Betty Blue Eyes
Betty Blue Eyes
Betty Blue Eyes is a British Musical by Stiles & Drewe, who also happen to be a firm favourite of mine. When I was therefore asked along by Putney Light Operatic Society to review Betty Blue Eyes, one of Stiles & Drewe’s musicals that I had heard lots about but never seen, I was thrilled to accept.
Betty Blue Eyes, set in 1947 austerity Britain, tells the story of the new couple to town, Gilbert & Joyce Chilvers. Gilbert is a mild mannered chiropodist with ‘Magic Fingers’ and his wife Joyce is a force to be reckoned with. Gilbert inadvertently stumbles across a pig, named Betty, being kept by the planning committee for a banquet to celebrate the nuptials of Princess Elizabeth. Gilbert & Joyce aren’t invited to the said banquet and the pig is an illegal one, leading to the kidnapping of Betty.
The pig forms a major part of the plot and in the West End version the pig was fully automated and voiced by Kylie Minogue. I was therefore intrigued to see how PLOS were going to deliver this. Their pig was operated by 3 puppeteers and charmingly made out of rusted cans and RAF canvas bags. This gave it such character and set it firmly in the correct period. The puppeteers worked well together to create movement in the pig although at times I would have liked to have seen more expression from them to echo that of the pig and make their presence feel more cohesive.
Kate Chesworth and Freddy Bowen lead the company as the Chilvers. They were well suited to the role and brought their characters completely contrasting personalities to life whilst making a believable couple. Kate in particular brought a real warmth to Joyce meaning that you couldn’t help but root for her.
Whilst I understand the pressures in amateur theatre some of the casting was a little young for a few parts, in particular the men on the town council. Whilst they all did a good job their age meant it was difficult for their characters to have the gravitas they needed.
A mention must also go to a few of the smaller roles. The trio that sang ‘Magic Fingers’ delivered that number well and their harmonies were spot on. Maria Lukeman also played the man eating Mrs Metcalf with sizzle and she made such an impression that was disappointed to not see more of the character once she had been carted off to prison.
The choreography was also in keeping with the era and in the Lionheart number you had an impressive ensemble dance piece with some of the stronger members of the dance ensemble given a chance to show off. The effect of the bomb going off was also delivered with impact thanks to the clever choreography.
A nod must also go to the costumes, hair and makeup. They were all kept in period beautifully and the girls dresses in Lionheart brought the dance to life, with not a victory curl out of place.
Betty Blue Eyes didn’t run for very long on the West End so this is a great chance to catch a quaint British Musical with heart that many amateur companies have shied away from.
Betty Blue Eyes is on until Saturday 4th June at Putney Arts Theatre. You can find out more about Putney Light Operatic Society here.