Review: Paint Your Wagon at Liverpool Everyman

Photo: Jonathan Keenan

By Andy Green

THE Everyman Company is back with a glorious production of Lerner & Loewe’s Paint Your Wagon. Expectations were high following last year’s magnificent Fiddler On The Roof and I think it’s safe to say people were not disappointed.

This is a very rarely performed piece, most people will only know it from the film starring Lee Marvin and a squeaky clean Clint Eastwood but it’s surprising how familiar the songs are.

Set in gold-rush California, this is a tale of greed, lust, race and misogyny – not the obvious ingredients for a rollicking family musical but that’s just what it is.

The 14-strong company take on a variety of roles and beards are not a barrier to some wonderful gender flipping. Richard Bremmer playing a woman is a delight – this is the man who played The Story Giant last season and it is one of the joys of the Everyman Company that you get to witness familiar faces doing unfamiliar things.

Patrick Brennan takes the lead as Ben Runsom, the founder of a town with 400 men and one woman – his daughter Jennifer – played exquisitely by GNL fave Emily Hughes. Jennifer’s presence in a town full of testosterone leads to much frustration on the part of the men – a fact that innocent Jennifer is completely oblivious to.

1850s California is a place where women are seen as commodities, to be bought and sold or played for in a game of cards. When Mormon Jacob Woodling (played by Richard Bremmer) turns up in town with two brilliantly bickering wives (Keddy Sutton and Emma Bispham), the menfolk are appalled by the unfairness of it all. So what does Jacob do? He sells off his spare wife of course.

There’s a genuine love story going on amongst all of the misogyny as Jennifer falls for Mexican prospector Julio Valveras (played with vulnerable panache by Marc Elliot) after taking in his washing.

Director Gemma Bodinetz keeps the tempo going along nicely – although I’m not sure the interval is in the right place – and there’s great choreography by Tom Jackson Greaves.

This is another very strong ensemble performance from the Everyman Company, it doesn’t quite reach the dizzying heights of Fiddler but that’s down to the raw materials of the story and the songs, not the quality of the performances.

Paint Your Wagon is a joyous romp that will definitely leave you smiling and I guarantee you’ll be singing the ridiculously catchy songs all the way home.