Review by: Paul Towers, 11/4/16
The Philadelphia Story by Philip Barry
Leicester Drama Society Production
Little Theatre 11 – 16 April 2016
“a slight but amusing story of East Coast gentility”
The Philadelphia Story was originally a play by Philip Barry written in 1939 especially for Katherine Hepburn. Created for her by her great friend it proved to resurrect Ms Hepburn’s career after a series of Hollywood flops. So grateful and confident of the play’s success was she that she forewent a salary and took a percentage of the profits instead. It turned out to be a wise move. Not only was she astute enough to own a slice of the action but she then persuaded millionaire Howard Huges to gift her the entire rights and then convinced Louis B Mayer to pay $250,000 for the film rights and to star her in the leading role in 1940.
In 1956 it was remade as a musical, High Society, starring Bing Crosby, Grace Kelly and Frank Sinatra.
The Philadelphia Story is nothing more than a lightweight romantic comedy or, as they labelled it in the day, a comedy of remarriage; a genre very popular in the 30’s and 40’s. The tenuous story, if written in the UK, would have been a farce as it relies on mistaken identities, open and shutting doors and plenty of stock characters. The big difference here is that there is a love story running through it, the remarriage of the genre, resulting in a suitably schmaltzy finale.
Produced by Leicester Drama Society the fairly large cast of 14 includes many of the regular stalwarts of the society as well as a number of newer faces. Especial mention has to go to 15 year old Ella Harding who stole every scene she was in while leading lady, Duchesney Moitt as Tracy Lord, was mercurically volatile as she juggled the favours of three suitors on the eve of her society wedding.
While the entire cast coped admirably with their American accents it was the astounding scenery change halfway through the second hall that got a well deserved extra round of applause. Matt Nunn somehow designed a set that could be changed from the Lord’s mansion interior to the back porch in less than two minutes. A feat only possible with an army of backstage crew and cleverly designed flats that revolved on castors.
The Philadelphia Story is a slight but amusing story of East Coast gentility trying to cope valiantly with their spoilt brat eldest daughter’s love life. It contains a good few chuckles, not a single swear word and some lovely costumes. Nothing to frighten the horses and a nice way to spend a damp April evening.
First published on Western Gazette