Review: High Society
New Earswick Musical Society, Joseph Rowntree Theatre, York, until November 14
Friday 13th November 2009
Judging by the audience at Wednesday’s opening night, New Earswick Musical Society (NEMS) has plenty of fans.
It didn’t take long to find out why. New Earswick may be only a suburb, but NEMS punches well above its weight. It also knows how to keep the champagne corks popping: old Joe Rowntree, teetotal to the hilt, must be turning in his grave.
For High Society is more or less a continuous party. Originally a play, The Philadelphia Story, it became Cole Porter’s best-known film-musical in 1956, starring Grace Kelly, Bing Crosby and Frank Sinatra. This period-style production by Ann McCreadie, who doubles as choreographer and also plays the role of Margaret Lord, loses none of the charm of the original. Indeed, you can almost feel the camaraderie among the cast, a sure sign of an experienced director.
She may be a newcomer to the company, but Stephanie Crossley in the key role of Tracy Lord – and looking remarkably like tennis star Tracy Austin – is a treasure that NEMS will not want to lose. Her tireless vivacity, stage presence and, above all, charisma make her the perfect pivot for the show.
Right from the title song she looks and sounds American (accents were remarkably well sustained throughout the cast). She bubbles her way through, her fluctuating emotions right on her sleeve.
The pre-wedding celebrations for Tracy’s second marriage, while harmless enough on the surface, are orchestrated by her first husband, Dexter, and her younger sister, Dinah. Steve Tearle’s Dexter is relaxed and charming, resisting the temptation to be oily, while Imogen Fuller’s pert Dinah is a ball of fire. Her French-accented duo with Tracy, I Love Paris, is a classic.
Playing an alcoholic is never easy, but Martin Rowley’s perpetually tipsy Uncle Willie, always on the prowl, provides a comic thread that never palls, a beautifully judged portrait.
Jo Pears and Steve Padfield as society journos Liz and Mike inject terrific brio with Who Wants To Be A Millionaire? You’re Sensational lies a little low for Padfield, but he weathers it well.
Stephen Kenwright plays the prospective bridegroom George to a tee, truly wimpish in a beta-male wig.
Ann McCreadie is a properly matriarchal Margaret, quite reminiscent of Elizabeth Taylor, with Alan Rome as a contrite Seth, her philandering husband.
While some of its dancing could be tightened up, the chorus delivers excellent backing and the orchestra under Don Pears gets tauter as the evening progresses.
NEMS has been off my beat until now. No longer.
By Martin Dreyer
New Earswick Musical Society presents High Society, Joseph Rowntree Theatre, York, November 11 to 14
Friday 30th October 2009
Shakespeare once said that “the course of true love never did run smooth”.
Alas this has been the case for New Earswick Musical Society in its preparations for High Society, in which True Love is one of the best-known songs.
The first setback came at the start of rehearsals when musical director Don Pears was taken ill and had to undergo major heart surgery.
“Don is thankfully making a speedy recovery, and while he does, the society is grateful to Malcolm Muggridge, who often plays piano in rehearsals, for taking over the role,” says society publicist Steve Padfield.
“Don’s wife, Jo, has made a welcome return to the society after a few years off and has been doing a sterling job of balancing rehearsals and ensuring Don is back to full strength soon.”
Meanwhile, two principal cast members have missed rehearsals through illness and some chorus members have been forced to drop out through work commitments.
“This has an impact, but our producer, Ann McCreadie, is pleased to report that rehearsals are back on track and she’s looking forward to putting on an excellent show,” says Steve Based on the 1956 film that starred Bing Crosby and Frank Sinatra, High Society traces the steps of a search for true love.
New Earswick newcomer Stephanie Crossley takes the role of Tracy Lord, the society darling who is preparing for her marriage to the dullest man on earth, George Kittredge (Ste Kenwright). Plans go awry when her younger sister, Dinah (Imogen Fuller), tries to convince her ex-husband, Dexter Haven (Steve Tearle), to win back her heart.
To make matters worse, a pair of scandal-magazine reporters, Mike Connor (Steve Padfield) and Liz Imbrie (Jo Pears), will be attending the wedding in an attempt to uncover the rumours about her father’s alleged indiscretions.
To confuse the spies, Uncle Willie (Martin Rowley) is introduced as the father, while the real father, Seth Lord (Alan Rome), is trying to make amends with his estranged wife, Mother Lord (Ann McCreadie).
Soon the pre-marriage party is in full swing, whereupon the action flows faster than the champagne. Uncle Willie is chasing after Liz, who has eyes only for Mike, but Mike is falling for Tracy. The confusion and alcohol consumption both rise, culminating in one big hangover the next day.
George has left, however, so a wedding is set but no bridegroom is in sight. Dexter volunteers, and this time it looks like true love is going to last.
“With an excellent score of well-known songs such as Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?, True Love and Well, Did You Evah?, big dance numbers, comedy and romance, this show has something for everyone,” says Steve.