High Society

Published May 15, 2015

What’s it all about?

The very rich being very badly behaved. The answer to ‘Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?’ might be a resounding ‘I don’t’ from the characters in Maria Friedman’s sparkling production of the MGM classic musical, but when you have such a talented company making it look that much fun, I fear the audience may have different ideas…

Set in 1950s upper class heaven – sorry, is it just me who got carried away by all those incredible dresses and summery scenes? – socialite Tracy is getting set to marry powerful George. One hitch. He’s incredibly boring. Oh, and her completely unboring, handsome, charismatic ex-husband Dexter has turned up just in time for the marital proceedings. With a couple of reporters in tow, one of which is harbouring feelings for the other. Never a dull moment.

Who’s in it?

Kate Fleetwood takes on the role that Grace Kelly made famous on film. It may be an unenviable task but she smashes it, possessing the character’s “withering glance of a goddess” with aplomb in a playful, moving, witty performance. You haven’t seen an unhappy drunk until you’ve witnessed Fleetwood – as Tracy – on a mission to forget her forthcoming nuptials using champagne in copious measures.

As her potential romantic matches, Jamie Parker soars as a writer unhappily earning his keep as a ruthless hack, delivering showstopping numbers with equal measures of sulkiness and sexiness. Richard Grieve is brilliantly irritating as the gloriously out of his depth George, while Rupert Young is positively dreamy as the cool and endearing Dexter. Annabel Scholey shines as a nonsense reporter Liz and a spirited Ellie Bamber threatens to still everyone’s limelight as Tracy’s meddling, tomboy little sister.

What should I look out for?

That ball scene. Friedman is not one to shy away from a challenge and following the complicated Merrily We Roll Along she’s picked a musical with a slightly muddly, far from perfect story and made it a glorious, rip-roaring success. Never more is this demonstrated than in this stand out scene where Nathan M Wright embraces the show’s eccentric heart with raucous choreography. Why step when you can jump or be dainty when you can throw yourself on a piano?

Musician Joe Stilgoe’s introduction that, with the help of some audience interaction, will ensure a totally different beginning every night. On press night it resulted in a sing-along jazz piano mash-up of Summertime, The Pink Panther and The Jungle Book.

Who was in the press night crowd?

We spotted Lesley Manville, Andrew Scott, the Donmar’s Josie Rourke and Maria Friedman herself. None were so proud as Fleetwood’s husband and Artistic Director of the Almeida Theatre Rupert Goold however, who was the first to jump out of his seat for the actor’s well deserved standing ovation.

In a nutshell?

Maria Friedman does it again; High Society is a rip-roaring, fabulously stylish, brilliantly witty evening of pure romantic escapism.   

What’s being said on Twitter?

@michaelxavierUK Just watched #HighSociety @oldvictheatre and LOVED it! @MariaFriedman1 once again shows she’s the master of directing musicals! A must see!!

@bbckirstylang Can’t stop smiling after joyous production of #HighSociety @oldvictheatre dueling pianos, high octane choreography + fabulous 50s frocks

Will I like it?

If you’re looking for something to brighten up an evening, want to be wowed by flawless direction and stunning company numbers, then yes. Head to The Old Vic to be transported back in time for a stylish but satisfyingly riotous evening of pure theatrical class.

High Society is playing at the Old Vic Theatre until 22 August. You can book tickets through us here.

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