Published On: Thu, Oct 12th, 2023

‘This is a heartwarming, eye-prickling cri de coeur’ – Flowers for Mrs Harris review | Theatre | Entertainment

Based on Paul Gallico’s novella, Richard Taylor and Rachel Wagstaff’s 2016 musical is a work of vintage charm. Following the death of her husband, cleaner Ada Harris (Jenna Russell) lives alone in postwar Battersea with just her best friend Violet (Annie Wensak) for tea and company.

Prompted by the vision in a client’s wardrobe, Ada has a sudden desire to go to Paris and buy a Dior dress.

Encouraged by her husband’s spirit and a small win on the Pools, plus years of saving she finally has enough cash to make a day trip and return with the object of her desire.

Naturally, things do not go according to plan. Director Bronagh Logan keeps the action tightly focused on a set that doubles for Battersea and Avenue Montaigne, while all except Russell double in English/French characters.

There is a hint of Amelie in the way Ada is constantly helping others while neglecting her own needs, as if she feels undeserving of luxury.

The semi-operatic songs are lyrical, literate and narratively coherent, though one or two fewer would shorten the running time without undue damage. Colman is magnificent as Ada, resembling a young Irene Handl, clutching her handbag even as the Parisian models swan past her in gorgeous frocks.

Terrific work from all, especially Hal Fowler as Mr Harris/French Marquis, Charlotte Kennedy as selfish minx Pamela and the shy Natasha and Kelly Price as the imperious Lady Dant and the overworked Madame Colbert.

Suffused with benevolence and dramatised by some unexpected twists this is a heartwarming, eye-prickling cri de coeur masquerading as a musical. Wonderful.

Flowers for Mrs Harris. Riverside Studios until November 25. Tickets: 020 8237 1010.

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