Wednesday, 9 October 2019

REVIEW: Gentlemen Prefer Blondes at the Union Theatre

Gentlemen Prefer Blondes is the show that made Carol Channing a star, and London has been due a revival for quite some time. Lorelei Lee is a retired Follies girl with a secret, and a penchant for money, champagne and diamonds. The plot follows her journey to Paris, the pursuit of a tiara, and various courtiers along the way.

Jule Styne’s score is full of bold and brilliant numbers, enhanced by the additional arrangements of Musical Director Henry Brennan. His command of the score is masterful, and he and the percussionist are perfectly in sync, the sound perfectly balanced.

Abigayle Honeywill pays homage to Marilyn Monroe, and there are elements of Megan Hilty with a dash of Ellen Greene, but she is never an imitation. Her vocals pack a real lunch when required, and there is real beauty in the sad, reflective encore of Diamonds Are A Girl’s Best Friend, another of Brennan’s contributions, which comes immediately after the glitz and glamour of the full song.

Eleanor Lakin, as Lorelei’s best friend and confidant, Dorothy, is feisty, providing endless dry wit, as well as stunning vocals. Within moments, she captivates the audience, and we are devoted to her from then on. The show affords her plenty of opportunities to impress and she never disappoints. I Love What I’m Doing and Keeping Cool With Coolidge are highlights, both for Lakin and the show itself.

Freddie King is compelling as Henry, with a vibrato that perfectly suits the era and score. As the ingenue, he is utterly charming, rather than foppish and wet. Just A Kiss Apart is beautifully sung and wonderfully sincere.

Zak Nemorin’s choreography is exciting and incredibly slick, making full use of the ensemble’s athleticism. The piece is never over-choreographed, instead Nemorin waits for the dance breaks to really let rip. The male ensemble are a wonderful accompaniment to both Honeywill and Lakin, oozing charm throughout.

The ensemble vocals have not been neglected, and it is clear that Brennan
knows how to lead a company. I’m Just A Little Girl From Little Rock is thrilling, and we are left yearning for more.

Sasha Regan’s direction provides plenty of laughs, particularly during the scene with the French Policemen, portrayed by Patrick Cook and Arran Bell. Within minutes, they are seduced by Lorelei and Dorothy, like putty in their hands, thus thickening the plot. These moments are judged brilliantly.

Like so many shows of its time, Gentlemen Prefer Blondes lacks substance, but is light-hearted and fun. Sasha Regan’s company delivers the latter in spades.

Review by Ian Marshall

Rating: ★★★★

Seat: Unreserved | Price of Ticket: £22
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