Roman Holiday: Theatre Royal Bath, Review
Bright, breezy and with a brilliant finale, director Jeremy Sams’ Roman Holiday is a treat for the senses with its Cole Porter songbook and Matt Cole and Jane McMurtrie’s period perfect choreography. Set in post war Rome the Cinderella-esque story of boy meets girl (or rather commoner meets aristocrat) is based on the 1953 movie of the same name that featured Gregory Peck and Audrey Hepburn – and of course that scooter. And that bright blue scooter was one of the stars of the show as it raced on and off stage and even taking its own curtain call at the end.
In place of Peck and Hepburn were Michael D Xavier as American reporter Joe Bradley and Rebecca Collingwood as Princess Ann (or Anya as she preferred when slumming it with the locals). Both excelled with the knock about humour and snappy lines – plus those famous songs with quite superb performances bringing to life numbers that included Night and Day, In The Still of the Night, Experiment and Take Me Back to Manhattan. And a shout out for Chris Walker and the orchestra and musical director Stephen Ridley and arrangements by Todd Ellison for a cracking good night of classic music.
If we couldn’t have the black and white Rome of the William Wyler’s post war Italy then we did get Francis O’Connor’s take on the eternal city with its symbolic Roman windows and graphic backdrop. And the costumes were a joy – a sticky out petticoat here, a yellow dungaree number there, and enough braces and wide leg trousers to dress the cast of Guys and Dolls.
Tania Mathurin’s Francesca, the super confident sexy Italian songstress, would in another world be the author of a string of self-help books and Tik Tok videos with her life advice to the naive princess – while her voice was worth several million lira alone. And there was another top performance albeit in a more formal form with the Countess played enjoyably stiffly by Richenda Carey whose CV runs back to the days of Upstairs Downstairs as she snapped out her one-liners to the mollycoddled Ann.
There was more humour and slap stick fun with Joe’s photographer colleague Irving Radovich, played by the likeable Adrian der Gregorian and Joe’s editor boss Hennessy animated with suitable cynicism by Tim Frances. Although as a fellow scribe it must be put on record that Joe committed an unforgivable crime against journalism by not publishing his scoop in exposing the crazy antics of the princess and instead falling in love with the diminutive regal celebrity. But then of course we wouldn’t have had the story if he had been true to his profession.
The original writers behind the movie script John Dighton and Dalton Trumbo, must have been influenced by the growing interest in minor royals as celebrities as the princess was a dead ringer for the Windsor princesses Elizabeth and Margaret and even perhaps the cult of celebrity around the Mrs Simpson set in the decades before. And as for style Rebecca Collingwood’s wardrobe did at times make her look more like the young Princess Margaret than Princess Margaret herself – a triumph for the costume department led by Jackie Holt.
The ensemble of Gabrielle Cocca, Frances Dee, Maya de Faria, Heather Jackson, Ediz Mahmut, Max Mirza, George Renshaw, Ollie Selwood, Bethany Huckle, Joshua Gibbons, Mia Mullarkey and Josh Patel-Foster brought so much movement and so much 50s style in an evening of superb set pieces that it was no wonder there was a standing ovation from the near full house to conclude the highly enjoyable show.
The romantic musical comedy runs at the Theatre Royal Bath until Saturday, July 1, 2023.
Tickets and information at www.theatreroyal.org.uk/events/roman-holiday/
The musical is produced by Theatre Royal Bath Productions, by arrangement with Paul Blake and BFI Productions.
Main image: Roman Holiday – Rebecca Collingwood as Princess Ann and Ensemble – Photo Ellie Kurttz ©
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