Wednesday 7 September 2016

The MGM Story - Review

Upstairs at the Gatehouse, London


Book by Chris Burgess
Directed and choreographed by Matthew Cole

The quartet of performers

Transporting us through the history of musical theatre’s golden age, The MGM Story dives into the tale of how the Hollywood studio nurtured the talent of stars that were to include Judy Garland and Gene Kelly alongside composers such as Cole Porter, Irving Berlin and countless others.

Directed and meticulously choreographed by Matthew Cole and with Charlie Ingles perceptively directing his band, this newly compiled musical revue flips back to some timeless movie classics, featuring songs from Singin’ in the Rain, An American in Paris and The Wizard of Oz. Imaginatively set on a studio back lot, the world of the MGM musicals is brought to life and genially animated by the four performers who sparkle in this narrative.

As the evening unfolds, each actor at some point represents one the celebrated names of the Golden era. Emma Kayte Saunders embodies the young Judy Garland and her casting is inspired. Saunders’ voice is earthy and beautiful, with an ability to portray the starlet’s innocence in her early days of fame that is mesmerizing.

Similarly, James Leece’s portrayal of Gene Kelly in the iconic dance sequence of Singin’ in the Rain appears almost effortless. With no streetlight for Leece to hang off of, the use of a step ladder is inspired and the routine still proves an absolute charmer. 

West End veteran Miranda Wilford feels somewhat underused toward the beginning of the performance, appearing firstly and rather oddly, as the Cowardly Lion in Follow the Yellow Brick Road But during the second act, her performance of They Say It’s Wonderful from Annie Get Your Gun, as Betty Hutton, was indeed, wonderful – and note too that there is an incredible resemblance between Hutton and Wilford.

Steven Dalziel, brings a wonderful energy to the quartet that, like Saunders, has you watching him continuously through the show. Each gesture and facial expression has been well thought out and while vocally, he may not have been as showcased as the other three performers, his embodiment of a number of different characters throughout the night highlighted his multi-talented skills. 

Katy Lipson, whose Aria Entertainments co-produces, continues to show real flair in putting together these gorgeously staged revues. Like the rest of London’s fringe, her productions cost a fraction of a West End ticket, yet offer first class production standards and outstanding value for money.

The MGM Story is a sparkling example of the legacies of talent and sophistication that brought about today’s modern musicals and if you love the songs of that era, it’s a perfect night out.

Runs until 25th September, then touring to Windsor, Norwich and Radlett
Reviewed by Charlotte Darcy

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