REVIEW ROUNDUP: Betty Blue Eyes Musical Officially Opens in London's West End
The show is based on Alan Bennett's film A Private Function and features a book by Ron Cowen and Daniel Lipman, with music and lyrics by George Stiles and Anthony Drewe.
The movie is set in a Yorkshire village after the Second World War, where the locals hope to celebrate the wedding of Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip in style by slaughtering an illegally raised pig. Chaos ensues when the pig is stolen and a food inspector arrives, determined to stop activities circumventing the food rationing.
The show stars Sarah Lancashire (Joyce), Reece Shearsmith (Gilbert), David Bamber (Swaby), Jack Edwards (Allardyce), Mark Meadows (Lockwood), Adrian Scarborough (Wormold) and Ann Emery (Mother Dear).
Many of the U.K.'s daily papers and its theater-websites have run reviews and are finding much to praise in the show.
Among the reviews are:
Betty Blue Eyes, Novello Theatre, review
"The stage version, directed with brio and palpable affection by Richard Eyre, and choreographed with great panache by Stephen Mear, feels warmer, funnier and more touching."
"[The score is] constantly evocative of the dance melodies and novelty numbers of the 1940s with lyrics that combine wit and sentiment in exactly the right proportions."
"Sarah Lancashire is both hilarious and unexpectedly touching as the wife desperately trying to gain her place in society, urging her husband to screw his courage to the sticking place and kill the pig with all the fervour of a Yorkshire Lady Macbeth."
Betty Blue Eyes brings home the bacon
"The book, by Ron Cowen and Daniel Lipman, cleverly reworks the original Alan Bennett screenplay. George Stiles's tunes are exuberant, liberating the characters from their post-war blues; their little aspirations are effusively expressed."
"Sarah Lancashire excels as Joyce, who in one enjoyable sequence metamorphoses into a shimmering diva. Reece Shearsmith conveys mildness and decency but perhaps not quite enough charm as Gilbert, a blend of nervous energy and harassed pride."
Betty Blue Eyes - review
"Musicals these days are constantly being based on movies. But this witty and delightful adaptation of the 1984 film A Private Function strikes me as better than the original."
"But the success of this show relies on the fact that the songs grow out of, and are always proportionate to, the situation. The opening chorus of Fair Shares For All instantly establishes the fragile optimism of austerity Britain. A seductive number, Magic Fingers, is a tribute to Gilbert's secret erotic power and a sly comment on the sexual frustration of many women in the 1940s. Best of all is the way the hidden aspirations of the Gestapo-like meat inspector are released in a song in which he reveals himself as a frustrated Picasso."
First Night: Betty Blue Eyes, Novello Theatre, London
"Ah, Betty, the star of the show, an animatronic pink beast, controlled remotely, but mostly static in her tin bath and mobile only in the eye, jaw and fluttering eyelash department. She doesn't move wondrously like the polar bear did in a recent "green" epic at the National Theatre. But she does win hearts, and that's the crux."
"Composer George Stiles and lyricist Anthony Drewe have written a series of charming songs, with nostalgic lilt and literate rhyming that explain the effect Betty Blue Eyes has on stout-hearted men. The Bennett screenplay has been adapted by two Americans, Ron Cowen and Daniel Lipman, with absolute fidelity, though there's a much happier ending involving another pig-nap and a spam scam."
Betty Blue Eyes, Novello, London
"...this likeably performed and technically accomplished musical has some welcome moments that make the audience squeal with laughter and a few that may have them grunting impatiently for the next scene to arrive. The longueurs arise as a 94-minute 1984 British film comedy (the Alan Bennett-scripted A Private Function) becomes stretched into a two hours 35-minute musical."
"There's plenty of nicely droll character work, too. Ann Emery, stepping into the inimitable Liz Smith's shoes as Joyce's mother, threatens to steal the show. Adrian Scarborough as a vengeful food inspector that gives Javert from Les Mis a run for his money and David Bamber as the leader of the town council lend colourful support."
Review: Betty Blue Eyes
"The adaptation is the unlikely work of two Americans, Ron Cowen and Daniel Lipman, who found their way to the writing team of George Stiles (music) and Anthony Drewe (lyrics) thanks to Godspell composer Stephen Schwartz."
"Producer Cameron Mackintosh has put the whole thing together with splendid panache, Eyre's fine work supplemented by the fluently conceived, picturesque designs of Tim Hatley and the witty choreography - making the most of queues, victory marches and processions - of Stephen Mear."
Review: Betty Blue Eyes
"Nostalgic, big-hearted show cheerfully catapults everyone back to the almost forgotten world of well-made musical comedy."
"It says a very great deal for the sheer skill in the meshing of book, music and lyrics that the extended second act comic sequence "Pig No Pig" -- where the (animatronic) pig must be kept hidden from an array of disparate, desparate visitors -- is one of the production's highpoints. The usual problem is that because singing takes much longer than speech, adding music usually slows everything down. Not here, thanks to tight rhythms, quick phrases and sharp multi-character writing."
"Stiles' music is wedded to its period. "Lionheart," a big dance-hall jitterbug, is a winning Andrews Sisters-style swing number. And although the show is unwilling to trade authenticity for a take-home number, the melodies have staying power even in the many small ensembles, especially the winsome trio "Magic Fingers," in which three female patients hymn praises to Gilbert's professional touch."
"Helmer Eyre's trademark expert handling of character extends into Stephen Mear's zesty choreography. "It's An Ill-Wind" -- in which high-stepping, much millineried townswomen are scandalized by the smells coming from the hidden pig -- is a delicious, accented take on middle-class horrors."
Betty Blue Eyes: Theater Review
"...but in making something loud and boisterous, the show loses the film's quaint eccentricity and occasional bite."
"The musical, with book by U.S. writers Ron Cowen and Daniel Lipman, is exactly the same except that everybody sings about it. It's a tune-filled if not exactly melodic show with energetic if not enthralling dancing."
"In going for verve and vigor, Betty Blue Eyes loses the ironic charm of the original with Bennett's clear-eyed view of England's social strata. As a result, it feels provincial and while it should keep busloads of northern British tourists happy, it's doubtful that overseas visitors will be similarly attracted."