Mrs Henderson Presents, Bath Theatre Royal

Mrs Henderson Presents - Emma Williams as Maureen - Photo credit Nobby ClarkBATH Theatre Royal ends its summer season in triumphant style with the world premiere of a new musical set in and around the Windmill Theatre in London between 1937 and 1940

Based on the film Mrs Henderson Presents, the show has a new collection of songs by  with lyrics by Don Black and music by George Fenton and Simon Chamberlain, who were also responsible for the film’s soundtrack.

The widowed Mrs Laura Henderson has been left a heap of money, but doesn’t want to spend it on the charities supported by her friends among the great and the good. Instead she happens on a derelict theatre, buys it on a whim, engages a theatrical producer down on his luck and selling socks, and so Revuedeville is born. The Windmill, famous for keeping its doors open throughout the war, also brought a sort of Folies Bergeres glamour to the London stage, providing troops on leave and depressed natives with a chance to see naked women – just as long as they didn’t move from the tableaux in which they were positioned.

Mrs Henderson Presents - Oliver Jackson Graham Hoadly Tracie Bennett - Photo credit Nobby ClarkTerry Johnson’s production at Bath, where it plays until 5th September before a West End transfer, brings all the wit, thrills, excitement and mounting fear of war to the stage, on a spectacularly atmospheric set designed by Tim Shortall.

Tracie Bennett is the loveable Mrs H, relishing some killer one-liners in Terry Johnson’s accurate script, which mixes Cockney, upper class and theatrical with charm and accuracy.

Mrs Henderson Presents - Ian Bartholomew (Vivian Van Damm) Tracie Bennett (Laura Henderson) - Photo credit Nobby ClarkAvoiding the pitfalls of the one dimensional musical star, Ian Barth­olomew makes Van Damm a complex and recognisable character, and Emma Williams all but brought the house down as Maureen, the tea-girl whose loyalty and courage inspired the rest of the showline.

Andrew Wright’s choreography makes The Lord Chamberlain’s Song and Anything But Young delightfully memorable, and his big chorus numbers are equally stylish.

You won’t forget the songs If Mountains Were Easy to Climb or What a Waste of a Moon quickly, either.

Mrs Henderson Presents - Mark Hadfield as Arthur - Photo credit Nobby ClarkIt’s a terrific, and very British, show and let’s hope its subject matter ensures it the audience that the very deserving Betty Blue Eyes missed out on.



Photographs by Nobby Clark

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