Produced at the Bloomsbury Theatre, London
Music by Cy Coleman
Lyrics by Carolyn Leigh
Book by Neil Simon
Aretha Ayeh – Announcer, 1st Val Girl
Georgia Bliss – 2nd Val Girl
Lucy Borne – Older Belle
Alice Brown – 1st Dough Girl, Val’s Nurse
Hanna Brunt – Assistant Director
Holly-Charlotte Carter – Pinchley’s Nurse
Jack Chard – Bernie, 1st Soldier
Jonah Book – Junior, Benny
Aiden Crawford – Butler, Sergeant, 1st Justice
Edward Currie – Bartender, Preacher, Yulnik
Roger Dipper – Kleeg, Doctor
Rhiannon Douty – 4th Val Girl
Louisa Farrant – Momma
Greg Fossard – George, 1st Sailor
Mark Gillon – Patrick Dennis
Sophie Griffiths – Ramona
Sarah Hagan – Belle
Jack Harrison – Golf Pro, Fred, 2nd Sailor
Alyn Hawke – Pinchley, General, Captain, Pancho
Sam Hayward – German Soldier, Prince
Dom Hodson – Noble
Amee Karlstrom – Court Woman
Milli Karlstrom – Secretary
Siobhan Madden – Colette
Alex McGeary – Newsboy, 2nd Soldier, 2nd Steward
Callum McIntyre – Salesman, 3rd Soldier, Victor
Lucy Miller – Miss Kemp, 3rd Girl
Joe Mott – Val Du Val
Kathleen Nance – Operator
Eve Ponsonby – Mrs. Eggleston
Naomi Rogers – 2nd Dough Girl
Richard Southgate – Brucey, Defence Lawyer, Schnitzler, 2nd Justice
Phoebe Sparrow – 2nd Girl, Number’s Woman
Katie Thomas – 3rd Val Girl
Imelda Warren-Green – 3rd Dough Girl
Dan Swana – Conductor & Keyboard 1
Sally Caldwell – Clarinet & Saxophone
Katy-Jane Cuthbert – Clarinet & Saxophone
Susanna MacDaniel – Clarinet & Bass Clarinet
Rachel Bull – Flute & Piccolo
Guy Passey – Saxophone & Oboe
Rebecca Cass – Saxophone
Trumpet – Joe Haig
Trombone – Faye Treacy
Keyboard 2 – Max Puller
Bass – Dan James
Percussion – Ashley Cooper
Drum Kit – Jaime Robertson
Caroline Leslie – Director
Dan Swana – Musical Director
Karen McKeown – Designer
Lee Crowley – Choreographer
Sally Ferguson – Lighting Designer
Damien Ramsurn & Dan Swana – Additional Musical Arrangements
Faith Butler – Company Stage Manager
Nicola Barrett – Deputy Stage Manager
Emma Connelly – Sound Engineer
Andrew Risk – Assistant Sound Engineer
Andrew Gibbons – Technical Assistant
Jade Chamberlain – Assistant Stage Manager
Rachel McDermott – Assistant Stage Manager
Kate Baldwin – Wardrobe Assistant
Emma Rowe – Wardrobe Assistant
Sophia Shillito – Wardrobe Assistant
Molly Woollett – Wardrobe Assistant
Damien Ramsurn – Head of Pastoral Care
Pascale Burgess – Pastoral Team
Jessica Haig – Pastoral Team
Peter Holt – Pastoral Team
Sam Sargant – Production Co-ordinator
In opting for something comic this year the National Youth Music Theatre has revived this wonderfully tongue-in-cheek musical adapted by Neil Simon from Patrick Dennis’s devilishly funny fake autobiography of a Hollywood star. The original was dedicated to 58 named divas, from Arlene to Zsa Zsa, and gutted the genre rather as This is Spinal Tap did for rockumentary.
Simon simplifies the rollercoaster career of the well-endowed Belle Poitrine but as compensation the show mocks the artifice of the stage musical itself. No rag number can ever have been so raggish as the brilliant Rich Kids Rag, representing the exciting world young Belle longs to enter. Choreographed by Lee Crowley, the young singer/dancers of the National Youth Music Theatre make its angular energy an early high spot.
Cy Coleman’s music also parodies sentimental waltzes, interminable deathbed arias and almost anything to do with love, and in all these numbers, and the spoken dialogue too, the cast ably point the joke while keeping a straight face.
With 16 numbers and twice as many changes of scene, what truly impresses me is that Caroline Leslie was given only 11 days to rehearse the cast. Some of the characterisations are still raw, and the tempo sags for the middle of the second half (though here the fault is Simon’s book), but the complexities of ensemble playing seem effortlessly solved as we follow Sarah Hagan’s Belle in her sweetly ruthless climb to glory.
Since she is seen through the unreliable memory of her older self (a suave Lucy Borne) Hagan’s playing emphasises the sweetness in her very engaging performance. She can do great things with her hips while continuing to look the innocent throughout.
Joe Mott is an enjoyably roguish French singer but the male star is Dom Hodson’s super-heroic Noble, Belle’s true love, who utters his nonsensical lines with impeccable gravity. “There’s plenty of room in the water,” he announces, when an iceberg hits the S. S. Gigantic. A blissful evening.
Jeremy Kingston, The Times, 30 August 2007
Again the NYMT achieve another production with endless delights and talent aplenty. Hilarity ensues!
Little Me is quite simply an hilarious musical complete with overacting, understatement, great songs and so much fun. In the hands of the NYMT team and Artistic Director Caroline Leslie Little Me becomes more than the sum of its parts; an evening of endless hilarity and outstanding performances from so many of the West Ends next generation.
The show enacts the reminiscences of Belle, performed in a Joan Riversesque style with endless imagination by Lucy Borne, as she recounts the tall tales of her life and many previous marriages over four decades. Having over seventy named characters means the cast of thirty five youths get stretched in many directions and all enjoy numerous opportunities to shine and make an impression.
Sarah Hagen as Young Belle is worked hard and brings a fine musical talent, vivacity and a captivating stage presence to a cast already bursting with energy, ability and enthusiasm. Sarah impresses in every scene and her solo Poor Little Hollywood Star helps marks Ms Hagen as someone to watch out for; Dom Hodson’s Nobel, all buoyant humour and bright smiles, helps make his endless supercilious arrogance an endearing quality; Joe Mott as Val Du Val steals every scene, with a display of comic stagecraft that belies his years and his Boom Boom is one of many highs.
Even after a limited rehearsal period the cast handle the choreography professionally and the dance numbers look very impressive with the large cast obviously enjoying themselves.
The NYMT continue to cast some of the most capable and enthusiastic talents around and it is always exciting watching these youths display skills that are already impressive and will only improve. If they can carry the electricity and passion they bought to Little Me, through their careers then theatregoers have a treat in store.
While there will undoubtedly be many bigger budget revivals of Little Me to come, but there will be few finer productions than this one, as again Caroline Leslie brings the best from the finest young musical talents around.
Geoff Ambler, Reviewsgate.com, 3 September 2007
Patrick Dennis, author of “Auntie Mame” and other novels, wrote “Little Me” in 1961. The book is a spoof celebrity biography of an alleged star of stage, screen and television, one Belle Poitrine (French for ‘beautiful bosom’) whose only fame lay in her two pointedly outstanding talents. The book, which is filled with faked photographs supposedly of the rich and famous, takes the form of Dennis interviewing Belle (née Maybelle Schlumpfert) about her eventful life, and how she rose from being a poor girl born on the wrong side of the tracks to become a lady of wealth, culture and social position, through her various relationships with the opposite sex. In Neil Simon’s adaptation of the book there are seven men who play hero to Belle’s heroine. In the original Broadway production of the musical all seven parts were played by Sid Caesar, the famous vaudeville comedian who became popular on television through his “Show of Shows” programmes. Cy Coleman and Carolyn Leigh’s musical of “Little Me” was written in 1962 as a vehicle tailored to Caesar’s comic talents.
Oddly enough it has always been successful when the star was a television celebrity. In 1964 Bruce Forsyth played it in London for a long run. Twenty years later it was revived in New York without a TV star and flopped. But in 1984 Russ Abbot headed the London revival to great success. “Little Me” was the second show to be written by Coleman and Leigh, who had had a previous success with “Wildcat”, starring Lucille Ball. “Little Me” is not a great musical, although it did herald great things in that Coleman went on to write “Sweet Charity”, “Seesaw”, “I love my wife”, “On the Twentieth Century”, “Barnum” and “City of Angels” among other shows. It also had Bob Fosse as choreographer and he went on to do “Sweet Charity”, “Pippin” and “Chicago”.
“Little Me” is more of sketch show with the leading actor doing a turn every time Belle gets involved with a man, beginning with Amos Pinchley, a wheelchair-bound octogenarian miser of a banker, and moving on to a Chevalier-type French singer called Val du Val, a First World War soldier called Fred Poitrine, a Hollywood director, Otto Schnitzler, who may or may not have been based on Joseph von Sternberg, and Prince Cherney, the poor ruler of a middle European duchy. He also plays Belle’s childhood sweetheart, the snobbish Noble Eggleston, who goes to both Yale and Harvard, becomes a lawyer and a doctor, is a First World War flying ace, and wins an election to become governor of both North and South Dakota; and also Noble Junior, his son and chip off the block who studies at the Juilliard School of Music and Georgia Tech to become the resident engineer at Lincoln Center where he also conducts in the evening!
If it resembles a sketch show rather than a musical proper, it does throw up some good songs that have become standards: ‘The other side of the tracks’, ‘I’ve got your number’, ‘Real live girl’, ‘Poor little Hollywood star’ and the title song. They are good, raunchy show numbers with bags of pizzazz. That quality is needed in a cast for “Little Me”, and here director Caroline Leslie’s young charges go at it with enormous relish. There are lots of small character parts for the company to get their teeth into and it’s a good show for enthusiastic young performers, such as these members of the National Youth Music Theatre, to hone their skills in comedy and music. Sensibly all the parts are shared out amongst the cast, so there is no one person playing the seven leading men.
Ten years ago I saw the show at the Guildhall School of Music and in that company was one Orlando Bloom. There could be some budding Blooms in this company, too, and certainly Dom Hodson who plays Noble has an obvious future in the theatre. His is the best part, and the funniest, and he really stands out as a person of promise. As young Belle, Sarah Hagan expresses a suitably ingénue innocence in the part, while Lucy Borne’s older Belle is the epitome of the self-made woman. Joe Mott as Val du Val provides more comic highlights, and Jack Harrison’s dopey Fred Poitrine proves to be a crowd-pleaser. But the company as a whole contributes a clutch of fine comic cameos that bring the whole show back to cracking life.
Michael Darvell, classicalsource.com