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Merrily We Roll Along @ Menier & Pinter


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#221 Curtain Call

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Posted 03 July 2013 - 12:19 PM

Well I have nothing cerebral or witty to add- only my personal experience. I left at the interval ( which is really really unlike me) mostly because I wasn't feeling 100% and couldn't cope anymore with the whiney New York accents both in the songs and dialogue. To my ears the efforts they made to retain the accents caused many of them to sing flat at best and screeching at worst. I personally think this could be transformed if redirected using their natural voices( sorry to offend if they were your voices!)  I felt no warmth towards the characters so wasnt interested in what became of them ( or in this instance- what had made them so unlikeable) It probably didnt help that the woman in front was so distracting as she literally nodded off every five minutes and continually jerked her head back up all the time, and the people next to me sat in stony silence, refusing to clap at anything- even Damians solo in the TV interview- the only really entertaining thing about that first half.( imho)
So there you have it- for me it all came down to their voices- I respect the peformers , many of whom I have enjoyed before- which perhaps made it more frustrating as I know they can sing in a more aesthetically pleasing way.( to my ears)
Don't get me wrong I have enjoyed New york set musicals before- but just not this one, on this occasion.
Perhaps Once has just spoilt me for gut wrenching melodies this year.

#222 armadillo

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Posted 03 July 2013 - 04:57 PM

View PostJamiem, on 26 June 2013 - 05:10 AM, said:

The book has never worked neither did the original play
  I think you forgot to add 'IMO' there. I thought the original play was very good when I saw the reading at the Menier a few months ago though it's quite different from the musical (at least the second act is).

I don't think it was the high school framing device that killed the original musical production - it was the t-shirts. Though I've seen it done with both and thought they both  worked very well but perhaps not in a big theatre

#223 sam22

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Posted 09 July 2013 - 08:02 AM

Got to see this at last last week, paid ten pound and upgraded to row c in the centre of the circle which was a great view . Didnt know anything about the show but absolutely loved it, reminded me a lot of Company. Thought the whole cast were excellent and a refreshing change to other shows Ive seen as very different.

I think the starting at the end and going back worked really well as wasnt sure before I saw it how it would work. Shame it is closing as would love to see it again. I suppose it just isnt mainstream enough, glad I disnt take a friend with me as not sure it would have been to their taste.

Programme was 4 instead of 3.50 at really useful theatres and very similair. I always want a souvenir brochure but can see why smaller shows dont have them but I love looking at them in the future.

Highly recommend the show for other theatre lovers

#224 Alexandra

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Posted 09 July 2013 - 09:49 AM

View Postarmadillo, on 03 July 2013 - 04:57 PM, said:

I think you forgot to add 'IMO' there.
  But what if it was someone else's opinion? (It's implied, obviously).

#225 sam22

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Posted 09 July 2013 - 11:32 AM

View PostAlexandra, on 09 July 2013 - 09:49 AM, said:

But what if it was someone else's opinion? (It's implied, obviously).

Yeah why do people keep saying 'in your opinion', of course it is whether I am saying x is the best show ever or y is the best singer, obviously I mean in my opinion, I'm not going to bother writing it after each statement!!!

#226 Andromeda Dench

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Posted 11 July 2013 - 01:16 PM

I saw it only at Pinter, and wasn't really sure what to expect despite the fact I normally love Sondheim's work, that the cast contained several performers I think capable of great things, and the reviews + the amazing success record Menier's productions have had in recent years. I still couldn't quite figure out how it's possible to get much out of such a weak (IMHO) material. The score is fine, but the story has just never been able to engage me and make me empathise with the characters. As someone has already commented, Sondheim makes it even harder by making them showbiz people instead of something more ''normal''. I get that the themes of friendship, innocence of youth and how we all get corrupted by life to one extent or another, are all universal. But it's tougher to really get into it all when the characters' lives are light years removed from us, regular folk in the audience - I mean, a Broadway composer-turned-producer with a shambolic private life actually sounds like a normal Broadway artist. :) Nothing really touching or tragic about it.
Anyhow, I did find this production engaging. It is so well directed and well cast that I was somehow drawn into it all. I think the reason might be that the ''Britishness'' of the production took away that pretentious/over-the-top feeling the story has. Frank's character is understated which makes him and his ''plights'' come off more realistic. Friedman and Umbers did a great job there. Jenna Russell's Mary seems to have gotten the most raving reviews, but as fine an actress Russell is, I'm not sure this is one of her best performances. She makes the drunk, jaded and bitter Mary way two-dimensional caricature in the opening scenes, which rendered me incapable of believing her sober and somewhat hopeful later (younger) Marys. Damian Humbley as Charley did a fabulous job in ''Franklin Shepard Inc.'' but i can't say I was too moved by him being betrayed by his best friend, which is, I guess, his character's main tragedy. Charley is just way too wholesome a character to be believable (or interesting).  The character that worked the best for me was Gussie because she was the only deliberately over-the-top one in her first (later) incarnations, so her final scene (despite being brief and mute) was the most effective one, and, paradoxically, she came off as the most flesh-and-blood character, and I was able to feel some compassion for her (her determination to succeed at any cost, only to end up alone, rejected by the business she had sacrificed everything and everyone to). This is probably one of the finest performances of Josefina Gabrielle's I've seen - when well cast and well directed, she can be outstanding. I found Clare Foster's Beth excellent as well. She didn't overdo it with her character's melodramatic arc (British touch, again, I guess) and was able to avoid slipping into cheesiness, which isn't a small feat considering what she had to work with.
But all this notwithstanding, I still found this production exceptional because it somehow managed to make at least 2 or 3 characters three-dimensional. In the original musical, everyone is supposed to be a sarcastic caricature except for the 3 main characters, who still didn't manage to come across as very real to me. It's obvious that Friedman has given it a lot of thought and a lot of her solutions in fact work. A fantastic effort from the director and the cast. Top-notch singing, too.
It goes to show how talent and commitment and enthusiasm can not only compensate for the low budget, but also for somewhat sub-par material. I wish theater companies would take a leaf out of Menier's book (especially where I live and where EVERYTHING is low-budget, lol).
I am really glad I saw it and if I could, I'd go and see it again. I hope they get some Olivier Awards nods.

(ugh, this has been a much longer rant than I intended, sorry! And English is not my first language so I apologise for any clumsiness)
''Fosse believed that, “The time to sing is when your emotional level is too high to just speak anymore, and the time to dance is when your emotions are just too strong to only sing about how you feel." ''

#227 wickedgrin

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Posted 11 July 2013 - 01:38 PM

No apologies for your English needed. An excellent and intelligent post.

#228 Andromeda Dench

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Posted 11 July 2013 - 03:39 PM

View Postwickedgrin, on 11 July 2013 - 01:38 PM, said:

No apologies for your English needed. An excellent and intelligent post.

Hey, thank you so much for the encouragement! I was a bit apprehensive to write it, but I've been lurking for ages on the forum and always enjoyed reading people's opinions on shows. I find them more useful than reading professional critics' reviews (I'm never sure how unbiased they are or if they just want to show off their wit instead of offering a useful analysis). So I thought someone might find my opinion useful since the show is still running.
Now I'll try to somehow articulate my impressions regarding the other London shows I saw during my visit, and hopefully work my way up to The Hothouse... or not. :lol:

Another thing about MWRA: I had brief interval and after-show chats with an American lady who was sitting next to me and who sounded REALLY knowledgeable about Sondheim. She told me she had seen several productions of this particular musical in NY and Chicago, and that she found this one the best by far. She also praised the cast's American accents (except for the Southern ones). I'm personally not quite sure the American accents were absolutely necessary, though.
''Fosse believed that, “The time to sing is when your emotional level is too high to just speak anymore, and the time to dance is when your emotions are just too strong to only sing about how you feel." ''

#229 mrkringas

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Posted 15 July 2013 - 03:01 PM

I've seen this production four times between the Menier and Pinter. It is a real treat for Sondheim fans.

Classic audience comment though last time after the bows..

"I preferred the second half - it was much happier"

While that may be literally true.. I did wonder if said person had really paid attention. The second act is heartbreaking!

You know just how the optimism dies. Plus the marriage trio.. well if Jenna's Mary doesn't make you well up then, I suspect you have a heart of stone.

So many great moments that hindsight builds upon. And a killer ending of Frank painfully seeing just what his life has become. Much preferred this ending to that of the original/Donmar.

#230 armadillo

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Posted 16 July 2013 - 09:43 PM

The first time I saw this saw back in the mid 80s, I was about the age of the trio at the start (well, slightly older because in those days it had the graduation scene).  Now I'm some years older than Older Frank. Which is, I think a bit of a problem with the piece - it only covers about 15 years and  you can't help thinking Frank has got plenty of time for a few more career changes.




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