It would be a mistake to attribute the warm reviews Sheridan Morley's assemblage garnered earlier this year at the King's Head to cronyism; critics were simply hungry for relief from hollow West End musical glitz. But that was then and this, as Morley smugged on the press night, is now "one of the few theatres open in the West End". Compilation musicals, though, are the Love Albums of theatre – simple and safe – and this tribute to a now-neglected songwriter of the '30s, '40s and '50s is no exception.
Its constituency is those who miss, or affect to miss, the English musical theatre of old which Vivian Ellis inhabited and is reproduced here with amiable low-camp. Even allowing for upheavals caused by the sudden departure of Ron Moody, performances manifest the fallacious belief that self-consciousness will redeem thin material. Only the jovial cheek of Thelma Ruby hits the right note of disposable gaiety; Rachel Robertson isn't yet blooded enough to achieve all that's demanded of her as the pretty and talented face of the production. I can imagine youngsters today taking gleeful revenge on their parents by claiming (with a little justification) of the undemanding pleasantness of Ellis's tunes that there's nothing to them and they all sound alike.
Written for City Limits magazine.
Copyright © Ian Shuttleworth; all rights reserved.
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