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Deal JMember Since 11 Dec 2012
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Posted Orchestrator on Yesterday, 10:11 PM
Posted steveatplays on 01 March 2014 - 07:29 PM
It's like someone decided to rework the TV series, "The Wire" as a laugh out loud comedy, and succeeded.
Each season of The Wire looked at a different human organisation, be it police department or politics or education, and suggested that human nature undermined it. Urinetown is like every season rolled into one two hour show that's absolutely hilarious.
And it's not about laughing at "others" with Jim Davidson snideness, like "Book of Mormon." It's about laughing at ourselves as human beings, and as musical theatre devotees.
"Urinetown" is like Leonard Cohen's "Everybody Knows," where we all know how selfish we are ("rich folks get the good life, poor folks get the woe, in the end it's nothing you don't know") except with less dirge, more splurge, such is the energy invested by cast and director.
Indeed, Jamie Lloyd resurrects all the darkness, dirt, death and blood that made his recent Macbeth gruelling, but which here are perfectly balanced by the sheer joy of the most catchy melodies.
Great intelligence underlies the characters of Officer Lockstock (played with ferocity and gleeful violent charm by Jonathan Slinger) and Little Sally (played with captivating cuteness, in both senses of the word, by Karis Jack). Indeed, every time I thought I spotted a flaw in the plot or presentation, either Lockstock or Little Sally chipped in to echo and answer and subvert my thoughts, making a mockery of my inner critic. This occurred from the very start, as Lockstock put down his large copy of Malthus, to sing "Too much exposition." It is the Brechtian distance and humour, that these narrators inject into the plot, that makes untraditional plot elements and dark themes palatable to a wide musical theatre audience.
I got so much energy and enthusiasm from the cast, it was infectious:
Jenna Russell holds her cigarette with such flamboyance she seems to take the death out of smoking. Her "Privilege to pee" had me feeling like I might; Simon Paisley Day seemed cruel and imposing, as well as reasonable and charming, all at once, his "Don't be a bunny" making perfect sense in a very evil way; Richard Fleeshman's naive yet heroic Bobby Strong embodied a hummingbird beauty and softness in his voice that was perfectly suited to taking the misery out of "Les Miserables," singing the generic "Look at the Sky," satirising musical theatre sentimentality, as well as the supreme showstopper, "Run Freedom Run!;" and kudos also to the actors playing Little Becky Two Shoes and Hot Blades Harry, singing "Snuff that Girl!"
All in all, I was bowled over by this and only too happy to join in the standing ovation. 5 stars.
nb: The bottom of the upper stage is level with the sightline of Row G, making that the optimal sightline for both upper and lower stages. Front row beats back row, because it's better to see heads than feet of upper stage performers, and also because the intimacy with the lower stage must be fabulous!
I wish my train wasn't delayed, as I can't wait to get home and try to book another ticket for the end of the run.
Posted NoddyButtToday on 24 February 2014 - 06:11 PM
Out before 10. It say 2 10 in the prog and that was about right allowing for a late start and some very busy interval set building. Takes a bit longer whilst Fleeshman gave hand jobs to the front row.
Posted Nicholas on 23 February 2014 - 12:19 PM
Posted DrP on 23 February 2014 - 01:32 PM
Posted steveatplays on 18 January 2014 - 07:26 PM
I was worried it would be like skipping lunch and having thirty puddings, unable to savour the set-ups, emotionally unprepared for the songs and overwhelmed by the swift succession of songs.
And of course, out of context, the impact of each song is certainly diminished. If there is a framing device, I certainly was unable to follow it from number to number. But each song is certainly not mere recital, as the actors back each other up in every song, acting and singing even solos to each other.
And every singer brings their own special quality to this revue. David Bedella brings that reassuring deep voice-of-god treacle that seems to suggest that there is something to hold on to amidst life's horrors. Daniel Crossley proves Westendproducer's adage that there is always joy to be had from jazz hands, his "Buddy's Blues" from Follies so stirring I wanted to jump out of my seat. Caroline Sheen projects an affecting cocktail of vulnerability and avariciousness that finds perfect expression in "More" from Dick Tracy. And for tenderness of expression, for exquisite modulation and the allround beauty of his voice, Damian Humbley is perfect, the song "Marry me a Little" outstanding.
But it was Janie Dee who broke my heart repeatedly. Her husky breathy worldweary tone and sensitivity is the perfect Sondheim instrument. In "Everyday a little Death," "Could I leave you?" and "Ladies who lunch" she expressed every tragic nuance, and tears welled helplessly up.
And Dee also excelled at comedy, in her hilariously swift staccato delivery of "Not Getting Married" and channeling her evil misogynist from the Royal Court's NSFW in an anti-feminist tirade of a duet with Caroline Sheen, "There's Always a Woman."
Sondheim is a genius, and his songs need to be heard even though revivals come round too rarely for my taste (I know I know lol). And if Frogs isn't going to be staged in a swimming pool, and Forum isn't on the horizon, and if you didn't get to the concert revival of Company, here's where you can get a temporary Sondheim fix. 4 stars.
Posted steveatplays on 29 December 2013 - 01:50 AM
This is wonderful.
Yes, the horror is mostly gone, most murders abbreviated, and even critical murders are mostly bloodless. Anyone who wants to relive the gory details of the novel will be sorely disappointed.
But the satire is glorious, hilarious, choreographed and corruscating.
The song and dance numbers are the best I've seen this year. It's hard to pick a favourite, but of the new songs, "You are what you wear" is like the most glamorous and caustic new song from Lady Gaga's "Artpop," and "Oh Sri Lanka" is a mini-masterpiece, in which Matt Smith's Bateman sings and dances his faux-concern for the suffering people of the world in one-upmanship and posturing that rivals Monty Python's "Four Yorkshiremen" sketch, who all ate lumps of cold poison for breakfast and worked 29 hours a day down the mill.
Of the golden oldies, co-opted into the musical, Tears for Fears' "Everybody wants to rule the world" aptly sets the scene of Hobbes' war of all against all, and Phil Collin's "In the Air tonight" perfectly captures Bateman's haunting transition away from designer brands towards the world of designer murder.
Indeed, haunting is the key word, for this musical plays like a fever dream, background projections shimmering at the edges, characters apparently copulating with sketches on walls, Bateman talking murder without anyone hearing him, suggesting nothing we see is real but Bateman's darkening interior dream world.
This Bateman is much more sympathetic than the Bateman of the novel or the film. Those Batemans were evil serial-killing unfeeling sociopaths. In the song "Not a common man," Bateman aspires to be like those Batemans, like Bundy or Gein, but he fails. Instead, Matt Smith's Bateman is an more of an everyman who realises that our whole world, and everyone in it (including himself), is worthless and meaningless. And Matt Smith's zombie-in-a-suit appearance and ordinary-bloke-singing-style make him perfect casting to imbue the otherness that allows him to see this below-the-surface existential meaninglessness that the other characters miss.
"If we get married" is a powerful song in this context, this musical's version of Peggy Lee's despairing "Is that all there is?," where Bateman tries to dream of a meaningful life, and realises he can never have one.
The first half critique of consumerism is simultaneously seductive (I have never wanted to taste so many exotic dishes or wanted to try on so many smart suits) and lascerating (the war for the best font on a calling card is hilarious).
The second half meanders a little, the transition from stabbing a rough sleeper in the stomach to being a mourner of all the meaninglessness in the world is somewhat inelegant.
But while this show may not be perfect, it is an incredibly meaningful show, with captivating choreography (perhaps better appreciated from the back of the theatre than the front) set to wonderful songs, both old and new. It is fronted by an actor at the top of his game, with great supporting performances from the likes of Gillian Kirkpatrick, Susannah Fielding, Cassandra Compton, Ben Aldridge and Jonathan Bailey.
This show deserves the West End and Broadway future for which it is obviously intended. 4 stars.
Posted Ian on 07 December 2013 - 04:15 PM
I have only seen the Broadway production on video (which is not quite the same) but IMO the London staging was far superior - if you could have mixed the cast up a little and then used the Phoenix production it would have been stunning.
The set was a vast curved wall filling the stage from each side of the pros to the rear in a semi-circle with lots (nine or more?) of arched double doors set into it, with a design of branches above the doors and a vast clock at the rear. The doors could be opened mechanically. Julia McKenzie (as the witch dressed in black, hooked-nose, warts and all) ate the items collected by the baker, started to convulse, and then ran screaming through the downstage door on the left, around the semi circle seen by the audience as she passed each open door. There was a small puff of smoke as she entered the left door which blurred rather than obscured her and as she reached the downstage right doors she cast off the black cloak and emerged through another small puff dolled-up to the nines, bejewelled and dressed in white. I saw the production three times and each time this got an enthusiastic round of applause.
In truth this was a very simple deception, but done so well that jaws hit the floor. Kovari was the consultant for the magic and certainly delivered the goods - no other production (that I have seen) has lived up to the sparkle that the original London production had, and some (yes Kerryson I am talking of your limp Leicester version) have failed miserably.
Posted Nicholas on 06 December 2013 - 02:05 AM
No. No. No. I’m a Doctor Who fan but there were moments where I could imagine myself as a ten year old girl madly in love with that zany man off the telly watching him do things to women, men and teddy bears and bursting into tears. It’s not explicit but it is adult and frankly a lot would go over a young person’s head.
One of my first thoughts in the interval was "Come press night, this will have some absolutely stinking reviews". I can read Quentin Letts’ one star (two if generous) review already. People walked out. In the interval what looked like the father of two fangirls said "That first half seemed like three hours". It’s going to be divisive.
I, however, loved it. Matt Smith is great – yes, some notes weren’t fantastic but I found that easier to buy into than a pitch perfect Patrick Bateman and in every other way he was offputting and disconcerting and odd and compelling and incredible. Frankly the weird shape of his head gives enough to the role (look at those ears – he’s clearly Adam Godley’s bastard child) but he is a fine fine actor and absolutely nailed it. From the second he came on stage like that I knew we were in for a treat – a treat others wouldn’t like but a funky and unusual treat. He really is a superb actor and frankly a superb enough singer.
As for the play, I’m unfamiliar with the source but I (and a few others, judging by the few but loud laughs this got) found it absolutely hilarious. The music works because it’s utterly ludicrous – the line about there being nothing ironic about their love of Manolo Blahnik just made me laugh typing it. It’s a flippant take on a flippant idea. As a genre of music (very 80s synth Giorgio Morodor-style) it’s not something I’m familiar with or listen to for pleasure but I thought they were good tunes – not catchy (though some are stuck in my head) but not meant to be, they suited the show. Harmonies and rhythms that did something just off what you'd expect which made you never calm. It’s a rollicking romp and it’s hilarious and it’s dark but not in a profound way and I loved every second of it. In years to come, it must be admitted, we won’t be talking about this in hallowed tones and after The Scottsboro Boys this isn’t exactly the most complicated dark affecting musical I’ve seen. It is not as a piece of art a five star show. However, as a satire and piece of entertainment it’s the best in London. I do love some dark satire and if anyone else does they should see it. I want to see it again – not because it’s hugely affecting and the best show I’ll see this year but because I had so much damn fun watching it. I genuinely can’t think of another way to say it. I’ve seen shows I would call lovely this year and this most certainly is not one – there are scenes that were as unlovely as a musical starring Doctor Who can be. But I LOVED it. Whatever is wrong with it (and at least one person here will absolutely hate it, so tell me all its faults) I couldn’t see. So much fun, absolutely raucous entertainment. Admittedly for a sick type of humour – there’s one scene in a club where there’s a cut which is there for exaggerated shock value where about three people (including myself) laughed and many more gasped – but there were probably under ten percent of the audience who laughed at these dark bits and I’m happy to say I was one of them. Not everyone’s cup of tea but absolutely mine. I LOVED IT.
Posted Ryan on 05 December 2013 - 05:46 PM
Posted Nicholas on 04 December 2013 - 11:58 PM
Take it as read that the cast, the orchestra, the crew and the production as a whole is more than excellent.
Incidentally (spoilers), here’s how I read the woman and the ending. There was racial injustice in the 1930s, and that was truly terrible. We’ve progressed – we’ve got a black president. That means it just as easily could have ended with one of the characters playing Obama and it end with him swearing the presidential oath. But had we ended that way it would have suggested that’s that. To end with Rosa Parks – a symbol of defiance, racism and change – is to end on a question mark as opposed to a full stop. It’s all the more powerful for it.
Posted *Michael* on 05 December 2013 - 12:53 AM
I was disappointed by the score - only a couple of stand out songs and Matt Smith doesn't have the vocal chops needed. He looks and acts the part brilliantly though.
The design was also excellent.
Posted Mrs Lovett's Meat Pie on 05 December 2013 - 12:15 AM
Posted alec_e10 on 11 November 2013 - 12:15 PM
It was the BBC Concert Orchestra with 5 featured singers including Maria Freidman and Michael Xavier.
It was a wonderful afternoon featuring some of Sondheims greatest music and even a couple of numbers from Pacific Overtures which are seldom performed in Concert performances. Great to hear the music performed by such a large orchestra.
Best bit was Maria Freidman singing I'm not getting married today from Company and saying "s**t" in the middle of it when she fluffed the words. Mind you she warned us in advance that she had not got it right so far and the conductor had bet her £10 that she would not get it right during the performance.
It is being broadcast on the 20th Dec on BBC Radio 3 at 2pm if you want to catch it.