Review - Mrs Henderson Presents (Noel Coward Theatre, London)

When the recently widowed Laura Henderson purchases The Windmill Theatre, she comes up with an idea to pull audiences in... create an act in which women pose as nude statues stage. Based on the 2005 film of the same name, Mrs Henderson Presents is a brand new musical, which tells the story of Mrs Henderson and follows the lives of several of her theatre's employees, during the years leading up to World War 2. 
I must admit, before seeing this show I'd never seen the film before, and had tried to stay away from almost everything to do with this show, as I wanted to go in completely blind. This is a decision I am very pleased that I made, as while there were some moments of predictability in the plot, there were also a lot of surprises. One of the biggest surprises for me (which might sound astonishing given the plot outlined in the official synopsis of the show) was just how much nudity the piece featured. But I am happy to report that every nude scene was presented very tastefully. I was also happy to note the undertones of body positivity which ran throughout this show. 

However, despite the extent to which the formation of the nude statue acts appeared to be the main storyline, thus prompting several emotional moments (such as a particularly striking scene at the end of act 1) centered around it, the biggest downfall of Mrs Henderson Presents was that it never really decided what story it wanted to tell. The plot revolved around around so many characters that I never really formed much of a connection with any of them, and this meant that all of the moments which should have been gutwrenchingly emotional ended up feeling a little bit flat. 

But what about the music? Well, there were a few standout numbers, such as the title number and Emma Williams' breathtaking If Mountains Were Easy To Climb, but there were also a good number of songs that all sounded very similar, and quite a few occasions were several songs seemed to blur into one. I also felt as if some of the vocal skills of the cast were not utilised to their fullest effect, as several of the songs were rather pedestrian. That being said, the performances of the stoic yet ostentatious Tracie Bennett as Mrs Henderson, and the captivating Emma Williams as the reluctant star of The Windmill Theatre were an absolute joy to watch.

Photo credit - Tristram Kenton
All in all, Mrs Henderson Presents was a lovely musical with a fabulous cast. Even though it had its faults, it was wonderful to see a new British musical on the West End.