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High Society | The Mill at Sonning

This Christmas, the Mill at Sonning is inviting you to the High Society wedding of the year and you would be a fool to decline the invitation. The Mill at Sonning is known for putting on a fabulous show, with this summer’s production of Gypsy winning the UK Theatre Award for Best Musical Production, but returning director Joe Pitcher has in no way let the quality slide with this winter’s offering of High Society.

High Society is based on both the play ‘The Philadelphia Story’ and the classic movie musical of the same name, and transports its audience to Oyster Bay, Long Island, where the most important society event of 1958 is about to take place. Society darling Tracy Lord (Victoria Serra) is set to marry George Kitteridge (Will Richardson), but the upcoming nuptials are complicated by the arrival of Tracy’s ex-husband Dexter Haven (Matt Blaker) and a pair of journalists, Mike Connor (Matthew Jeans) and Liz Imbrie (Laura Tyrer), who are determined to expose her father Seth’s (Russell Wilcox) affairs and corruption. Throw in a love triangle or two and some complicated feelings about the nature of privilege, and the one thing you can be sure of is that nothing will go to plan. 

Despite the 1950s setting, the show retains its relevance with its themes of class and the duality of the face we present to the world and the one we wear in private. Even those who haven’t seen High Society in some form or another will likely have heard some of Cole Porter’s outstanding musical numbers, with classics such as ‘Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?’ transcending the genre. High Society in its stage form is a showcase of some of Porter’s best work, from the toe-tapping titular number ‘High Society’ to soaring ballads such as ‘Once Upon a Time.’

In such a talented cast it is hard to find a standout, but Victoria Serra is a strong contender with her effortless portrayal of Tracy’s emotional journey through the show. Kurt Kansley also gives an exceptional comic turn as Uncle Willie, while Laura Tyrer would benefit from more stage time given the stunning vocals she displays in early earworm ‘Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?’ and her solo ‘He’s a Right Guy.’ But the cast as a whole are flawless, delivering beautiful vocals and high-energy dance numbers from beginning to end. This would, of course, not be possible, without Jaye Elster’s choreography or the band, consisting of Danny J Grant on double bass, Tom Harrison on trumpet and Callum White on drums, pulled together by Tom Noyes’ musical direction.

Jason Denvir’s set design perfectly supports these full-ensemble dance numbers and quick location changes, with rolling set pieces allowing the staging to quickly transform. Lighting changes in the oceanfront backdrop, facilitated by Nic Farman and Hector Murray, also allow for quick and effective moves from day to night, with the stage at times lighting up in the glowing colours of a sunset (or indeed a sunrise after an all-night party). Natalie Titchener’s costumes also capture the spirit of the 1950’s society set, with dapper suits for the men and stunning gowns for the ladies - although it is Laura Tyrer’s wide-legged trousers that this reviewer most covets!

High Society is highly entertaining, guaranteed to make you laugh, cry, and hum Cole Porter’s classic songs for the foreseeable future! High Society runs at the Mill at Sonning until 20 January, with all theatre tickets including a two-course meal. For more information and tickets follow the link here.


AD | gifted tickets in return for an honest review | photography by Andreas Lambis


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