The Stage, 07/03/02

I Can get it For You Wholesale, Arcola Theatre

To Celebrate the first anniversary of the Arcola Theatre, directors Mehmet Ergen and William Gallinsky have created a whirlwind production of this thirties set musical which uses a 20-strong cast and live musicians to stunning effect. Designed by Lisa Douek and Hannah Penfold, the large space is surrounded by garments on hangers, workstations and discarded scraps of material. And while the company has kept the New York setting of Jerome Weidman's novel, the themes of poverty, resentment, ambition and atonement burn just as bright in North London.

Joseph Wicks' Harry Bogen is a Bronx shipping clerk who is in love with money, but has failed to understand that respect is gained through humanity and achievement - not bribery. Working his way into the garment trade, he soon strips local businessman Mr Pulvermacher (Philip Anthony) of his staff and sets about making his fortune. Bogen cannot keep his fingers out of the till, despite support from his mother (Fiona Branson) and his long-suffering childhood sweetheart, Ruthie played by Rosanne Priest.

Soon he has been sniffed out by Craig Scarborough's suspicious salesman Teddy but not before stitching-up kindly designer Meyer Bushkin (Reg Eppey) In this beautifully balanced musical there are moments of frothy fun and life-affirming sequences but the seriousness of the story is never trivialised.

Arcola and Herald Theatre Company's co-production is a perfect ten - funny, joyous and suffused with all the optimism of a second chance granted. On top of that, it is cracking good entertainment, with Harold Rome's wonderful music stirringly played live by Helmut Sholtz, Saija Kemp and Dan Shaffran.

Alison Freebaim