The brand-new production of Cole Porter’s classic, multi-award winning musical comedy transports you to the magical age of tap-dancing and high society.
When Billy Crocker discovers his heart’s desire, debutante heiress Hope Harcourt, is engaged to an English aristocrat, he stows away aboard the S S American to win her back.
In some ways, as Hugh admits, it’s one of the lesser-known musicals: “There has never been a film. It is not as much a part of consciousness as something like High Society. People know the title, but they don’t actually realise they know so many of the songs. That’s one of the lovely things we get, this realisation from the audience that they know this song, they know that song, they know this song and so on.”
Numbers include I Get A Kick Out of You, You’re the Top, It’s De-Lovely and Anything Goes – all highlights of a show with the simplest of aims.
“Cole Porter wrote it in the 1930s Depression purely to provide escapist entertainment. With the songs, you have got the wit of the lyrics, and you have also got fantastic melodies. And they spring properly out of the plot, not like some of these jukebox musicals where they suddenly shove in a number. These songs were the pop songs of their day. When people danced in the dance halls, these were the songs they were dancing too.”
Hugh joined the cast because he was joining a Sheffield Crucible tradition, a big, high-quality musical for Christmas: “Daniel Evans (artistic director of Sheffield Theatres) was the main appeal for me. He is just such a brilliant director, and what he created at Sheffield has transferred to the road brilliantly. It is not a watered-down version you are getting. It is the full musical, with absolutely nothing compromised. And for me, Sheffield was absolutely the perfect environment to do my first musical. In London, there would be huge commercial pressure to put in someone who was famous or who had won a competition on TV. In Sheffield you have got musical theatre performers who might not be famous but are absolutely at the top of their game.”
Friends who came to see the show in Sheffield adored it. They were texting from the train an hour later to tell Hugh they were still smiling.
“I am very picky about what I do in the theatre, but every dream I ever had about this has come true. It has turned out to be one of the happiest experiences of my career. Because I am so far out of my comfort zone, I am learning so much. I am surrounded by these people who are vastly more experienced at musicals than I am, but I am having a wonderful time.”
Hugh leaves the show after Southampton, after ten weeks on the road: “I was asked if I wanted to leave after April, and I thought that would be best. I didn’t want to get absolutely exhausted. I just wanted to do enough to keep it absolutely special. It has been fantastic. At the end of each half each night, the audience don’t just applaud. They roar. I keep telling myself: ‘Remember this. You are not going to hear this again!’ After the great dance routines, people can’t just clap politely. They just have to cheer!”
Tickets on 02380 711811.