Review: 3*** Reputation The Musical – The Other Palace @TheOtherPalace @ReputationLdn

A fresh out of the box musical drawing inspiration from the golden age of Hollywood. Pleasant songs compensate for a lightweight script.

The cosy studio of the Other Palace is now home to the newest off West End musical. Reputation throws the audience back to 1935 with the Hollywood studio system in full effect. Our story begins when an advert appears in Variety magazine asking for original film scripts. Michelle Grant (Maddy Banks) is an aspiring young writer attending language and deportment college in Paris; a finishing school that teaches everything but how to further her ambitions.

Michelle is persuaded by friends to submit her film script. However, Michelle is duped by small time crook Freddy Larceny (Jeremy Secomb), who has cultivated a reputation in Hollywood passing off other people’s work as his own. Back in Paris the penny drops and Michelle hires lawyer Archie Bright (Ed Wade) to reclaim her script. Both sides go court where Judge Stevens (Corey Peterson) now has to rule on the script’s origin. Can Michelle prove her case or will Freddy outgun her with his own hotshot lawyer?

The songs are incredibly tuneful and quickly overshadow a script based on the doubtful premise of female emancipation. The real showstopper is I nearly had it all (beautifully sung by Maddy Banks); closely followed by Something in which to believe. However, the songs can occasionally sound very twee; especially Just look at the facts performed by Judge Stevens. It conjures up the image of Noel Coward tickling the ivories in a cocktail bar.  Not necessarily a bad thing, but it might limit the show’s horizons particularly with younger audiences.

To focus on pre-war Hollywood is a sound proposition; after all many great musicals were written during this period. But it’s a story requiring a modern edge and the characters feel like cardboard cut-outs; to use the name Freddy Larceny is stretching credibility to the limit. This is the wise guy who stole Michelle’s script? It strays into comic book territory and undermines the story’s primary objective: to throw more light on the role of women in Hollywood. It only partially achieves this aim. There are numerous examples of scripts being stolen or bought for a pittance but women weren’t the only victims. Freddy gives the impression he can get away with it because of Michelle’s gender. But wouldn’t a chancer like him have pulled the same trick on a man?

This is where the script comes undone with the assumption that female scriptwriters were generally exploited at this time. This is simply not the case; Frances Marion wrote Anna Christie starring Greta Garbo, the biggest grossing film of 1930; Joan Harrison scripted Rebecca, the 1941 Hitchcock classic; and Ruth Gordon was Oscar nominated on three occasions for best screenplay all by 1952. Writing is one aspect of the performing arts where women have always been well represented; Reputation inadvertently glosses over this fact.

Nevertheless, a charming and likeable cast keep the story rolling along to a satisfying if obvious conclusion. To write a new musical completely from scratch is a bold venture. Alick Glass and his daughter Suzanne have created a piece with great potential, but like most new productions it needs some refinement.

Co-author/Lyricist/Composer: Alick Glass

Co-author: Suzanne Glass

Director/Musical Director: Warren Wills

Choreographer: Tamsyn Salter

Producers: Glass Associates and Reputation the Musical

Box Office: 0207 087 7900

For tickets go to the website

Booking Until: 14 November 2019

Published by Playhouse Pickings

Theatre blog run by Rhiannon; a civil servant, D&D player, sci fi fan, immersive theatre lover and gin enthusiast

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