Little Me

“Little Me”

Musical based on the novel by Patrick Dennis
Book by Neil Simon
Music by Cy Coleman
Lyrics by Carolyn Leigh

Presented by the National Youth Music Theatre:

Announcer / First Val Girl – Aretha Ayeh
Second Val Girl – Georgia Bliss
Older Belle – Lucy Borne
First Dough Girl / Val’s Nurse – Alice Brown
Assistant Director – Hannah Brunt
Pinchley’s Nurse – Holly-Charlotte Carter
Bernie / First Soldier – Jack Chard
Junior / Benny – Jonah Cook
Butler / Sergeant / First Justice – Aiden Crawford
Bartender / Preacher / Yulnik – Edward Currie
Kleeg / Doctor – Roger Dipper
Fourth Val Girl – Rhiannon Douty
Momma – Louisa Farrant
George / First Sailor – Greg Fossard
Patrick Dennis – Mark Gillon
Ramona – Sophie Griffiths
Belle Poitrine – Sarah Hagan
Golf Pro / Fred Poitrine / Second Sailor – Jack Harrison
Pinchley / General / Captain / Pancho – Alyn Hawke
German soldier / Prince Cherney – Sam Hayward
Noble Eggleston – Dom Hodson
Court woman – Amee Karlstrom
Secretary – Milli Karlstrom
Colette – Siobhan Madden
Newsboy / Second Soldier / Second Steward – Alex McGeary
Salesman / Third Soldier / Victor – Calum McIntyre
Miss Kemp / Third Girl – Lucy Miller
Val du Val – Joe Mott
Operator – Kathleen Nance
Mrs Eggleston – Eve Ponsonby
Second Dough Girl – Naomi Rogers
Brucey / Defence Lawyer / Schnitzler / Second Justice – Richard Southgate
Second Girl / Number’s Woman – Phoebe Sparrow
Third Val Girl – Katie Thomas
Third Dough Girl – Imelda Warren-Green

Dan Swana

Caroline Leslie – Director
Karen McKeown – Designer
Lee Crowley – Choreographer
Sally Ferguson – Lighting Designer
Emma Connelly – Sound Engineer

Reviewed by: Michael Darvell

Reviewed: 30 August, 2007
Venue: Bloomsbury Theatre, London

Patrick Dennis, author of “Auntie Mame” and other novels, wrote “Little Me” in 1961. The book is a spoof celebrity biography of an alleged star of stage, screen and television, one Belle Poitrine (French for ‘beautiful bosom’) whose only fame lay in her two pointedly outstanding talents. The book, which is filled with faked photographs supposedly of the rich and famous, takes the form of Dennis interviewing Belle (née Maybelle Schlumpfert) about her eventful life, and how she rose from being a poor girl born on the wrong side of the tracks to become a lady of wealth, culture and social position, through her various relationships with the opposite sex. In Neil Simon’s adaptation of the book there are seven men who play hero to Belle’s heroine. In the original Broadway production of the musical all seven parts were played by Sid Caesar, the famous vaudeville comedian who became popular on television through his “Show of Shows” programmes. Cy Coleman and Carolyn Leigh’s musical of “Little Me” was written in 1962 as a vehicle tailored to Caesar’s comic talents.

Oddly enough it has always been successful when the star was a television celebrity. In 1964 Bruce Forsyth played it in London for a long run. Twenty years later it was revived in New York without a TV star and flopped. But in 1984 Russ Abbot headed the London revival to great success. “Little Me” was the second show to be written by Coleman and Leigh, who had had a previous success with “Wildcat”, starring Lucille Ball. “Little Me” is not a great musical, although it did herald great things in that Coleman went on to write “Sweet Charity”, “Seesaw”, “I love my wife”, “On the Twentieth Century”, “Barnum” and “City of Angels” among other shows. It also had Bob Fosse as choreographer and he went on to do “Sweet Charity”, “Pippin” and “Chicago”.

“Little Me” is more of sketch show with the leading actor doing a turn every time Belle gets involved with a man, beginning with Amos Pinchley, a wheelchair-bound octogenarian miser of a banker, and moving on to a Chevalier-type French singer called Val du Val, a First World War soldier called Fred Poitrine, a Hollywood director, Otto Schnitzler, who may or may not have been based on Joseph von Sternberg, and Prince Cherney, the poor ruler of a middle European duchy. He also plays Belle’s childhood sweetheart, the snobbish Noble Eggleston, who goes to both Yale and Harvard, becomes a lawyer and a doctor, is a First World War flying ace, and wins an election to become governor of both North and South Dakota; and also Noble Junior, his son and chip off the block who studies at the Juilliard School of Music and Georgia Tech to become the resident engineer at Lincoln Center where he also conducts in the evening!

If it resembles a sketch show rather than a musical proper, it does throw up some good songs that have become standards: ‘The other side of the tracks’, ‘I’ve got your number’, ‘Real live girl’, ‘Poor little Hollywood star’ and the title song. They are good, raunchy show numbers with bags of pizzazz. That quality is needed in a cast for “Little Me”, and here director Caroline Leslie’s young charges go at it with enormous relish. There are lots of small character parts for the company to get their teeth into and it’s a good show for enthusiastic young performers, such as these members of the National Youth Music Theatre, to hone their skills in comedy and music. Sensibly all the parts are shared out amongst the cast, so there is no one person playing the seven leading men.

Ten years ago I saw the show at the Guildhall School of Music and in that company was one Orlando Bloom. There could be some budding Blooms in this company, too, and certainly Dom Hodson who plays Noble has an obvious future in the theatre. His is the best part, and the funniest, and he really stands out as a person of promise. As young Belle, Sarah Hagan expresses a suitably ingénue innocence in the part, while Lucy Borne’s older Belle is the epitome of the self-made woman. Joe Mott as Val du Val provides more comic highlights, and Jack Harrison’s dopey Fred Poitrine proves to be a crowd-pleaser. But the company as a whole contributes a clutch of fine comic cameos that bring the whole show back to cracking life.

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