If you like your musicals densely plotted, this won’t do. Gilbert and Sullivan it ain’t. Set almost entirely inside the walls of a bijou perfume shop, it concerns shop assistant Georg Nowack (John Sandberg), who has been conducting a romance with an unknown woman entirely by mail. Up pops Amalia Balash (Charlotte Jaconelli), wins herself a job alongside him, and soon they’re fighting like cat and dog. And yet, what do you know, she turns out to be girl he’s been wooing all along (what were the chances of that?) There’s a weany sub-plot involving Nowack getting sacked for carrying on with the wife of Maraczek (Ian Dring), the owner of the shop (implausible not least for the fact that she must be 102), but, spoiler alert, that’s more or less it. What do you bet they get it together in the end? The show is based on the play Parfumerie by the Hungarian Miklos Laszlo, and if you think the plot is vaguely reminiscent of the 1998 Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan vehicle You’ve got mail, score one for you, because so was that.
This is a fresh offering from the Landor Theatre, which last year brought you the wonderful Damn Yankees. An upstairs room above a pub, but no less comfortable nor professional for that, you get near West End quality for a lot less. (The lady expressing passing interest as I collected my ticket seemed to balk at the price ‘Oh. £20? That’s a proper show!’ Yes it is, lady. And for only £20. Try getting into Wicked for that.)
For the most part, this is a young and extremely talented cast – perhaps too young for the story to be entirely convincing, but that doesn’t really get in the way. Ms Jaconelli has an impressive operatic tone which to my tastes is slightly out of place in musical theatre, and Mr Dring’s affectation of elderly confusion seemed at times all too real. The accompaniment is necessarily sparse, this time a violin and cello join the ubiquitous keyboard all squeezed into the corner of the room, but the performances were strong, the melodies sweet, and the whole evening oozed charm. Those who know the show (it premiered in 1963 and was a big West End hit in 1994, with John Gordon Sinclair and Ruthie Henshall) will love being reacquainted with it, and those who don’t have a great pleasure ahead.