Awarded Four Stars ****
In a time when the heart of Soho is being demolished around us, it is delightful to see a uniquely British musical that is but a love letter to the area and an era of bygone British entertainment. Mrs Henderson Presents, which is based on the 2005 film, retells the story of Laura Henderson and her purchasing of the Windmill Theatre on Great Windmill Street. Her innovative idea to present living nude statues in an attempt to save her beloved venue receives much protest from Lord Chamberlain – who ruled all censorship at the time – however, she was able to convince him ‘if it moves, it’s rude’ allowing her to present her infamous Windmill Girls scantily clad on stage for up to six shows a day. However, a musical that could easily focus on the undressing of it’s cast takes a sudden political turn towards the end of it’s first act, giving a more substantial plot to what could be mere send up of Revudeville: the story, after all, is set against the backdrop of the Second World War. The inclusion of the War with the light entertainment storyline almost makes this show a response to Kander and Ebb’s Cabaret.
A fair round of applause is earned by the majority of the cast – both male and female – for having the guts to bare all onstage. Tracie Bennet’s Mrs Henderson is a loveable firecracker, with a huge heart and a passion for her theatre and employees. Emma Williams is sweet in her portrayal of Maureen, with a wonderful voice showcased in her act two number ‘If Mountains Were Easy to Climb’. Samuel Holmes gives a humorous but not overly camp performance as Bertie, with Andrew Wright’s choreography putting him front and centre for lavish tap breaks and big chorus numbers.
Tim Shortall’s set is probably the best ‘theatre’ seen in theatre, and is beautifully lit by Ben Ormerod’s lighting design. Familiar tunes, penned by George Fenton and Simon Chamberlain with lyrics by Don Black nicely take us back in time and Terry Johnson’s book has some witty and heartfelt moments. But, most importantly, it is wonderful to see a British musical celebrating all things British in the West End. There’s even a spoon dance somewhere in there, what more could you ask for?
We have tickets for £13 www.theatreperform.entstix.com
Review by Marcus Hubbard