Some cracking choreography and two barnstorming lead performances make Gentlemen Prefer Blondes a musical treat at the Union Theatre
“Do they discuss romance
Or is the subject high finance?”
A kiss on the hand may indeed be quite continental (see, Brexit really does get everywhere…!) but a classic musical that is just straight-up uncomplicated good fun is everyone’s best friend. Sasha Regan’s revival of Gentlemen Prefer Blondes fully embraces all its candyfloss campness but anchors it with the crucial decisions to forefront the easy musicality of Jule Styne’s fantastic score (ably assisted by MD Henry Brennan) and in casting its two female leads just right, to remind us that it isn’t actually as throwaway as all that in the end.
True, the book, by Anita Loos and Joseph Fields from her original novel, is mainly frothy fun as it follows Arkansas showgirl Lorelei Lee to Paris and back with any number of wealthy suitors in her wake. But by keeping her friend and ‘chaperone’ Dorothy high in the mix, a certain brand of female solidarity shines through. And with Abigayle Honeywill and Eleanor Lakin, the show proves riotous good fun. Tackling the role made famous on film by a certain Ms Monroe, Honeywill nails the offbeat humour and charming warmth of a budding superstar. And Lakin offers up some stunningly confident vocals as her charismatic confidante – one to watch out for, mark my words.
Around them, Regan fills her stage with youthful bodies – this is a 18 strong company – and through Zak Nemorin’s exuberant choreography in the openness of Justin Williams’ set, a real sense of freshness and life shines through. Whether Olympian stretching, upper class passengers, Parisian partygoers or fabulous follies dancers, there’s a great use of both space and physicality that is constantly fun to watch. And in key supporting roles, there’s great work from the likes of Ashlee Young as a perky dancer and Freddie King as the genial Henry.
As mentioned, Styne’s score is full of evergreen classics, the iconic ‘Diamonds Are A Girl’s Best Friend’ and ‘Bye Bye Baby’ are just two of the standouts, and the quality of the singing is strong throughout. And make sure not to be too far away towards the end of the interval to get a nice little bonus. But make no mistake, the real treats are onstage, in Nemorin’s choreography and Honeywill and Lakin’s characterful performances.