StageScan Pick: Romantics Anonymous

Romantics Anonymous at Shakespeare’s Globe received 4-star average pro reviews. Holly Williams (What’s On Stage), describing a “big-hearted musical” adaptation of the 2010 Belgian film, admitted: “You might expect Emma Rice’s departure from the Globe to leave a bad taste in the mouth, but her final show couldn’t be sweeter”. Quentin Letts (Daily Mail) found “deliciousness” in the “most kindly way it celebrates experimentation over stale tradition”. Sam Marlowe (The Stage) agreed “there’s not a sour note” and Lyn Gardner (The Guardian) described “a multifaceted gem, chock-full of love, generosity and joy” which “fits the space like a glove”.

Williams detected a “close and communal” feel to this indoor production “staged with Rice’s customary elan” and featuring “knowing nods throughout to the absurdity of people bursting into song”. Marlowe said Lez Brotherston “wittily transforms the Playhouse into glittering Paris” and Gardner found his “exquisite… tongue-in-cheek design… neatly plays up the space’s chocolate-box aesthetic”. Marlowe also praised “blissfully twinkle-toed” choreography.
He found Rice’s book “frothy, yet piquant”, Williams observed “an irresistible romcom drive” and Gardner admired “confident… sensitive” Rice’s “witty stagecraft” and “ability to tug at the heartstrings”. She highlighted the “wry comic touch” with which she suggests “that people sometimes see chronic shyness as an affectation” and found the scenes “at the Alcoholics Anonymous-style meetings… funny and heartbreakingly sad”.

Gardner described a “musical confection – composed with charm” by Michael Kooman, which, said Marlowe, “whisks accordion waltzes into lush flavours of chanson”, and Letts enjoyed “catchy melodies”. Gardner praised Christopher Dimon’s “sometimes droll lyrics”, which Letts found “witty” and “chipper”. Marlowe agreed they “trip winningly along”. Gardner thought it “best described as a play with songs” and Letts agreed “the music is a background seltzer rather than the overwhelming medium”.

Letts saw “characters … sketched with affection and skill” and Williams found leads Carly Bawden and Dominic Marsh “utterly gorgeous”. Marlowe agreed they make “endearing misfits”. Gardner declared it “valiantly served not just by its leads but the entire top-notch, cross-dressing, shape-shifting ensemble”, highlighting “delicious” Joanna Riding and “terrific” Lauren Samuels. Amid “a gourmand’s selection of tasty cameos” Marlowe also praised Riding alongside “a formidable” Gareth Snook.

Letts found the whole “delightful” admitting: “Not for yonks have I been so charmed by a new musical.” Marlowe found it “utterly gorgeous… Souffle-light and swooningly seductive” as it “glows with… starry-eyed wonder… melts your heart and tickles your fancy”. Williams, while admitting it “risks being cloyingly twee” found “cynicism soon melts away”, as it becomes “truly delicious… memorable, bittersweet”. Gardner agreed it’s “definitely sweet-toothed” yet found it “restrained… unassuming and engaging”. She suggested that although it’s “quirky and original… nobody presents sexual desire and the transformative joy of love on stage quite as well or with such febrile intensity” as Rice, making it ultimately “irresistible”.

Runs to 06 Jan 2018, with tickets available from Shakespeare’s Globe. Or for bittersweet romance in a different style, don’t miss This Beautiful Future which ends on 25 November – tickets were still available from the Yard at time of writing.

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