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The New Yorkers review at Lilian Baylis London

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In thirties Manhattan, Park Avenue socialites dally with ruthless gangsters as the Depression deepens across Prohibition America. It may sound like a particularly bleak plot but, in actual fact, this latest concert production by Cole Porter is an hysterical comedy written to make fun of how the idle rich coped with prohibition and financial destitution.

The original production in 1930 gave us several gems including Jimmy Durante as a solo performer and the number Love For Sale, which was subsequently banned for ten years. Cole Porter’s songs are fun but rarely delightful and the two classics that have survived, Love For Sale and I Happen To Like New York are shoe-horned into interlude scenes. Durante was allowed to write his own numbers for the show and, daft as they are, they are brilliantly brought to life by Michael Roberts. The highlight of this show is Herbert Field’s witty dialogue, fizzing with scandalous one-liners throughout an albeit very silly book.

That said, director Ian Marshall Fisher has put together a cracking cast. Relishing the opportunity of having so many great lines, Anna Francolini shines as Alice Wentworth opposite Craige Els as Spillane-style mobster, Al Spanish. Sandra Marvin is a bumptious Lola McGee and Dawn Spence is fabulous as the tapping showgirl, Mona Low. Fine energetic support is provided by a full company that helps set the scene, especially Andrew P Stephen, who plays no less than six characters.

Lost Musicals offers an opportunity to examine how the masters of last century learned their trade. Though it’s unlikely The New Yorkers will ever be professionally revived, seeing it here sheds as much light on the audiences of the period as it does the writers.

Production Information

Lilian Baylis, London, March 29-April 19

Cole Porter (music and lyrics), Herbert Fields (book)
Ian Marshall Fisher
The Lost Musicals
Craige Els, Anna Francolini, Ursula Smith, Stuart Permutt, Michael Roberts, Chris Stanton, Jud Charlton, Dawn Spence, Matthew Gould, Sandra Marvin, Grant Neal, Jon Robyns, Ian Davey
Running time
2hrs 25mins

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