But this is the first fully staged London production of their 1955 collaboration (based on John Steinbeck’s Cannery Row and his short novel Sweet Thursday), which opened for what proved to be a limited Broadway run in 1955.
Director Sasha Regan employs a large cast of 17 in a tiny space to inhabit the brothel where homeless Suzy finds shelter, the makeshift lab where marine biologist Doc studies starfish and octopi, and the insalubrious Palace Flophouse where most of the rest of the male population of Cannery Row seem to doss down.
But the plot is basically boy meets unsuitable girl and Kieran Brown’s lonely Doc (who dances a rather charming duet with his silhouette) and Charlotte Scott’s insecure, superficially tough Suzy (who later takes up residence in a boiler accessed via a pipe) give sympathetic performances in the central roles.
It’s a welcome pleasure, too, to be able to make out every word of the lyrics even if they aren’t particularly inspiring. And the relevance of a song about Christmas cards is at best tenuous.
But there’s solid work from Virge Gilchrist’s whorehouse madam with a soft, matchmaking heart, David Haydn’s layabout Mac and Nick Martland’s Hazel, a gentle giant who forgets the problem he’s trying to solve long before he’s worked out the answer.
Union Theatre, Union Street, SE1 0LX
Tube | Southwark
Until 31st August