Cheap locker room talk: Promises Promises @swkplay

Songs by Burt Bacharach and a great cast can't conceal the paper-thin story and an awful lot of what probably is best described today as locker room talk in Promises Promises. It's currently playing at Southwark Playhouse.

It's based on Billy Wilder's film The Apartment starring Jack Lemmon and Shirley MacLaine. It's about a young man who sees a way of climbing the corporate ladder by lending out his apartment to executives for brief encounters.

But in the translation from screen to stage, it feels slow and repetitive. At three hours it draws out the drama and loses the comedy with the relentless locker room talk, superfluous songs and dialogue.


The world where women are objects not people is a bit grim. There isn't so much a glass ceiling as barred door that prevents any women getting into the executive lunch room. Unless of course they are clearing the plates.

You would expect with a book by Neil Simon, music by Burt Bacharach and lyrics by Hal David the results would be different.  They never collaborated on another musical. So what we have here is a piece of musical theatre history rather than a night of entertainment.

Director Bronagh Lagan makes things more palatable by casting the male executives as creepy overweight men. But this piece needs more than pantomime vilians to make it relevant.

But Gabriel Vick and Daisy Maywood make such a cute couple you might feel inclined to want to take them home. Or at least wish they had the show to themselves.

As CC Baxter Vick talks to the audience about his desire to climb the corporate ladder and win over Fran (Maywood). Maywood is a delight as the tough yet vulnerable Fran. When they come together and sing "I'll Never Fall In Love Again" it is a sublime evening of music making.

I enjoyed the extra song "A House Is Not A Home", which gives another opportunity for Maywood to sing. Thankfully the addition of "I Say A Little Prayer" was cut before opening night. There are enough songs in this show already. Whether they work is another matter.

All told it's enough to wind up anyone with an interest in good musicals and gender equality. If the cast weren't so damn good you would be more inclined to stay in and watch the original movie on Netflix and chill.

Promises Promises is at The Southwark Playhouse until 18 February.

⭐︎⭐︎⭐︎

Photo credit: Claire Bilyard




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