This is the European premiere of Jerry Herman’s (Hello Dolly and La Cage Aux Folles) 1979 Broadway musical from the same creative team as Titanic, Parade, Mack & Mabel and Victor/Victoria.
Set in France in the 1940; the story follows Jacobowsky, a Polish Jewish intellectual, who has been one step ahead of the Nazis for years. Fleeing from country to country he remains a perpetual fugitive, running for his life and liberty. Stjerbinsky, an aristocratic, anti-semitic Polish colonel, is desperately trying to get to the other side of France to deliver some documents to an agent. Jacobowsky has purchased a car, but he doesn’t know how to drive. The Colonel knows how to drive, but has no car. When they meet at a Paris hotel, they agree to join forces in order to escape the approaching Nazis. Together with the Colonel’s girlfriend, Marianne, they begin their dangerous journey across war torn Europe.
Musicals in smaller fringe theatres can be difficult to pull off with success due to the limitations of space. I’m pleased to say that the team at The Finborough have managed to put together a show that has style and power. Phil Lindley’s cunning use of the space with an ingenious ‘pop-up’ and fold out set that is a sight to behold and made me laugh with joy at times. The walls are covered with a large map of Europe that the cast discretely manoeuvre to reveal a variety of scenes. The cast of eleven are a versatile bunch and are ably led by the powerful voices and strong performances of Brookshaw, Kyle and Doano.
There are some strong musical numbers and the slightly weaker are easily overlooked in their presence. The choreography is varied and in spite of a small performance space worked to good effect. The plot isn’t the most gripping or intricate but then musical theatre isn’t always a vehicle where this is needed for a successful show. This is a show that is fun to watch and is also unexpectedly moving at points. I’d recommend a trip to The Finborough to catch this rare gem of a production that is staged excellently.