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Here Comes The Bride
Published on Thursday, 20 May 2010

Some ideas are just so right, they’re practically destined to succeed.  At St Andrew’s Church in Hove, Beside The Seaside Productions have found a magnificent venue – but what should they stage in a church?  Well, of course: a wedding.

But what a wedding!  The pews were packed with (paying) guests, many of whom had turned out in their Sunday finery; the ushers buzzed round nervously, while our hosts plied us with champagne.  When the string quartet struck up the Wedding March, I prematurely leapt to my feet, programmed to expect the arrival of a real bride.  But it was all an act, of course, a triumph of musical theatre – which entertained from the moment they switched on the glitterball, right through to the feel-good nuptial finale.

The libretto’s built unashamedly from pop tracks of the last thirty years, but they’ve made up for the lack of original tunes with some hugely inventive re-arrangement.  Sarah Edinburgh got the party started doing Tainted Love in a perfect cut-glass accent, while a later medley remarkably turned I Should Be So Lucky – yes, the Kylie song – into a wistful West End number.  Most of the time, though, the beat was infectious and the audience was happy just to bop along; we even got to join in with a sing-along “hymn”, though I’m relieved to say our time in the spotlight was short.

The scale of it all was breathtakingly ambitious, as it had to be to match such an impressive space.  I make it fifteen cast members listed on my “order of service”, and that’s before we’ve counted the string quartet and the gospel choir.  It never felt forced, but it was always going to be difficult to find enough true vocalists to fill a cast this size – and to be brutally honest, as is often the case, the women were stronger than the men.

The acting, though, was uniformly magnificent; I particularly liked Julian McDowell’s primly stereotyped vicar, full of braying laugh and overstated diction.  Quirky visual gags added to the sense of fun, and there were a few more tender moments too, as we shared too in the sadness of many of the wedding guests who relived their bittersweet memories on the bride’s big day.  But the unquestioned star of the show was Shirley Jaffe’s straight-talking Nana – whose borderline-senile but always-pertinent interventions seemed to come whenever I least expected them.

With regret, I have to knock off half a star for some poorly-mixed sound, which over-amplified the accompaniment and left too many of the lyrics a little hard to hear.  But I’ve been assured by a trusted colleague that those gremlins struck only the night I was there.  So wangle an invitation, and head over to Hove: you’ll laugh, you’ll sing… and you’ll be able to boast you were at the wedding of the year.

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These are archived reviews of shows from Brighton 2010.  We keep our archives online as a courtesy to performers, and for readers who'd like to research previous years' reviews.