Palladium, London – until 12 March 2017
“I am not making friki-friki.”
The London Musical Theatre Orchestra’s arrival on the scene has not gone unnoticed by me but their previous concerts have always fallen on days when I couldn’t make it. So finally putting a show on on a Sunday night meant I was able to put it in the diary and to mark the occasion, they only went and invited their first guest conductor along, Mr Jason Robert Brown himself to helm the UK premiere of his show Honeymoon in Vegas.
And in the swish surroundings of the London Palladium, it was hard not to be entirely seduced by the lush sound of a 30-strong orchestra (under the musical direction of Freddie Tapner), a chorus of 16 up-and-coming performers and a main cast of bona fide West End stars directed by Shaun Kerrison. The concert staging allows for an amusingly slapdash approach which really suited the joie de vivre exuding from pretty much everyone involved here, a real passion project.
Honeymoon in Vegas wasn’t the hugest success on Broadway, closing after just a few months and in all honesty, it does have an old-fashionedness to it that never really perks up to speak to a contemporary audience. Andrew Bergman’s book is based on the 1992 film of the same name, about a man struggling to keep the promise he made to his dying mother to never get married. But on deciding to elope to Las Vegas with his girlfriend, Jack finds many many obstacles in his way.
But if the story doesn’t quite hold up, never mind its feminist credentials, the show explodes in technicolor glory due to an expertly cast set of actors. Arthur Darvill (I reckon he did it in Broadchurch!) was hugely charismatic as the hapless Jack, Samantha Barks continuing a rich vein of form (so good in The Last Five Years) as fiancée Betsy, Maisey Bawden’s flirty Mahi, Simon Lipkin’s pair of striking cameos, and Rosie Ashe pretty much stealing the show as the ghost of Jack’s mother, determined to get her way (and enriching a character that barely deserves it).
Musically it is an interesting score that doesn’t always necessarily sound like the composer’s typical oeuvre, which has its good and its less good points. But it is never less than sprightly as it weaves in elements of Vegas and Elvis, and later Hawaii (where we end up), into its 20-some songs, which all carry the hallmark of Brown’s lyrical prowess. Above all, it was just great fun, which feels entirely the point with these kind of endeavours, no-one wants to be po-faced on a Sunday night and with this calibre of cast and creatives to hand, we weren’t disappointed.