Theatre: Once Upon A Time At the Adelphi

Last week I was watching Paint Never Dries at the Adelphi Theatre wondering if this is what passes for British musical theatre nowadays, maybe I should avoid it in future. This week I was at the Union Theatre watching Once Upon A Time At The Adelphi, which despite the overlong title (and perhaps an overlong second half), was enough to make me change my mind. There may be no projections or intricate melodies, but at least there is a coherent story and a series of characters that you could at least care about.

The musical, by Phil Willmott, is set at the Adelphi Hotel in Liverpool, which has been the source of many great stories, such as Roy Rogers taking his horse, Trigger, on the roof for some exercise or Hitler working in the kitchen. The action moves between the present day and 1930s. While it is more melodrama than drama, there is an emotional heart in it all, that had me hooked right up to the ending. And dare I say... It will leave you with a slightly misty-eyed view of Liverpool. Anything that makes you feel anything other than contempt for that city surely must be evidence of the power of theatre at work...

While the show might have benefited from a lavish production budget, there is enough fine singing and energy in this show (particularly with Andrew Wright's choreography) that you will forget that you are at the Fringe. Don't sit on the front row though as those high kicks really are something...

The musical is having its London premiere at the Union Theatre in Southwark, which is a great little reclaimed space under the railway arches and full of character... Although you do have to watch your step as one theatre luvvy made a less than grand entrance falling over some chairs upon arrival. This may not have been the attention he was craving for.

The programme notes that after its successful run in Liverpool while it was European Capital of Culture, there were plans to take it elsewhere... But they never eventuated. It is great to see that it has made its way to London eventually... It runs through this month.

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