This is a proper musical, not a collection of hit songs united by a flimsy plot. The plot is excellent, the tunes by Stuart Brayson are great and Tim Rice’s lyrics are classic: why have I never come across a song called “Love Me Forever Today” before? The acting and singing is also excellent as, of course, is Javier de Frutos’s choreography. The only name I knew in the cast was Darius Campbell but it took about half an hour to recognise him with his perfect American accent, talking and singing more like Burt Lancaster than Burt Lancaster ever was. Private Robert E. Lee Prewitt was so well played by Robert Lonsdale that I am amazed I had never heard at him. It is not based on the film but on the uncensored version of the novel, not published until 2011, including plenty of swearing and a scene in a gay bar, that add a gritty realism that reads true. It finishes in March so there are a some bargains around – try the TKTS booth in Leicester Square or the Showsavers website. It’s tragic that such a first-class musical is ending when mechanically constructed monstrosities such as We Will Rock You go on and on and on.
Last night was apparently the UK premiere of this musical, although according to What’s on Stage it first appeared on Broadway as Here’s Love in 1963. It showed that it was the first night of the tour, starting 30 minutes late with technical hitches throughout. I am sure they’ll be sorted before it reaches the larger theatres later in the tour. Despite the setbacks, the cast and and danced with skill and enthusiasm. The audience was restless after the long wait and the editing down from the original left it a bit stop-start so it never really got the atmosphere going properly. That said, it’s good to see a nice, old-fashioned musical that made me smile and brought a tear to the eye in all the right places.