I did not expect my guest – the actress who starred in the London production alongside Robert Lindsay and then Enn Reitel – to like this Me and My Girl but I thought I might. I did not.
The story resembles Pygmalion. A cheeky working class South Londoner (Bill Snibson) is located and confirmed as heir to the large aristocratic Hareford Estate. His love for his sweetheart Sally Smith remains steadfast and survives the snobby antagonism of the upper class set based around the stately home.
So when you see a black Sir John Tremayne my immediate reaction was that lip service to diversity was more important than respect for the story and its social message of class conflict. Surely such a man would never be accepted by such a set. The actor adopted a posh accent so presumably the casting was to show that the production ticked the PC box.
This was also reflected in the family solicitor, a nervous malleable man in the London production, was played by a woman in this.
It was a performance in which he milked the lines for all they were worth, at one point add-libbing in banter with a member of the audience and then forgetting his lines, but he did not really interpret the role. There was little on stage chemistry between him and his sweetheart .
Equally Alex Young as Sally did not come across as a loyal sweet girl contrasted to the manipulative Lady Brighton.
There are enough good numbers to get the production over the line: Me and My Girl, The Lambeth Walk, The Sun Has got his Hat on, Leaning on a Lamp Post.
In its true and unadulterated form, as adapted by Stephen Fry in his first success, the musical is a period piece contrasting the working class amusements of the pub and music hall to the sporting and drinking pleasures of the upper classes reflected in the word of the Lambeth Walk:
“We play a different way,
not like you but a little more gay.”
It’s a fine musical, not derivative at all of the American songbook nor Hollywood, but this was a poor production of it.