Steve Mills reviews The Season at the Royal & Derngate, Northampton
'Tis the season for fun and enjoyment in the build up to the festive period. And this is the perfect show, even for all of the Scrooges out there.
It's Christmas Eve and Dougal has flown from Northampton to New York for his estranged father’s wedding. At the airport, he’s greeted by Robin and on the big day, her sister becomes his stepmother and Robin is dreading it while Dougal has been dreaming it his entire life.
A romantic comedy musical set at Christmas is a show asking to be so sweet that even the Bake Off judges might turn up their noses at it. But actually this is a rather endearing tale with plenty of heart .
In a break from the tradition, there are no huge choruses or show tunes belted out. It features just Dougal and Robin throughout the entire two hours. Dougal is boyishly enthusiastic, excitable at a holiday in New York and at meeting his dad for the first time.
Robin is hardened to the appeals of New York and initially to the charms of Dougal.
These characters are stupendously bought to life by Alex Cardall as Dougal and Tori Allen-Martin as Robin and you can see a genuine spark between the characters. And it’s the skill they both have that draws you in and makes this a much more intimate and personal experience. I suspect that we shall see a lot more of both of them in the future.
The two-handed element of the show adds an element of freshness to this musical which is not an easy feat to achieve. Even the songs themselves created for the show feel much more intimate and much more enjoyable.
It speaks volumes that the show manages to take romantic comedies, musical and Christmas and make them feel brand new, without ever being saccharine.
There’s plenty of very funny jokes, some real pathos and the characters are definitely richer for the experience. It’s a perfect show to start off the Christmas season, makes you feel warm inside and well worthy of the standing ovation that it had from the entire crowd at the end.
* The Season can be seen at Northampton’s Royal and Derngate until Saturday November 30. Tickets from the box office on 01604 624811 or visit www.royalandderngate.co.uk.