Free As Air – First Revival


Sunday, Monday and Tuesday’s

5, 6, 7, 12, 13, 14, 19, 20 and 21 October 2014

Celebrating the 60th anniversary of the world premiere of Salad Days, and as part of the Finborough Theatre acclaimed Celebrating British Music Theatre series, Stewart Nicholls directs the first professional UK revival in over 50 years of Julian Slade’s musical Free As Air.

Among the Channel Islands, tucked away out of sight, lies the tiny island of Terhou, a treasure as yet undiscovered by the tourist trade. In this remote paradise, the happy population sings all day long, arising early to prepare for their annual Independence Day Celebration. They soon discover there is no young lady to be crowned May Queen in their Coronation Ceremony, as all the young women have played the part before.

As luck would have it, along with the boat returning from the monthly trip to gather supplies arrives a beautiful stranger – Geraldine. Yet close behind follows the love-struck Jack Amersham and the mischievous Ivy Crush, the press reporter charged with shadowing her…

Will the islanders find their May Queen, or will the peace of Terhou be disrupted forever? A charming classic British musical, Free as Air enjoyed a run of over 400 performances at the Savoy Theatre in 1957, starring Gerald Harper, Gillian Lewis and Patricia Bredin. It now receives its first professional UK revival in more than fifty years.

Music by Julian Slade.

Book and Lyrics by Julian Slade and Dorothy Reynolds.

Directed and Choreographed by Stewart Nicholls.
Musical Director Ben Stock. Pianist James Church. Set and Costume Design by Oona Tibbetts. Lighting by Rob Mills. Costume Supervision by Jade Nicola Boxall.

Presented by Katy Lipson for Aria Entertainment in association with Neil McPherson for the Finborough Theatre.

Cast: Charlotte Baptie. Ian Belsey. Ruth Betteridge. Anna Brook-Mitchell. Daniel Cane. James Dangerfield. Richard Gibson. Amy Hamlen. Anthony Harris. Josh Little. Ted Merwood. Joanna Monro. Eimear Phelan-O’Riordan. Simon Pontin. Jane Quinn. Robert Sharpe. Sophie Simms.

REVIEWS:

“The Finborough Theatre is well known for its rediscoveries of long lost plays, but it has also been making great strides in reclaiming neglected musical gems. Composer Julian Slade may be best known for Salad Days, originally premiered in 1954, but the forgotten Free As Air, from 1957, is an equally infectious, loopy delight.” Mark Shenton, The Stage

“A shining example of a neglected piece of British musical theatre history, Free As Air is just delightfully good fun.” There Ought To Be Clowns

“A wonderful upbeat show for a lovely evening out.” Carolin Kopplin, UK Theatre Network

“Slade & Reynolds’ unashamedly old-fashioned yet still entertaining – and endearing – show.” Raymond Langford Jones, Sardines Reviews

“Dorothy Reynolds and Julian Slade’s Free As Air hasn’t been seen professionally since 1974 but in the sure hands of Katy Lipson for Aria Entertainments and Neil McPherson’s Finborough Theatre, director and choreographer Stewart Nicholls makes a compelling case for its revival.” There Ought To Be Clowns

“Much of the joy of these musicals that the Finborough has resuscitated with their ‘Celebrating British Music Theatre’ series comes from the thrill of unamplified ensembles filling this most intimate of theatres with the joy of song. And with a cast of 17 here, Nicholls and musical director Ben Stock pitch it just right, capturing the endearing glee that comes from something so determinedly old-fashioned yet utterly sincere in its delivery – it would be easy to bandy the word ‘twee’ about but there’s a real emotional honesty to the playing here.” There Ought To Be Clowns

“High in drama it is not, and that’s rather refreshing. The whole show is a little bit silly and it knows it, but is so joyous and full of life that it wins you over in no time and has you smiling until the end.” Catherine Duffy, Bargain Theatre Land

“This gem of a show more than deserves a full length run of its own. It is sweet and charming and thoroughly enjoyable, filled with daft plots and loveable characters it is pure escapism at its finest and is impossible to resist.” Catherine Duffy, Bargain Theatre Land

“The big plus that comes from productions in small venues is that there is no need for amplification of any kind. And with an MD of the calibre of Ben Stock, as here, we are fully able to appreciate Slade’s delightful harmonies and choral work” Raymond Langford Jones, Sardines Reviews

“There’s a great deal of pleasure being had on both sides of the footlights. The strong-voiced ensemble give it musical heft under the direction of Ben Stock, and there are irresistible turns from Charlotte Baptie, Joanna Munro, Josh Little and Jane Quinn.” Mark Shenton, The Stage

“The company sound simply glorious – Charlotte Baptie’s shimmering soprano leads beautifully as Geraldine but there’s also great support from Daniel Cane as the smitten Albert, Ruth Betteridge as a bicep-feeling village maiden and Josh Little as the handsome tart who likes the attention, and the sweetly played late-blooming (but long in the gestation) romance between Joanna Monro and Ted Merwood’s islanders” There Ought To Be Clowns

“The quality of the cast really does shine through from top to bottom.” There Ought To Be Clowns

“Betteridge sings her heart out as Molly.” Adrian Edwards, Musical Theatre Review

“Ruth Betteridge as Molly makes a powerful contribution that could set bells ringing” Michael Darvell, Classical Source

“As the heiress Geraldine, Baptie not only looks the part but sings it really beautifully, her solo ‘Nothing But Sea and Sky’, a highlight. All the singing is of an exceptionally high standard” Adrian Edwards, Musical Theatre Review

“Charlotte Baptie as Geraldine has a true heroine’s voice with a touch of a velvet glove” Michael Darvell, Classical Source

“There are some terrific performances to witness and marvellous voices to hear.” Michael Darvell, Classical Source

“Josh Little as Jack is a fine tenor with a nice line in insouciant humour” Michael Darvell, Classical Source

“Richard Gibson as the latter is excellent as the rather shambolic head of the island, demonstrating his comic abilities and a fine singing voice in ‘Let the grass grow’ and ‘The boat’s in’.” Michael Darvell, Classical Source

“Stewart Nicholls’ tightly directed and choreographed ensemble revival shows, not only does its well-made book have a timeless innocence and charm…Salad Days was no flash in the pan” Raymond Langford

“Nattily choreographed by Nicholls” Adrian Edwards, Musical Theatre Review

“His production of Free As Air plays to its strengths and gives us a most welcome opportunity to reassess its not inconsiderable merits.” Adrian Edwards, Musical Theatre Review

“Choosing musicals to share the Finborough’s tiny playing area with heavyweight drama (currently Angelina Weld Grimké’s Rachel) is indicative of the theatre’s chutzpah” Bill Hagerty, Chiswick W4

“It’s always good to catch up with rarities such as this. One can only be grateful to Neil McPherson (Finborough Theatre) for reviving these forgotten British musicals. If he didn’t, then nobody else would.” Michael Darvell, Classical Source

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