Hayes Theatre, September 12
When Peter Rutherford and James Millar’s Lovebites premiered in 2009 it did not take itself quite as seriously as this new production does. This is certainly more slickly professional, but perhaps the show actually works best being more informal.
The concept, like the punning title, was always cute: each song in Act One depicts a first encounter between two people that leads to anything from a fling to a relationship. Act Two revisits each couple, hours or years later, via a second song. Rutherford’s generic Broadway music helps depict setting and character, and Millar’s lyrics seethe with neat rhymes and wit, and the songs are generally engaging.
Directing his first musical Troy Alexander revealed a lively feel for pace, energy and pizzazz in company with Ellen Simpson’s choreography. Designer Lauren Peter had twin revolves spinning like tops, and fast changes between Becky-Dee Trevenen’s costumes were routine.
So the cast of Kirby Burgess, Tyran Parke, Adele Parkinson and Shaun Rennie were worked off their feet as they buzzed between roles. They would save some energy were the twice-reprised Falling In Love theme song scrapped, however. It adds nothing.
Parkinson is amusing as a girl obliged to spend a first date rock-climbing, and Burgess as a sexy stewardess luring an A-list movie star into the mile-high club. Better still is Book Group 1984, with Parke as a jittery librarian meeting the likable Rennie.
Parke also charmed in If My Name Was Harvey, while the scatological humour of A Plastic Bag: An Urban Legend (starring Parkinson) tried hard to steal the show. By contrast the songs about a lesbian affair sank knee-deep in their own sentimentality.
A bigger sin was the sound. Steven Kreamer’s quartet was too loud in the mix, obliging the voices to be pushed higher still. Add Burgess’s tendency to shriek and the simple need for intelligible lyrics was replaced by an aural assault. Less volume and razzamatazz would better suit the show.
Until October 5.