‘SALAD DAYS’ DELIGHTS AGAIN

REVIEW EXCERPTS

FRINGEREVIEW UK 2018 (Brighton Theatre Royal Sept 5-8)
‘It’s the happiest post war show……..For pure silliness Broadway could never dream up anything like this. Two appealing and fresh young graduates, Tim and Jane, after a choral send off  (from university) agree to meet to discuss how to avoid their pre-ordained fates, marriage with a list of eligibles for her and  jobs with a set of uncles for Tim. So perhaps they can escape by marrying then falling in love afterwards? It’s a plan. For a long time the number of uncles isn;t known , and the two are bumped into by a tramp who asks them to look after his piano for £7 a week…….and when you play the piano, everyone has to get up and dance, and it is bringing the country to s standstill……etc’
‘The songs are a treasurable clutch…….’The Things That Are Done By A Don’, ‘We Saibeautiful regency Theatre Royal provides the perfect setting to jump onto carousel and indulge in a sugar treat.d We Wouldn’t Look Back’, ‘Find Yourself Something To Do’,’Cleopatra’ ,’Sand In My Eyes’, ‘Oh Look At Me’and the show stopper from Jane ‘I Sit In The Sun’ …….etc. To reveal the end would be so, well….wacky. You’ll have to see this delightful confection.’

THESPYINTHESTALLS.COM (Brighton Theatre Royal Sept 5-8)
‘As absurd plots go, Salad Days is hard to beat…….This is clearly not a musical that takes itself very seriously and yet the audience requires a level of sincerity in the production, particularly in 2018, to keep the show from becoming a dusty  and risible piece. It is a hard balance to strike and one which (this) production generally maintaindns…….the show zips along with a great deal of effervescence and charm, and laughs are in plentiful supply- special mention here to the marvellous hairdressers’ scene expertly played by Wendi Peters 
The success of this production is almost wholly down its committed and energetic cast. the showstoppers shine through and there are some lovely lyrical moments too. Salad Days is pure nostalgia  – theatrical candy floss if you will a – and Brighton’sTheatre Royal provides the perfect setting to jump onto carousel and indulge in a sugayr treat.’  

THE STAGE (Riichmond Theatre Sept 10-15)    
The world has changed a great deal since Julian Slade and Dorothy Reynolds wrote Salad Days just as the era it was gently satirising was drawing to an end.
It’s a musical homage to a simpler time, spawned in the shadow of the 1951 Festival of Britain and steeped in nostalgia. A successful revival needs careful handling and there are moments in Bryan Hodgson’s production, originally staged at the Union, that work really well. The gauche sincerity of lead characters Timothy and Jane’s romance may be quirky, but it’s played for real and, as such, forms the basis of the rest of the story.
With leading man Mark Anderson indisposed, understudy Lewis McBean as Timothy makes light work of Joanne McShane’s dance routines. McBean and Jessica Croll as Jane put their own stamp on Slade’s catchy score……. the second half throws up the hilarious Maeve Byrne as cabaret turn Asphynxia, while Francesca Pim provides comedy gold as the game debutante Fiona.
……there’s no doubt that Salad Days is an old-fashioned music but there there’s enough talent, wit and invention here to sustain a healthy tour.

SARDINES/Mark Senior (Richmond Theatre Sept 10-15)  ★★★★
“…. a gloriously silly if tuneful experience. Richmond Theatre was almost full for press night with an audience which seemed to be composed of a fair smattering of those who, like me, saw this 1954 show long ago as well as a number of young patrons who seemed bemused at the thought of a musical about a magic piano and a flying saucer… (This production showed) that the exuberant choreography and the cast of 15 can deliver it much more effectively on the larger stages to be visited on this short tour. From the crisp moves in the strong opening number The Things that are Done by a Don to the more wistful and lyrical We Said We Wouldn’t Look Back, the choreography in this production is a joy to behold. Oh Look at Me, I’m Dancing is staged so that we almost do believe that the moves we are seeing are involuntary – mostly because of the commitment of the cast and the belief of all involved in the production.
This willingness to take such flimsy material seriously is the saving grace of Bryan Hodgson’s production. It would have been so easy to send it all up with an excess of campery and mugging, but this is avoided. At the centre of the piece are two young couples. Stepping up to the role of Timothy, Lewis McBean is an endearingly vulnerable lead opposite Jessica Croll’s strong performance as Jane, with something of a young Joyce Grenfell about her. They sing and dance absolutely in the style of the period and carry much of the story – such as it is.
The second couple are Nigel and Fiona, with the excellent James Gulliford still playing the former opposite Francesca Pim whose energy seems boundless. Around these four swirl a cast of characters ……. many of them supposed Uncles of Timothy. As Lady Raeburn, Wendi Peters shows her versatility and considerable musical theatre expertise, as well as contributing a brief cameo as Aunt Prue. Among that ensemble it is impossible not to notice Maeve Bynne, and her second act opening number as Asphynxia is still a highlight of the evening,
As PC Boot, Nathan Elwick has a talent for eccentric dancing that brings to mind the great Nat Jackley, and Callum Evans even manages to make Troppo – often insufferably twee – almost believable, and he is an impressively acrobatic dancer. Although the set design is a difficult hurdle for the cast to surmount – this is still a very successful revival of an important piece of musical theatre history. As I said in my 2017 review for Sardines, “the tunes are good, the cast are at the top of their game, the excellent choreography is fun and it’s a very pleasant way to spend an evening

JULIAN’S NEPHEW’S VIEW FROM RUPERT SLADE (Richmond Theatre Sept 10-15)
The summer is closing in and the news is awful. What better way to escape than to go and see the classic British musical ‘Salad Days’? At first glance the musical is pure escapist whimsical fun, but I believe it has much more to say than that.
In 1954 parents had ambitious expectations for their kids that didn’t always match their children’s desires. Russia was a scary and somewhat mysterious enemy, the tabloid gossip press was in its infancy, government ministers feared too much pleasure and the public found their fantasist escapism through flying saucers. Although ‘Salad Days’ presents a smaller more innocent world, many of these things are as true today. Parents are as ambitious as ever. The cold war looks as if it is back. Our press has got more invasive. there wereOur ministers only a few years ago were stopping us from dancing in public places and conspiracy theories instead of flying saucers. ‘Salad Days’ satirises the everlasting silliness of class and pomposity not with a hammer, but by making it look gently ridiculous. This is all made to happen through a piano that makes people dance in the park. There is nothing more egalitarian than the social structure of 50s Britain being made to dance with each other. Like a 50s “Mama Mia”, ‘Salad Days’ is giving the stiff upper lip British permission to let go. That is what can happen to you if you go with the ‘Salad Days’ flow.
I have seen the show maybe twenty times over the years and this was one of the best productions I can remember. The songs are so memorable, but were beautifully delivered. The choreography was outstanding and the cast were great. Their energy and enthusiasm rubbed off on the audience.  I have seen the show maybe twenty times over the years and this was one of the best productions I can remember. The songs are so memorable, but were beautifully delivered. The choreography was outstanding and the cast were great. Their energy and enthusiasm rubbed off on the audience. It took about forty five minutes for the relatively small audience to get into the rhythm and fall into a spell. Once they did they loved it and gave the performance a rousing send off.
IF you can leave your cynicism outside and let the show run away with you, you will come out smiling and tapping your feet.
It has been a gorgeous summer and in the end life is all about “Summer and sunshine and falling in love”

MUSICALTHEATREREVIEWS.COM★★★★(Richmond Theatre Sept 10-15)
Salad Days wears its 64 years lightly. It still has the silliest storylines and awful puns that composer Julian Slade and lyricist Dorothy Reynolds wrote, but also all the charm and feelgood factor that made it such a success before the face of musical theatre changed forever with West Side Story.
The lightweight story, about young, spoilt Henrys and Henriettas just down from Oxford without a clue about what to do with their lives but getting involved with a magic piano that gets people dancing as soon as anyone strikes up a tune on it, is even dafter than it sounds.
But you don’t get to play 2,283 performances and last six years in the West End – the longest-running musical until Oliver! came along in 1960 – without having something more to it and Salad Days still has an old-fashioned sweetness and positivity that sends people home happier than when they arrived.
It was this show that inspired the then seven-year-old Cameron Mackintosh to fall in love with the theatre, entranced by the whimsical idea that a piano could make people sing and dance, and it is easy to see why.
The dance routines, masterminded by choreographer Jo McShane, are brilliantly achieved, following each other with breathtaking speed. Every word, spoken or sung, is audible, unlike more than one current West End show, and while the jokes may be weak, the cast is strong.
Wendi Peters, is the star name and her hairdressing scene,  taking two phone calls in the midst of being massaged and mud-packed, is very funny.
There are scene-stealing performances from Francesca Pim, as the air-headed, man-hunting Fiona, Nathan Elwick, as a gurning policeman with elastic legs, and Callum Evans, as the genial mute Troppo who wins hearts without saying a word.
They make the maximum of their roles as does Maeve Byrne, as the spectacularly dressed Asphyxia, who sings up a storm at the start of Act II with her ‘Sand in My Eyes’ solo.
Director Bryan Hodgson lovingly pulls it all together while firmly resisting any temptation to send it up.
Salad Days grows on you and is meatier than you first thought.

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