Noel Coward wrote and shelved Hoi Polloi in 1949. To discover why and how this production developed, click to read my preview article.
Barry Day O.B.E., the Artistic Director of The Noel Coward Foundation and editor of this musical, calls it a “love song to London – a sort of post-war sequel to This Happy Breed in which Londoners pick up the pieces of their lives and cheerfully put them back together, as if nothing had happened.” The piece is an uncomplicated love story reflecting traditional values, pluck, and optimism. While some songs are pleasant though unmemorable, the musical also features iconic numbers Coward later used elsewhere including “Sail Away,” “Chase Me Charlie,” “I Like America,” and “London Pride.”
Marci Reid, Ian Mcdonald
We open and close in the Covent Garden market with vendors hawking their wares in song. Capper (Ian Mcdonald in a yeoman-like job) and Barmey Flo (Marci Reid who’s fine here, but seems anything but barmey) greet Pinkie (Katrina Michaels), whose view on the beautiful weather indicates Spring is in the air. It’s the young woman’s day off. When well dressed Julian (a credible Conor M. Hamlin with a nice voice) buys roses “a lot of them” to celebrate his first week of marriage, Pinkie grows starry-eyed. As if on cue, Harry (Johnny Wilson) appears. The sailor wastes no time. “Who are you, cause you’re very pretty and I’ve got 24 hours leave.”
Katrina Michaels, Johnny Wilson
Despite his being cheeky, Pinkie perceives the stranger is sweet and honest (as do we in appreciation of Wilson’s naturalistic acting) and takes him home to meet the folks before spending the day. Dad Charlie (Tom Gamblin who makes a warm, believable parent) and mom Fanny (Deb Cardona) understand “There’s Something About a Sailor”…nobody’s able to define…The duo sing well together, the number is deftly directed. (Later, we see Fanny, an ex-actress, perform a flirty “Chase Me Charlie,” one of the music hall songs in her repertoire. Cardona is charming.)
Also in the family are brother Alfie (Josh Bardier whose rubber face and long legs remind one of Jules Munchin) and sister Doreen (Kaitlyn Frotton, a graceful dancer, good actress and, I suspect from what little we heard, a fine singer).
Kaitlyn Frotton, Tom Gamblin, Den Cardona, Josh Bardier
Pinkie and Harry begin at Buckingham Palace. “Three Theatrical Dames”: Tom Gamblin, Ian Mcdonald, Marcia Reid (note two bearded men and one woman) are just leaving. This song can be very funny. It misses the mark here.
The couple then encounter Julian (in his military uniform – there to be decorated by the Queen) and his new wife, Linda (Oakley Boycott who appears upper class and sings with warmth). Julian recognizes Pinkie from the flower stand. Feeling happy and open, the well healed newlyweds invite the youngsters to a posh party that night. Pinkie can’t wait, but Harry is sure they’ll be out of place. An argument ensues. They part.
Oakley Boycott, Conor M. Hamill
Act II is a bit overstuffed with songs, but entertaining. You can guess the rest of the story. The lovers reunite and go to the party, Pinkie glorying in one of her mom’s old costumes. They pledge to one another. Finale.
Katrina Michaels makes a fine Pinkie, bright, cute (not cutsie) and self-reliant. The actress manages just the right tenor in this clearly period piece.
Tonight’s find is Johnny Wilson (Harry). The attractive Wilson is thoroughly engaging. He moves and sings with skill and an earnest ardor that carries the story ingenuously forward.
Director/Choreographer Mindy Cooper uses the theater well, aisles and balcony inclusive, creates attractive tableaus (clearly a signature), and affects a light, stylized (wink, wink) touch befitting the piece. Her characters could be more unique, but the show is not harmed.
Tristan Raines does an excellent job with period costumes that suit each character and excels at an eventual fancy dress party.
Photos by Michael Portantiere
Opening: Conor M. Hamill, Oakley Boycott, Johnny Wilson, Katrina Michaels
Musicals Tonight presents
The World Premiere of Hoi Polloi
Libretto, Music, & Lyrics by Noel Coward
Edited by Barry Day O.B.E.
Directed and Choreographed by Mindy Cooper
Music Director/Vocal Arranger David B. Bishop
Through November 13, 2016
NEXT: Louisiana Purchase-music and lyrics by Irving Berlin; book by Morrie Ryskind
February 28-March 12 2017