Review – Darling of the Day – Lost Musicals at the Ondaatje Wing Theatre, National Portrait Gallery

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Discovery of the year for me has to be the Lost Musicals series at Sadler’s Wells. I was thrilled to see the genius of Cole Porter back on stage in a production I hadn’t only never seen but not even heard of before (Paris); I raced back two months later for the next offering (The Day Before Spring). Both were perfect Drowsy Chaperone-style plays with brilliant lyrics and completely comic plots, a far cry from the flabby shows of today.

This brings us to the year’s final production, The Darling of the Day. Darling is a far more modern show, from the 60s, and yet (to my joy) it was completely unpolluted by the forces of change sweeping across America at the time.The plot was as ridiculous as the others: an artist (Priam Farll, played by Nicholas Jones) returns to England, becomes promptly nauseated by the artificiality of the art scene, then takes the opportunity to switch identities with a valet (Henry Leek, one of many characters played by Paul Stewart). He also inadvertently takes over his arranged marriage to a working-class widow (Alice Chalice, Louise Gold). Much of the comedy is in Farll failing to fit into his new surroundings, amongst Alice’s lowbrow Putney pals; but there is also a great deal of charm in his very genuine affection for his utterly unpretentious wife. In fact, one of the highlights is the song “Let’s see What Happens,” which brilliantly solves the question of how two so different people could care for each other.

While both Jones and Gold seemed to be struggling with their vocal duties, I thought the duo of composer Jule Styne and lyricist E. Y. Harburg did a great job making music I wanted to hear; and I found the increasingly outrageous plot (which hit Gilbert and Sullivan-esque heights of absurdity before the end) a great ride. However, I could easily see where a more unforgiving audience might have found this all too much. It only ran for 32 performances on Broadway, and it’s only getting a total of five shows here, but I think it’s a fine show and I’m glad I was able to see it performed live.

(This is for a review that took place on September 12th, 2010. There will be one more performance on September 19th.)

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2 Responses to “Review – Darling of the Day – Lost Musicals at the Ondaatje Wing Theatre, National Portrait Gallery”

  1. Charles Slovenski Says:

    Thanks for this review. I thought the performers were amazing and gave inspired performances, given that it was done books-in-hand. It was a charming afternoon owing to the performances of these pros. The show itself has many problems, but has great heart and delightful lyrics.

  2. Review – Bells Are Ringing – Union Theatre « Life in the Cheap Seats – Webcowgirl’s London theatre reviews Says:

    […] with Jule Styne, creator of Gypsy, Funny Girl and the recent Forgotten Musical Darling of the Day, and what do you get/ Bells Are Ringing, the giddy, well-crafted production currently marking […]

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