It’s not often that a musical theatre buff gets to see a show where the writer of the music and lyrics conducts not only a world class thirty piece orchestra but an internationally famous cast as well. However, it does happen and last night I was privileged to visit the London Palladium to see the London Musical Theatre Orchestra perform Honeymoon in Vegas under the baton of lyricist/composer Jason Robert Brown.
Jack Singer (Arthur Darvill) has a problem. He wants to get married to his long-time girlfriend Betsy (Samantha Barks). Normally, this would not be an issue. A visit to the jewellers, then down on one knee and ring slipped on the finger – sorted. Unfortunately for Jack, he is hampered by his mother, Bea (Rosemary Ashe). On her deathbed, she made her son promise to never get married and every time he gets close to proposing, her ghostly form pops out to scare the bejesus out of him and stop him popping the question. After five years of this, Betsy is understandably not happy about their relationship so Jack decides to cut out the middleman, forget getting engaged and whisks the two of them to Las Vegas for an instant wedding. However, before the ceremony can occur, a gentleman by the name of Tommy Korman (Maxwell Caulfield), along with side-kick Johnny Sandwich (Nicholas Colicos). Tommy is in mourning for his dead wife and as Betsy is a dead ringer for her, he decides that she will be his. Tommy is a man used to getting his own way and so manipulates things so that he can have Betsy to himself. With a determined and very influential man in the way and a mother’s curse to fight off, can Jack and Betsy ever finally tie the knot and become Mr & Mrs Singer?
Despite only being around since 2015, the LMTO has already built up a reputation of delivering superb musicals in an ‘in concert’ format and with Honeymoon in Vegas they have really hit the heights. Like virtually everyone – it had a very abominably short run in New York – I have not seen the musical myself but after last night, I really, really want to. The combination of Andrew Bergman’s book and the music & lyrics by Jason Robert Brown, works so well. Sometimes, you can tell a show is going to be good just from the overture and Honeymoon in Vegas is just such a show. Not a weak song amongst the twenty-three individual tunes – and I should know as I’m listening to the original cast recording as I write this. I have no idea what went wrong in New York but this is a production that really needs to come to the West End.
Maybe my positivity about the show has been nudged along by the staging I saw which boasted an extremely great cast. Arthur Darvill in particular. was superb with his wonderful facial expressions as he watched his love being taken away from him. However, every cast member was really great and there were some real show-stealers in there, including Rosemary Ashe’s ghostly mother and the wonderfully flirty Maisey Bawden as Mahi – who really put everything into seducing Jack with the very naughty but great fun, ‘Friki-Friki’ song I had never heard Maxwell Caulfield sing before but he was perfect as Tommy, managing to get the audience feeling sorry for him despite being a pretty nasty piece of work. Add in Hollywood and West End star Samantha Barks as Betsy and Simon Lipkin as the leader of the flying Elvises and this is a night of sheer musical theatre heaven.
Turning to the orchestra and what can I say but bravo to each and every member of the team for producing stunning music, bringing the story to life and managing to do so in the face of continually changing light effects – nice work by designer Mike Robertson – without missing a beat. Leader Julian Trafford – who also played a beautiful solo in the second act – must have been proud as punch of his fellow musicians at the end of a joyous and energetic performance. I think ultimately the word joyous sums up this performance of Honeymoon in Vegas, not just for the audience to watch but also for the cast and musicians on the stage all of whom seemed to be having the time of their life. A truly superb Sunday night spent in one of London’s finest theatres seeing a fantastic show delivered by a first-rate team, what more could any fan of musical theatre require?
Review by Terry Eastham
The 30-strong London Musical Theatre Orchestra and a host of West End stars take to the London Palladium stage under the baton of its first guest conductor, the show’s composer Jason Robert Brown, to honour the stylish big-band score of Honeymoon in Vegas which marks another much anticipated UK Premiere for the orchestra.
Based on the hit 1992 film starring Sarah Jessica Parker, and Nicholas Cage, Honeymoon in Vegas tells the story of mild-mannered Brooklynite, Jack, who haunted by the fear of a promise to his dying mother never to get married, avoids proposing to his new girlfriend Betsy. He finally summons the nerve and takes Betsy to Las Vegas only to have his plans compromised by a dashing gambler with an eye for luxury and Jack’s new fiancée.