All I Want for Christmas [Jermyn Street Theatre]

All I Want for Christmas
A musical comedy with music by Luke Bateman to book & lyrics by Katy Darby

Anthony – Rob Hughes
Irina – Erica Guyatt
Jean – Jessica Martin
Jack – Andrew C. Wadsworth

Luke Bateman – Musical Director & Piano

Anthony Biggs – Director
Cherry Truluck – Designer
Justin Emrys Smith – Lighting Designer
Kenn Oldfield – Choreographer

Reviewed by: Michael Darvell

Reviewed: 28 November, 2010
Venue: Jermyn Street Theatre, London

It’s an old, old story… young man wants to impress his parents by introducing his new girlfriend to them at Christmas. That’s all very well but what happens if the girl turns out not to be quite what Mum and Dad expected and starts behaving if not badly at least inappropriately. This is the crux of Luke Bateman and Katy Darby’s charming one-act 75-minute musical, which they developed via the auspices of Sounds of England, an Arts Council England sponsored opportunity for new British musicals run by Mercury Musicals Development. Bateman and Darby had two musicals ripe for development, one, “Bachelor Boys”, about two older people falling in love in Oxford, and “Lord Byron’s Mistress”. Both led to a chance of working with lyricist Charles Hart and theatre-critic Matt Wolf plus a showcase at Jermyn Street Theatre, out of which came “All I Want for Christmas”.

The story so far… Anthony has been looking for the perfect Christmas ever since he was a child. He dreams of being a real family unit at Christmas, with his girlfriend and his parents enjoying the usual festive trappings including cards, presents, sherry, home-made gingerbread and viewing “It’s a Wonderful Life”, Frank Capra’s sentimental film from 1946 with James Stewart as a man contemplating suicide. Anthony believes it’s the best film ever made, not that he’s thinking about suicide himself. But he does have a problem – he has no girlfriend. He’s a workaholic with no time to spare on anything else, and the women in the office are all too focussed on their work to notice Anthony. In desperation he engages a female escort, Irina, from Kosovo, a luscious blond who seems to fit the bill more than adequately, even if she’s a little expensive, asking for a fee plus expenses for Christmas presents. Anthony takes her home and his father, Jack, is even more impressed than Anthony and takes a shine to Irina. Mother, Jean, is rather more taken aback by her son’s choice of female companionship, as Irina doesn’t seem the sort of nice girl who would settle down in suburbia. Things go from bad to worse especially when Anthony finds out what presents Irina has bought for herself. And, what’s more, the gingerbread gets burnt in the process! There is one final twist that darkens the whole piece which is, after all, a musical comedy, but it proves a satisfying climax to a well-constructed piece.

Katy Darby’s book is at times hilarious (think Alan Ayckbourn and domesticity) and her lyrics are nicely barbed with wit. Luke Bateman’s music suits the situation and the songs are musically fairly straightforward, nothing pretentious, and they carry the plot forward, and are all the better for it, a fact that makes one hanker to hear more from this talented pair. As Anthony, Rob Hughes is more than credible as the son who is just a little too long in the tooth not to have either a girl- or a boy-friend in tow. Jessica Martin is the perfect epitome of the house-proud mum who’s forever flicking the dust away, while Andrew C. Wadsworth is cringingly good as the ghastly Jack, who has a lascivious eye for Irina. Erica Guyatt as blond-bombshell Irina is obviously on the make, a fact that eludes Anthony who is taken in what passes for skin-deep charm. The worse she gets, he funnier she seems.

Bateman accompanies his cast on the piano with discreet presence. Cherry Truluck’s design for a suburban sitting-room evokes the cosiness of a Christmas-at-home all too well, even if the show ultimately leaves us feeling decidedly uncomfortable. “All I Want for Christmas” is a welcome early Christmas present to the West End.

  • All I Want for Christmas is at Jermyn Street Theatre, 16b Jermyn Street, London SW1 until Saturday 18 December 2010
  • Tuesday to Saturday at 8 p.m. with Saturday & Sunday matinees at 4 p.m.
  • Tickets 020 7287 2875
  • Jermyn Street Theatre

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