Composer &Lyricist: Jerry Herman
Writers: Michael Stewart &Mark Bramble
Director: Thom Sutherland
Reviewer: Tom Finch
Jerry Herman’s largely forgotten 1979 musical is getting its European première at the charming Finborough Theatre this January. Following the journey made by a Jewish refugee and an anti-Semitic colonel who join forces to escape the impending Nazi occupation of France this is a simple yet deceptively dark tale of friendship, love and optimism.
Alistair Bropkshaw plays Jacobowsky, a Jewish man who has been on the run his entire life. Knowing he must escape Paris before the Nazis arrive he buys a car and convinces a Colonel Stjerbinsky (Nic Kyle) to join him. Immediately the colonel’s deep rooted prejudices kick in and it seems that a dark ‘odd couple’ dynamic is about to come into play. Throw in the colonel’s beautiful girfriend Marianne (played sublimely by Zpe Doano) and it seems that it will only be so long until the the sparks really fly.
It’s unfortunate that they don’t.
True enough, the colonel’s view of his Jewish travelling buddy do slowly change but so much of the piece is taken up with the two of them just not getting along. The point is laboured well beyond what it needs to be. Michael Stewart’s and Mark Bramble’s book does hold the piece back but the actors do their best with what they’re given.
Jerry Herman’s score is largely forgettable although a couple of songs do stand out with One Extraordinary Thing being great fun even if the whole section feels a little overblown compared to the rest of the show.
Director Thom Sutherland has clearly worked hard to scale the show down to the confines of the Finborough but at times it does still feel squashed and a little compromised. Phil Lindley’s set while inventive actually feels counter productive here. The pop up and fold out 2D pieces of scenery are far less effective than the imagination of the audience and instead just clutters up an already cramped stage.
The show is well performed by a strong cast but they cannot hide the fact it is inherently flawed and most likely has faded into obscurity for a reason.
Runs until 21st Feb | PhotoAnnabel Vere