You wait for ever for a seductively old-fashioned and tuneful period musical about a shop assistant falling in love, staged handsomely on four turntables and you get two in a row. What are the chances?
Essence It’s based on a play by Hungarian playwright Miklós László that inspired the films The Shop Around the Corner, In the Good Old Summertime and You’ve Got Mail. Tinder is yet to be invented and Amalia (Scarlett Strallen) and Georg (Mark Umbers), correspond gushingly in old-style ink (hurrah!) despite never having met, until that is, Amalia wheedles her way into a job at Maraczek’s Parfumerie in Budapest where Georg happens to work.
Obsession Neither knows that the other is the recipient of their unrestrained correspondence and of course they don’t exactly see eye to eye. But they’ve arranged a date and even though Mr Maraczek asks them both to stay late to decorate the shop for Christmas nothing will prevent them trying to keep their appointment.
Allure Will they solve their differences and eventually fall in love? It’s a musical for heaven’s sake! You decide.
Boss Maraczek is played by Les Dennis who pegged out in Coronation Street only last week leaving the soap’s Liz Taylor-elect, Gail Potter-Tilsley-Platt-Hillman-McIntyre-Rodwell a widow again.
Eternity Matthew White’s production is a charmer from start to finish, even if, and this was a preview, a little trimming of the rather long Act 1 wouldn’t go amiss.
Cumming There’s a few slightly suggestive gags: a christmas tree decoration suggests an erection, another hints at genitalia and a lady dancer’s legs are closed rather unceremoniously. All seemed just a tad out of place amongst the innocent fun.
See K 2 Does Katherine Kingsley ever put a foot wrong? Her blowsy but heart-of-gold shop assistant Ilona Ritter, is one of the show’s highlights. See her deliver the hilarious number “A Trip to the Library” in Act 2, and in Act 1 has a lovely duet with Strallen which left Phil torn between listening to it and admiring some dilligently convincing perfume box packing.
Poison Without giving too much away Dominic Tighe is the nearest we get to the villain of the piece as the philandering Steven Kodaly. He gives good philanderer. Tighe is Mr Katherine Kingsley in real life, apparently they met filming an advertisement for a shampoo. How apt.
J’adore Paul Farnsworth’s sets and costumes are sumptuously pretty. Strallen is on top form throughout, with a splendid rendition of the Barbara Cook (who originated the role) standard “Ice Cream”. Umbers is a complete charmer and gets the catchy title song which raised a big debate in Andrew’s head as to which version he was remembering: he thought it was Perry Como but turns out it was probably Jack Jones.
Potpourri But then Phil liked everyone. Special mentions too for the immensely likeable Alastair Brookshaw, as Ladislav, Callum Howells‘ perkily skittish Arpad and Dennis’ grumpy-to-avuncular Maraczek.
Euphoria We later found out that a glitch, towards the end of the show, had left the 4 revolves spinning longer than intended. We thought it was deliberate and worked rather well. If only we’d spotted it at the time we’d have been in technical hitch heaven.
No 5 Last seen in the West End in 1995 it received not only Phil’s massive approval but 5 Olivier Awards.
Scent We smell a hit. Expect this one to transfer too.
Joy Time to dust off the Strallometer.