Christmas, as usual, brings seasonal entertainment to Londun. However the New Year is a good time to look back at 1975, so before writing of the new shows, a few words about the old year wild not be out of place. It is interesting that many of the successes of 1975 which continue into the New Year are pure entertainment: "The Black Mikado," "A Little Night Music," "Billy," and the two African musicals "Ipi Tombi" and "Kwa Zulu" all musical entertainments at that, "The Plumbers Progress" though not a musical has Lieders sung by Harry Secomhe. The non-event of the year was the recent production of Graham Green's new play.
Continuing in the musical vein Danny La Rue returns in "Queen Danniella" at the Casino Theatre. Danny La Rue, a superb artist, is essentially a performer for a sophisticated audience, but this sumptous pantomime is intended for mass consumption and consequently the star of the show plays second fiddle to the lavishly staged spectacle. One scene, that with the Peggy O'Farrell children will appeal to children and grown-ups alike, the rest is certainly not for children, though it may be loosely described as family entertainment. On second thought the Paul and Peta Page puppets are brilliant and will appeal to young and old. The dancing throughout the show is exceptionally good, one is tempted to say too good, for a rather uninspiring Christmas show.
"Queen Danniella" is slick, professional entertainment, a quality lacking in the Theatre Workshop production of "Nickleby and Me," but given the choice I would rather go and see the musical melodrama at Stratford. Ned Sherrin is the director and together with Caryl Brahms is responsible for the book and lyrics. Charles Dickens' Nicholas Nickleby is the inspiration for "Nickleby and Me," I doubt whether Dickens would have approved, but the audience did. It is in the best traditions of the
'theatre Royal and it suits the atmosphere of this lovely old theatre perfectly. For some Londoners the fare to Stratford in the East End may be higher than those to the West End, but apart from cheaper theatre tickets you also save on the programme. Today West End theatre programmes often cost 15p, the Theatre Royal gives you all you need to know for 1p.
"Treasure Island" is traditional Christmas fare for children. This year the Mermaid 'I heatre production of it has emigrated to the New London Theatre, but it has not lost by its move. Bernard Miles has accompanied it to play Captain Flint and when I mention that Spike Milligan plays Ben Grum, readers will expect good theatre and they will not be disappointed. Robert Louis Stevenson was a master story teller and that's what matters as far as children are concerned.
At the Theatre Royal, Haymarket, there is a revival of Frederick Lonsdale's "On Approval" directed by Frank Hauser. The fact that this is the fifth production of this play in the West End in less than 50 years speaks for itself. It is a good play. The latest production has a very talented cast of four: Jennie Linden, Geraldine McEwan, Edward Woodward and Edward Hardwick.
"The Bed Before Yesterday" brings back to the Lyric Theatre, at the age of ninety, Ben Travers, the author of the famous Aldwych farces.
He describes his eternally youthful play as a sex comedy, rather than a farce; certainly it is in tune with the permissive society of today. Somehow — I cannot explain why — permissiveness is always more acceptable in fun, whereas it offends when it is serious.
Anticipation rather than fulfilment is the theme of Mr Travers's play, which might be labelled, "For adults only — the sophisticated type."