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This review by Simon Saltzman was published in U.S. 1 Newspaper on
June 30, 1999.
Review: `If Love Were All’
For some reason the theater never seems to tire
celebrating those legendary bosom buddies Sir Noel Coward and Gertrude
Lawrence. If we are to celebrate the Coward centenary with "If
All" (a re-written, redesigned, and re-staged version of the
two-decades-old revue "Noel and Gertie"), isn’t it smashing
that Twiggy is playing Gertie?
What, you ask? How can the ’60s supermodel dare presume to measure
up to the incomparable internationally acclaimed Gertie, star of a
number of Coward shows and more? And, could we really expect
all-American song and dance man Harry Groener to provide us with a
satisfactory personification of the irrepressibly bemused and suavely
Well, Twiggy’s husband Leigh Lawson, who also directs the show,
thought it was a good idea, and so do I.
We recall with pleasure how Twiggy captivated New York audiences in
"My One and Only." It wasn’t a fluke that Groener was a
sensation in "Crazy For You." Together Twiggy and Groener are
a glamorous and gleeful time capturing the passionately platonic
relationship between Coward and Lawrence. Although this show is based
original entertainment devised by Sheridan Morley, much of the credit
for this show’s delight is due to Lawson’s adaptation and revisions
turned a once pleasant evening into a positively glowing one.
That Twiggy is a dream walking and talking, if not always singing,
is not to diminish her prickly portrayal, a quality that Lawson might
well have had a strong say about. Lawrence herself was no great shakes
as a singer. More importantly, for every song, every scene, and every
everything else, Twiggy, like an Erte illustration come to life,
provocatively embodies the essence, demeanor, character and
temperament of the ’20s and ’30s. That we also get a glimmer of
Lawrence at her cheekiest
is more than any one could wish for. Familiar as I am with the Coward
canon and its many interpreters, Twiggy blew me away with a smoldering
"Twentieth Century Blues." Getting into a rather dazzling
patriotic mood, Twiggy shows off her time step and more in a hilarious
solo production number, "I Like America."
For his part, Groener is cleverest by also not attempting
With a slight nod to clipped speech, Groener gets just close enough
to Coward’s raffish style. He also looks dapper and dandy in the
obligatory smoking jacket, tux, and garb appropriate to the dramatic
scenes and skits, thanks to costume and set designer Tony Walton.
There is room
made for Groener to add his dancing prowess and elegance (so who cares
if Coward didn’t dance?) to the proceedings on numerous occasions.
As you might expect Groener makes show-stoppers out of the patter-song
"Mad Dogs and Englishmen," and "Don’t Put Your Daughter
on the Stage, Mrs. Worthington," but also finds uncharted nuances
in classics "Poor Little Rich Girl," and the top hat and
tap-happy (snappily choreographed by Niki Harris) "Younger
The evening spins seamlessly from scene to song to
reminiscence with an emphasis placed on the opening scene from
Lives" and the vaudeville section from "Tonight at 8:30."
The former is a charmer and the latter a howl, given the entrancing
rapport these two have created. Bits from "Brief Encounter"
Spirit" provide other blissful moments. When he is not in a scene,
Groener delivers the snappy bon mots punctuated narrative from
a piano bench. Four musicians provide neat support.
As the musical is taken from Coward’s letters and other writings,
we get glimpses into Coward’s and Lawrence’s parallel and conjoined
careers. If you are not a purist, you won’t complain how some familiar
songs are used without regard to their source but rather as a means
to augment scenes and embroider the narrative. Tony Walton has
embroidered the staircase-clad stage in handsome black and silver
Deco. But, best of all he has dressed up Twiggy "as if love were
— Simon Saltzman
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