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A Sentimental Journey
Young writer Adam Ralston has chosen Doris' only child, her son Terry Melcher (Ian McLarnon), as the narrator of her career. Her life story, through her four marriages, forms the basis for the musical and the musical numbers blend in remarkably well with the storyline, maybe because so many of the songs of that era were about love and romance which featured strongly in her own biography.
We first meet Doris in the context of her family. the Kappelhoffs — German immigrants to Cincinnatti Ohio, William and Alma (Mark Halliday and Elizabeth Elvin). Doris lives through the marital break up of her parents before she starts a dancing career cut short by a car accident which finds her instead turning to singing. We laugh as Doris' mother gives her advice about her future and we realise she is speaking the lyrics of "Que sera, sera" before they both join in singing the classic song.
Doris' first marriage to local trombonist Al Jorden was an abusive relationship. She left Jorden with the birth of their son Terry which also gives us the opportunity to hear her sing "Pretty Baby" with three other singers wearing oversized baby bonnets. Doris went straight back to working with a band and her mother cared for Terry. A second marriage to George Weidler sees her moving to California but that marriage lasted less than a year.
The second act opens with songs from Calamity Jane and has Doris marry her agent Marty Melcher (Mark Halliday) who adopts Terry. Doris is now at the height of her film career. By 1954 she's been in 15 motion pictures. "Secret Love" and "The Deadwood Stage" from Calamity Jane are instant crowd pleasers. In fact, the makeshift Deadwood stage is driven round the auditorium! "Move Over Darling" is sung by the press hounds as a parody of the journalists' hounding of Doris' private life.
A live four person band plays the music onstage in view at the rear of the simple set. Doris' dresses are versions of the classic fit and flare with increasingly luxurious fabrics. The cast of just five work amazingly hard and sing their hearts out to build this feel good, charming evening. Sally Hughes, not only looks like Doris Day, she is pretty, blonde and bubbly. She sings strongly and has Doris' "girl next door" smiley personality. The casting is remarkable. I loved Glyn Kerslake as Frank Sinatra singing "Young at Heart" and was wowed by Ian McLarnon's "These Days". "Sentimental Journey" tops and tails the show.
The show covers the many problems Doris faced: the unhappy marriages, the financial investment scam and about being signed for shows she didn't want to make, and the tragic death from skin cancer of her music producer son Terry. She now lives near Carmel California involved in animal charities and the closing scene has a beautiful spaniel joining "Doris" onstage for a perfect ending.
For those who don't know it, Wilton's is an historic Victorian music hall venue with bare brick walls and crumbling plaster but what it lacks in modern decor it more than makes up for in period atmosphere and a warm welcome. It has a bar and serves good food.
Retold by Tina Packer of Shakespeare & Co.
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