When Gypsy won big at this year’s Olivier Awards, Chichester Festival Theatre built on its reputation as a producer of top-quality musicals.
But as the new season in Chichester begins, the question is: what show, if any, will be the next to go to the West End?
Judging by this evening’s performance, the wait may be over before it has even begun.
Travels With My Aunt, an original musical based on the Graham Greene novel, does what it says on the tin – but with French strippers, priceless art and a cannabis-smoking, hippy mother-to-be thrown into the equation.
‘Carpe diem’ is the watchword as homebody Henry Pulling is dragged around the world by his Aunt Augusta, a chain-smoking ex-call girl trying to save the love of her life.
You’re never too old, and that’s certainly true of leading duo Patricia Hodge and Steven Pacey, who as Augusta and Henry both sink their teeth into roles which defy typecasting of older actors.
Hodge fizzes with energy throughout. Her limited vocal range is compensated by phrasing that rings out the emotion of each song.
It’s a scene-stealing role, and whether she is snogging her drug-smuggling toy-boy or being thrown around by him during a dance number, Hodge finds the warmth in a character which could be otherwise irritatingly bombastic or just plain mad.
Housed in the intimate space of the Minerva, this show would be equally at home in a small West End venue.
And I for one wouldn’t be surprised if London is indeed the next stop on Travels’ world tour.
Until June 4.