Bridewell Theatre, London
Music & lyrics by Grant Olding
Directed & choregraphed by Drew McOnie
|Katy Lowenhoff and Simon Hardwick fizz as G&T|
Much like a dash of mineral water can open up the hidden complexities of a fine Scotch single malt, so has the ingenious dance talent of Drew McOnie combined with Grant Olding’s sparkling score, to take a song cycle that celebrates alcohol in all its forms, distilling it into a blend of dance and performance that is simply breathtaking.
With McOnie’s acclaimed Chicago only recently ended at Leicester’s Curve, the choreographer has cunningly bottled much of the talent from that show, shipping it south to London’s Bridewell Theatre. Guiding us through Olding’s various boozy paeans, Gemma Sutton who sheds her Roxie Hart persona is Ice, a girl who we encounter struggling to order a drink in a crowded bar that is brilliantly suggested in a company dance number. As the show unwinds she tells of past relationships with different men, each suggesting a different tipple. It’s a bit like Tell Me On A Sunday with a twist, with Sutton giving a delightful display of confidence and fragility in an enchanting cocktail of performance.
The cast of eight are sublime throughout, adding to Ice’s recollections with a selection of tributes to other drinks. As Ice's intended date, Martini is a womanising James Bond with Daniel Collins taking McOnie’s vision and in three minutes embodying the suave charm of 007 through wit, clever comment and an excellence of movement. Lucinda Lawrence’s faded Russian film star is Vodka, brilliantly capturing the harsh clinical cynicism of this purest of spirits whilst by contrast, 4 braying flapping Hooray Henrys are a clutch of under-brained, over-moneyed Pimm’s drinkers. In this one glorious jazz number alone, our jaws drop as McOnie depicts polo, rugby, tennis and rowing all through an inspired fusion of his vision with the athletic strength and outstanding abilities of his cast. Anabel Kutay’s enigmatic Absinthe is another masterful turn of chic subtlety and seductive presence.
Olding’s score is perfect throughout, brilliantly delivered by Tom Kelly’s five piece band. Occasionally his lyrics are more cheese than wine and in a show that presents this most socially acceptable of addictive drugs so frivolously, there could perhaps have been one chapter to remind us that the demon drink has a dark side far more brutal than the urge to pee (wittily performed on the night as Breaking The Seal). And for a production that celebrates both dance and a torrent of free-flowing booze, where was the tap?
The composer's credentials are already firmly established on both sides of the Atlantic and this aligning with the newly formed McOnie Company is as innovative a partnership as has been seen for some time. The work is inspired, the performers are exceptional and for anyone who appreciates the evolution of dance and fine musical theatre, the show is unmissable.
Runs to 1st March 2014