Music: Noel Gay
Book: Abi Grant and Alex Armitage
Director: Caroline Leslie
Reviewer: James Garrington
Radio Times tells the story of a group of wartime radio entertainers, about to broadcast to America for the first time. As the time for the broadcast – which is live, there were no pre-recorded programmes in those days – approaches, the cast start to dwindle and there is no sign of Sammy, the star (Gary Wilmot). When he arrives with Hollywood movie star Gary (Michael Hobbs), Sammy’s girlfriend Olive (Sara Crowe) knows him from the past and so the scene is set for an evening of comedy, nostalgia and a little pathos.
Gary Wilmot leads the hugely talented cast with self-assured comic timing and he has the audience eating out of his hand within moments of his first entrance. This sort of material really suits his style, and he moves so effortlessly from joke to joke throughout the evening that it makes the odd serious and emotional moments seem all the more poignant. He is more than capably supported by the rest of the cast. Although Sara Crowe is slightly overshadowed as his girlfriend Olive, she comes into her own with some emotional moments – a good reflection of her character, who is herself overshadowed, and the serious half of the relationship. There are very strong performances from Vivien Carter, who shows us a fine voice as an excellent Amy Chapman, and John Conroy as the uptight producer-turned-song-and-dance-man Heathcliffe Bultitude. Michael Hobbs (Gary Strong) is also excellent as the third part of the love triangle with Sammy and Olive.
The set designed by Tom Rogers is simple but works well to reflect the period, and allows the scene to move from on stage to back-stage, from dressing room to outside, all by use of simple additions and some good lighting (designed by Philip Gladwell)
The cast demonstrate some wonderful musicianship throughout the performance, all of them playing at least one instrument at some point or other (and sometimes swapping players mid-song) and producing some beautiful close harmony singing. There are some lovely musical arrangements by Paul Herbert (who himself appears as part of the on-stage band), reminding us that Noel Gay is worth remembering for more than Me and My Girl, the show for which he is probably best known these days. Gay’s glorious music is here accompanied by a hugely funny script by Abi Grant, which has the audience laughing out loud almost non-stop. It is full of quick-fire gags and one-liners, corny and cheesy maybe, but absolutely typical of the period in which the play is set. There is nothing deep and meaningful, just a light-hearted show about a group of people putting on a light-hearted show, which, on a wet evening in Derby, had the entire audience leaving the theatre with smiles.
Runs until 6th October 2012
Picture: Robert Day