Mrs Henderson Presents
at the Noel Coward Theatre
Review by Richard Lambert 17/2/16
Book and Directed by Terry Johnson
Lyrics by Don Black
Music by George Fenton
Music by Simon Chamberlain
Choreographer Andrew Wright
Set Designer Tim Shortall
Costume Designer Paul Wills
Lighting Designer Ben Ormerod
Sound Designer Gareth OwenWig, hair and make up Richard Mawbey
Orchestrator Larry Blank
Musical Director Barney Ashworth
Associate Director Sophie Larsmon
Casting Director Stephen Crockett forr David Grindrod Associates
Review by Richard Lambert
17/2/16 2 out of 5 Stars
Looking around the auditorium of the magnificent Noel Coward theatre and it feels absolutely right for the period of this show. I sat in my seat expecting great things!
The rather ornate proscenium arch with gold cherubs and angels, lit by 4 x Par 16 Birdies, should have been beautiful – unfortunately they needed a focus as only 2 hit any architectural mark.
Clocking a strange mix of lighting fixtures – fresnels, par cans, scrollers, moving lights, source fours.
It was like looking through a history book or museum of lighting fixtures.
Unusually there was no front light except for 4 x 10deg S4s and a single 5deg S4 which were later a nice way to light 5 x flown picture frames in an art gallery/museum visit.
A row of Birdies for footlights, hidden behind scallop shells was a nice nod towards the period of the lighting. It was the only nod, apart from what the theatre’s architecture co-incidentally brought to the production.
This lack of front light was soon seen as a problem when the show started.
The problem here being the breach of the 1st rule of lighting – “Illumination”
You do need to see the talent, especially when they’re yoodling or hoofing.
Perhaps the Director and Designer had issued instructions that there was to be “no front light” because of the nudity in the show? Well, there were scenes in between the nude tableaux that would have been nice to see. And anyway, quite unnecessary cos there was only 1 male member actually visible for all of 3 secs and the remaining nude scenes were static chorus girls who over-bevelled to sufficiently hide their oysters.
The show starts and having seen the Film, expectations are high! There is a proscenium within a proscenium and a view from the backstage 3rd proscenium. A reversal when we become the audience rather than the backstage spectator is interesting but leaving the “water fountain’s” pipework downstage left when we’re at front view was just wrong. It had been left there for a gag of a stage-hand using a spanner and getting some water on his face – very slapstick and more appropriate for a child’s audience with a clown party entertainer than a West-End Show.
The Sound was lovely in that it wasn’t blasting, and we could hear everyone really well!
The highlight of the show? When the theatre was a sanctuary and there are bombs exploding outside there was very nice flicker effect and several poystyrene masonry blocks bounced around the stage. All quite nice really.
The Set took us from roof top to Underground station, onstage, in offices, backstage, and although simple it worked well. I especially liked the windmill flown in that revolved.
The highlight of the lighting for me was the adapted Source Four Lustre 2 fixtures used as Follow-Spots. They were sometimes hard-edged and sometimes soft. Programmed into the lighting Cues the Operators only had to Focus and point. They were really effective and a nice touch. But their Zoom wasn’t large enough for the coverage – perhaps using both spots simultaneously would have overcome some of the obvious dilemmas as shown in photo below
The majority of the lighting design didn’t work for me. Predominantly side lit with no front light apart from Proscenium perches and very little backlight. Strange that top hats were used on the Perch Source Fours hung immediately above moving LED Wash lights that splashed all over……
And I’ve never been a fan of Variety Music Hall Comics, but made worse when they mumble, gabble and forget their lines:
All in all, a very cheap night out, yeah, (£10 for Ticket and £12 for 2 large glasses of white)
But, a disappointing show!
What the Producers say:
“Don’t miss MRS HENDERSON PRESENTS, the hilarious, brand-new, five-star musical that’s had critics in raptures, as it makes its West End debut in February 2016. Based on the much-loved film that starred Dame Judi Dench and Bob Hoskins, the show’s run at the Theatre Royal Bath was hailed by the Guardian as “a shot in the arm for the British musical” and led Quentin Letts of the Daily Mail to exclaim, “I have not emerged from the theatre feeling quite so cheerful in a long time”.
It’s London, 1937, and recently widowed eccentric, Laura Henderson, is looking for a way of spending her time and money when her attention falls on a run-down former cinema in Great Windmill Street. Hiring feisty impresario Vivian Van Damm to look after the newly renovated Windmill Theatre, the improbable duo present a bill of non-stop variety acts. But as war looms something more is required to boost morale and box office… When Mrs Henderson comes up with the idea of The Windmill Girls – glamorous young women posing as nude statues – audiences flock. And as the Blitz hits London, The Windmill provides a refuge for all, boasting the spirit-raising slogan “We Never Close”.
With book and direction by the Tony Award-winning Terry Johnson (La Cage Aux Folles), choreography by Andrew Wright (Singin’ in the Rain, Guys and Dolls), lyrics by the multi-award-winning Don Black (Sunset Boulevard) and music by George Fenton and Simon Chamberlain, this glorious and heartwarming new production stars Olivier-winner Tracie Bennett (Les Misérables, End of the Rainbow, ITV’s Coronation Street), Olivier-nominated Ian Bartholomew (Into the Woods) and Olivier-nominated Emma Williams (Chitty Chitty Bang Bang).”