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Getting Married Today
The Phoenix Artist Club
31th August 2016

★★★★☆

Amy Alexander and Alice Mistroni as Kate and Alice

Photography © Lorenzo Fantini

Dearly beloved, we are gathered here today for a wedding. Or are we? In the run up to the ceremony, bridesmaid Alice (Alice Mistroni) is busy stalling the crowd with a spot of her own musical stylings when bride Kate (Amy Alexander) threatens to call the whole thing off. Getting Married Today is a new musical cabaret show that takes its name from a song commonly referred to in error as Not Getting Married Today, which gives you a sense of the uncertainty involved. Does Kate want to marry Bill? Should Kate marry Bill? Can Kate even marry Bill? (Time is after all marching on whilst she flaps around, cutting down the options.)

Songs are borrowed from famous musicals such as Company, Showboat, The King and I, Guys and Dolls and Avenue Q. At first you might wonder about the wisdom of making a show out of a patchwork of pre-existing material - Mamma Mia! after all is a rather scarring experience - but then you realise how common certain themes and scenarios are to the West End. The music and lyrics adapt well to being repurposed. Co-writers Alexander and Mistroni have chosen cleverly, with a selection of numbers that create a strong narrative and allow them to demonstrate their respective vocals. You could argue they make use of a number of tropes, however this is a genre of performance that is particularly forgiving of old ideas and jazz hands if they come with a dazzling grin and powerful vocals.

Alexander's rendition of Sondheim's notoriously difficult Getting Married Today is handled exceptionally well, with each line rolling off her tongue quickly and clearly. With the concept for this show established, it couldn't not feature in the song list and Alexander more than does it justice. Mistroni and Alexander team up for songs such as Lopez and Marx's You Can Be As Loud As The Hell You Want (When You're Makin' Love), which they take on with a gloriously vivacious energy. They both pack a lot of warmth and humour into their singing (with the occasional more sombre note) proving themselves to be good all-round performers rather than just singers or actresses.

The cabaret layout of the Phoenix Artist Club lends itself beautifully to this show. As us audience members slowly make our way into the back room with a glass in hand, we find ourselves obliged to join tables next to couples we've never met before and are invited to write something twee for the bride and groom on a heart-shaped piece of paper. Glittery confetti lines each table and all we really need is a drunken uncle or two to make the wedding complete. Director Sandra Paternostro certainly gives a lot of thoughtful attention to much of the background detail.

There are however a few other details which seem overlooked, such as rationale for the wedding dress hanging up on the back wall. Given Alexander enters already wearing a white frock, it becomes clear the second dress is there for decoration only and it's a distracting unnecessary finishing touch. When Alex Parker is introduced as the musical director, it would make more sense to introduce him as the best man, or one of the groomsmen. Having started an illusion, the ensemble should commit fully to it. As much fun as Getting Married Today is, occasionally the veneer slips and making this into a more immersive experience would elevate it that tiny bit more.

The show has the right balance of comedy and reality for a musical revue, with the two leading ladies doing a sterling job of entertaining us throughout and of course, Parker ably accompanying them on keys. Getting Married Today is a wonderful and very polished piece of light-hearted fun that doesn't take itself too seriously.

Getting Married Today ran on 31st August 2016 at the Phoenix Artist Club.

Nearest tube station: Tottenham Court Road (Northern, Central)



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