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Member Since 05 Mar 2011
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#300937 The Oliviers - The Results

Posted mallardo on 16 April 2014 - 05:52 PM

View PostMrBarnaby, on 15 April 2014 - 09:47 PM, said:

I agree... She has a great career ahead and her Olivier moment will come.

Zrinka... I think that may be it for her here..

Can't agree with you, Mr. B.  Zrinka is a wonderful actress who sings beautifully and is drop dead gorgeous.  Why on earth shouldn't she go on to have a big international career?  I fully expect her to do so.

#298646 Stephen Ward - The Musical

Posted mallardo on 29 March 2014 - 05:24 PM

View PostSF88, on 29 March 2014 - 04:22 PM, said:

I liked all four of those to varying degrees too. All of them had a great deal to recommend about them but were ultimately hamstrung by... well, that is the million dollar question!

Indeed, that is the question.  No one (I hope) questions ALW's ability to write a fine score, the problems lie with the subject matter he chooses.  Even doing a sequel to Phantom turned out to be a bad idea because the story line they concocted was bad.  So ALW's fatal flaw is his taste!

#298563 Bad Behaviour At A Show

Posted mallardo on 29 March 2014 - 09:21 AM

But, to be fair, that's not typical of a Simon Gray play.  I have been following these productions from a distance and I had no idea what they contained.  Was there an "Unsuitable for..." warning?

#298550 Stephen Ward - The Musical

Posted mallardo on 29 March 2014 - 07:54 AM

I don't believe it was a bad title or the story's relative obscurity that mattered.  It was the fact that the story was so structurally flawed - Act One and Act Two were two different shows - and that the leading characters were so completely uncompelling - despite fine performances from the actors.  There was no "there" there.  It was one of the most unsatisfying musicals I have ever seen.

#298398 Dirty Rotten Scoundrels

Posted mallardo on 28 March 2014 - 08:42 AM

So, it turns out Jerry Mitchell has made some alterations - resetting and restaging scenes, cutting/changing lines and songs - mainly in the First Act.  The first ten minutes felt completely different to me starting with Lawrence's anthem, Give Them What They Want.  He used to sing it surrounded by the women whose stories he was telling.  Now it takes place in his palatial house surrounded by servants and it's a dance number, a soft shoe shuffle for Robert Lindsay, with all new lyrics.  The tone is slightly off.

Much of it is to do with Lindsay himself - the character seems to have been retailored to his talents and personality.  So he's not so much the suave, haughty sophisticate as an aging vaudevillian with a healthy ego.  A little too much playing to the house, nudge, nudge, wink, wink.  He's an unconvincing seducer.

Samantha Bond, good as she is, is an unconvincing seducee.  She's just too smart for the lines she's speaking.  She lacks the naïve ditziness that makes Muriel credible.  Rufus Hound is better as Freddy, very much following the Norbert Leo Butz template.  But, alas, his lack of vocal heft stops him from really selling Great Big Stuff and what should be the show's first big showstopper, isn't.

But then comes Oklahoma and everything changes.  Yes, Lizzy Connelly, as Jolene, is perfect but it's the number itself that sizzles - Jerry Mitchell at his best.  Plus, this is the first time Robert Lindsay is pulled from his pedestal of self-regard and looks human.  We can finally like him.  It's a significant moment for his performance.  And for the show.

From there everything flows.  All About Ruprecht is hilarious with Hound coming into his own.  And then a sensationally good Katherine Kingsley arrives with Here I Am and the show takes off.  The rest of Act One and all of Act Two play beautifully.

Ms Kingsley is an absolute and unqualified success and Hound has a likeability factor going for him that totally works for his role. Ms Bond overcomes her ingrained intelligence and teams up wonderfully with John Marquez's endearing Andre - Like Zis/Like Zat is terrific.  Lindsay, for me, is the only casting issue although, to give him credit, he does well with the show's one genuinely serious number, Love Sneaks In.

But, in the end, the strength of the show comes through and, at the finale, the irresistible Dirty Rotten Number, the audience was roaring approval.

I sat in the front row and the sightlines from there are spectacular.  They're not day seats, they're charging 39.50, but the seats in the second row are almost twice the price so there's a bargain of sorts here.  

The house looked to be packed and the buzz in the lobby was very very positive.  I think this could run.

#298223 A Taste Of Honey

Posted mallardo on 27 March 2014 - 07:07 AM

I didn't know much about A Taste of Honey, apart from the fact that it was a movie. That it was written in a few weeks by a novice 18 year old girl seems staggering.  Jeanette Winterson's heartfelt programme essay on Shelagh Delaney makes much of the temporal links with John Osborne but this is a much better play than Look Back in Anger which, to me, seems the work of a writer trying desperately to learn his craft.  A Taste of Honey is not that, it's a finished work and a beautiful one.

I saw and admired Kate O'Flynn in Port but here, as Jo, a much better role in a much better play, she is just astonishing. I don't know when I have been so affected by the shear perfection of a performance. Lesley Sharpe, as Helen, took some getting used to.  I thought she was too big and mannered at the start but as things progressed the canniness of her interpretation became evident and she won me over.  

Harry Hepple was pitch perfect as Geoffrey - his chemistry with O'Flynn overflowed the stage.  And, as Steveatplays noted, Eric Kofi Abrefa brought to the sailor, Jimmie, a dream-like quality that was exactly right.  Dean Lennox Kelly, as Peter, gave us the most convincing drunk scene in recent memory.

I don't get the qualms about Hildegard Bechtler's wonderful set.  I loved seeing the streets outside the room and I loved the way Bijan Sheibani contrived to use them for the musical entrances of the two men in Jo's life.  Surely it's better to play the squalid little flat to scale rather than opting for the gigantism of, say, Juno and the Paycock, where the whole neighbourhood could have bunked down in that room.

The dance interludes and the music were, I presume, directorial touches and excellent ones, setting the tone just where it should be.  And it's the tone that this production gets so right.  At one point in the second act Geoffrey looks at Jo's sketches and declares them "sentimental".  It may be true or it may be his art school posturing but there's nothing sentimental or contrived about the play or this mounting of it.  Bravos all around.

#297943 Other Desert Cities

Posted mallardo on 25 March 2014 - 12:32 PM

View PostHonoured Guest, on 25 March 2014 - 11:01 AM, said:

Nonsense! This is theatre, not real life. The epilogue could have been staged more democratically by any good director, if they had wanted to. It's ironic because one of the drivers of the in-the-round theatre movement of Peter Cheeseman, Stephen Joseph and others was to remove the hierarchical priveleges inherent in large proscenium auditoria, and to give the whole audience an equivalent experience. I suppose that the USAn aversion to "socialism" is to piss on whole sections of the audience by directing the epilogue at the critics.

Not sure why American plays bring out the anti-American rants from you.  Too much Guardian perhaps.

#297606 Other Desert Cities

Posted mallardo on 22 March 2014 - 07:32 AM

I saw this play in LA a couple of years back with a cast that was to the manner born for a piece about Hollywood and actors and writers and Southern California politics and all that.  They had no accents to deal with and no obscure references to put over.  Everyone was on familiar ground.  Maybe it was too easy for them.  Because, as it turns out, I hadn't really seen the play at all - until I saw it last night at the Old Vic.

This cast and Lindsay Posner's production far exceeds the California crew in talent, intelligence, depth of understanding and, most of all, emotional impact.  The revelations that come pouring out in the second act have a visceral kick here that underlines the play's theme of truth and perception and the essential shakiness of the narratives we all live by, and gives the piece a power I never suspected it had first time around.

The cast is wonderful, every one of them, but pride of place goes to Sinead Cusack as Polly Wyeth, the tough no-holds-barred Nancy Reagan-ish Republican wife and mother struggling to control the chaos that surrounds her. It's a controlled performance that grows and grows, letting us in very gradually on the heroic act of suppression that is her life.  Peter Egan as Lyman, her ex-actor husband, a decent man weak at the core and propped up by his wife, is a fine partner for her and rises magnificently to the occasion in his big second act scene.

Daniel Lapaine is terrific in the difficult role of the son, essentially out of the loop and trying desperately to be a peacemaker, and Clare Higgins, as one would expect, steals every scene she's in as Polly's acerbic sister with closeted skeletons of her own.  Martha Plimpton, as the writer-daughter, the play's catalyst and driving force, is fiercely compelling, perfect.  In the LA production it was her character, Brooke, who dominated.  But here - for me, at least - it's Cusack's Polly.  It speaks well for the play that this can be the case.

A word on the in-the-round staging.  We were sitting in the auditorium side and I think we probably did get the best view, especially for the final scene which, of necessity, must face one way.  But, in general, an attempt has been made to play to the entire house.  And I think part of the felt intensity of the piece is due to this more intimate configuration.  Plus, the Old Vic really looks gorgeous like this.

#297180 I Can't Sing - Changes (Spoilers)

Posted mallardo on 18 March 2014 - 05:04 PM

The alien reveal??  Just what kind of a show is this, Officer Lockstock?

#295739 Urinetown

Posted mallardo on 08 March 2014 - 10:56 AM

As always, Steve, you provide copious good reasons for your point of view.  My take is that hammering home the message does not make the message more effective.  You quoted a line in your earlier review... "In the end there's nothing you don't know."  Exactly.  There's no news here.  It's the oldest story, or one of them.  We get it.  And we don't need to be elbowed in the ribs.

I think this production is simply too heavy handed.  It's a comedy!!  It's funny in and of itself and all the funnier when it's handled with a light touch.  Why should Lockstock be a sneering villain?  He's the Narrator.  He's someone Little Sally - the voice of instinctive wisdom in the show - actually looks up to.  The way Slinger plays him she wouldn't want to be within a mile of him.  He should not be as mangy and decrepit as the downtrodden populace.  His uniform should be crisp and clean, he should be friendly.  He is all the more sinister when played that way.

As for the production in general, someone once said that comedy doesn't play in big sets.  Wise words and true.  Keep it simple.  It's not 1984.  It's Urinetown - the title tells you how to play it.  When Lockstock lets Little Sally know that it's "not a happy musical" her response is "But the music is so happy."  I wish Jamie Lloyd had taken those words to heart.

#295700 Urinetown

Posted mallardo on 07 March 2014 - 11:18 PM

I love Urinetown but I found this production problematical. I thought Jamie Lloyd over-directed and over-produced it.  Too much set - it's better when it's played simpler - and way too much business.  The material is smart and funny in its own right.  It doesn't need a rim shot after every punch line.  Yet, especially in the first act, that's what it gets here.  

Lloyd is constantly underlining - the actors in rabbit heads illustrating just what Don't Be The Bunny is really saying.  We don't need it.  It's too heavy.  It's a distraction.  Or Lockstock and Little Sally tagging Bobby and Hope's sweet and funny Follow Your Heart duet, Lockstock with a smoke machine.  It ruined the moment.  Leave well enough alone.  

Lockstock himself, as played by Jonathan Slinger, seems misconceived.  Too smarmy and sleazy and overtly sadistic.  Lockstock has to be a charmer.  All the bad things he does are done with a fresh gleaming smile, not a leer.  And what's with the bad New Yawk accent?  The show is not set in New York so why do it?

And what's with the buckets of blood?  Way too literal.  Not only unnecessary but wrong.

All of that said, act two is miles better than act one - as if Lloyd finally figured out how it goes. And most of the cast are terrific.  I liked Richard Fleeshman's Bobby - he got it just right - although, as others here have noted, he was surprisingly underpowered vocally.  Rosanna Hyland's Hope was a good match for him.  She avoided the mugging others fell prey to.  I also liked Karis Jack's nuanced and well sung Little Sally and Corey English's fervent Hot Blades Harry.  

The Cladwell scenes did not work as well as they should but it wasn't the fault of a plausible and entertaining Simon Paisley Day.

I wish Lloyd had trusted his material more and not felt the need to add his own unhelpful flourishes.  But the show is strong enough to survive them.  And, despite my carping, I had a good time.  Don't think I'd see it again though.

#295637 Blithe Spirit, Gielgud Theatre

Posted mallardo on 07 March 2014 - 03:54 PM

I recall from some corner of theatre trivia that Dame Sybil Thorndyke appeared in the West End with her husband Lewis Casson when she was in her upper 80s and he was over 90.  I think it might have been Arsenic and Old Lace.

A performance I actually saw - on Broadway - of Larry Gelbart's Sly Fox included the 90-something Irwin Corey, better known in the US as Professor Irwin Corey, a double talk comedian of some repute, and he was hilarious - one of the highlights of the evening. It seems that timing is one thing you never lose.

#295523 Gypsy, Chichester Festival Theatre, 6 Oct - 8 Nov 2014

Posted mallardo on 07 March 2014 - 07:57 AM

On the other hand Tyne Daly was a wonderful Rose and her vocal abilities would seem to be in line with Imelda's.

#295383 Miss Julie/black Comedy, Minerva Theatre Chichester, 4 Jul - 9 Aug 2014

Posted mallardo on 06 March 2014 - 01:26 PM

What a strange double bill.  It could just work though.  Black Comedy is one of the funniest plays ever and after Miss Julie it'll be just what's needed.

#295209 Into The Woods

Posted mallardo on 05 March 2014 - 05:04 PM

Yes, I agree, I've seen some very good productions from SEDOS.  Plus the Bridewell has that very cozy downstairs bar.