Mrs. Henderson Presents is a heartwarming tale of a widow who buys a run-down theater, The Windmill, with her husband’s fortune. To get butts in seats for her non-stop musical revue show, she decides it would be best to have her actresses stand on stage with no clothes. She says it will be done tastefully and as a celebration of the female form. She assures all her doubters that the girls will stand completely still, just like nude works of art in museums. All of this is going on in the 1940’s, right after the breakout of WWII, and Hitler’s threats to invade Britain complicate the life of the theater. Mrs. Henderson’s comical relationship with the theater’s producer and the relationships between members of the cast on stage make this musical truly enjoyable.
Bright lights, colorful costumes, and vibrant set pieces bring the stage to life. My favorite set piece was a giant white blue and pink striped pin wheel that descended as the backdrop for an impressive tap number. All of this extravagance and glamour is utilized not only to make this show entertaining, but also to show that The Windmill stands defiantly in stark contrast to the darkness and death of the war going on outside. A recurring number throughout the musical boasts that The Windmill will never close. The Windmill harnesses the power of hope, light, comedy, and beauty to encourage both soldiers and civilians alike during this dark period in European history.
This is one of my favorite productions that we have seen so far. The story is adorable, and the characters are funny and loving. The cast was wonderful and amazingly talented. Tracie Bennett (Mrs. Henderson) is aged 54 and costumed and made up to look much older. She stole the show for me with her amazing singing voice and outstanding ability to still kick it with the young folks. I think part of the thing that makes this musical so successful is that it poses some tough questions:
-Does a soldier deserve to be loved before leaving for war?
-How would you face the possibility of never coming back?
-To what extent is it okay to have nudity on stage?
-Is money always the bottom line?
Plays that make you think about these sort of challenging human questions precisely fulfill one of the goals of theater: to see ourselves in the people on stage.
Five stars for Mrs. Henderson and The Windmill.