Sunday, November 18, 2012

Radio Times Review

Radio Times
Tour - Salisbury Playhouse, Salisbury

This was a production I was looking forward to this Autumn. With so many jukebox musicals out there, it is nice to hear some old wartime songs for a change in this Noel Gay musical, Radio Times.

The story basically follows a London wartime radio show, Variety Bandwagon, as the cast prepares a special broadcast to America. The new producer, Heathcliffe Bultitude (John Conroy), views the lax character of the show's star, Sammy Shaw (Gary Wilmot), with disdain. It does not even help that Sammy has forgotten to send in the script and security clearance to the Home Office, which could threaten to cancel the show. Despite script cuts and and the loss of the ventriloquist act, the show must go on. Sammy meanwhile must deal with Olive Carter (Vivien Carter), whom he loves, and her relationship with an old friend, Gary Strong (Michael Hobbs).

Gary Wilmot was a charming Sammy Shaw, who cheekily produces puns where ever he goes. One cannot help but enjoy the flood of jokes that come out of his mouth, some of which are older than the pyramids. John Conroy played the shows scrupulous producer, Heathcliffe Bultitude, with a calmness that rivaled Sammy's bravado well. He also does the impersonations quite well, including a moment when he told his son over the telephone the three little pigs story, which was met with a round of applause.

The cast pulls out all the stops when performing a number of familiar wartime songs, including “Run Rabbit Run”, “Hey Little Hen”, and “There’s something about a solider”. The band however was also onstage and when it was in full swing it did become difficult to hear the cast sing. Plaudits though must go to Christian Edwards as the sound technician, Jeeps, who provided the farm yard sound effects for the broadcast, even when they were not needed to the annoyance of Sammy.

Yet, the problem with this musical is that although it emphasised the "Keep calm and carry on" attitude of the cast, which kept it lively, a number of the characters and their stories felt a bit underwritten. Sara Crowe  as Sammy's lover, Olive Carter, was absent when I saw this production but her understudy, Vivien Carter, performed well in the role. However, her character's relationship with Hollywood star Gary Strong, played by Michael Hobbs, was not given enough time to develop. As a consequence both characters felt a bit bland, despite Gary Strong's gravitas as the guest star of the show. 

Elsewhere, once Heathcliffe Bultitude took over the impersonations, the rivalry between him and Sammy did not go anywhere, which was a shame because it was one of the highlights of the musical. Jeeps also had a sub-plot in which he secretly loved cast member, Amy Chapman, played by Vivien Carter's understudy, Sarah Scowen. He only gets one song at the beginning, and his dilemma is forgotten completely until the storyline re-emerges near the end.

Despite this it is quite enjoyable to watch this cast with a “Keep calm and carry on” attitude strive to put on the show with aplomb. Go and see it at a High Bargain.

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