But as the stunning set by Mark Walters and the Queen’s workshop reveals, we’re not in the wings, or the green room, but a shamelessly tasteless suite – blue and pink, dripping with gilt moulding – of a hotel in 1930s Cleveland, Ohio.
There’s not much of a view from the big window, but lots of identical, stoutly built doors for the manic comings and goings which give the show its energy and its panache. The suite is reserved for Il Stupendo, Italian opera star Tito Merelli, slated to give his Otello at the opera house next door.
But he is late, tired, briefly dead and then locked out and on the loose. The intrigue involves jealousy, unrequited love and mistaken identity, as doormat factotum Max blacks up for an unexpected début on the lyric stage. Fortunately, or un-, Tito always travels with two costumes in his baggage …
Think Comedy of Errors with Moors for Dromios, Noises Off with two tenors for three burglars.
Joining a fantastic company of Cut to the Chase regulars is Fred Broom, who makes a wickedly comic Tito, relishing every moment as lover, luvvie and hen-pecked husband. Signora Merelli is played by Sarah Mahony, perfectly pitching the accent and the outrage.
Seasoned farceur Sean Needham is the harassed General Manager Henry Saunders – some marvellous physical moments, and he “loses it” with some style when his gala seems doomed; there follows a beautifully played duologue in which he persuades young Max to step in …
Max – frustrated opera singer and fan of Merelli – is Greg Last, following his impressive lounge singer with an equally brilliant opera star, saving the day for Saunders, stealing the show and getting his girl with a final phrase – Vien Venere Splende – from Otello’s big love duet. The singing is superb too – the showpiece Verdi duet is wonderfully done by Broom and Last, and even the bellhop – a cheeky camp cameo from Steve Simmonds – gives us a snatch of his Barber.
Georgina Field – elegant in her thirties gown, as are all the ladies – is the birdlike grande dame Chair of the Guild, who can’t wait to meet Tito, an infatuation shared with Sarah Scowen’s Maggie and Christine Holman’s seductive soprano Diana. Satisfaction all round, we hope, as the action climaxes with ingenuous double entendre, Max pops his cork and there’s a beautifully choreographed double coupling.
Typical of Matt Devitt’s impeccably paced production, crammed with delicious moments: the bath bubbles, the photos, and the chase music rustled up by room service…
Runs until October 25 | Photo Mark Sepple