Life of the Party – a celebration of the songs of Andrew Lippa

I was lucky enough to see The Adams Family on Broadway a few years ago, just before it closed, but apart from that I have not been too familiar with Andrew Lippa’s musicals. The 2000 off-Broadway musical Life of the Party won several awards in America and his latest show I Am Harvey Milk was written for the San francisco Gay Mens Chorus to honour the life of Harvey Milk (America’s first openly gay politician).

After two very successful shows at London’s St James Theatre last November, Andrew Lippa is back in town for a two week run at the Menier Chocolate Factory with guest stars Caroline O’Connor, Damian Humbley and Summer Strallen helping him to act out scenes and sing songs from some of his shows.

Damian Humbley is no stranger to the Menier Chocolate Factory, having starred in their productions of The Last Five Years, Little Shop of Horrors and most recently Merrily We Roll Along. Summer Strallen is one of four Strallen Sisters that can be seen performing around the West End in various shows. Her showbiz parents were in the original cast of Cats and her aunt is one of the west ends most fabulous divas, Bonnie Langford. Summer was most recently seen playing the lead role of Dale Tremont in Top Hat at the Aldwych Theatre. Is is hard to pinpoint Summers greatest strength, she sings like a dream and dances like a true professional. Her acting versatility is shown here by effortlessly flitting between the characters of school girl and bondage mistress. Caroline O’Connor is an award winning, worldwide performer who most recently starred in A Christmas Story on Broadway. Her voice is slightly overpowered by the other performers during group numbers but her solo songs are beautiful.

Andrew Lippa surprised me and turned out to be quite the showman, singing, dancing and acting well, showing that not all composers confine themselves behind their piano. I can’t imaging Andrew Lloyd Webber stuffing fish down his trousers and tap dancing off stage but you never know!

Life of the Party is a well thought out and cleverly put together showcase of Andrew Lippa’s work, combining music and performance with a strong cast to support him in his story telling. And to top it all off, you can buy CD’s in the foyer and Andrew will sign them for you after the show!

Reviewed by West End Wilma


Life of the Party is playing at the Menier Chocolate Factory until 14 June 2014. Click here for tickets.