Previewed 9 February 2016, Opened 16 February 2016, Closed 18 June 2016 at the Noel Coward Theatre in London
The new stage musical Mrs Henderson Presents in London following an acclaimed run at the Theatre Royal in Bath in 2015. Based on the film of the same name.
The cast features Tracie Bennett, Ian Bartholomew and Emma Williams. Written by Terry Johnson with lyrics by Don Black and music by George Fenton and Simon Chamberlain and directed by Terry Johnson. Tracie Bennett's West End credits include the lead role of 'Judy Garland' in Peter Quilter's play End Of The Rainbow (Trafalgar Studio 2010). Ian Bartholomew's London theatre credits include the Stephen Sondheim musical Into the Woods (Phoenix Theatre 1990). Emma Williams' credits include the musicals Love Story (Duchess Theatre 2010) and Desperately Seeking Susan (Novello Theatre 2007).
PLEASE NOTE: This production includes scenes of nudity.
When this production opened here at the Noel Coward Theatre in February 2016, Ann Treneman in The Times said: "It is based on a true story that also inspired the 2005 film with Judi Dench and Bob Hoskins, but this musical is better. The songs are memorable and very hummable and the lyrics are absolutely terrific... The whole thing is done in the best possible taste, these nudes are not lewds, and that is the key. It's hard to resist the story, which has real heart... It's a winner, with a hearty patriotic pep to it: here's a play with boobs but no boobs, if you know what I mean." Neil Norman in The Daily Express commented: "It is quite simply a triumph... Don Black's smart lyrics are beautifully framed by music reflecting the era including comic songs, romantic ballads and girl-group harmonies. Andrew Wright's choreography is bang on the money." Dominic Cavendish in The Daily Telegraph thought that "it may sound disingenuous but there's something touching about the recaptured innocence of it all, the celebration of the female form in a mock-classical style with no sniggers attached... Composers George Fenton and Simon Chamberlain luxuriate in pastiche period sounds but they're groping for tangible emotions amid much generalised patriotic sentimentality... This feels like a semi-triumphant evocation of a bygone demi-monde. There's something missing, and it's not the clothes." Sarah Hemming in The Financial Times highlighted how "Terry Johnsonís jaunty direction and the pastiche musical numbers match style to subject," adding that "the show also lays bare a number of thorny issues that it canít properly address ó most notably the troubling question of whether stripping off constitutes empowerment or exploitation for the women. Meanwhile characterisation is undernourished, which increasingly becomes a problem as war tragedies strike." Fiona Mountford in The London Evening Standard described how "the musical shares with the film a desperate lack of momentum. As for the songs, there are a lot of them, but none are memorable. The last thing the West End needs is an endless stream of American musicals, but this home-grown fare simply isnít good enough."
"Mrs Henderson Presents is a gloriously old-fashioned 'book musical', its style perfectly suited to its subject. The score is beautifully varied, ranging from pastiche revue numbers worthy of Sandy Wilson through a defiant anthem for Mrs Henderson - destined to become a cabaret standard - to poignant wartime choruses. Tracie Bennett and Ian Bartholomew make a delightful central duo... They receive excellent support from Emma Williams, Samuel Holmes, Matthew Malthouse and a bevy of tastefully naked chorus girls. The Windmill's proud boast was that it never closed; this show deserves to say the same." The Express on Sunday
"This lavish musical about showgirls who brazenly bared all at London's Windmill Theatre is full of rousing routines and lots of boobs. The year is 1937 and widow Laura Henderson, played exquisitely by Tracie Bennett, needs to boost ticket sales at The Windmill. So, after some serious convincing, off come the girls' clothes. Leaving gender politics at the door and entering into the Blitz spirit, this vibrant show is good clean fun (despite the naked tableaus) and genuinely moving. The Windmill never shuts its doors, so when the enemy planes arrive, things get interesting and it is laughs followed in quick succession by tears, in this heartwarming evocation of a bygone age. If you like a patriotic bent and with a huge dollop of nostalgia, this one's for you!" The Sunday Mirror
"Back in the Thirties, a wealthy widow named Laura Henderson bought the Windmill Theatre in Soho, filled it with jugglers, magicians and a pretty male tapdancer and the audience stayed away in their droves. Terry Johnson's musical, retelling the true story of the reversal in the theatreís fortunes creates a light-bulb moment, when doughty Mrs H has the inspired idea to save money on lavish costumes and stage tasteful 'tableaux' of nude young women... While the issues of female exploitation and male titillation are not addressed, George Fenton and Simon Chamberlain's score includes some moving ballads about growing older, with tiny Tracie Bennettís feisty Mrs H filling Whatever Time I Have and Anything But Young with wistfulness and welly... The show, proudly British from start to finish, has lots to sing about. It's a celebration of a chapter of theatre history, of Blitz spirit (bombs are dropping and the show must go on) and an early demonstration of girl power." The Mail on Sunday
"Director Terry Johnson takes palpable delight in the real-life story of Mrs Henderson, who bought the Windmill Theatre in 1930 and, despite knowing almost nothing about the industry, turned it into a ragingly successful, non-stop revue theatre with the help of her Dutch Jewish manager, Vivian Van Damm. Her introduction of naked tableaux was designed to get round the era's strict censorship rules, but here Johnson seizes on it as a perfect demonstration of that singular British mix of smut and coyness when it comes to attitudes towards sex... This is not a subtle evening by any means, but with its mix of wholesome sauce and home fires burning, it's definitely a stirring one." The Sunday Telegraph
Mrs Henderson Presents in London at the Noel Coward Theatre previewed from 9 February 2016, opened on 16 February 2016 and closed on 18 June 2016.