With an all-star cast, promised comedy and the theme of the Quartet from Verdi’s Rigoletto running through it, the Lyceum Theatre was almost full. Many of the audience were in the more mature category so maybe the fact that the play is based in a retirement home, could have been one of the major attractions.
The story is a heart-warming tale of four ageing opera singers, all residing in a retirement home for retired musicians in Kent. We meet the expertly drawn characters, Cecily, Wilfred and Reginald on a typical day in the beautiful music room of a country house; the audience is infected by the fun and comedy from the start. There are lots of laughs at some of the eccentricities of the characters and the smutty humour. Panic soon sets in when it is apparent that Reginalds’ ex wife Jean, will be coming to live among them! The old friends reminisce together but most prominent, are their worries of no longer being a ‘somebody’ and losing their voices, although their motto is NSP (no self pity). The plan for the old friends, once they have aired and sorted through their grievances, is to perform Quartet together for one last time.
Paul Nicholas plays super sex-mad Wilfred who doesn’t have much dialog without an innuendo or a gag, the majority of which are amusing and has the audience laughing in all the right places. Insecure Reginald is played by Jeff Rawle, an occasionally volatile character; when screaming profanities at the poor matron for not giving him his marmalade at breakfast! Wendi Peters’ character Cecily (Cissy) is well on the way to losing her faculties and brings an array of sympathy, energy and laughter to the stage. Jean is played by Sue Holderness, a reflective, serious character not embracing the aging process in the slightest.
Highlights of the show have be some of Wilfreds gags, especially when he is discussing his ever-long dream of having his ‘bum pinched’ and for him to be ‘perved on’. Wendi Peters’ character is a real highlight and credit must go to Wendi for giving Cecily such energy and dedication. And the end scene must get a mention for the mimed performance of Quartet.
This show is full of talent, each character played with more gust and passion that you could hope for. However, there is something missing from the plot, the story needs a little extra in places, maybe an extra twist or just more content to keep the energy up. That being said, the show really does make you take a moment to consider your future or reflect on your past, which is a really valuable sentiment to take away from the theatre with you. It is a touching story of emotions, values and a real sense of no matter how old you are, your spirit is still as it was when you were young.