There are many more layers both to this play and to this production that deserve further comment, but which lie beyond the reach of a relatively brief review. Suffice to say that this production makes a very well thought-through case for revisiting Eliot’s plays as a whole, and serves to remind us that there is a lot more important drama to his name than the one work we all know – namely Cats – which of course he never intended for the stage.
The cast, like a fine soufflé, is full of first rate choices and rises to the occasion in exactly the right way. The singing here is glorious. The Gershwins make a lot of demands upon singers and Williams ensures that every note is hit truly and that the froth and bubble in the music is given full release. The dance routines in Nice Work If You Can Get It, Stiff Upper Lip, I Can’t Be Bothered Now, French Pastry Walk and Fidgety Feet are effortlessly engaging, thrilling to watch. As you emerge from the auditorium, it is impossible not be cheery.
Sam Mendes’ production of the musical adaptation of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory is in excellent shape. Nothing indicates that more clearly than the show not missing a beat despite the fact that three understudies were called upon to perform. The company didn’t hiccup. Routines are polished and well-drilled; Mark Thompson’s wonderfully colourful, and sometimes colourless, costumes and sets are in pristine shape and conjure up the requisite sense of magic effortlessly. The tunefulness and sprightly fun of Marc Shaiman’s music remains infectious and sweet.