Theatre Royal, Haymarket, London SW1
New cast opened 15 June, 2004

It’s at once a little awe-inspiring and a little disconcerting to see Molly Ringwald – star of several 1980s teen movies by John Hughes – in the flesh, grown up, and faking an orgasm onstage.  Even though, when she hits the peak with “Yes! Yes!”, it’s as if she were cheering on the Mets or something.  That aside, the couple at the centre of the new cast of When Harry Met Sally are better than their predecessors.

Luke Perry and Alyson Hannigan, who opened the show in February, are both accomplished screen actors, but didn’t yet have the necessary stage skills.  Ringwald and Michael Landes have the experience as well as the ability: they can make it look as if they’re doing intimate film acting whilst projecting to the back of a 900-seat theatre.  This is a core requirement, since its design makes the show look like a film.

The set looks elegant and clever, as you’d expect from designer Ultz. The action is framed within a Cinemascope-shaped box, with screens sliding across to signify filmic cuts between scenes.  The trouble is that it effectively builds that mythical “fourth wall” on the stage, so that actors have to act like billy-o to reach the audience.  Doing all that, and looking plausible to boot, is some feat. But they do it.

Director Loveday Ingram does her best to work with the set design, and Marcy Kahan’s stage adaptation is nice and familiar for those who know the movie.  Ringwald still has that vulnerability she had as a teenager; she still has that crinkly, jaw-jutting grin that’s not beautiful but immensely appealing.  She steers Sally engagingly through the now-classic story of boy meets girl, boy gets girl twelve years later.

Michael Landes (Jimmy Olsen in the ’90s Superman TV series) is even better as Harry. He manages, unlike Luke Perry, to reconcile his acerbic dialogue with a stage presence that’s cuddly enough for us to care about his character.  Dexter Fletcher gives too much in the best-friend role: it doesn’t need a comic sidekick, it’s already a comedy.  Overall, though, the production does exactly what it says on the tin.

Written for Teletext.

Copyright © Ian Shuttleworth; all rights reserved.

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