A waltzing French chef, a Lord who loves his pigs, a tap-dancing medieval ball- sounds more like a P.G.Wodehouse comedy than a Gershwin musical.
In fact, that is exactly what it is: a blend of both.
And this new musical based on the Wodehouse classic Damsel in Distress bursts onto the stage in exuberant form as the first of this year’s musicals to be produced at the Chichester Festival.
Fresh, funny and scattering musical numbers from brothers George and Ira Gershwin like so many petals, it reduced the audience to tears of mirth and rapturous applause as the frankly implausible tale of American hero saves love-lost English rose from the twin woes of an impenetrable castle tower and loveless marriage unfolds.
It is pure Wodehouse mayhem, which is why Damsel in Distress was an instant hit when it was first published in 1919.
A silent movie followed, and then the Gershwin classic musical for the screen with Fred Astaire in the starring role of George Bevan a Broadway musical writer come to London to stage his latest smash hit.
Nine numbers from the film score are included in the new stage musical, including Nice Work If You Can Get It, Things Are Looking Up and Fidgety Feet.
In this, the first stage musical version, Bevan is played by the tremendous talent Richard Fleeshman (Ghost and Urine City in the West End).
Fleeshman’s hero looks the part of a matinee idol and acts it. His swash-buckling good looks complimented by his dancing skills, comic timing and superb voice.
His A Foggy Day (In London Town) while dressed in medieval tights and tunic was strangely wonderful.
Summer Strallen plays the distressed damsel Lady Maud Marshmoreton in fine style and voice, Melle Stewart her partner in love-crimes as the castle secretary Alice Keggs.
Richard Dempsey comes close to stealing the show as the ultimate Wodehouse loveable buffoon Reggie Byng with his rendition of I’m A Poached Egg, but that accolade ultimately has to go to David Roberts who as Pierre the cook gestures and shrugs his way to glory – or la gloire, as Pierre would no doubt have put it.
Nicholas Farrell is marvellous as Lord Marshmoreton, browbeaten by his thunderous sister Lady Caroline played by Isla Blair (very much shades of Wodehouse’s Blandings series).
An imaginative set that transports the audience from West End stage to revolving crumbling English stately pile, is a wonder.
Directing Damsel in Distress is world-famous and multi-award winning Rob Ashford who is also the creative genius behind the show’s choreography.
Responsible for staging several Hollywood Academy Awards ceremonies and choreographing the recent Cinderella Disney movie with Kenneth Branagh, this is his Chichester directing debut.
His work here is predictably stunning, creating what must surely become a classic of the musical stage.
Damsel in Distress runs until June 27. Climb a crumbling tower to get a ticket.