Mill at Sonning
29th Nov 2023 – 20th Jan 2024

“You’re invited to the wedding of the year, and what a swell party it’s going to be!Long Island socialite Tracy Lord is planning her lavish High Society nuptials with 700 guests and oceans of champagne. But who exactly will be the groom? Her fiancé – the self-made but boring George? Or her glamorous and dangerous ex-husband Dexter who turns up on the scene determined to win her back. Or maybe news reporter Mike Connor, who has been sent to cover the wedding for his tabloid paper and who falls head over heels in love with the captivating Miss Lord. Come and enjoy this swell party and find out which suitor she chooses.Cole Porter’s classic feel-good musical is based on THE PHILADELPHIA STORY and the 1956 film starring Bing Crosby, Grace Kelly and Frank Sinatra. Full of songs you know from’ True Love’ to ‘Who Wants To Be A Millionaire’, it is a Christmas extravaganza not to be missed.”

Review by Richard Lambert, 5 Stars

The Mill at Sonning has once again produced another fabulous in-house musical – this time it’s the wedding of the year for those living in High Society in 1958. Cole Porter’s descriptively titled HIGH SOCIETY serving an insight into how the other half lives, all done with humour, taste and a little delicious acidity between the characters.

You really can’t better the more old-fashioned classic musicals. Gershwin, Rodgers and Hammerstein, Noel Coward and of course Cole Porter, often copied but never bettered. Done here at the Mill at Sonning on a scale that has to be seen to be believed with a cast of 15 and a band of 4, this does not feel like a show on a budget.

The Set (Jason Denvir) is built in-house and always impressive. The backdrop manages to come alive at night with illuminated festoon lights on the yachts. This is subtle and gorgeous. Many set pieces are moved around and locked into place to keep the staging dynamic and creatively make new spaces. The lighting team of Nic Farman and Hector Murray magically transform from indoor reception rooms to outdoor patios and from realism to Broadway. The draped festoon of 100s of lights with individual colour control can feel like you’re observing from your own yacht or immersed in their colourful party.

Director Joseph Pitcher has beautifully staged this production in terms of the set pieces, ensemble and principals.

So many foot-tapping songs we all know and love, including Who wants to be a millionaire? and I love Paris. The very beautifully staged and sung True Love closing Act 1 and the brilliantly energetic and hilarious Let’s misbehave. Choreographer Jaye Elster has pulled out all the stops – it’s rare that staging can step up to the level of comedy found via text in the script but Elster has done it here!

With all the cast on radio mics, along with the band, it all sounds glorious in the very safe hands of Sound Designer Chris Whybrow. And of course, a big shoutout to the Sound Operator keeping it all together.

And the cast were absolutely terrific!

The Christmas Dinner is part of the theatre experience and included in the ticket price. It was absolutely top notch. I suspect this was the best Christmas dinner I’ll have this season! An all you can eat 2-course buffet carvery followed by mince pies and coffee, served by the most welcoming staff. With on-site parking also included in the ticket price, why wouldn’t you do this! It does feel a little like a step-back in time with choice of musical but this is so delightful and in keeping with the fabulous venue and staff who exude good old-fashioned manners. Love this!

A trip to the Mill at Sonning is an absolute must this Christmas!

Photo credit Andreas Lambis

Matt Blaker (Dexter Haven) recently played Raoul in ‘Phantom of the Opera’ in the West End and was Billy Bigelow in ‘Carousel’ at Kilworth House. Matthew Jeans (Mike Connor) – his recent musicals include ‘White Christmas’, ‘Funny Girl’ and Singin’ in the Rain’.Katlo (Dinah Lord) is making her professional debut.Kurt Kansley (Uncle Willie) was recently Alfredo in ‘Pretty Woman’ in the West End and appeared in ‘Heathers’ and ‘But I’m a Cheerleader’. Victoria Serra (Tracy Lord) – her musicals include ‘Titanic’, ‘Grand Hotel’ and ‘Parade’ and playing Sarah Brown in ‘Guys and Dolls’ at The Mill at Sonning.Laura Tyrer (Liz Imbrie) was recently Tessie in ‘Gypsy’ at The Mill at Sonning and played Cricket in ‘Mother Goose’ alongside Ian McKellen.with Tosca Fischer, Samuel How, Heather Jackson, Bethany Rose Lythgoe, Joe Press, Will Richardson, Callum Train, Russell Wilcox.
Creative team:Joseph Pitcher – DirectorJason Denvir – Set DesignerNatalie Titchener – Costume DesignerJaye Elster – ChoreographerNic Farman – Co-Lighting DesignerHector Murray – Co-Lighting DesignerJerome van den Berghe – Musical Arranger / SupervisorChris Whybrow – Sound DesignerTom Noyes – Musical DirectorCasting – Pearson Casting CDG
HIGH SOCIETYMusic and Lyrics by Cole PorterBook by Arthur KopitAdditional Lyrics by Susan BirkenheadBased on the play “The Philadelphia Story” by Philip BarryAlso based on the Turner Entertainment Co. motion picture “High Society29 November, 2023 – 20 January, 2024The Mill at Sonning TheatreSonning EyeReading
RG4 6TYwww.millatsonning.com