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Burt Bacharach's PROMISES PROMISES at London's Southwark Playhouse

Published by: Elaine Pinkus on 18th Jan 2017 | View all blogs by Elaine Pinkus

The first London production in 20 years of the hit Burt Bacharach/Hal David/Neil Simon Broadway musical Promises, Promises, based on the Billy Wilder film The Apartment is now playing at the Southwark Playhouse, London. Added to the original score are those timeless and still popular Bacharach favourites  ‘A house is not a home’, ‘I say a little prayer’ and ‘I’ll never fall in love again’ which cannot fail to tear at the heartstrings and which serve as highlights of the evening.

Chuck in his office

Chuck Baxter (Gabriel Vick)

Set in 1962 in the offices of a male dominated, chauvinistic executive hierarchical structure we meet Chuck Baxter, an aspiring junior accountant and proud tenant of an apartment on the second floor of a block on West 67 Street, New York. Keen to be promoted to executive level, he naively falls prey to the promises of the middle aged higher echelon who cheat on their wives and bed young secretaries and receptionists in this misogynistic working world. In return for allowing them to use his apartment, Chuck will be promoted to a more senior level. ‘Where can you take a girl?’ sung fiercely by these cheating executives is presented with energy and humour and makes clear their exploitation of  this young innocent.

Executives with Chuck

Chuck and executives (Lee Ormby, Martin Dickinson and Craig Armstrong)

From the start Chuck shares his confidences with the audience. An endearing character, played with charm and a strong likeability factor by Gabriel Vick, we empathise with his low self esteem wishing only the best for what might otherwise be a loser in this corporate world. He is used and abused by those around him; not only the paunchy executive level and the manipulative CEO Sheldrake, played by Paul Robinson, but also by the one girl that he would love to know more, Fran (Daisy Maywood). ‘Our Little Secret’ sung by Chuck and Sheldrake makes the 2017 audience squirm but we must remember we are in the 1960s and the score and staging reflects the typicality of this period.

Chuck and Sheldrake

Chuck and Sheldrake (Paul Robinson)

This is a story of dreams, of disillusionment and empty promises. Supported by an energetic and enthusiastic cast, there are moments of humour which raise the occasional stillness. With numbers such as ‘Turkey Lurkey Time’ and ‘Christmas Day’ the pace quickens and there is a relief injected into the rather long and sometimes tedious moments. Certainly the included numbers mentioned earlier are performed with passion by our two leads, Chuck and Fran and we know that we will work towards a ‘promising’ closure.

Act 2 opens with a bang and we are treated to a wonderful interlude with Marge (excellently performed by Alex Young) and Chuck. Wearing her owl coat (yes that is not a typo) and sounding the final ‘p’ consonant with tight control, there are laugh out loud moments. Furthermore, Dr Dreyfuss (John Guerraso) in his quasi Woody Allen portrayal gives us Neil Simon at his funniest moments. This Act certainly has pace and energy.

Chuck and Marge

Chuck and Marge (Alex Young)

I hate talking about production lengths but in this case I do feel that the three hours (give or take a few minutes) was extravagantly long with an especially lengthy Act 1. However, the intimate staging in the round, the somewhat basic scene changes, the strong support of the band and the costumes and choreography typical of the 60s offered charm and nostalgia. Bronagh Lagan’s revival at the Southwark Theatre offers an enjoyable evening and, for those admirers of Bacharach, David and Neil Simon, is a worthy entertainment.

Chuck and Fran

Chuck and Fran (Daisy Maywood)

Photographs: Claire Bilyard

Aria Entertainment & Senbla


Book by Neil Simon

Based on the Screenplay The Apartment by Billy Wilder
and I.A.L Diamond

Music by Burt Bacharach
& Lyrics by Hal David

Friday 13 January -
Saturday 18 February

77-85 Newington Causeway

Box office: 020 7407 0234

Start Time 7.30pm
Matinee Starts 3pm
Running Time 160 mins including interval
Price £25 | £20 concessions | £14 previews


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