In olden days a former TV newsreader hoofing it in a vintage musical would have been looked on as something shocking, but now...
On the face of it the oddest thing about this revival of Cole Porter's 1934 musical is Angela Rippon's star billing, 30 years on from her musical theatre talents being famously unveiled to the nation on the Morecambe & Wise Show. She doesn't in any way disgrace herself in the supporting role of Evangeline Harcourt, and seems to enjoy herself as much as anyone in a show which is never less than entertaining and better than that when it really hits its stride in the big numbers.
Recalling the shipboard scenes in the Marx Brothers' A Night at the Opera (though not as funny, obviously) this piece of nonsense, which P.G.Wodehouse had a hand in writing, throws together a group of stock characters on a voyage from New York to England. There's the heiress and her silly-ass English fiance, the young stockboker's clerk who wants to steal her away, the former evangelist turned night-club singer who is pursuing him, a comic gangster and a gang-ster's moll, plus (inexplicably) two Chinamen.
There are no prizes for guessing that most will have been sorted out with suitable partners by the end, to the accompaniment of 20-odd Cole Porter songs. They include the title number and several more Porter classics like You're the Top and I Get a Kick Out of You, to which It's De-Lovely, not originally from this show, has been added.
Having been the best thing in High Society last year, Ria Jones is again the outstanding performer in the role of Reno Sweeney, originally created by Ethel Merman. She is just perfect in these hardbitten, unlucky-in-love parts, and when she leads the company in the title song just before the break, it's the first of two big set-pieces which alone are worth seeing the show for. The other is Blow Gabriel Blow, which underlines what a storming band is occupying the Hippodrome pit this week.
Ashley Lilley and Chris Ellis-Stanton are personable romantic leads, Antony Read has one great comedy number as the aristocrat with gypsy in his soul, and Michael Starke, best known as Brookside's Sinbad, is good comic value as the gangster with a violin case.
* Running time: Two hours, 20 minutes. Until Saturday.