"Expect tugging of heart strings"
by Peter Carrington for remotegoat on 05/09/10

One might be forgiven for hesitating to see a musical version of the celebrated novel The Remains of the Day but this production, like a well-kept house, handles each and every aspect skillfully and is deserving of praise.

To be successful in producing effective musical theatre many elements must come together successfully. To begin with, the Union Theatre is not a huge venue, but in portraying the vast Darlington Hall it is used well, impressively evoking the stately home's grandeur and size. This is coupled with a skillful use of lighting throughout to show the journey taken. Within the set, all cast are costumed very well in understated ways completing the image of the 1920s to 1930s.

The audience are transported via this setting to Darlington Hall, home of Lord Darlington where the tense relationship between Mr Stevens the Butler and Miss Kenton, the Housekeeper happens behind the scenes of important discussions on the economics and politics of Europe. The historical grounding (though largely fictional) is well grounded and the interesting time is handled unpretentiously by Loveless's script and lyrics.

Within this setting we find a strong cast, none shying from their songs, though some voices are stronger than others. Lucy Bradshaw plays Miss Kenton, the passionate housekeeper who initially clashes with the Butler but in her quiet movements and looks betray much more. Lucy Bradshaw also plays well against Stephen Rashbrook as Mr Stevens the butler and lead of the show. Both convey the depth of emotion in a short space of time and with all the same subtlety of the time period. Together they are both halves of the heart of the play and are what keeps the audience involved.
Christopher Bartlett as Reginald ably handles what is not an easy role, neither fully comic relief nor naïve hero. Reuben Kaye makes a strong musical debut as Mr Lewis, a conniving American.

One of the other essentials of successful musical theatre are the Ensemble and this cast of talented and skilled actors and actresses push the roof off this production.

Finally, no musical theatre would be complete without the music and musicians themselves. Those gathered for this are superb, subtle when needed and souring with the anthems of the show. It is therefore this skillful blend of all the essential elements that means The Remains of the day tugs at the heartstrings with such strength that one wishes this was staged in a larger space, with more people able to experience it.

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