Mrs Henderson Presents arrives on the West End with bags full of flamboyant character and a serious nod to old theatre.
Taking inspiration from true events throughout the 1940s, the Terry Johnson production tells the story of the Windmill – the only theatre to remain open in London during the Second World War.
Olivier-winner Tracie Bennett (Les Misérables, End of the Rainbow, ITV’s Coronation Street) takes on the title role. Widowed and with more money than she knows what to do with, Mrs Henderson invests in The Windmill theatre with no experience or knowledge of running such an establishment. But with Olivier-nominated Ian Bartholomew (Into the Woods) on board as Vivian Van Damm, they open the theatre with a courageous Emma Williams as their leading lady, Maureen.
Former EastEnders’ actor Jamie Foreman also stars as the suitably cheeky narrator, helping to really cement the ’40s vibe.
As the tagline suggests – ‘For the show to go on the clothes must come off!’ – Maureen leads The Windmill Girls to bare all when the theatre decides to find its bold niche in the theatre market. The idea is to celebrate beauty and bravery, which is offered ever so beautifully for today’s theatre goers to embrace. The girls make up all shapes and sizes, poised like portraits in an art gallery.
As the Blitz hits, the girls stand tall with bombs literally falling around the theatre; carrying the story through to its more serious second half. We naturally fall for Maureen’s character throughout, as she grows from a shy tea girl to a flourishing performer at the helm.
With the show’s full-frontal delivery, debate around the production is to be expected. At its heart, is the aim to celebrate and empower, while transporting the audience to a time when this was a reality for so many women.
Thankfully, there’s much more to Mrs Henderson Presents than the flesh-flashing billboards. The soundtrack is every bit as motivating, with If Mountains Were Easy To Climb bringing Bennett and Williams’ soaring vocals together perfectly.
Mrs Henderson Presents is currently booking at the Noel Coward Theatre until 18 June 2016, secure your seats now at Ticketmaster.co.uk.