You have to admire the chutzpah of any actress who takes on the role of Manhattan good-time girl Holly Golightly, so iconic is Audrey Hepburn’s Oscar-nominated portrayal in the 1961 film.
A musical version of Truman Capote’s celebrated novella starring Mary Tyler Moore had the briefest of runs on Broadway in 1966. Anna Friel’s attempt was widely applauded, but was overshadowed by tabloid hysteria about her appearing nude — yep, even in 2009.
Now comes yet another version, this time adapted by Richard Greenberg and starring Pixie Lott, who makes a pretty decent fist of the job and proves beyond doubt she has more strings to her bow than just pop singer. Like the Friel version, it’s closer to the book than the movie, which was ambiguous about how Holly earned her cash and why she held so many men in her thrall.
Pixie Lott as Holly Golighty and Matt Barber as Fred
Set in New York in the 1940s while war rages in Europe, the story is told through the eyes of struggling writer Fred (Downton Abbey’s Matt Barber) who meets his neighbour Holly when she locks herself out. The sexually confused (another element neatly sidestepped in the film) Fred is immediately smitten and drawn into Holly’s chaotic world.
I worried briefly that Pixie was going to do an impersonation of Audrey, but gradually the accent settles down and – apart from the occasional Hepburn pronunciation (“daaarlink”) – she finds her own way in the role, investing Capote’s heroine with a vulnerable charm. Yet while she fully convinces as a girl who captivates every man she meets, she doesn’t quite get to grips with the more dramatic moments and it’s difficult to feel much sympathy.
Of course, having a singer play the part means the production is on to a winner with the Henry Mancini classic Moon River and Lott performs it well, giving it a more bluesy feel than Hepburn that fits the mood.
Matt Barber mugs it a bit too much as Fred and his performance is one-note as the mood of the play changes. There are nice turns from the supporting cast of men caught in Holly’s orbit: Tim Frances as the wealthy Rusty, Victor MacGuire as Joe the barman and Sevan Stephen as movie mogul OJ Berman. And there’s a scene-stealing turn from Bob the cat as the feline love of Holly’s life.
This a brave stab that’s a long way from being a failure, but director Nikolai Foster’s production is not slick enough early on, or poignant enough as the story reaches its conclusion.
Breakfast at Tiffany’s is at Theatre Royal Haymarket until 17 September
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