A trip to The Mill at Sonning is always a treat and with it being in the lead up to Christmas, even more so. It's a clever format; the ticket includes a pre-show two course meal, so takes away any anxieties of where to eat and drink pre-show. The venue itself is both beautiful and sustainable, with the water wheel from the original flour mill providing the electricity to the theatre.
High Society was one of my mum's favourite musicals, and many a happy Sunday afternoon of my childhood was spent watching the film on TV. I did also love The Philadelphia Story, so it was great to see that this staging had borrowed from both, with Susan Birkenhead providing additions to Cole Porter's original lyrics.
The wedding of Tracy Lord, (Victoria Serra), to George Kitteridge (Will Richardson), with 700 guests, is a party to which we were all invited. The energetic staging of High Society has the actors and musicians entering and exiting the stage up the aisles, playing instruments and dancing, and chatting to the audience as the action resumes after the interval.
But will it go ahead as planned? Not if sassy Dinah Lord, (Katlo), has anything to do with it. She can see that Tracy's first husband Dexter (Matt Blaker) is still the right man for her older sister, and plots with him to re-kindle the love once shared with Tracy. There's also the writer Mike Connor (Matthew Jeans) trapped in a gossip magazine job he hates - despite his declared dislike of the ultra wealthy he finds himself enchanted by Tracy. This is much to the despair of Liz (Laura Tryer), his photographer colleague who is secretly in love with Mike. Their duet of 'Who Wants to be a Millionaire' is delivered with great comic timing, but somehow they never sing the line 'all I want is you'.
There is an underlying theme of not all is what it seems, that despite all the wealth anyone could need, relationships take work, and images have to be maintained. Reconciliation after an affair is tackled, acknowledging that relationships can be complex, and that emotional maturity is required to understand this. Tracy has to find this out before she can realise who is the right man for her, and the self-made man George ultimately realises that he’s never going to fit into High Society.
I loved the colour palate of the costumes, and these looked like the clothes of rich people. Natalie Titchener has delivered again. The set was nicely lit, and the projected background of the harbour changing with the time of day was well executed.
The show delivers all the big numbers: Who Wants to be a Millionaire, True Love, Well, Did you Evah? The production of ‘She’s Got That Thing’ lead by Uncle Willie (Kurt Kansley) was one of the highlights of the show for me. Kurt brought a lot of warmth and energy to this lecherous role. The rendition of True Love was rather beautiful, as was You’re Sensational. He’s a Right Guy sung by Liz was heart-breaking in its delivery. This is a strong ensemble.
I left the show with a smile on my face. What more could you want from a Saturday afternoon matinee?
Where is it playing?
The Mill at Sonning Theatre
Ticket prices include a 2 course meal
When is it playing?
Now until 20th January 2024
Matt Blaker (Dexter Haven)
Matthew Jeans (Mike Connor)
Katlo (Dinah Lord)
Kurt Kansley (Uncle Willie)
Victoria Serra (Tracy Lord)
Laura Tyrer (Liz Imbrie)
with Tosca Fischer, Samuel How, Heather Jackson, Bethany Rose Lythgoe, Joe Press, Will Richardson, Callum Train, Russell Wilcox.
Joseph Pitcher - Director
Jason Denvir – Set Designer
Natalie Titchener – Costume Designer
Jaye Elster - Choreographer
Nic Farman – Co-Lighting Designer
Hector Murray – Co-Lighting Designer
Jerome van den Berghe – Musical Arranger / Supervisor
Chris Whybrow – Sound Designer
Tom Noyes – Musical Director
Casting - Pearson Casting CD