Although the stage production is based on the 2005 film of the same name starring Dame Judi Dench and Bob Hoskins, there are lots of differences – the main one being that it is a musical.
Mrs Henderson Presents is the epitome of British patriotism portraying the impact World War Two had on the continued running of the Windmill Theatre. Set in London in the late 1930s, the audience are thrown right into the heart of the action, which sees recently widowed Mrs Laura Henderson purchase a run down former cinema in Great Windmill Street, with the aim of presenting a bill of non-stop variety acts.
In order to boost morale and box office takings, Mrs Henderson introduces The Windmill Girls – glamorous young women who pose as nude statues – with the show containing a number of tasteful showgirl-style performances.
Interestingly, Mrs Henderson Presents isn’t about the Windmill Theatre itself, but the significance of the Windmill Theatre to each of the characters. With the majority of its original cast, cast members stood out individually, but in my opinion lacked any real emotional connection with one another when it came to performing together.
Humour plays a big part in the musical, with Mrs Henderson herself likeably loud and at times, humorously crass. Tracie Bennett makes a wonderful Mrs Henderson, with an impressively energetic performance in the song “Anything But Young” alongside Ian Bartholomew, and during the show’s penultimate rendition of “We’ll Never Close.”
Ian Bartholomew plays the feisty character of Vivian Van Damm, with Jamie Foreman placed in a somewhat minor role, delivering cheeky one-liners intended to warm up the audience between each Windmill performance. Though I have to commend Samuel Holmes for his stereotypically ‘camp’ performance as Bertie. Bertie is a character built for show business, demonstrating some enviable tap dancing skills, and the audience would erupt with laughter whenever he gracefully took to the stage.
None of the songs were particularly memorable within Mrs Henderson Presents, despite being performed by a hugely talented ensemble. “We’ll Never Close” plays twice within the second half, making the production feel a tad monotonous and repetitive. The song that really stood out to me was “If Mountains Were Easy To Climb” performed towards the end of the production by Maureen (Emma Williams) and Mrs Laura Henderson, which finally evoked the ‘wow’ moment that I was expecting.
Mrs Henderson Presents is currently booking at the Noel Coward Theatre until June 18, 2016. For further booking information, groups should call 0844 482 5100 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. For more information visit www.mrshenderson.co.uk.