Two Strangers (carry a cake across New York)

New British musical is an old-fashioned romcom

★★★

Two actors in evening dress high kick in a scene from Two Strangers carry a cake across New York at the Criterion Theatre in London
Sam Tutty and Dujonna Gift in Two Strangers. Photo: Tristram Kenton

If you’re a fan of romcoms, I think you’ll like this sweet- but not saccharine- musical comedy. Two Strangers (carry a cake aross New York), and this is not a spoiler, is set in New York, but it feels very British. A naive British man and a cynical female New Yorker meet because of a wedding. Think Hugh Grant and Andie MacDowell in Four Weddings And A Funeral. In fact, if anyone is planning a remake, Sam Tutty would be a shoe-in for Mr Grant, and Dujonna Gift would be a blooming sight better than the insipid Ms MacDowell.

It begins with a naive British man who only knows America through the movies meeting a cynical female New Yorker, because of a wedding. He is the son of the groom, she the sister of the bride. They are the ‘two strangers’. As for the cake, well, that is what Alfred Hitchcock and other filmmakers used to call a McGuffin, in other words a device, unimportant in itself, but vital to moving on the plot.
What Kit Buchan’s amusing script is really concerned with is their burgeoning relationship with each other and, perhaps even more importantly, the two characters discovering themselves. There are a few twists which, frankly, you might see coming from a long way off but the ending helps keep the show from being completely predictable.
Two Strangers has the comforting feel of the kind of musical that Cole Porter or the Gershwins were so good at, and the musical style also reminds one of that bygone era. But let’s not get carried away- while Kit Buchan provides some clever lyrics and Jim Barne‘s compositions range from smoochy to stirring, they are not the Gershwins. There isn’t a showstopper in sight. In fact, I didn’t come out humming even one bar of any of the songs.

Sam Tutty and Dujonna Gift are the top

Nevertheless, Two Strangers is an enjoyable musical comedy with an appealing mix of jollity and pathos. It would be easy for these two slightly clichéd characters to have grated but the two actors, who are actually both British, are very good. There seemed to be more affection than chemistry between them but both are charming, funny and have pleasant voices: his nice and easy, hers powerful. Sam Tutty, who has already made a name for himself in Evan Hansen, establishes a good rapport with the audience, thanks partly to his particular skill at using his facial expressions to comic effect. Dujonna Gift conveys strength that hides vulnerability.
Sam Tutty and Dujonna Gift in Two Strangers. Photo: Tristram Kenton

Tim Jackson directs and choreographs with a light comical touch.  Soutra Gilmour’s set may be low budget but it’s clever. Two piles of suitcases which set the scene for the opening meet-cute at the airport, also suggest the towers of New York. Specific elements of it adapt for the later scenes, becoming cupboards, tables, and so on.  A revolve mimics a luggage carousel but also keeps the show moving, literally, by bringing the characters together and pulling them apart.

Since its premiere in Ipswich nearly five years ago, and its re-launch at London’s Kiln Theatre, Two Strangers has come on leaps and bounds. It certainly deserves its run in the West End at The Criterion. For me, it didn’t quite reach the heights of great musical comedy but it is a good romcom that will leave you with a smile on your face.

Two Strangers (carry a cake across New York) can be seen at the Criterion Theatre until 31 August 2024. Tickets from twostrangersthemusical.com

Paul paid for his ticket.

Click here to find out what other reviewers said about Two Strangers, its average rating, and its Value Rating.
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