Review: The Black And White Ball

By John Nathan, April 17, 2008

The King’s Head, London N1

Having, for the first time, announced a full season of new work, there is a welcome burst of energy at the much-loved King’s Head. Kicking off with a new musical by Cole Porter sounds like a winner. But, of course, it is not Porter’s songs that are new here but Warner Brown’s book.

Told in flashback, Brown’s heroine is author Leah (Kaisa Hammarlund) who returns to a condemned New York hotel to jog her childhood memory about a glamorous night in the city back in the 1940s. Who was it who shot dead Johnny (Chris Ellis-Stanton), the hick from Montana who became her stepfather and a bestselling writer? Was it her jealous mother, Johnny’s publisher? Or could it have been Ron, aka Lottie, the drag artist with whom Johnny co-wrote his keenly waited book?

But the real mystery is why this well performed musical — ably directed by Matthew White — takes itself so utterly seriously. It has all the ingredients of parody, but none of the humour, or the attitude. Brown’s story lacks the wit to hold Porter’s songs.

Tel: 0844 412 2953

Last updated: 11:53am, May 20 2008