London’s in a bout of craze for all things 20s: first the Great Gatsby ballet at Sadler’s Wells and now this. Hutch boasts sequinned dresses, feather boas, smoking, drinking and, of course, lots of singing.
The musical follows the life and fame of Leslie Hutchinson, one of the biggest cabaret stars (and womanisers it transpires) of the 1920s and 30s. A favourite singer of the then Prince of Wales, he was regularly heard on the radio with such hits as These Foolish Things and Let’s Do It (Let’s Fall in Love), and was a general darling of society. The play delivers these hits relentlessly, and concerns itself mainly with Hutch’s affair with a certain Edwina Mountbatten, as well as touching lightly on issues like struggles with his colour in a time of racial prejudice.
However, the subject of the play demands a certain level of talent in singing and piano playing, and here the play is somewhat lacking. It is a bit underwhelming to be made to believe that performers of only moderate singing ability are the crème-de-la-crème of their time, and the piece also doesn’t run very naturally from dialogue to song (a number is often started with just: ‘Hey! Does anyone remember that song?’). The play smarts from trying to fit a dazzling, decade-long showbiz career along with several huge personalities onto a tiny stage; all the props and visuals are there, but the integral ingredient is missing.
So yes, the piece is current in that it’s embracing the Gatsby uproar, but as a play to stand on its own two feet it doesn’t completely deliver. Go and see it though, if crooning love songs and histrionic lines are your thing; the audience was filled with those nodding along to their favourite golden oldies.
Hutch is running now at Riverside Studios, Hammersmith until 8 June. Tickets are £17.50 (£15 concessions). For more information visit the Riverside Studios website. Londonist saw this show on a complimentary press ticket.