HR Haitch review at Union Theatre, London – ‘coarse and corny new musical’
The social divide between the working classes and the aristocracy has long been a popular theme in musical theatre. Think My Fair Lady, Half a Sixpence and Me and My Girl. They all dance around the class divide.
Class is a key theme in Luke Bateman and Maz Evans’ new musical comedy HR Haitch, in which a Barking landlord’s daughter becomes part of the British royal family.
Through reasons not fully explored young Prince Albert has been living incognito for most of his life. When his identity is finally revealed to the world, his family reject his working class girlfriend Chelsea and a power battle for the monarchy ensues.
Evans borrows heavily from the Spitting Image tradition to create her fictional royal family, but her plot runs out of fresh ideas very quickly. Charm soon dissolves into boorishness and Bateman’s decidedly forgettable score only highlights the often crass, ungainly lyrics.
Christian James is a saving grace as the amiable dopey Albert, while Emily Jane Kerr chews the scenery as disgruntled spare-to-the-heir Princess Victoria.
Tori Allen-Martin is a phenomenal performer and also proves her worth here as a comedy actor, playing the big-hearted, selfie-obsessed Chelsea. Allen-Martin brings genuine pathos to Chelsea’s predicament but sadly there isn’t a single musical number in the score that makes sense of her casting.
Opening in royal wedding week may seem to be a masterstroke of timing, but this piece is so sloppily cobbled together at every level, it smacks of cynical opportunism.