modest and mildly shambolic little musical has much of the feel of an
Edinburgh Fringe student production about it, and if you approach it
with no higher expectations, offers a pleasant couple of hours.
1975 Alan Ayckbourn (book and lyrics) and Andrew Lloyd Webber (music)
both had their worst flop ever with Jeeves, a dreary, overproduced
musical based on the P. G. Wodehouse stories of a gormless gent and his
constantly-saving-the-day butler. In 1996 they returned to the corpse,
rewrote the plot, threw out most of the songs and added a half-dozen
new ones, and produced the much simpler, lighter-on-its-feet By Jeeves,
which was a modest success.
that version, further modified to fit a small above-a-pub theatre, that
we have here.
has Bertie Wooster filling a gap at a village fete by telling of one of
his misadventures - a running gag has him repeatedly forgetting the
details and having to be prompted by Jeeves - which is then acted out
with whatever performers and props are available.
typical Wodehouse (though by Ayckbourn): a weekend in the country in
which Bertie and his pals cause mayhem by switching names in order to
woo or escape their respective girlfriends.
There are two minor problems with the book that might bother Wodehouse fans: Bertie begins to look more like the second banana in a Ray Cooney farce, in mounting panic at trying to keep up with the stratagems, than like Wodehouse's amiable dimwit; and Jeeves is reduced to little more than narrator for too much of the length.
Lloyd-Webber fans will find little to cheer them in a score that seems
largely a throwaway affair. Even the most pleasant melodies, such as
'Travel Hopefully' or 'The Hallo Song' have a generic
anyone-could-have-written-them feel, and the single best song, 'Half a
Moment' is given to the two least important characters (and further
disguised by being misdirected by Nick Bagnall as if it were a comic
if you don't
demand too much, this production has its share of small delights. Most
of the comic moments score, with a farcical if not always Wodehousian
flavour, the use of random props to create the set is clever, and there
are occasional moments of inspired madness, as when choreographer
Andrew Wright somehow turns 'Love's Maze' into a Morris dance.
an attractive Bertie and Paul M. Meston retains some dignity as Jeeves
even when he seems to have wandered in from some other play. The rest
of the cast range from adequate downward, but the vaguely amateur feel
of their contribution is part of the production's charm.
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- By Jeeves - Landor 2011