Media attention has focused on what is effectively Lee Mead’s drama debut, as if it might be a stretch too far for this West End musical star. Happily he scores a resounding hit in a performance of style, elegant wit and charm that is reminiscent of the equally charming Hugh Grant.
Louisa Clein (Sybil Merton), Lee Mead (Lord Arthur) and Kate O Mara (Lady Windermere) in Lord Arthur Savile's Crime at the Theatre Royal, Windsor Photo: Keith Pattison
Not just a handsome chap with a singing voice to match, Mead delivers his lines with a spot-on toff’s accent, just right for the dapper Lord Arthur of Wilde’s amoral tale, about a man engaged to be married who, on the eve of his wedding to Louisa Clein’s pretty Sybil, learns from a clairvoyant that he is destined to commit a murder.
His resolve to get the crime out of the way before his nuptials launches a light-hearted plot of unsuccessful attempts on the lives of his elderly relatives. From this Trevor Baxter and director Christopher Luscombe have fashioned an evening of enchantment first staged in 2005, a deft melodrama complete with musical accompaniment and entr’acte poesy, adorned by freshly-minted dialogue and aphorisms that even Wilde might be happy to own.
Gary Wilmot as the clairvoyant Podgers is perhaps more suave than his character might suggest and he attacks his breakfast egg with less appetite than Russ Abbot before him, but he and Derren Nesbitt as a Teutonic terrorist have great fun with the mechanics of death by explosion and poison.
Kate O’Mara as Lady Windermere delivers her devastating epigrams downstage with aristocratic aplomb, while David Ross enjoys his role as a worldly Dean of Chichester. But offstage the stars of the show are Alexander McPherson and his design team who create a perfect world of late Victorian theatre enclosed within a decorative proscenium arch.