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Music Review

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Flowers for Mrs Harris
Chichester Festival Theatre Cast Recording


Music & Lyrics: Richard Taylor

Book: Rachel Wagstaff
Based on the novel by Paul Gallico
Performed by: Clare Burt, Mark Meadows, Claire Machin and Joanna Riding
Label: SimG Records
RRP: £12.99
Release Date: 03 December 2020

It’s been a rubbish year. Not only for people directly impacted by the health impacts of Covid, but also by the economic devastation that it has caused. And no industry has been hit in quite the same way as the performing arts industry. Many in the industry have had no work since March, and have been constantly ignored by both financial rescue packages and government assistance in opening up again. However, one lifeline for the industry has been the enormous push into streaming live theatre. One of the shows to get a streamed presentation over the summer was the new British musical Flowers for Mrs Harris, and I’m now delighted to say that it’s now got a cast recording too.

Flowers for Mrs Harris was first produced at Sheffield Theatres in 2016 where it won three UK Theatre Awards including Best Musical. The Chichester Festival Theatre production opened in September 2018, and was presented in association with Vicky Graham, Joseph Smith and Bob Bartner. The 2018 Chichester Festival production was directed by Daniel Evans, with a cast led by Clare Burt (who won a UK Theatre Award for her performance), Joanna Riding and Gary Wilmot. Also in the cast are Claire Machin, Louis Maskell, Mark Meadows, Laura Pitt-Pulford, Nicola Sloane, Luke Latchman and Rhona McGregor.

On 29 July 2020, the entire Flowers for Mrs Harris cast and orchestra reunited, and stepped once more onto the Chichester Festival Theatre stage, almost two years since the show was performed there, to make this recording. In the grip of the Covid global pandemic, this was perhaps the only such endeavour happening anywhere in the country at that time.

Flowers for Mrs Harris is the story of Ada Harris, a char-lady in post-war London whose drab life of dusting and scrubbing is transformed when she glimpses a Christian Dior dress in one of her client’s wardrobes and sets her heart on going to Paris to buy one for herself.

This recording is as stunning as the show it represents. I listened to it on a cold, dark November evening, and the warmth and sincerity that the score gives was very much needed. I wondered how it would work in isolation - the score is very transient from song to speech - and it works absolutely beautifully.

The performances from Clare Burt, Joanna Riding, Laura Pit-Pulford and Mark Meadows are the things that awards are made of. Indeed, the whole company is just perfect - the company harmonies lift many of the numbers, and sound terrific on this well-produced recording.

But the kudos for all of this must go down to the composer and lyricist, Richard Taylor, who was also responsible for the outstanding orchestration. It’s thanks to him that this cast recording has been made, and thankful we should be.

A wonderful recording of a show that will have a life long after this year is long forgotten. And, given the time of year, and excellent stocking filler for anyone who loves theatre, and might be in need of a pick-me-up. In a year that has taken away so much from us, Flowers for Mrs Harris just about restores the hope and faith that the UK Theatre industry will be back, stronger than ever, very soon.


Ian Gude