Review: The MGM Story, New Wolsey Theatre, Ipswich, February 5
PUBLISHED: 11:17 07 February 2017
photo© Danilo Moroni
There are show tunes galore in this wonderfully entertaining show, a love letter to the musicals made at MGM, the most glamorous of all the studios during Hollywood’s Golden Age.
The story of the MGM musical is part of the history of American Cinema and an art form itself. The show has a huge tale to tell and writer, Chris Burgess pieces it together well, focusing on the career of Judy Garland and the producer Arthur Freed who discovered her and whose unit was behind many of her greatest films as well as classics like Singin’ in the Rain and Gigi. Judy Garland’s inclusion is fitting as her own rise and decline mirrors the fortune of the types of movies she made as well as the darker side of Hollywood.
The three performers on stage, James Leece, Miranda Wilford and Steven Dalziel sing and dance and narrate the story with energy showcasing not only their many talents but the trio also bring a genuine warmth, humour and a real passion for the story, clearly shared by the full house at the New Wolsey.
Emily Bestow’s set and costume design is clever and thoughtful. The set has a ‘back stage ‘ in rehearsal feel with running rails of costumes, boxes of props. Ladders and tables on wheels provide seamless movement between the numbers. The cast is joined on stage by the musicians that accompany them, creating a chemistry between them all that in itself is reminiscent of the plots of some of musicals they describe. Uniformly dressed in beige costumes from the era, the sepia tones here add to the warm nostalgic feeling of this show.
We are treated to about 30 songs, some wonderful tap dancing and the anecdotes are fascinating creating a strong narrative that places the musicals in its many contexts. The cast’s recreation of Good Morning from Singin’ In the Rain was fabulous as was the clever use of the sad “By Myself” from Band Wagon given to ‘Arthur Freed’ himself to sing at the end of his era. It was a great moment where the two worlds met and was fitting and poignant end to the story.