Romance Romance is a musical that was first performed on Broadway in 1988 and a newly reimagined version, now with gay couples, opens this coming Tuesday at the Boyz Award-winning Above The Stag Theatre in Vauxhall. Dave Cross spoke to cast member Jordan Lee Davies and Summer Strallen, (Associate Director and Musical Staging) about this fascinating musical that features two linked stories set 100 years apart.
Jordan Lee Davies (Valentine/Ben)
Hi Jordan, what’s the basic story set up of Romance Romance?
Well… Act One is set in Vienna in the early 1900s and Act Two is in modern day America. Both acts follow the trials and tribulations of a same sex relationship in two very different situations. In Act One homosexuality is completely illegal and we witness the coming together of two men under very interesting circumstances and Act Two focuses around two seemingly happy couples and what happens when you are settled in loving relationships today.
You play two different characters?
Yes I do. In Act One, I play what used to be the leading lady role, now renamed Valentine. He is a ‘kept’ young man who is very flamboyant and full of life and heart, and in Act Two I play Ben, the father of twins with my husband, Sam who is very much a practical wonder… feeding the baby whilst cleaning the oven and cooking up a storm type of man who is very much, in his opinion, in a happy marriage.
They sound very different or are there similarities?
The characters both have such heart, but are different due to being in very different parts of the world and time. Having met some elderly gay men recently and hearing their experiences in the 1940s, I don’t think any young gay person can understand the fear people must have gone through to even just share a kiss with the person they loved. We are very lucky today. This fact alone affects the way I play the two characters because the freedom I can have in Act Two to just be a gay man, cannot be performed in the same way in Act One.
It sounds like a complicated production?
It’s not complicated… I would say intricate. There are so many beautiful moments that I think will resonate with the audiences for so many different reasons. Whether it be sharing the feelings that people feel in modern day, long term relationships or just watching a beautiful Viennese romance that just happens to be between two men which you seldom see on a stage.
Can you tell us about the songs?
The music is beautiful. Filled with so many genuine bangers! I have had so many people message me saying ‘please tell me you get to sing ‘The Night that had to End’… which I do… ha! It really is a beautiful show and the cast are all sensational so get your tickets now because we are selling out!
Summer Strallen (Associate Director and Musical Staging)
Hi Summer, how would you describe Romance Romance?
The great thing about the show is that the first half is in a traditional musical theatre style and the second a more contemporary style so there’s something for everyone.
What is your role in the production?
I am associate director and staging the musical numbers. As associate my role is to collaborate and support Steven Dexter, the director. He and I worked together 20 odd years ago when I was playing Marta in the The Sound Of Music so I am enjoying being by his side this time round.
This production has been updated from its original American run, how does it differ from your point of view?
Changing the sexes of the characters has created a brilliant new spin on the piece. It is a joy to come to it with fresh eyes and ideas.
What’s the music like?
There are some absolutely beautiful ballads, but also great up-tempo numbers ranging from polkas in the first act to salsa in the second.
With two stories in different timelines it sounds like it’s a complicated production, has this presented any challenges for you?
The only challenge really, but also fun aspect, was exploring how two gay men in Vienna at the turn of the century may have behaved when in public with the threat of ever being found out.