Ye Olde Rose and Crown, London – until 28 May 2017
Guest reviewer: Charlotte Darcy
Adapted by N Richard Nash from his original play The Rainmaker, 110 In The Shade tells the story of Lizzie Curry, an intelligent lonely woman, living in a small town in the western USA that has been enduring a long standing drought. Lizzie however, is suffering from an altogether different type of drought. Unmarried, she worries that she will become an old maid until a mysterious and charismatic stranger named Starbuck arrives in town, vowing he can not only conjure a deluge to save the town from despair, but also show Lizzie who she can truly be.
Laurel Dougall is fantastic as Lizzie. Her energy is infectious throughout and she is a joy to watch as the determined but deeply self-conscious woman. The emotion which she pours into each note of her songs, be it her beautifully touching rendition of Is it really me? Or her hilarious and spirited performance in Raunchy, is stunning. Though, to be fair, her character singing about becoming a much raunchier woman, to her much older father, did sound a little odd.
As the intriguingly charming Starbuck, Daniel Urch gives a fantastic performance. But – the role appears somewhat too old for him and perhaps the biggest criticisms of the show lies in this casting, with the age gap between the two leads very distinct and at times undermining the show’s emotional punch. Urch nonetheless wows with his powerful voice and wonderfully embodies the arrogance and confidence that drives Starbuck’s actions.
Julian Quijano as Lizzie’s younger brother Jimmy is altogether the star of the show with a presence that draws the audience toward him. His duet and pas de deux Little Red Hat, with his girlfriend Snookie, played by the confident and flirtatious Rebecca Withers, was the best example of Kate McPhee’s choreography in the show. The two move well together, the number perfectly portraying a sexual frustration that in some way or another is displayed in every member of the cast throughout the show.
Smartnick’s direction is simple, naturalistic and honest resulting in a talented cast who give a dedicated and sincere performance, creating a sense of family and love throughout the small town.
The show’s scenery and design however is poor. A pale blue backdrop cloth would have been considerably more effective had it been tightened to remove the very obvious creases which, under the lights, ruined any desired effect. Likewise Starbuck’s wagon that was occasionally half wheeled/rolled onto the stage but which in its crass painting looked more like an oversized child’s toy than an actual serious piece of set.
While some of the details are flawed (which in turn brings down the overall impact of the show) 110 In The Shade is a gem of a piece, with a cast who deliver delightful performances. Yet again Aaron Clingham has unearthed a rarely seen treat of a show – and if one is truly interested in the diverse breadth of musical theatre’s canon, then it has to be seen.