Oh, High Society at the Old Vic is a definite winner. Cole Porter's score is great, of course, and the book witty but sometimes taking on the classics is perilous. But this production is a success. The show is full of charm, characters are strong and the set design is ingenious.
Whether it's The Philadelphia Story or High Society, the story from Arthur Kopit remains as engaging as ever. Socialite Tracy Lord (played with real punch and panache by Kate Fleetwood) is planning her summer wedding. Her second. Only her fiancé, the rather dull and dreary George Kittredge (a great performance from Richard Grieve) isn't her only suitor.
Her dashing ex-husband, charmer Dexter Haven (played with real debonair flare by Rupert Young) is back in town, desperately wanting to win back the women he lost. And then there's Mike Connor (Jamie Parker), the roguish journalist sent undercover to report on the wedding, who ends up falling for the woman at the centre of his story.
I could say, who will it be? Who will Tracy end up with? Who will she choose? But really, even if you don't know the story, it's a no-brainer. This is a musical with a feel-good factor, a happy ending. True love will win out!
But this isn't a sickly, insipid love story. Not at all. The characters are all kept bold, just teetering on the edge of being over-the-top. It's brilliant stuff, all adding to the high stakes, emotional rollercoaster ride. Each performance is excellent - though all are very nearly outshone by a brilliantly pitched comic turn from Ellie Bamber as Tracy's unpredictable and rather spoilt younger sister, Dinah.
There's a terrific energy throughout the show, sustained by a superb ensemble who work tirelessly as the bustling household staff, and a great live orchestra who serve up the Cole Porter classics beautifully - Well, Did You Evah!, Who Wants to be a Millionaire?, True Love... Each of them faithfully delivered.
The Old Vic remains set in the round, as it has been for just over a year now. This must have been a phenomenal challenge to director Maria Friedman and her production design team, headed by Tom Pye. Just the thought of it... How on earth can you convey the sumptuous, extravagant lives of the idle rich of Long Island in such a limited space?
Well, to give too much away would be a shame but what ingenious solutions the creative team has come up with. Almost every scene change came with audible gasps from the crowd and smatterings of applause. A definite round of applause from me just for the set design alone.
I really enjoyed this production. Just one small hitch though. The night I went I took my mother with me and Lordy, she wouldn't stop singing along for the duration of the show. For this, I can only apologise to all those sitting near us. But hey, that's the power of High Society for you and the effect that this show has - you just can't help getting swept along. Wonderful.
Old Vic Theatre, London to August 22, 2015
1.Kate Fleetwood, High Society, Old Vic Theatre. Photo by Johan Persson
2.Ellie Bamber and Jamie Parker, High Society, Old Vic Theatre. Photo by Johan Persson
3.Philippa Stefani and Joe Stilgoe, High Society, Old Vic Theatre. Photo by Johan Persson