Sex, love, money and decisions. These are just some of the complicated aspects of romance portrayed in Robert McWhir’s production of this 1988 Tony Nominated Musical. This is only the second time Romance, Romance has been produced in the UK. Written by Barry Harman and Keith Herrmann, Romance, Romance consists of two short musicals, sharing the common theme of love.
The Little Comedy is based on a short story by Austrian author Arthur Schnitzler about two upper class singletons who grow tired of finding suitors after their money. They both adopt disguises as working class, hard-done-by individuals and fall in love with each other, unaware of their true identity.
Emily Lynne and Lewis Asquith bring the class of nineteenth century Vienna to the Landor Theatre, and the glamour becomes infectious during their rich and confident duets. The excellent writing, brought together with remarkable performances brought an effective stage dynamic between the two leads. This was made most apparent during scenes discussing their regret, and the emotional final scene.The set shows how amazing it is that period works such as this can can be performed in such a small venue, yet still retain the charm of aristocratic life in Vienna.
Performed in the second act is Summer Share, a musical based on Jules Renard’s 1898 play Le Pain de Ménage. This is brought up to date to the twenty first century and is set in The Hamptons. Two platonic best friends, Sam (Asquith) and Monica (Lynne) have come on holiday with their respective partners. Themes of cheating and doing what is best for a marriage is portrayed in this musical, and is excellently executed. Often, I felt guilty for rooting for the best friends to get together and cheat on their respective partners.
Once again, the chemistry between Asquith and Lynne was brilliant and well sustained throughout the performance. I was really sold on the idea that these two individuals are in love, but are separated by their marriages. As someone with a lot of platonic friendships, it made me question what is right and wrong and how this can bring about jealousy. Sinéad Wall and Tom Elliot Reade bring both comedic and solemn elements to the show by playing their partners. One of the highlights and funniest moments for me was when they explored what married life may be like when they are old.
The two plays performed one after another show of Lynne and Asquith’s range as well as vocal talents. With a high Broadway budget, I found it hard to believe that it missed out on 5 Tony awards in 1988 – but, as explained in the programme, this is the year The Phantom of the Opera opened.
Romance, Romance is playing at the Landor Theatre until 31 October. For more information and tickets, see Landor Theatre website. Photo by Sofi Berenger.