Most people will probably think of Gentlemen Prefer Blondes as the film in which Marilyn Monroe (in a role originated by Carol Channing) sings Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend in a hot pink ball gown.
Sasha Regan’s production of the 1949 musical by Jule Styne and Leo Robin employs a bubbly young cast who successfully capture a sense of 1920s hedonism.
It’s less astringent than Anita Loos’ 1925 novel and inevitably it feels dated, but mostly in a charming way (the dirty-old man character notwithstanding). The plot is lightweight in the extreme – showgirls Lorelei Lee and Dorothy Shaw encounter various suitors on a transatlantic voyage – and there’s also some business with a diamond tiara, but the tunes are catchy and the characters exude moxie.
The minimalist design by Justin Williams allows space for Zak Nemorin’s splendid choreography to flow, and Penn O’Gara provides stylish costumes.
As Lorelei, Abigayle Honeywill pleasingly doesn’t give a breathy Monroe impression. She has more in common with Jean Hagen as Lina Lamont in Singin’ in the Rain. With a speaking voice that could strip paint, Lorelei isn’t exactly endearing, but Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend in context does show why such materialism is a valid survival method.
Eleanor Lakin has an authoritative stage presence as Dorothy, Lorelei’s down-to-earth foil; Freddie King is endearing as the lovestruck Henry, and the ensemble members play Olympians, socialites and Follies dancers with athleticism and verve.
A kiss on the hand may feel good for a moment, but this shows how musical comedy can be both an ephemeral pleasure and something that lasts forever.