More than a little happiness will be spread throughout the Christmas season with this foot-tapping, feel-good feast of British songwriting talent in Salisbury Playhouse’s intimate studio space.
Joanna Hickman, Jenni Bowden, Matthew Crowe and Graham Lappin in Spread a Little Happiness at the Salberg Studio, Salisbury Playhouse Photo: Nick Spratling
The Playhouse has hit on a winning formula in previous years, celebrating the talents of US musical greats like Porter and Berlin as a grown-up alternative to pantomime.
But this is Britain’s year and this flash, bang, wallop of a show proves the best of the bunch so far, performed by an outstanding quartet of actor-musicians - Jenni Bowden, Matthew Crowe, Joanna Hickman and Graham Lappin.
If previous offerings have had the Broadway sparkle of champagne, this has the richness and warmth of a good malt whiskey and is even more intoxicating.
Powell and Occhipinti take us on a journey through the hits and headlines of the last 100 years from racy musical hall numbers to wartime refrains and on to the burgeoning of the British stage musical.
It’s simply but imaginatively staged, using projections to mark the passage of time and move us from Novello to Elton John via Noels Coward and Gay, Sandy Wilson, Lionel Bart, Willy Russell and more.
There are sublime a capella versions of the bluesy Bricusse/Newley Feeling Good and Lloyd Webber’s Love Changes Everything, but each performer grabs their chance to shine with Bowden and Lappin nearly bringing the house down in a brilliantly funny and highly mobile version, piano included, of Victoria Wood’s Ballad of Barry and Freda (Let’s Do It).