Review - H.R. Haitch (Union Theatre)

Royal Wedding fever is well and truly taking over, and in the midst of the furore around Prince Harry and Megan Markle’s nuptials, Luke Bateman and Maz Evans bring their new musical, H.R. Haitch to the Union Theatre.
The cast of H.R. Haitch
Photo credit - Nick Rutter
In a fictionalised version of 2011, the British public is preparing to vote in a referendum on whether the monarchy should be disbanded. H.R. Haitch follows up-and-coming chef and proud working class Londoner Chelsea Taylor as she discovers that her sweet if slightly witless boyfriend and fellow culinary artiste Bertie is actually Prince Albert, the secret heir to the British throne. For most, the news would be a dream, but not Chelsea, a firm antimonarchist.

The dynamic between Chelsea and Albert is definitely the musical’s greatest asset, with Tori Allen-Martin and Christian James working sweetly as a couple, with excellent voices to match their lovable performances. It’s just a shame the plot doesn’t focus more closely on their struggle to balance their relationship and career goals with the pressures of the prying media and rabid public. The secondary plot lines (and there are many, ranging from a campaign to save Chelsea’s dad’s pub, to Chelsea’s grandma’s sexting escapades, via a pig-gate scandal and convoluted blackmailing plot - of course) are fun and offer great opportunities for the rest of the cast to show off their multiroling, but they also water down the central couple’s time on stage massively. The representation of the Queen as a potty mouthed woman with a comically massive hatred of both her dim-witted cartoonified son, and the majority of the British public, provides a few chuckles initially but is a joke which could do with being utilised more sparingly. 
Tori Allen-Martin and Christian James in H.R. Haitch
Photo credit - Nick Rutter
As it stands though, H.R. Haitch is a fun romp, but suffers from not only a slightly muddled plot but also several character inconsistencies which seem to do little more than pad the run time. Chelsea is established as a young woman who despises the Royal Family, but when she is confronted by them she seems utterly, genuinely star struck, despite the fact that when she previously met her royal boyfriend’s sister, Princess Victoria, she made her disdain for the crown pretty well known right away. H.R. Haitch also does a fair bit of dancing around Chelsea and Albert’s on-off relationship, and even attempts a Princess Diaries style makeover, but at no point does it seem at all necessary. The public is said to love the down-to-earth Prince once his identity is uncovered, and therefore having a more grounded girlfriend by his side would surely be seen as an advantage.

Negativities aside, there’s also a lot to enjoy in H.R. Haitch. The adventures of Andrea Miller as Chelsea’s lascivious grandma Vera, kitted out in an animal print blouse and pleather skirt, are extremely comical, Christopher Lyne does an excellent job multiroling as both Chelsea’s dad and the Prince Charles inspired Prince Richard, and Emily Jane Kerr’s turn as conniving Princess Victoria is a perfect mix of maniacal and yet strangely sympathetic. There are also some extremely catchy numbers peppered throughout, and those which show off the vocal abilities of the central couple are particularly fulfilling. Tori Allen-Martin is the perfect everywoman with a cracking voice to match, and Christian James is hilariously hapless every moment he is on stage. Undoubtedly this musical could do with a bit of fat trimming and streamlining, but with such an excellent ensemble cast, H.R. Haitch is a new musical comedy with plenty of potential.