REVIEW: Promises, Promises at The Barn Theatre in Cirencester

LAST night I finally had the chance to see a Theatre Ink production at The Barn Theatre in Cirencester, having missed their previous shows in the town that included the highly praised Into The Woods, Urinetown and Acorn Antiques.

Although I had seen and enjoyed the 1960s film The Apartment by Billy Wilder that forms the basis for Burt Bacharach’s musical Promises, Promises, I had never seen the stage show so was unsure of what to expect.

With a book by Neil Simon, the musical marks the only excursion of composer Burt Bacharach and lyricist Hal David on to Broadway, and had a long New York run in 1968.

This is a musical of its time, and the sixties styling is brilliantly done and faithfully recreated by Theatre Ink.

The set was simple but very effective at recreating the feel of a New York apartment and office. The Barn Theatre's professional makeover really came into its own with the sophisticated use of trap door technology.

Promises, Promises, directed for Theatre Ink by Barry Austin, tells the story of an ambitious junior employee in a New York insurance company, Chuck Baxter (played by Ollie Humphries) who gives his senior colleagues the chance to "entertain" their extramarital love-interests in his mid-town residence in return for the promise of promotion.

Although obviously conflicted, Chuck is finally rewarded with a seat at the executive dining room. Things start to unravel when he realises that Fran Kubelik (Kamahri May), the object of his affection, is a user of his apartment as mistress of Chuck's boss, JD Sheldrake (David Emms).

Having watched performer Ollie Humphries in previous shows at the theatre for StageSmart and Barn Youth Theatre, I knew that this show would be in capable hands and he did not disappoint.

This is a huge role for an actor and at times is almost a one-man show, but Ollie proved he was more than up to the job and able to handle his many solos and a New York accent. He had a warmth that the character needed, and his comical asides to the audience managed to get everyone on side.

Kamahri played her part with a maturity and confidence that belied her years, and David Emms, who has appeared in six shows for Theatre Ink, was obviously a seasoned performer who brought the much needed gravitas to the role of Sheldrake.

Promises, Promises is a comedy through and through, and the laughs came thick and fast throughout the evening, often from Ollie's character, but also from the four sleazy executives (Paul de Boer, Andrew Richardson, Richard Parker and Harry Apps - watch out for their Where Can You Take a Girl? routine) and in the unlikely form of a disgruntled doctor (played by Alan Fisher).

Emily Baker provided a colourful star turn after the interval as bar pick-up Marge and Alison Canning's first venture with the theatre company was much appreciated by the audience in her role as Miss Olsen.

As well as many numbers unknown to me, there were a few Bacharach classics including Say A Little Prayer and I'll Never Fall in Love Again, which fitted with the story perfectly.

Dance routines were a particular stand-out, with choreography from Rachel Wright, with Turkey Lurkey Time in particular bringing the house down, and giving an excellent ensemble a chance to shine.

Promises, Promises was a great night's entertainment and a huge amount of fun. Theatre Ink have a new fan.

  •  Burt Bacharach’s Promises, Promises is on until Saturday, September 23. 7.30pm at The Barn Theatre, Cirencester GL7 1BN.
  • Tickets are £12, £10 concessions and are available by visiting Tickets will be available on the door for £15.

Review by Charlotte Shepherd