Posts Tagged ‘Darling Of the Day’

Review – Darling of the Day – Union Theater (Southbank, London)

April 4, 2013

The Union Theater’s production of Darling of the Day was my first chance to see a fully realized production of a show I’d only ever seen done before in concert form (in the Lost Musicals series). In this case, the show (as a show) was also a UK debut, for despite its fine pedigree (Jule Styne! Yip Harburg!), Darling of the Day had been an utter failure in America, no doubt due to being unfortunately placed as an old-fashioned, story-and-songs musical at the same time Hair came out. Rock and roll and naked hippies, or, um, sorry, what was that again? Something about about lower class/Cockney English people a la Mary Poppins? You can see where it failed to find its audience.

It’s a show that for several reasons, I think, rates a place in the silver era of American musical. The songs are really solid, and held up well even under the limitations of opening night, when the second female lead was too unwell to sing at all and the first lead (Alice Chalice, played by Katy Secombe) was singing, if softly, through her own bronchitis recovery period. But the unique story, about an artist switching places with his butler so he can live a life of happy obscurity, is a great set-up for a show; we get on one hand the silly, shallow art world (depicted as being pretty much exactly the same as today) and on the other hand the fun yet poor world of the working class folk of Putney (obviously long departed and a comic element of its own in 2013 London). It’s all brightly realized with some pretty costly costumery and non-trivial dance numbers, both of which I think exceeded the normal budget allotted to the Union Shows. The comedy, though, came along with the script, and in a spring that shows not even a peep of hope of arriving, Darling of the Day is a lovely little charmer well worth the ticket cost for its power in warding off gloom and chill.

(This review is for a performance that took place on March 22nd, 2013. It continues through April 20th. If the Union’s website is crashing for you like it was for me, tickets can be bought directly at Ticketsource or by calling the box office.)

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

September 13, 2010

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.)