A terrific performance by Gemma Arterton can't save Made in Dagenham from it's weak storyline.
Gemma Arterton is terrific as a mother of two small children who rally her co-workers to strike for equal pay in the West End's newist musical Made in Dagenham.
Rita O'Grady (Arterton) works in a Ford factory in Dagenham along with some very colorful co-workers. These include tiny Sandra (Sophie Isaacs) who has a huge singing voice, wanna be airline pilot Cass (Naana Agyei-Ampadu), and sassy Barbara (Sophie Louise-Dunn).
Management at the factory have deemed the women unskilled workers, which means lower and not equal pay, and they are not happy about it. So Rita becomes the unexpected spokeswoman for the group, affecting her relationship with her husband Eddie (Adrian Der Gregorian), who is not happy that his wife is practically never home now to mind him and their adorable two small kids.
Rita is mentored by union rep Connie (Isla Blair), but when she gets sick, it's up to Rita to attend official union meetings, meet government officials, and, ultimately, to speak at the Trade Union Conference, is at the end of the show.
Made in Dagenham doesn't veer too far away from the film of the same name that was released in 2010. But the film worked much better as it was able to take the story to a real factory, to show the women protesting outdoors, to meetings in government building, making the era that it represents (the late 1960's) more realistic. There are quite a few faults with this musical stage version: a plot about Rita's son being caned in school goes nowhere, jokes by Mark Hadfield playing a buffoonish Prime Minister Harold Wilson are so bad - and mostly misogynistic, and Isaacs, who has such an amazing singing voice, only gets to sing one song in the beginning of the show, and she is wasted during an awful bit in the show that is supposed to be a car commercial. And the American boss of Ford (Steve Furst) is portrayed as a singing cowboy, complete with cowboy hat and and a good ole U.S.A. song called, appropriately enough, 'This is America,' just plain awful.
However, Rupert Gould's sets are amazing. The reproduction of a car factory is always in motion, down to the very minor details, including the nuts and bolts that go into the cars. The acting by the whole cast is very good, but what they are given to work with is a musical with not one memorable song (music by David Arnold), and a book (by Richard Bean) that doesn't have much of a story.