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Watermill - Ten Cents a Dance

11th September to 26th October 2002.

This is the Newbury Weekly News review.

Meet the classy Miss Jones

'TEN CENTS A DANCE', at The Watermill, from Wednesday, September 11 to Saturday, October 26

It's smooth, raunchy, sexy, romantic. A glittering cascade of the songs of that ace tunesmith Richard Rodgers is currently filling the Watermill with the music to which thousands of us have loved, lost, danced and desired.

Against a backdrop of deepest blue, pierced with stars, making the Watermill stage look as though it stretched into infinity, the five Miss Jones (Karen Mann, Rebecca Jackson, Nina Lucking and Rosemary Williams, with Lisa Featherston successfully making her professional debut as an actor/singer) whizzed smoothly around the stage on castor-equipped stools, while singing and playing a variety of musical instruments in that amazing way which we have come to expect from John Doyle's actor musicians.

Our first introduction to the Miss Jones times five came with tinkling single notes reminiscent of 'Chopsticks' as slowly each twirled on her stool like a ballerina in a musical box. The tempo increased until pianist Johnny (Christopher Hamilton) broke into the smooth, sad 'Blue Moon', before enquiring if we had "met Miss Jones?".

Then it was music all the way, with the songs written by Richard Rodgers in partnership with
first Lorenzo Hart and then Oscar Hammerstein II.

Director John Doyle and musical director and arranger Sarah Travis had a wealth of music from which to choose and such yearning numbers as 'Small Hotel' and dreamy 'Isn't It Romantic' mixed with corkers like the snappy 'Johnny One Note' and a gem of a 'Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered' sung without pathos, but much humour and speaking looks from the Miss Jones, especially Nina Lucking and that mistress of the art, Rebecca Jackson, who reminds me of Marilyn Monroe with added style.

With no interval, this was an unbroken 90 minutes to maintain the mood of an era where songs twisted emotions to their tunes. The programme tells me there was a storyline. It didn't impinge. The audience was submerged in the music of a master musician celebrating his centenary, and of the skill of those on stage in recalling it. The time passed in a flash until the brash, poignant 'Ten Cents a Dance' and then it was over.

If you haven't booked to meet Miss Jones yet, don't miss her. She's got class.


This is from the Daily Telegraph.

It's smooth! It's smart!

I've been banging on of late about lousy books scuppering the chances of potentially terrific musicals. Now John Doyle has hit on his own devastatingly simple solution.

Ten Cents a Dance, a celebration of the songs of Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart, does away with the idea of a book altogether. It is, however, much more than a recital, creating a haunting, dream-like atmosphere in which 90 minutes pass in a haze of pure pleasure.

Faced with Rodgers and Hart's catalogue of more than 500 songs, two obvious options are open to the deviser of a compilation show.

He can present a Side by Side by Sondheim-style revue, using a narrator to introduce the numbers. Or he can try something more difficult, and attempt to link the greatest hits with a brand new book, like the recent Gershwin show, My One and Only.

Doyle, however, who over the past few years has been reinventing classic musicals at the Watermill in stripped-down ensemble productions in which the performers double as the band, opts instead for a seamless flow of hits.

They aren't introduced, and, rather irritatingly, their titles and provenance aren't listed in the programme. But somehow the show succeeds as enthralling theatre as well as a collection of great songs.

The action takes place in an evocative cabaret setting, where a piano-playing male composer finds himself confronted by five women, their ages ranging from their twenties to late middle age. They are all called Miss Jones, after the song Have You Met Miss Jones?, and they perform the songs magically, sometimes solo, sometimes in unison.

Better still, they also form the band, called, naturally Miss Jones, alternating vocals with duties on double bass, sax, trumpet, flute, drums and piano.

The MD, Sarah Travis, has devised some terrific arrangements, and, as the five elegantly gowned performers tackle a string of unforgettably melodic, wittily literate numbers, including such stone-cold classics as Manhattan, Blue Moon, The Lady is a Tramp and Bewitched Bothered and Bewildered, it is impossible not to echo Cole Porter's admiring lyric: "It's smooth! It's smart! It's Rodgers! It's Hart!"

Doyle has cunningly themed the numbers. There's a series with the word "blue" in the title, for instance, while other segments explore time, first love, and marriage.

It's often been remarked that when Richard Rodgers was working with the witty (but terminally alcoholic) Hart, his music had a lightness of touch that deserted him when he teamed up with Oscar Hammerstein to write the great integrated musicals such as Oklahoma! and Carousel, where a new solemnity crept in.

The Rodgers and Hart shows rarely had satisfactory books, and even their masterpiece, Pal Joey, falls apart in the second act. Watching Ten Cents a Dance, however, you readily understand why so many Rodgers and Hart songs have become standards.

The tension between Hart's sharp wit and Rodgers's gift for beguiling, and often yearning, melody is simply irresistible.

Christopher Hamilton is the ace pianist, though he perhaps over-indulges the smiling charm. Lisa Featherston (bass), Rebecca Jackson (sax), Nina Lucking (flute and sax), Karen Mann (trumpet) and Rosemary Williams (piano and drums) are the sexy, savvy, superbly talented Miss Joneses, whose singing, playing and elegantly choreographed movement are a sheer delight.

The show moves on to the International Festival of Musical Theatre in Cardiff in October and deserves a long life after that.


And this is the Guardian's review.

Two stars
The musical revue may have a place in the theatre, but it has a far cosier one in the kind of late-night club that has all but disappeared. John Doyle has almost single-handedly reinvented the actor-musician style of musical theatre in his efforts at the Watermill. But even allowing for the particular intimacy of the Watermill, this evening based on the songs of Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart is never more than a series of very nice songs very nicely performed.

It is done with the panache that we have come to expect at this address, and as ever you are in awe of a cast who can play several instruments and sing and dance and act at the same time. But, although Doyle attempts to frame the evening in a theatrical way with the idea of the composer dreaming of the eternal chorus girl through the five ages of woman, the evening never has real dramatic impact.

Largely this is down to the songs themselves, which, although delightful and familiar from shows such as On Your Toes, The Boys From Syracuse, Pal Joey and other classics, seldom really stand completely alone in a theatrical sense. The Sondheim revues work as well as they do because so often the songs are inherently dramatic, almost playlets in their own right. But, apart from the title song and a few others, including Lady Is a Tramp and Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered, few of these songs can.

Of course if you are a fan of Rodgers and Hart, and really don't mind an evening in the theatre without real drama, you won't mind a jot. I would love to see Doyle tackle any of the Rodgers and Hart musicals in full. Let's hope this is just the dress rehearsal.


This is the Kick FM review.

It's not what you usually get at the Watermill; it's not a play and it's not a musical, it's 90 minutes of solid music. It's the music of Rogers and Hart, and includes standards like Blue Moon, Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered, and The Lady is a Tramp. The director is John Doyle, who has directed so many great musicals at the Watermill, and, in his usual style, the performers sing and play at least one instrument. There are five of them, four women and one man, and they really belt out the songs with great panache. The tiny theatre at the Watermill gives it an intimate cabaret atmosphere, and if you like this sort of music, you'll have a great evening.