Back at the Riverside Studios after two years, Tete a Tete’s production of Salad Days remains as light and refreshing as one might expect from the brief but charming ‘plein air’ movement of musical theatre. Originally staged in 1954, after 2283 performances Salad Days became the longest running musical in the West End and indeed prompted a school-boy Cameron Mackintosh to enter the theatrical arena himself.
The plot, such as there is, focuses on recent graduates Timothy and Jane as they take charge of a magical piano that makes people dance. Julian Slade’s music is remarkably easy on the ear while Dorothy Reynolds book and lyrics are both witty and intelligent, painting a decidedly rose-tinted image of post-war London. Tete a Tete’s production comes at a time when new musical theatre in the UK is in something of a crisis, with Salad Days offering a lightness of touch and breadth of appeal that so many new writers manage to overlook.
Undoubtedly much of the success of this production is down to a versatile and talented ensemble, who as one embrace the comic narrative under the equally light touch of director Bill Bankes-Jones. Leo Miles and Katie Moore are perfectly cast as Timothy and Jane but the joy of this ensemble are the scene-stealing cameo performances from Ellie Robertson, Mark Inscoe and Tony Timberlake. Credit must also be given to the design team for a refreshing attention to detail, including wardrobe mistress Katy Adeney and wig supervisor Sally Tynan whose efforts go a long way to recreating the period.