Wednesday, 17 February 2016

Review: Mrs Henderson Presents at the Noel Coward Theatre

Mrs Henderson Presents
Noel Coward Theatre
Reviewed on Friday 12th February 2016

Mrs Henderson Presents is a charming new British musical. Adapted from the 2005 film starring Judi Dench, the show - which is written by Terry Johnson, Don Black, George Fenton and Simon Chamberlain - oozes with heart. 

Tracie Bennett stars as widowed Laura Henderson who takes on an old cinema on Great Windmill Street and turns it into a variety club during the thirties. With war looming and box office sales falling, Mrs Henderson decides that (as the poster says) "for the show to go on, the clothes must come off".

The opening scenes are brilliant; the small ensemble immediately bring life and soul to the stage whilst Bennett's presence, along with Andrew Wright's choreography, provides some old school pizazz. Interestingly I took my seat knowing absolutely nothing about the story which sees four women being persuaded to become 'The Windmill Girls' who pose as nude statues for sold out crowds. Director Terry Johnson has fun teasing his audience, the first scene involving nudity (male as well as female) is superbly staged and received an uproarious response.

The piece takes a few twists and turns as we see a love story develop between Windmill Girl Maureen (Emma Williams) and stage hand Eddie (Matthew Malthouse). It is an utter joy to see Williams back onstage in a new musical. Beautifully portraying Maureen's journey of self discovery, Williams shines throughout - this is her show.

Malthouse gives an endearing performance whilst Lizzy Connolly, Katie Bernstein and Lauren Hood are all terrific as the completing members of The Windmill Girls. Elsewhere Samuel Holmes is in his absolute element as Bertie. Holmes steals many of the evening's biggest laughs with his sharp one-liners and flamboyant mannerisms - never has a role been better cast.

The score is hugely enjoyable, and certainly stronger than other new British musicals to have opened in the West End in recent years. Williams' vocals gloriously soared as she belted out 'If Mountains Were Easy To Climb' but I found the lyrics a tad too obvious which spoilt the moment for me, perhaps I just need time for the number to grow on me.

With some touching and inspiring moments, ultimately Mrs Henderson Presents is a lot of fun. The nudity, which is done tastefully, created a huge buzz which stayed in the theatre for the duration of the show. Having premiered at the Theatre Royal Bath last year, Mrs Henderson Presents is deserving of successful West End run and feels at home at the stunning Noel Coward Theatre.

Reviewed by Andrew Tomlins (Editor)

Mrs Henderson Presents runs at the Noel Coward Theatre until 18th June 2016.

Photo Credit: Paul Coltas

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