Theatre Britain’s Old Time Music Hall has a special kind of appeal. It transports us to the time of World War II, and entertainment that included patriotic songs, gentle ballads, and the pleasant wit of Gilbert and Sullivan. The period costumes and intriguing hair-dos, the gracious, genteel delivery of warbling, crooning and seemingly effortless dance cultivate a charming experience, not unlike hearing a song from the 1960’s that touches us with its innocence and lack of cynicism. In the fine tradition of Theatre Britain pantos, audience participation is encouraged in singalongs, and cringe-worthy gags prevail.
It is remarkable what you can infer from this show, the black suits with tails, the sumptuous dresses (designed by Barbara Cook) the childlike appreciation for the pleasure and wistfulness to be found in the world. Choreographer Jill Lightfoot masterfully manages the carefree and impressive dance numbers. The cast of 12 in this musical revue are nimble and poised, and it’s an advantage, I think, that they never resort to irony or winking at the audience. David Johnson as the host of these understated shenanigans, pounds his gavel and regales us with wonderfully corny puns and double entendres. The song choices are enjoyable. Vivid, warm, starry-eyed, unaffectedly enthusiastic.
Theatre Britain has a grand knack for communicating English culture and attitudes, and perhaps helping us appreciate the lovelier realms of nostalgia. It gives us a taste of how they endured the very real pain, confusion and loss of battle and romance. The way they sing Gilbert and Sullivan classics like “Poor Wandering One” and “I Am A Pirate King” makes wish they’d take on The Mikado or The Prates of Penzance. They want so much to help us have a splendid time, they provide us with song sheets and yes, even flirt with audience. [Of course flirted back] Bradley Gray provided a set that was both posh and welcoming, setting the tone for the entertainment. All in all, Theatre Britain has concocted a revue that is just sophisticated and informal enough to tickle and move us, deeply.
Theatre Britain presents Old Time Music Hall, playing June 24th-July 17th, 2016. Cox Playhouse, 1517 Avenue H, Plano, texas75074. 972-490-4202. theatre-britain.com