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AMOLAD on Stage

The Daily Telegraph
November 24, 1994, Thursday

The Arts: Charm of old school theatre:
Stairway to Heaven, King's Head, Islington


With the current vogue for pop anthology shows, I feared Stairway to Heaven might be a tribute to the rock band Led Zeppelin, who had a characteristically over-the-top hit with a song of the same title. In fact it turns out to an irresistibly charming and defiantly old-fashioned new musical which leaves the audience purring with pleasure. The authors, Thomas Morgan and Kevin Metchear, were both born on the same day in 1968, and this, their first piece of work, won the 1994 Vivian Ellis prize. They seem an exceptionally bright prospect for the future of British musicals, and their songs - melodic, cheerful, and sometimes blessed with splendidly witty lyrics - are often reminiscent of the great Vivian Ellis himself, still going strong at 90. Morgan and Metchear can't take all the credit: they have taken their storyline from Michael Powell's and Emeric Pressburger's 1946 film A Matter of Life and Death. The action is set in the last week of the war in Europe, May 1945, and at the start our pilot hero, Peter Carter, is facing certain death. His bomber has lost its undercarriage, his crew are all dead, his parachute is ripped to shreds. In his last radio broadcast to base he falls in love with the female operator and she with him during one of those stiff-upper-lip conversations which were such a hallmark of films of the period. But up in heaven someone has bungled. The "conductor", a periwigged 18th-century Frenchman who was meant to have escorted Peter to the other side, lost the pilot in thick fog. Peter somehow arrives unharmed in England, and he and June meet and confirm their love in gorgeous songs that heroically refuse to rhyme June with moon. But Peter is officially dead, his name on the records in heaven, an engagingly prosaic place full of jolly air crews. In the second half there is a splendid trial scene to decide Peter's fate. Is romantic love strong enough to overcome death and the laws of the universe? Is Jeremy Beadle a berk? I suppose all this might just strike the hard-hearted as twee and sentimental, but the script often has its tongue in its cheek, and there is real wit in the final debate, in which the lyrics sometimes achieve an almost Gilbertian ingenuity (IQ rhymed with haiku, universe with croon a verse). Dan Crawford's breezy production, marshalling a large cast on his tiny stage, is generously blessed with cherishable performances. Gary Cady is a strong and handsome hero and Fiona Sinnott brings a lovely tenderness to the role of June. There's plenty of fine support, too, from Michael Medwin as a wise and sympathetic doctor, Martin Connor as the amiable French conductor, Godfrey Kenton (92) as the heavenly judge and Brogden Miller as a hilariously gung-ho RAF man, Bob "Trubbers" Trubshaw. It's the kind of musical I feared they'd stopped writing and it sends the audience glowing into the night.
Tickets: 071-226 1916

Details from the programme kindly supplied by David Collard:

The King's Head Theatre

Morgan & Metchear's

Stairway to Heaven!

A musical based on Michael Powell and Emeric
Pressburger's film 'A Matter of Life and Death'

Directed by: Dan Crawford
Choreography by:- Irving Davies
Design by:- Nigel Hook
Musical Director:- Nick Finlow
Costumes:- Melanie Wynyard

Written by:- Thomas Morgan & Kevin Metchear

The Company
(In Alphabetical Order)
Gary Cady      Peter Carter
Leroy Charlery      Airman / Orderly / Jury
Simon Clark      Abraham Farlan
Martin Connor      Conductor 71
Katey Crawford Kasten      Little Girl
Amardeep Kaushal      Airman / Doctor / Jury
Godfrey Kenton      Judge
Jane Lancaster      Gracie Trubshaw
Alan Livingstone      Airman / Doctor / Clerk
Karen McCaffrey      Receptionist / Mrs Tucker
Michael Medwin      Dr Frank Reeves
Brogden Miller      Bob Trubshaw
Ichi Obdam      Airman / Orderly / Jury
Tober Reilly      Airman / Jury
Fiona Sinnott      June
Jeremy Tustin      Airman / Conductor / Jury
Claire Vousden      Chief Recorder

Act One
Scene One        Somewhere Over the Channel         
Scene Two        Heaven
Happy Ever After
Airmen / Gracie /
Scene Three        A Beach
Half Past Heaven
Peter / June
Scene Four        Heaven
Falling Out of Love
Gracie / Bob
Scene Five        A Silvan Glade
What Keeps Dreamers Awake?
Peter / June
Scene Six        Frank's Living Room
Let's Put Our Heads Together
Peter / June
Scene Seven        Heaven
You're Not So Bad Yourself
Gracie / Bob
Scene Eight        Frank's Living Room
You're Not So Bad Yourself
Peter / June
         Everyone's a Fool in Love        Peter / Conductor 71
Act Two
Scene One        Frank's Living Room
Goodnight Sweet Dream
Scene Two        Heaven         
Scene Three        Hospital Waiting Room
Again and Again
Scene Four        Heaven
Love is the Law
Conductor 71 /
Frank / Farlan
         Don't Blame a Man in Love        Conductor 71 /
Frank / Peter / Bob
         Goodnight Sweet Dream        June / Peter
         Happy Ever After Reprise        Full Company

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