Take a classic black and white British Movie, add the music of one of the world’s greatest songwriters and you get one of the best new musicals in years.
Many will remember The Smallest Show on Earth a 1957 British comedy film starring a host of great stars, including Peter Sellers and Margaret Rutherford. It was one of those films that would forever crop up on a wet Sunday afternoon.
The tale of David taking on Goliath, the kind of the story the British love, the underdog battling to come out on top.
Struggling young couple Jean and Matthew Spenser (Laura Pitt-Pulford and Haydn Oakley) inherit a flea-pit of a cinema. At first they just try and spruce the crumbling business and staff with a view to selling it to make a little money. Slowly however they come to realise what the Bijou Kinema means to the staff.
There’s the matriarchal bookkeeper and box office cashier, Mrs Fazackalee (Liza Goddard) and her son Tom (Sam O’Rourke), the projectionist Percy (Brian Capron) whose fuzzy projection pictures may have something to do with his love of a bottle or two or three.
Throw in a couple of villains from a rival and bigger cinema and you have a great tale.
If we stopped there you’d have a superb production with this talented cast, however this Made in Colchester production written by Thom Southerland and Paul Alexander has cleverly woven in a selection of great songs from over 1000 written by the great Irving Berlin.
It’s easy to take well-known song and put them to a play and call it a jukebox musical but Southerland and Alexander have chosen songs that do really fit the piece, so much so that you would be forgiven for thinking that the songs were written for The Smallest Show on Earth.
As already mentioned this is a very strong cast but special mention should be made to newcomers Christina Bennington and Sam O’Rourke who play Marlene Hardcastle and Tom Fazackalee. The pair feature in probably one of the most outstanding moments of this production with a homage to Fred and Ginger – excellent.
The story is good, the songs brilliant and this is fantastic. Sit down, get comfy and let The Smallest Show on Earth wrap it’s arms around you as you escape to a time when things were so much simpler. This is a genuinely feel-good, fuzzy moment production that will delight.
The Smallest Show on Earth, Mercury Theatre, Colchester until 10th October and then on tour. Colchester box office 01206 573948 or www.mercurytheatre.co.uk
Mark Keable, Ipswich24