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Are You As Nervous As I Am? at Greenwich Theatre

This entertaining new musical is very fortunate in having as its leading lady the terrific Katie Elin-Salt: she is onstage almost throughout, singing and acting with enormous energy and charisma, as well as showcasing a superb voice, more than capable of putting over a wide range of styles such as “Here We Go” and “Too Long”.

Emma Thornett (Janet) and Katie Elin-Salt (Peggy) - Are You As Nervous As I Am - Pamela Raith Photography.
Emma Thornett (Janet) and Katie Elin-Salt (Peggy) – Are You As Nervous As I Am – Pamela Raith Photography

She plays Peggy Starr, whose life journey we follow as she leaves her abusive mother in South Wales, journeys to London to find her sister, gets ‘discovered’, married etc… The plot (Simon Spencer) is a bit melodramatic, but Elin-Salt embraces it fully and almost makes us believe that all that occurs can actually happen to one person!

Her first husband, Bob, a songwriter, is superbly acted by Bill Ward. Whether or not the playwright intends this, he actually comes over as a very sympathetic character, and it is a great pity that he is not used more in Act Two as he is always worth watching. Only occasionally is he allowed to sing and play the clarinet, also a shame.

Peggy’s sister, Janet (Emma Thornett) is underwritten – again we wish she had more to sing. Daniel Abbott seems miscast as a Hollywood film star – nowhere near dynamic enough, especially standing still when he abandons all attempts at being ‘in role’, and Sarah Ingram’s dialogue lacks projection in the opening scenes so that it is a struggle to get to grips with the exposition.

Leighton James House’s songs, in a variety of styles, are very attractive, as are Shaun McKenna’s lyrics, even if, on first hearing, one cannot describe them as memorable, and the offstage band under Josh Cottell does them full justice. The all-purpose set was designed by Kevin Jenkins and the rather fussy lighting design, sometimes not allowing us to see actors’ faces, was by Mike Robertson.

However, the most credit must be given to the slick direction of Phoebe Barran who has ensured that not only does the show flow smoothly, but also that any weaknesses in the script are quickly glided over.

I chatted with the producer before the show who informed me that so far it had taken seven years to get Are You As nervous As I Am? on stage, and that this three-week try-out at Greenwich was still a work in development: everyone involved expecting to learn a lot!

Having said this, I enjoyed it a great deal – not (yet?) a great show, but one that makes for a most enjoyable evening in the theatre, and well worth travelling the short distance out of central London for! Recommended!

4 stars

Review by John Groves

All Peggy wanted was a family… all she found was fame.
Estranged sisters Peggy and Janet are united by two things: the struggle with their dysfunctional mother and the desire for a brighter future. Each possessing both softness and strength, the sisters’ tumultuous journeys are woven together as they search for their happy endings.

A beautiful, brave and bold story of love and the pursuit of happiness…the importance of overcoming adversity, and the courage required to follow your dreams.

With book by Simon Spencer, music by Leighton James House and lyrics by Shaun McKenna.

1 October-23 October

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  • John Groves

    John Groves studied singing with Robert Easton and conducting with Clive Timms. He was lucky enough to act in the British premiere of a Strindberg play at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe more years ago than he cares to remember, as well as singing at the Royal Opera House - once! He taught drama and music at several schools, as well as examining the practical aspects of GCSE and A level drama for many years. For twenty five years he has conducted a brass band as well as living on one of the highest points of East Sussex surrounded by woodland, deer, foxes and badgers, with kites and buzzards flying overhead.

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