Pixie Lott is a performer with the Midas touch. The 25-year-old from Essex propelled herself to a platinum-record selling pop career while still a teenager. When she showcased her moves in 2014 on Strictly Come Dancing she sent a shiver through the living rooms of respectable middle England, announcing herself as a future star of stage and screen.
The question of where her high-rise career would go next was quickly answered by the announcement that she had been cast as the deliciously enigmatic Holly Golightly in a stage version of Breakfast at Tiffany’s, Truman Capote’s classic novella about a New York good-time girl and a young writer from Louisiana (who is never named, but everyone calls Fred).
A year on, and the show is finally up and running at the Curve, Leicester, where it will sit for a short season before going on tour, ending up at the Royal Haymarket in the West End.
The role of Holly Golightly is a brave one for an actress to take on. First there’s the problem of dismissing the ghost of Audrey Hepburn’s elfin, effortlessly soignée “American geisha” in the 1961 film. Then there’s the shadow of the story’s chequered stage history. A 1966 musical starring Mary Tyler Moore managed only four previews on Broadway. Anna Friel took the part in a version by Samuel Adamson, which ran in the West End in 2009: the show was undoubtedly sexy, with Friel playing one scene with nothing on, but was by no means a runaway hit.
This latest adaptation, by the American playwright Richard Greenberg, is not based upon the film script, but returns to Capote’s original. The production was first seen on Broadway in 2013 with Emilia Clarke (Daenerys Targaryen in Game of Thrones) as Golightly. Critics found it rather ponderous, lacking the gossamer-light touch of Capote’s writing. It ran for just 38 performances.
Nikolai Foster, director of the Curve, knows, therefore, how much of a burden rests on Lott’s elegant shoulders. A first look at the show, now previewing, reveals that Lott’s Golightly is very different from Hepburn’s. She’s less slinky cat and more frisky kitten. Capote’s first choice to play the role in the film was Marilyn Monroe, and there’s something of the vulnerable innocent abroad about Lott. But her smoky, lived-in voice lends her a worldly edge.
As you might expect she makes as many costume changes as a catwalk model, and looks splendid in everything from a silk dressing gown to a green satin dress, black cinched-in mac and demure Forties tea dress. At one point she and Matt Barber, who plays Fred, share a bath centre stage. It’s all titillating enough, but I wouldn’t go so far as to award any theatrical Viagra points.
The show has been described as a play with songs. There are three, all sung by Lott and these are the highpoints of the show. Accompanying herself on guitar, she sings a haunting spiritual, a melancholy jazz number and, yes, she does get her lungs around “Moon River”, the Oscar-winning theme from the 1961 film. Lott also dances, but, rightly, the director has decided she’s not a performing monkey, and there’s no wild cutting loose à la Strictly.
Greenberg, in an attempt to beef up the role of Fred, has written a number of scenes that are not in the book. It’s a brave decision, given that Norman Mailer said he wouldn’t have “changed two words of Breakfast at Tiffany’s”. I’m not sure it’s entirely successful, but it does at least give Matt Barber – a cross between Zac Goldsmith and Chandler from Friends – something to get his acting teeth into.
The show is still in its infancy and will begin to find its feet as it heads towards the West End. Currently, it needs both a little more heat and a little more cool.