“I’ll plant you now, dig you later”
Rodgers and Hart musical Pal Joey hasn’t had a major London production since this 1980 revival at the Albery (now the Noël Coward) and on the evidence of this selection of highlights from that production, it’s not terribly difficult to see why it might not seem the most likely target for revitalisation. It has a very old-fashioned heart, not a problem in and of itself especially when that includes songs like ‘Bewitched Bothered and Bewildered’ but the bigger problem is the style of orchestration which has a somewhat tinny sound, possibly just a legacy of its early 80s genesis.
It’s hard to truly warm to Denis Lawson’s performance as the title character though, a very expansive and swaggering vocal that feels rather forced – the accent doesn’t work for me – and thus a crucial part in the success of the show falling flat from the off. Siân Phillips is much more effective as Vera, her gravelly voice always touching to listen to as she puts infuses acres of heart into her character but I do wonder how much not knowing the show affects my judgement in both these cases (Joey seems an unlikeable sort, and I’ve long loved Phillips anyway).
Still, it was worth the 50p from the charity shop that it cost me!