As its composer Jerry Herman says, The Grand Tour is about the indominability of the human spirit. The show’s hero, Alistair Brookshaw’s Jacobowsky, is a Jewish refugee from Poland, trying to escape from an increasingly Nazi-occupied Paris, in this moving tale of survival and friendship. Jacobowsky forms an unlikely alliance with Nic Kyle’s much more straightlaced Colonel Stjerbinsky, an anti-semitic Polish colonel, when the two are thrown together as they travel across France in order to escape from the Nazis. They are joined by the Colonel’s beloved Marianne (Zoe Doano), who befriends Jacobowsky and with whom he falls in love.

The scale of the Finborough Theatre production – in a tiny space seating some 50 people over a pub in the Earl’s Court area – is exactly right for the UK premiere of a show that premiered (briefly) on Broadway over 35 years ago. Staged as a chamber piece, (like Herman’s Dear World was two years ago), The Grand Tour has been stripped back both musically and dramatically. Two pianists provide ample and movingly sparse accompaniment, and the small-scale staging enables the audience to focus on the central trio, both in terms of the friction between the backgrounds and personality of the two men, and their love for the same woman. The simple yet effective set consists of a backdrop showing a map of Europe, with various nooks and crannies, doorways and windows opening up to create the different locations throughout. A long train journey is cannily conveyed by the cast moving around while seated on two benches, with scenery passed hand to hand, and Thom Southerland (no stranger to directing small-scale productions of more epic stories) keeps the story moving swiftly along.

There is clear storytelling through both the narrative of Michael Stewart and Mark Bramble’s book and Jerry Herman’s lyrics and music. Herman’s score to The Grand Tour contains some little known gems. Brookshaw builds Jacobowsky’s opening song of hope, optimism and determination, ‘I’ll Be Here Tomorrow’ to a gradual climax from a gentle whisper and it is movingly reprised at the hopeful (hopeless?) ending. Both the Colonel’s beautiful and carefully-crafted love song ‘Marianne’ and ‘You, I Like’ – a song that signals the final shift in the ever-changing dynamic between his character and Jacobowsky – have long been championed by Michael Feinstein and are just fabulous in their original and proper context.

Brookshaw’s real and truthful portrayal of the eternal optimist Jacobowsky carefully steers the piece away from sentimentality. There is a tenderness and sensibility to the character and the regular interference of Blair Robertson’s SS Captain throughout the story reminds the audience of the constant threat to the lives of the protagonists. Doano ensures that Marianne doesn’t become too saccarine, emboldening the character with a firmly sung anthem of determination to stay in her native country, ‘I Belong Here’, and slowly revealing her affection for Jacobowsky. Other actors, including the wondrous Elizabeth Graham and Laurel Dougall, play multiple roles – each one clearly defined with different characterisation, situation and costume (from circus to Jewish family etc ). And the dramatic storyline takes various twists and turns before building to a final climax. In turns moving, charming and uplifting, this rarely seen Jerry Herman show deserves to ‘Be Here Tomorrow’ in the West End.