London Theatre Workshop – until 24 February
Guest reviewer: Nicola Louise
“Hot Lips and Cold War explores cultural, sexual, political relationships and the nature of the glue that holds everything together – trust” – Lizzie Freeborn.
Set during JFK administration, this new musical by Lizzie Freeborn, set in The White House, looks at the staff in-house at the time of the sexual scandal set by JFK himself and Marilyn Monroe.
The main focus of this show, however, is a young Irish girl Maria, played by Sylvie Briggs, a photographer who wants out of Ireland to start a new life. Briggs really shows the sweetness and naivety of Maria throughout the show, especially when her love, Davy (Adam Small) a young American, PA to the President’s secretary, is around. Maria is in love with Davy but it’s one-sided.
Small is great at showing Davy in a light that makes the audience both feel sympathy and hate towards the character. Within The White House, we meet Mrs Kennedy’s maid Grace, and her son Marvin, played by Florence Odumosu and Jamal Franklin.
The performers work off each other well and you believe the love between them as a family. When Franklin sings his first song with Maria, you could see and believe that he is slowly falling in love with her.
The Kennedys are perfect; Marcia Sommerford really makes the first lady her own and you can see the worry and betrayal in her eyes, as the result of her husband’s affair, and the hatred she has for Monroe, played by Freya Tilly, who is the reincarnation of Monroe herself.
JFK, played by Robert Oliver had stage presence as the President and really brought to life the worries and concerns the man had that his affairs would get out and ruin everything he worked so hard for.With such a small company, I need to mention Lewis Rae, the President’s secretary and Ashley Knight who played Jerome Kingsley, a rich Southerner who was both a racist and a bigot. I enjoyed Knight’s performance- he played it just right. With Englishmen playing Rich Southerner’s there’s always the danger of overplaying, but this wasn’t the case. His song ‘You’ll hear the South Roar’ was one of my favourites.