REVIEW: 110 IN THE SHADE (Ye Olde Rose & Crown) ★★★

110 in the shade

What better way to spend an evening following a muggy day in London, than a little saunter to Walthamstow to see the humid 110 in The Shade, produced by All Star Productions, who are the theatre company-in-residence at Ye Olde Rose and Crown Pub Theatre. Their mission is to champion unusual and rarely-performed works, which both excited and intrigued me, especially as I’d never seen this particular show before.

Originally premiered on Broadway in 1963, the plot of 110 In The Shade centres around the nonexistent love life and internal struggles of Lizzie Curry (played by Laurel Dougall) as she comes to terms with her self-proclaimed ‘Old Maid’ status. With the excitement of picnics on the 4th July, she soon finds herself in a love triangle with the town Sheriff, File (played by Nick Wyschna), and the mysterious Starbuck (played by Daniel Urch) who promises the town some rain if they can shake his instruments hard enough… for a small fee.

There is no doubt that this production is made up of a very talented group of performers who, under the direction of Randy Smartnick, worked well as a cohesive ensemble. The score from composer Harvey Schmidt and lyricist Tom Jones is enjoyable and the cast performed the subtle and uplifting harmonies to full effect with music well balanced by Musical Director Aaron Clingham. Simple costume and set design reinforced that we were in South-Western United States and the stage was cleverly lit by Jamie Platt, who achieved much in the small space.

Laurel Dougall captivated as Lizzie Curry, projecting her frustration, angst and button fiddling whilst allowing the audience to root for her longed-for happiness. Julian Quigano played an incredibly lovable Jimmy Curry, the often tormented “dumb” brother of the family, and provided comic relief by the barrel load, as well as bringing a real sense of heart and soul to the production. He also shared a sweet chemistry with Snookie played by Rebecca Withers and their duet “Little Red Hat” provided a memorable moment in the production. I thoroughly enjoyed the rousing “Rain Song” led by Daniel Urch as Starbuck, which provided a real moment of celebration for both ensemble and audience – the simple yet effective choreography by Kate McPhee filled the stage nicely and highlighted the cast’s strengths and storytelling. The use of handheld instruments played by the cast – in their vain attempts to tempt the rain – was, on the whole, well executed. However, I feel that more emphasis upon the cast making ‘homemade’ music, as well as more of an ensemble presence during some scenes, would have really added to the heat and excitement of the show, as the title suggests.

Although this is a lesser-known musical, I enjoyed being transported back to the simple, cowboy hat wearing times of the 1930’s Wild West for a few hours. However, I do have some doubts about the relevance of a musical focussed around a woman’s requirement to be defined by the expectations men, in a London theatre scene fighting for diversity and equality, and promoting self-empowerment.

That being said, there are clearly exciting things on the horizon for All Star Productions as an Off West End Venue, especially with such a talented bunch of actors and musicians at their disposal. 110 In The Shade runs until 28th May AND if that isn’t enough for you, the cast are performing 110 In Cabaret at Ye Olde Rose and Crown on Monday 22nd May – an evening of West End and Broadway favourites, with all profits going towards a very hard-working and deserving cast.

Review by Lisa MacGregor