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Reviews: Film and Book reviews

Wed 13 Jul, 2011
By Robert Ingham

Ably sang by a charismatic cast and with great little one-liners peppering the script...

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When Harry Met Barry - Review

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When Harry Met Barry is a very sweet musical about boy meets girl, boy meets boy and boy meets boy who’s met girl. It is a light, fluffy and funny take on the usual rom-coms out there, albeit set to music.

When Betty Blue, an angel sent from Heaven as match-maker, is instructed by God to put Harry with Spencer and Barry with Alice, she didn’t expect the past to come and bite her in the proverbial. On a cold and wet night, Harry and Barry get in the same cab only for the driver, also Betty, to find out they met back in college days where they had a bit of a fling, and this current brief encounter sends shockwaves rippling through both their relationships.

As a whole, it is a very satisfactory musical. Ably sang by a charismatic cast and with great little one-liners peppering the script, it is 2 hours of flirtatious fun and frolics, with an obvious chemistry between the lovers as they discover each other, with the bedroom scene standing out with strong emotion.

Unfortunately there are moments in the show that let it down. There are some extremely funny lines throughout but writer Paul Emelion Daly has packed the show with songs which would have suited dialogue better. I understand what can’t be said through speech can be said through song but it did feel a little unnecessary to be battered throughout the second act this way. There were a few tuning issues, in one song in particular, and the piano was too loud but these can be put down to first night teething problems.

It is fair to say that Paul Emelion Daly is a cunning linguist and has much to offer in When Harry Met Barry, which premiered at Upstairs at the Gatehouse Highgate in 2002 where it broke box office records for a visiting company. Paul has revisited the script with a 21st century eye and added some new songs.

Kudos to the talented cast, memorably led by Madeleine MacMahon playing Betty Blue (and a variety of characters – bar woman and Austrian waitress amongst others), who watches her good deeds unravel. The rest of the cast are very strong singers, with special nod to Holly Julier who plays Alice (watch out for the bun scene which had me in hysterics for about 5 minutes). They are entirely watchable, even though the ending feels a little rushed.

If you’re a fan of musicals then you will enjoy this even more as it manages to capture the essence of Kander & Ebb, Willy Russell, Sondheim and Schonberg. And whilst it never settles down into one particular genre it certainly shows that you can mix them up and get great results. As a result When Harry Met Barry deserves much recognition.

When Harry Met Barry is on at Above The Stag theatre, Victoria until 7th August.


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