Strike up the Band, 2 Stars

Strike up the Band
Upstairs at the Gatehouse
6th to 31st March 2019

“In 1927, Horace J. Fletcher is a typical self-made American businessman. His cheese factory dominates the market, he influences the White House, and he’s secured his business future by agreeing to marry his daughter, Joan, to his factory manager. He does have one problem. Switzerland has the audacity to protest America’s heavy new tariff on imported cheese. Fletcher convinces the US government to declare war, backing it with his bucks. Jim Townsend, a newspaperman, suspects all may not be wholesome, but he and Joan fall for each other. Will making the world safe for American cheese be more than just a walk in the Alps?”

Review by Richard Lambert, 2 Stars

With Gershwin you can always expect some fabulous music. “Strike up the Band” as a song has been used out of context on many an occasion. “The Man I Love” is another beautiful ballad from this musical.

A basic effective Set (Camille Etchart, construction Mary Williams) with some nice touches here and there that help mask the band. Clearly depicting when we’re in the USA Cheese factory or when we’re in Switzerland. The “Stage within a stage” wasn’t put to very much use by the Director (Mark Geisser) and the Video content for the sea trip home ran out and stuck on final frame right at the very start of the musical number.

With so many musical numbers it was a shame that the 6 x piece band drowned out the Singing – even when all 10 of the Cast Members were on stage singing. The Cast were wearing head mics but they didn’t appear to be working for most of the production. This made for a lovely overall “sound” from the show but many of the lyrics were inaudible. The band were fabulous but too loud and I have a feeling the Cast were great singers, especially Beth Burrows in the role of Joan Fletcher, but sitting in the front section on the band side of the theatre made it a difficult show to hear.

Pippa Winslow playing Mrs Draper was a delight! Absolutely brilliant in her characterisation of a husband-hunting widow chasing all the wrong men. Adam Scott Pringle playing Timothy Harper as the charmingly handsome leading man – a role that fits like a glove.

With a very talented cast the choreography didn’t display much of their dancing skills. Straight lines and marching around forming the ensemble numbers with several songs, particularly for the men, leaving them planted stationary throughout their song. Even the signature number going into the interval, the “Tap” number only had cast member tap dancing while the others watched.

A very long show at 3 hours (including a 15 min interval) but with Gershwin musicals on the Fringe a rarity here’s an opportunity to get acquainted with one of his finest.

(Photo Credit: Andreas Lambis)

Further Information

Music & Lyrics                 George and Ira Gershwin
Book                                  George S. Kaufman
Director                            Mark Giesser
Producer                           Alces Productions

Richard Emerson
Beth Burrows
Paul Biggin
Pippa Winslow
Charlotte Christensen
Adam Scott Pringle
Robert Finlayson
Nicholas McBride
David Francis
Sammy Graham

Performance Dates
March 6th 2019 – March 31st 2019
Tuesday – Saturday, 7.30pm
matinees on Sundays at 4pm

Running Time
180 mins (including interval)

Upstairs at the Gatehouse, Highgate Village, London N6 4BD

Ticket Price
Tues, Wed, Thurs: £18/16 (concessions)
Fri, Sat, Sun: £20/18 (concessions)

Box Office
020 8340 3488

Highgate station (15 mins)
Archway station (18 mins)
By bus: 143, 210, 214, 271

Performed by arrangement with Music Theatre International (Europe) Ltd