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High Society at The Mill at Sonning

Published by: Clare Brotherwood on 30th Nov 2016 | View all blogs by Clare Brotherwood

Think of High Society, and Cole Porter classics such as Who Wants to be a Millionaire, True Love, Just One of Those Things, and Samantha, come to mind, sung by original cast members Bing Crosby, Grace Kelly and Frank Sinatra.

It’s a frothy, funny, feel good show you’d think would only be at home in Hollywood movies or on the West End stage. But, to quote Mr Porter, you’ll be ridin’ high if you join in the swell party this is at The Mill at Sonning.

Just how this ‘big’ musical fits so comfortably in The Mill’s small space must be an illusion. The audience is certainly not short changed by the intimacy of its surroundings, nor the calibre of the performers. It’s full-on, fast-paced, all-singing, all-dancing entertainment, yet it isn’t in your face - and we must thank director and choreographer Joseph Pitcher, who has been resident director on the RSC’s West End production of Matilda for the past two-and-a-half years, for striking the perfect balance.

Perfect is an adjective I think I shall be using more than once in this review.

High Society is set on Long Island in 1938 and charts the events leading up to the wedding of the fabulously wealthy Tracy Samantha Lord to the humourless George Ketteridge. Enter Tracy’s ex-husband, a couple of undercover reporters wanting to dig the dirt on Tracy’s erring father, and a lot of Champagne, and things don’t always go according to plan.

From the outset, Kirsty Ingram proves she is a star in the making as Tracy’s kid sister Dinah. Although aged 22 and only in her second professional production, she sparkles throughout her perfectly portrayed role as a petulant child, bossy and cheeky, but with a vulnerability, especially in scenes with Tracy’s ex, on whom she obviously has a crush.

At the other end of the scale, David Delve is an old hand at musicals, both in the West End and on tour, and although his larger than life performance as Tracy’s Uncle Willie would satisfy audiences in big theatres, it is not over the top in this smaller venue. The big expressions, flashing eyes, swivelling hips (and wandering hands) all make for a great deal of hilarity.

All 11 members of the cast must be congratulated on their fine contributions to this perfect way to celebrate the festive season, not to mention musical director Charlie Ingles’ hard-working band, Callum White on percussion, Pete Hutchinson on double bass and the impressive Joe Atkin-Reeves on clarinet, sax and flute.

As Tracy’s mother, Elizabeth Elvin, a regular at The Mill, fits right in with a cast whose background is in musical theatre rather than as actors who sing. Bethan Nash has an amazing voice and sings and dances her way through the role of Tracy Lord with fluidity, pose and an endearing sense of fun, but among my favourite scenes are those between Rachel Moran as Polly the maid, and Grant Neal as Chester the butler. Every time the stiff, poker-faced servants launched into a wild, abandoned song and dance routine the audience erupted. A swell party indeed!

 

High Society is at The Mill at Sonning until January 14. Box office 0118 969 8000

www.millatsonning.com

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