Having seen some lukewarm productions of the play Billy Liar, some trepidation preceded the show. Luckily the musical is a different animal altogether. Dick Clement and Ian La Frenais of Porridge fame inject the script with wit and sparkle. The songs by John Barry and Don Black are fabulous. Best of all, Billy’s outlandish imaginings are brought to life by a large cast. The opening scene with Billy dreaming in bed offstage and his comrades chanting Viva Fisher in his personal nation, Ambrosia, is enjoyable stuff.
Joseph Walker is excellent as Billy. As well as daydreaming, his hobbies include juggling three girlfriends and impersonating his employers at the undertakers. John Crowther and Gina Townend are Billy’s long suffering parents. Debbie Mather is almost unrecognisable as she ages 40 years to become Billy’s octogenarian grandmother.
Danni Hibbert is rough and ready Rita while Vicky Haigh is the more refined Barbara. While they both play ‘Where’s my fiancée?’ Billy seems more interested in Katie Mather’s Liz.
The funniest duet in the first half has to be The Witch’s Song. Poor Barbara is remorselessly slagged off by Billy and has pretend grenades thrown in her direction. She obliviously sings sweetly of their future together. The end of act one is pure razzamatazz showbiz. There is singing and dancing as a tuxedoed Billy attends a Hollywood awards ceremony to the terrific showstopping tune, Aren’t You Billy Fisher?
Richard Granger and Josh Holliday star as Billy’s mates Arthur and Stamp. Billy’s bosses Duxbury and Shadrack are David Jefferson and Steve Pashley.