Okay, Gershwin is going for a song

Oh Kay! George and Ira Gershwin, The Gallery Players, Sir John Mills Theatre, Ipswich until Saturday March 8 It's 1920s New York. Prohibition time, with bootleg booze sold in lemonade bottles, decorously poured by society folk from china teapots.

Ivan Howlett

Oh Kay! George and Ira Gershwin, The Gallery Players, Sir John Mills Theatre, Ipswich until Saturday March 8

It's 1920s New York. Prohibition time, with bootleg booze sold in lemonade bottles, decorously poured by society folk from china teapots. The show's farcical storyline, would you know, has the idle rich getting themselves into almost unimaginably silly love tangles. Meanwhile, George Gershwin songs remind us of the Golden of Musicals. This is where the Gallery Players take us in their latest production and they do it in fine style.

The setting is a Long Island beach house, which, since such places were often left empty while their owners were away, is ideal for being taken over by a couple of hoods for stashing away illegal liquor. The trouble is the owner; Jimmy (elegantly played by Martin Leigh) turns up with his highly unsuitable second wife. Then news comes through that he's still legally married to his first wife.


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Furthermore, his real love is in the house too, on the run from the law. She masquerades as a maid, as a gangster's wife - anything thing to get Jimmy off the hook and into her own life.

This role, full of comedy, whimsical extravagance and good songs was the part written 80 years ago for Gertrude Lawrence, the first British actress to star in a Broadway musical, and famously singing “Someone to Watch Over Me”. It's a peach of a part and Shelley Clempson entertains us engagingly as the passionate English aristocrat with a silly arse brother.

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Director Pat Taplin shows again that she knows exactly how to offer us the jazzy fun and froth of it all, choreographing the numbers with a mixture of ritziness, wit and understatement.

The two book writers - Guy Bolton and PG Wodehouse - give us the brilliant creation of Shorty McGee (the highly inventive Phil Cory), the gangster with such a heart of gold he's prepared to put up with any embarrassment in order to get the two true lovers together. So much for Al Capone.

Shorty's very well-staged high spot comes when he leads everyone in an elaborate charade proving that the silly arse Earl of Blandings is drunk and imagining everything he sees.

For the Sir John Mills Theatre it's a large cast show. Even so, the company more than finds space for the set-piece scenes and the dance numbers.

And the odd hummed Gershwin tune could be heard as you walked out into the night.

Ivan Howlett

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