Wednesday, 23 July 2008

One Upon a Time at the Adelphi - Liverpool Playhouse

Once upon a time at the Adelphi
Liverpool Playhouse – until 2nd August

Written & Directed by Phil Wilmott

Reviewed by Stephanie Rowe

Being nearly 200 years since the first Adelphi Hotel opened its doors, it was really only a matter of time until someone was inspired enough to write a play/musical which centred around this world renowned Hotel. Steeped in history and with many urban legends connected to the place, there was plenty for Phil Wilmott to work with to help him produce a fabulous and truly inspiring musical, which is what we come to expect of Phil after such wonderful works as Around the world in 80 days and Dick Barton special agent.

The parallel love story in the 1930’s with the modern day was a brilliant concept for the musical, telling the story of Thomspon and
Alice in the heydays and Jo in the modern played be the amazing talent of Julie Atherton as the modern Jo and young Alice and the dazzling performance from Natasha Seale as the older Alice and Ma Thompson you were taken to a world of Glitz and Glamour of the hotel though the 30’s and 40’s Thompson (Alice’s love interest) played by the extremely talented Simon Bailey from many west end leads and theatre band Teatro, had you feeling every emotion possible as he led you through this tale of chaos and decadence.

This musical had you gripped from beginning to end with a tragic love story and some laugh out loud comic moments with which the talents of Helen Carter came shining through in yet another fantastic performance after her success in last Christmas’s hit the Flint St Nativity. This is true ensemble musical theatre and each actor gave an outstanding performance bringing each character to life with such panache and musical theatre cliché and pastiche that it was hard not to leave this show with a smile on your face.

The set designed by Christopher Woods, took us from the back street of Liverpool, the roof, kitchen quarters, foyer and reception of the hotel through a very lavish but simple set which was positioned on a turntable (seems to be a musical theatre must have this year!) and worked faultlessly in helping keep the slick action moving with pace and direction.

We mustn’t forget that this is the first musical ever to be staged by the Playhouse and Phil Wimott has created a small diamond of a piece, with show stopping tunes throughout you can only hope and keep fingers crossed that this show releases a cast recording. The musical direction of Elliot Davis and Mark Collins make sure the shows musical numbers are punchy and well orchestrated even
though there were only three people in the pit add the choreography of Andrew Wright the cast was well rehearsed and timing was perfect all the way through each dance with some very fancy footwork to boot. The ensemble made up from recent graduates of LIPA added a local touch to the cast, which worked well with the acting skills from the West End.

Costumes designed by Jacquie Davies must also be given a worthy note, excellently bringing to life the Adelphi workers and Hollywood darlings to life.

This musical is a perfect showcase of what regional theatre should be about, and it’s so refreshing to see two artistic directors taking risks and really making ‘Liverpool Shine’ I only hope as previously said that this show doesn’t get lost in the archives but a cast recording made or at least a tour gets under way in the not so distant future. I’m now off to book tickets to see this show again before it’s too late!

Photos by Robert Day
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