Review: High Society @ The Old Vic *****

Well did you ever, what a swell party that was!

And yes…I have used that reaction to describe High Society on every social media outlet. But come on, what else can you say?!

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As you enter the theatre come ballroom, you are greeted with a resplendent sight: a lone grand piano, mood lighting, and waiters serving champagne (no doubt for an extortionate price). What a lovely welcome…if you’re sitting in the Stalls. If you’re up in the heavens, well, it puts you somewhat on the outside; an observer, much like Mike and Liz in the show, fittingly.

It doesn’t take long for someone to tickle its ivories, as Joe Stilgoe comes out as Joey Powell to open the show with an impromptu medley, made up of requests from the audience. On our evening, we were treated to ‘Beethoven’s 5th’, ‘I Love You Baby’, ‘Hakuna Matata’, and ‘How Much Is That Doggy in the Window’. I suggested ‘Hakuna Matata’…and yes I may have been dosed up on some flu medicine, so when I say suggested, I mean shouted!

High Society performed at the Old Vic Theatre Rupert Young as CK Dexter Haven, Kate Fleetwood as Tracy Lord ©Alastair Muir 13.05.15

After this amazing opening, the rest of the show lives up to expectation. The staging is innovative to say the least: incredible set dressing, a sail boat which moves across the stage, a piano or two which appear as if by magic, and lighting rigs adorned in lanterns, which create an intimate party feel.

The choreography is so spot on: in the round, the actors glide across the stage in circular movements, creating a visually mesmeric experience. Seriously, you can’t look away, the dancing is that good! Especially in the party scene. Who wants to be dancing on the ceiling when you can be dancing on tables and pianos!

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The acting, as expected, is of a high quality. Before going, I didn’t realise how many people I would know in it! As mentioned yesterday, the entire reason part of the reason for going was Jamie Parker, and he was great. His Mike was so funny, I LOVED his sulky ‘Who Wants To Be A Millionaire’, his drunk ‘Well Did You Evah’, and particularly the scenes with Kate Fleetwood as Tracy Lord. I’ve seen Fleetwood in a few things before, including The National Theatre’s King Lear. To be honest, I feel she’s been type cast of late in ‘evil’ roles, so this was a welcome change seeing her do comedy and she was amazing! Beautiful voice, great physical movement (‘OOOH I’m a little mouse’ comes to mind), and her scenes with Rupert Young were a highlight.

It took me to the interval to realise who Uncle Willie was, at which point I went, ‘It’s Robert Pattinsons Dad from Harry Potter, you know, the murderer off Hollyoaks’, aka Jeff Rawle. Which shows my frame of reference! It was good to see him do some comedy again, and I can’t count the times Willie wandered offstage to get a drink! Young likewise was good but I would have liked to see more of him; I felt like he didn’t quite get enough time to shine though, and the same goes for the immensely talented Annabel Scholey as Liz. Finally, the other supporting actors including the servants were all great: the ‘High Society’ interludes were a good way of transitioning between scenes, and I loved the interactions between themselves and the family.

What an incredible show: swellegant staging, elegant choreography, and the only show I’ve seen this year to get a standing ovation. And deservingly so!

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