Bar Mitzvah Boy, Upstairs at the Gatehouse, review: ‘Robust Jewish romp with truly singable tunes’

PUBLISHED: 12:00 21 March 2016

Lara Stubbs (Lesley) and Adam Bregman (Eliot) in Bar Mitzvah Boy. Picture: Kim Sheard Photography

Lara Stubbs (Lesley) and Adam Bregman (Eliot) in Bar Mitzvah Boy. Picture: Kim Sheard Photography

KIM SHEARD PHOTOGRAPHY

A previously neglected musical adapted by David Thompson from Jack Rosenthal’s original story about a boy who runs away from his Bar Mitzvah has been transformed from an important play on teenage angst and family values into a robust Jewish romp with loads of irresistible humour.

The music by Jules Steyne is old-fashioned in the best possible way with truly singable tunes and wittily appropriate lyrics by Don Black, most of which have been added to the score of the original musical which had a disastrously short run in the 1970s.

The main joy of this production is the uninhibited performances of a group of actors who just seem to open their mouths and the music comes pouring out. Thirteen-year-old Adam Bregman is narrator as well as the main protagonist – a boy who is reluctant to turn into a man -– and he carries it off with confidence and enormous charm.

His girlfriend Denise, played by Hanna Rose-Thompson, explains that being a Protestant 13-year-old girl is no better.

The two work well together but the cut-down cast means the characters are somewhat stereotypical with Sue Kelvin as a Jewish mother obsessed with her hairdo and the opinions of the neighbours, and Victor Green as a roguish ‘Dad’.

Particularly impressive though is Lara Stubbs as Eliot’s sympathetic elder sister Lesley and Nicholas Corre as her pathetic boyfriend.

Director Stewart Nicholls manages to deal with the slenderness of the plot by focussing on the musical numbers which all work well with the tiny but versatile orchestra.

They manage to blend Hebrew sound with rampant showbiz effects without lapsing into Fiddler On the Roof territory.

A lighthearted show – and a terrific night out.

Rating: 4/5 stars.

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