Re-review: Salad Days, Riverside Studios

“It’s true I’ve been led an amazing dance,
but why should I ever complain?
If I could be given a second chance,
I’d live it all over again”

One of the greatest pleasures of writing this blog has been being able to really champion the shows that really move me, the ones that I heartily recommend to everyone in my phonebook the moment I come out of the theatre and so it was in early December with this delightful musical. The ‘little show that could’, Salad Days has risen from fairly quiet beginnings to becoming one of the hottest tickets in town and their last few weeks have been playing to packed houses. Whether it was the snowy weather in December, or the length of time it took to persuade critics to visit Hammersmith I don’t know, but the press reviews took a long time to emerge and trickled out slowly from late December onwards. What impact this had I don’t know, but this has been, from my point of view, a genuinely huge word-of-mouth success which I think is testament to just how good a show it is.

It really is so very well put-together in all aspects: the book is genuinely funny which helps of course and delivered so cleanly and earnestly by all concerned, the songs are catchy and tuneful and the structure of the show with its plentiful brief reprises lends an air of familiarity with the music even on first listen, the costumes feel authentic and the design pitched just right. And as commented before, Tête-à-Tête's casting has been spot-on in gathering an ensemble capable of singing beautifully, un-miked into the large auditorium whilst executing Quinny Sacks’ inspired choreography. Every single aspect of this production from the entrance to the breakfast eating sequence, the people walking through the park, the club scenes and Mark Inscoe’s interval patter, feels carefully thought through and perfectly judged.

Awarded the prestigious Best Actor in a Musical fosterIAN, Sam Harrison justified his winning ways with another excellent performance, playing to the school-kids in the audience beautifully. And I still am slightly suspicious that this is Katie Moore’s professional debut, she is such an engaging performer both acting- and singing-wise, this is a beautifully bright start for her. But other performers stood out more for me this time too, I saw the comedy of Rebecca Caine’s beauty parlour scene much better from a different angle, Andrew Aherne’s Sergeant Boot had me in stitches (though I think someone was trying their best to make him laugh!) and Charlie Cameron and Ellie Robertson also rates mention as they missed out last time round.

I was so glad to be able to revisit Salad Days, even if we did say we’d never look back(!) and that I managed to convince others to take a chance on this delightful show. Frothy but with hidden depths, whimsical yet shot through with a clear-sighted emotional honesty that just lifts the spirits. It feels like this show could have run and run such is the enthusiasm around it at the moment and as Cameron Mackintosh was in the audience in the evening of the same day that I attended the matinée, it might well be that we’re all looking for a pee-ah-no again in the future.

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