The Best of Times: The Showtunes of Jerry Herman

Previewed 6 August 1998, Opened 12 August 1998, Closed 29 August 1998 at the Bridewell Theatre
Previewed 13 November, Opened 17 November 1998, Closed 19 December 1998 at the Vaudeville Theatre

Conceived by Paul Gilger with the songs of Jerry Herman.

The cast at the Bridewell Theatre featured Garth Bardsley, Karen Evans, Jamie Golding, Lindsay Hamilton, and Melanie E Marshall, with Barry Lloyd on piano.

The cast at the Vaudeville Theatre featured Garth Bardsley, Kathryn Evans, Jamie Golding, Lindsay Hamilton, and Sarah Payne, with James Followell on piano.

Directed and choreographed by Bill Starr, with sets by Bridget Kimak (Bridewell), costumes by Jackie Galloway (Bridewell), designs by Hugh Durrant (Vaudeville), lighting by Robin Carter, sound by Simon Whitehorn (Bridewell), and sound by Bobby Aitken (Vaudeville).

Kathryn Evans' London theatre credits include playing the roles of 'Lottie' in Paul Kerryson's production of Jerry Herman's Mack and Mabel at the Piccadilly Theatre in 1995; and 'Olive James' in David Gilmore's production of Noel Gay's Radio Times at the Queen's Theatre in 1992.

Sarah Payne's London stage credits include playing the roles of 'Cecily Pigeon' in Harvey Medlinsky's revival of Neil Simon's The Odd Couple at the Haymarket Theatre in 1996; and 'Lina Lamont' in Tommy Steele's production of the Betty Comden, Adolph Green, Nacio Herb Brown and Arthur Freed musical Singin' In The Rain at the London Palladium in 1983 and 1989.

Jerry Herman's West End credits include La Cage aux Folles, Hello, Dolly!, Mack and Mabel, and Mame.

"The prospect of a string of songs knitted together from a string of shows, like this one from the musicals of Jerry Herman,promises a tepid evening and generally delivers it... Led by the strong voiced Kathryn Evans, the six singers, one of them also the pianist, can be likeable enough, and in the sadly few songs where the tone is tart it is pleasant to hear disgruntlement set to rhyme. But the prevailing tone is remorselessly optimistic... Obviously there's nothing actually wrong with this attitude to the speck of earth we call home, and most American musicals include a song where somebody down on his luck pulls himself up by his boot straps and behold, the straps are made of gold. But in quantity it's just too sweet and creamy." The Times

"Writer Paul Gilger and director Bill Starr only have six singers, yet they still manage to shoehorn 43 tunes, plus reprises, into a brief two hours. Gilger's dialogue-free arrangements are slick, but the relentless barrage of jollity can get a bit overwhelming... This has repercussions in a compilation show, as all the songs tend to merge into one long inspirational exhortation to pick yourself up, put on your Sunday clothes and tap your troubles away. The high camp of A Little More Mascara in the first half, and the outright bitchery of Bosom Buddies in the second, sit like oases of refreshing sharpness in a desert of chirpiness. Gilger's only other bid to overcome blandness is to stage-manage a weepy, solid-gold show stopper in each half... Starr's cast is in fine voice throughout, and those who like to hear blandly bouncy Broadway tunes uncluttered by dialogue may find this show just the ticket." The London Evening Standard

"Very few words are spoken. We get individual songs in their own right, not as echoes of the original shows; some have even changed their sex. But as "conceived" by Paul Gilger, and directed and choreographed by Bill Starr, the sequence is more fun than the mere sum of its songs... Kathryn Evans has a torchy smoulder and a fine brassy edge; Lindsay Hamilton boasts her own vein of wry comedy, and shoulders up to soulful out pourings, too. Sarah Payne does the ditsy blondes winningly, and more. Garth Bardsley is incessantly apt in a great variety of roles and songs. Young Jamie Golding tackles another wide range. The sound-engineering is faultless, like Hugh Durrani's elegant, simple designs and Robin Carter's constantly inventive lighting. A lot of people, I should guess, will want to see this show two or three times." The Financial Times

The Best of Times: The Showtunes of Jerry Herman in London at the Vaudeville Theatre previewed from 13 November, opened on 17 November 1998, and closed on 19 December 1998