Two months ago, in May, I heard of a revival of a Kander and Ebb musical I’d never heard of before – Flora the Red Menace – taking place at a pub way up in Walthamstow. I adore Kander and Ebb, and I was willing to see it by myself and in a location that guaranteed I’d get home around midnight – but I saw a dismissive online review, I saw too many shows in a row, and suddenly I was exhausted and needed a night off (ten shows in nine nights is too much even for me). So I took a pass, figuring I’d listen to a cast recording some time and figure out where the Rose and Crown was some other night.
And then … it was transferred to the Landor Theater. Hurray! It’s only a few Tube stops away from my house so much easier to get to. So I headed over there only to find I’d picked a night the show was dark! Fiddle dee dee, and may I say that changing the website to show available ticket dates starting from the NEXT available date rather than all possible shows would have really helped me not waste a trip.
So now it was a mission, and yesterday I finally made it to the show. I was worried about an incoherent plot (per Wikipedia) and weak performances for the non=leads (per the review I read), but as it turns out I found the play completely coherent and believable – who doesn’t occasionally pick up with a nutty boyfriend in college? I found Flora’s struggle to hold to her ideals while her boyfriend attempted to make her toe the line on communism realistic and easily applicable to, say, religion or any other thing people get fanatical about. And while some of the song and dance numbers didn’t entirely make sense (why did Flora have an arts studio with tap dancers in it? Who cares!), the strength of the music just carried me along in a very pleasant evening. And to make it extra nice, the costuming was way above the level of most pub theater and the hair was just perfect (I wanted to learn how to do the styles).
One thing the other review got right – Katy Baker as Flora was a powerhouse, verging on a Ethel Merman style house-filling personality. And yet her coperformers weren’t slackers (one was very soft), but generally engaging. All in all, this was a good evening that not only gave me an opportunity to see a professional production of a forgotten work by my favorite songwriting team of all time, but did so in a way that made me happy I’d gone. It’s only on for a few more days, so catch it while you can.
(This review is for a performance that took place on July 10th, 2012. It ends July 14th. If you like Kander and Ebb, GO!)