“Ev’ry Sunday afternoon we’ll be polite”
Bewitched Bothered and Bewildered is a musical revue, celebrating of the works of Rodgers + Hart, both those lesser known and more famous, in a similar way to how Classic Moments Hidden Treasures went through the Sondheim back catalogue last year. Eschewing any kind of formal narrative, it simply flows from song to song, some obviously paired up, some just left simply alone, as the cast of five in their louche 30s Hollywood costumes swirl elegantly around the intimate stage of the Jermyn Street Theatre.
In many respects, this was exactly how I imagined it would be: fairly traditional arrangements of a fairly traditional repertoire, sung professionally yet not quite reaching levels of inspiration that might make it a must-see, though it is charming. Stephen Ashfield brings an effortless class to all of his numbers, making his forthcoming entry into Legally Blonde seem an intriguing prospect; Katie Kerr injects some much needed personality into some of the quirkier numbers and Valerie Cutko’s beautifully subtle tone added an interesting texture.
Running the songs together this way is fine but rarely catches fire, especially as their brevity means there’s often a lot of shuffling on and off the stage. Ashfield and Cutko managed a great chemistry in a neat pairing of songs that hinted at a deeper story, something that could have been developed further. Laura Armstrong’s strong voice fit well to the material but director Tim McArthur’s inclusion of himself as a performer, even nabbing a couple of peaches from the repertoire, didn’t really match up to the rest of the ensemble, not quite enough subtlety in his performances for my liking.
Incorporating choreography into some of the jauntier numbers added a little interest, but its rather clumsy execution – the intimacy of the Jermyn Street exposing everything – made its inclusion quite questionable. On the other hand, the few numbers that were arranged for the full five voices of the ensemble were gorgeously done and really brought something interesting to the material – something I wish had been done more throughout the show. A little old-fashioned, and delving into the rarities like this doesn’t really indicate that Rodgers + Hart’s material has much of a place on the modern stage to be honest, but nonetheless a pleasant experience.