Love at the Five and Dime

Friday, 21 August, 1998

This new 60s and 70s musical concerns a cabaret restaurant called 'The Five and Dime' run by Mr Johnson. It used to be a lively and hip place with live bands. It is now run down, along with other business in the area. Rita, who works there, as well as having performed there in the past, has dreams of taking over ownership and revamping the place. However, she does not have the money. She is loaned the money by someone who unbeknown to her is working for Louis Carlyle, a vile con-man who has been trying to buy the 'The Five and Dime' from Mr Johnson for sometime in order to con thousands of pounds out of the local council in an improvement investment for the area.

This show has many fine songs that are intelligently written. I particularly liked the emotional " Start Again" and the wonderfully catchy "Concrete Town". In fact all the music is good and refreshingly original. However, I was disappointed with the sound system that spoilt some of the songs and sometimes made the actors sound somewhat amateurish. Maybe it was the part of the theatre I was sitting in? Sometimes you get certain areas of a theatre where for some technical reason the sound is not great! However, there is a CD available that was recorded by the Millfield cast, which I will be buying, and thus I will be able to enjoy the songs in all their glory!

The show has a cast of 18, mainly young actors who have much talent which we are sure to see many times in future West End shows. Nicholas Socratous, although not one of the leads, puts in a great performance as 'Tricks', who works for con man Louis Carlyle. A phenomenally convincing performance with superb facial and body movements which help Socratous pull off this funny and in my opinion important role. Al Gregg, is competent as Edie, ex boyfriend of Rita and a failed musician who has just returned from an unsuccessful time in the USA and now helps to keep the Five and Dime open. Susan Partridge as 'Rita' has a strong singing voice and so too does Caroline Alexander as 'Kelly'. David Schaal is funny and impressive as the big baddy, Louis Carlyle. In fact, according to the program notes Louis's character was given a larger role in this run than it was at the Millfield Theatre. This was an ingenious move by the writers as this character and 'Tricks' are a loveable nasty duo!

What I did find off putting is the silence between each scene. The stage would go dark and silent for about 10 seconds and then the lights would come on and the next scene begin. This did not work for me. I felt that some music between the scenes would have given the show a feeling of continuation.

Love at the Five and Dime is an invigorating original musical that hopefully will be noticed by some big investors who could put money into the show and thus give the show a much longer run. But, if not at least you can buy the CD!

(Darren Dalglish)

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