Blighty, Broadway and Beyond! – The Private Lives of Noel Coward and Gertrude Lawrence at Greenside @ Infirmary Street is a tribute to one of the most successful creative partnerships of the 1930s and 1940s. Noel Coward is still well remembered today as the writer of such classic plays as Blithe Spirit, Hay Fever and Private Lives, and was also a popular composer of over 300 songs, as well as an actor and singer. Gertrude Lawrence was a popular and talented actor and singer, but is probably not so well remembered now.
“Blighty, Broadway and Beyond!” has the somewhat absurd storyline of Noel and Gertie meeting up in what appears to be an English country garden, but it turns out to be Purgatory, where God sends them a text message (via an angel, of course!) to say She couldn’t decide where to send them, so the present rabble (the audience) will have to make that decision. This is the cue for Noel and Gertie to tell their life stories and entertain the rabble with songs and anecdotes. So far, so surreal, but this is an entertaining, stylish, witty, and at times moving production. With such well known songs as “Mrs Worthington”, “Daisy Bell”, and “I Went to a Marvellous Party”, and a scene from “Private Lives”, we were given an all too short taste of the talents of Samantha Nixon and Alasdair Carson-Sheard in the lead roles, with Darcey Nixon as the angel.
Throughout their lives, Noel and Gertie remained very close friends; their public often thought or wished that they were a couple in real life, however Noel was gay and in love with the actor Graham Payn, who was his companion for over 30 years right up until Noel’s death in 1973. A very touching performance of “Mad About the Boy” sung by Noel and Gertie was a highlight of the show for me.
I hadn’t read the flyer for this show until afterwards, and it was only then I realised why Samantha Nixon and Alasdair Carson-Sheard seemed slightly familiar to me. In 2017 I reviewed their show about Marni Nixon, the Hollywood voice-over artist who sang for people such as Deborah Kerr in The King and I, which brings us full circle as Gertrude Lawrence starred in the original Broadway production.
“Blighty, Broadway and Beyond” is quite simply a highly entertaining and relaxing way to spend an hour.
Blighty, Broadway and Beyond! – The Private Lives of Noel Coward and Gertrude Lawrence
Greenside @ Infirmary Street
Aug 12-17, 19-24
Country: United Kingdom - England
Group: Gin Palace Productions
Review by Lisa Sibbald