Review: Once Upon a Time at the Adelphi, Union Theatre
Published in Time Out, 15.03.2010
Originally a centrepiece of Liverpool’s Capital of Culture celebrations, Phil Willmott’s misty-eyed Merseyside musical deserves more than his own shoestring revival can muster. Rather than making a virtue of its enforced scale, his staging begs its audience to see past the scuff to the polished spectacle it so wants to be.
Flashing back to the hotel’s heyday when the glamour of 1930’s Hollywood checked in, Once Upon a Time… charts the stuttering romance between receptionist Alice (Rebecca Hutchinson, sweetly charming) and reformed thief Thompson (Jon-Paul Hevey). What’s missing here, however, is any real flavour of the city itself. Clemency can overlook budget constraints, but it can’t ignore the absence of the piece’s real romantic lead. You can take Once Upon a Time… out of Liverpool, but you can’t afford to lose sight of it.
What’s left is unashamed sentimentality and, while that proves diverting enough – thanks mainly to the cast’s gusto and some brilliant choreography by Andrew Wright – it offers little in the way of sustenance or surprise.
Photograph: John McGovern