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A CurtainUp Review
Golden Boy

Are there really any winners? --- Anna
Golden Boy
Jason Pennycooke as Joe Wellington and Sally Ann Triplett as Lorna
(Photo: Robert Day)
It was 1968 when, starring Sammy Davis Jnr, the musical Golden Boy first came to London. Now Greenwich Theatre mounts a revival starring Sally Ann Triplett, Reno Sweeny from the National Theatre's Anything Goes, and the energetic Jason Pennycooke whom we last saw achieving the heights of choreographic excellence in Simply Heavenly.

The musical has some pretty tunes. The story line still holds true as white girl falling in love black boy, even today, may not be without complications, although we have moved on multi-racially since the tensions of the early 1960s.

Jason Pennycooke plays Joe Wellington, a black boxer of talent from Harlem. Nicolas Colicos is his white manager, unhappily married Tom Moody and Sally Ann Triplett plays Lorna Moon, Tom's long standing girlfriend and personal assistant. There's aslo Jason's sister Anna (Alana Maria) who does not like the idea of her brother becoming a boxer; Ray Shell as Eddie Satin, a big time, black boxing promoter from Pittsburg, Pennsylvania who takes a share in Joe's management. When Tom uses Lorna ito persuade Joe to partially return to his management but she and Joe fall in love but she cannot cope with the mixed racial aspects of the relationship.

The second half of Golden Boy is the musical we have all come to see. The fight scene between Joe Wellington (renamed from Buonaparte for the UK) and Benton Armstrong (Neil Johnson) is brilliantly staged. It is made all the more exciting, as just before the crucial fight Tom visits Joe in his dressing room with Lorna, and Joe is demoralised when he learns that she is now Mrs Moody. The stalwart Tokio (Charlie Folorunsho) as Joe's trainer has the task of restoring Joe's focus and is helped by the visit of Anna who tells Joe what a heroic role model he has become to the youth of Harlem.

The first half of the musical has rather an amateur feel but it may just need some more work. The crowd scenes are rather too thin. The cast are not helped by the set, a construction of fencing wire looking as if it were left over from the production of Jesus Hopped the 'A' Train, and a boxing ring with posts and no ropes. Although Sally Ann Triplett sings very well, Jason Pennycooke's talent is in his acting and his dance rather than his vocal chords which I did not feel were up to playing the lead in a major musical.

Lorna's show stopping second act number "Golden Boy" ("You're the boy who wanted everything, little boy") is sung like a cry from the heart. I liked too Eddie Satin's atmospheric "While the City Sleeps". The show's finale, a number with its roots in Negro Spiritual, "No More" is led by Alana Maria as Anna is celebratory and simply magnificent.

Whilst we welcome Greenwich Theatre once more mounting its own productions, I don't think Golden Boy has quite all the ingredients to make it into the West End --but I would love to be proved wrong.

Golden Boy
Lyrics by Lee Adams
Music by Charles Strouse
Original Book by Clifford Odets and William Gibson
New Book by Rick Jacobs
Based on the play by Clifford Odets
Directed by Rick Jacobs

Starring Jason Pennycooke, Sally Ann Triplett, Alana Maria, Ray Shell
With: Charlie Folorunsho, Nicolas Colicos, Omar K Okai, Jade Walker, Jaye Jacobs, Neil Johnson, Jason Rowe, Daniel Louard, Andrew McDonald, Tracey Duodu
Designer: Richard Aylwin
Choreography: Mykal Rand
Lighting Designer: Gerry Jenkinson
Musical Director: Steven Edis
Fight Director: Malcolm Ranson
New Musical Arrangements: Steven Edis
Sound: Colin Compost
A Greenwich Theatre production.
Running time: Two hours twenty five minutes with one interval
Box Office: 020 8858 755
Booking to 12th July 2003
Reviewed by Lizzie Loveridge based on 25th June 2003 Performance at the Greenwich Theatre, Crooms Hill London SE10 (Rail Station: Greenwich or Cutty Sark DLR)

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