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THE GOODBYE GIRL – Upstairs at the Gatehouse, London.

imageMarvin Hamlisch and David Zippell’s 1993 Broadway musical, based on Neil Simon’s film of the same name, flopped both in New York starring Bernadette Peter and in a later West End production which starred Gary Wilmot. A powerhouse of fringe musical theatre, Upstairs at the Gatehouse is the perfect place to revive such a piece, so it’s a shame that the material still doesn’t hold up some twenty-years later.

The narrative is a simple one; wafer-thin, in fact. Actor Eliot (Paul Keating) sub-lets an apartment in NYC, only to find that his friend’s ex-girlfriend Paula (Rebecca Bainbridge) still inhabits it with her daughter Lucy. Despite some trials and a couple of bumps, the pair realise that they love one another and resolve to live happily ever after. It is easy to see how the dramatic action could lack, despite charming performances from both leads.

Hamlich’s score is punchy and has moments of the zesty pizzazz A Chorus Line, his only real musical hit, is full of. David Zippel’s lyrics are witty in part, but generally fail to reach the dizzying heights achieved in his Cy Coleman collaboration City of Angels. Other moments of syrupy sentiment threaten to drown Zippel’s humour, especially when paired with Neil Simon’s gushy book.

Suzi Lombardelli’s design somehow makes the Gatehouse space seem huge, by comparison with other productions I’ve seen there. A fairly plain New York apartment vibe runs throughout, which is generally effective. Aaron J Dootson’s rope lighting ties in nicely too, adding a touch of Broadway sparkle to the proceedings. Richard Bates’ band plays the melodic score with gusto, one of the highlights of the evening.

Overseeing the production is Adam Lenson, whose direction is often both sensitive and peppy enough, and the hard-working ensemble cast muddle through. But both are constantly hampered by material that is probably best enjoyed in cast recording form. If you’ve got a spare Sunday afternoon and want the opportunity to discover a neglected piece by such esteemed writers, The Goodbye Girl is well worth a look – just don’t be disappointed upon seeing why it’s been largely forgotton.

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Reviewed 6/01/2015

By George Thomas

4th – 28th February 2015
Upstairs at the Gatehouse, London, N6.

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