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#294749 Good People

Posted mallardo on 01 March 2014 - 09:07 AM

In his programme bio playwright David Lindsay-Abaire notes that Good People was the most produced play in America in the 2012-2013 season. In the current economic climate it's easy to see why. It's about hard times and opportunity and, most of all, luck.  Who has it and who doesn't.  Who gets out of the South Boston slums and who doesn't.

Margie (with a hard G) doesn't.  She gets fired from her job in a Dollar Discount store in the play's first scene, yet another setback in her luckless life.  She has a retarded (offstage) daughter to care for, no health care, no money, no skills.  She has to find work fast and how she goes about doing so is the play.  For she turns to an old boy friend and fellow slum kid, now a successful Doctor with a home in fabled Chestnut Hill - the guy who DID have the luck.
And the table is set for drama.

Margie is a great character - desperate, feisty, abrasive, maddening, deeply caring, strong, and beneath it all, "good people", as they say in Boston. The role won the 2011 Tony Award for Frances McDormand and I'll be surprised if it doesn't bring the equivalent acclaim for Imelda Staunton who is breathtakingly wonderful here.  This was only the 2nd preview and already she is so deeply embedded in the character, so nuanced, so funny - for it is a VERY funny play - so fierce and true and utterly heartbreaking.  She totally embodies this complex and affecting woman.

The whole cast is excellent. Lloyd Owen is pitch perfect as Mike, the doctor not entirely comfortable with his roots and Angel Coulby is quite sensationally good as Kate, his sensitive up-market wife.  She doesn't enter until Act Two which is basically a long three-hander in which Margie invades their suburban home and forces a confrontation with the past. It's a tour de force scene in every way and the centerpiece of the play, done to perfection here.

Jonathan Kent directs with a light touch, which is to say we don't notice his work - always a good thing.  And Hildegard Bechtler's ingenious revolving sets keep the action flowing

As noted, this was the 2nd preview and if the timing was not quite where it should be in some moments - particularly in Act One - that will improve. It's an excellent play and this cast does it justice.  And Imelda Staunton... Brava!!

#294382 Why Is Webber Crucified Whilst Sondheim Revered?

Posted mallardo on 26 February 2014 - 06:58 AM

View PostCoggit, on 26 February 2014 - 03:48 AM, said:

I like both Webber and Sondheim... but I've always found this odd (and commented in the past about it). The entire score of Merrily could quite easily slide into Company and no one would batter an eyelid. Even my partner, who isn't a musical fan and has only seen 2 Sondheim pieces at that point (West Side Story and Company) said at the cinema showing of Merrily "This sounds the same as that musical about that Bobby guy".

Whilst it's no doubt Webber recycles music, it is no where near as "bad" as Sondheim.

I can't say it bothers me either way, though...

Sure Sondheim has a "sound".  What composer doesn't?  But to say Merrily and Company are musically interchangeable is just not true.  Merrily, in particular, has a sound world all its own, a unique one for Sondheim, in that it's about songwriters and it's much more pop oriented.

#294209 Why Is Webber Crucified Whilst Sondheim Revered?

Posted mallardo on 25 February 2014 - 07:33 AM

They are not competitors.  They have very different esthetics.  There's room for both.  But Sondheim towers above everyone else who has written musical theatre in the 20th and 21st centuries in a way that no other artist has done in any other corner of the arts.  He is like Mozart among his contemporaries, a giant.  Saying this does not demean ALW or anyone else.  I have a feeling ALW might even agree.

#293961 Matilda Musical

Posted mallardo on 23 February 2014 - 09:02 PM

Saw the matinee today and thought the show was in great shape.  Alex Gaumond was terrific and I loved Haley Flaherty's Miss Honey.  Star of the show, as she should be, was our Matilda, Elise Blake.  Just perfect.

#293849 In The Heights

Posted mallardo on 22 February 2014 - 07:00 PM

View Postsam22, on 22 February 2014 - 06:48 PM, said:

Will there be space.for  a lot of dancing at the venue?

Good question.  I'm sure they'll find a way.  And to be that close to all that energy and excitement is going to be an experience.

#293778 King Lear - Nt

Posted mallardo on 22 February 2014 - 07:47 AM

In a programme interview Sam Mendes tells us there is a danger in playing Lear as a "foolish fond old man" in Act 1, Scene 1.  Mendes himself has opted for a more political take.  To present Lear as an aging dictator running a militarist state where cold empty pageantry rules.  So Lear's "foolish, fond" act of rewarding his daughters with an early inheritance in return for a little show of love becomes, instead, a staged ceremony that has little to do with his family and all to do with his public image.  

In the circumstances, the hypocrisy of Regan and Goneril is entirely appropriate.  They understand that real feelings are not on the table - it's about making daddy look good. And Cordelia's refusal to play along looks simply petulant and inappropriate. Kent's banishment also seems justified.  If he has a problem with the King, don't take it up HERE, in front of all these people!  

Thus, this producton of Lear gets off to a strangely skewed start from which it never recovers.  We just don't care about him.  He has shown us what he is and what happens to him seems pretty much earned. It's not helped by a performance from SRB that is technically accomplished but hollow at the centre and uninvolving.  We never quite get what Kent and Gloucester and the Fool see in him to provoke such loyalty.  Regan and Goneril see him a lot more clearly.  

His scenes of madness and woe are acting set pieces, not gut-wrenching revelations, and when this is the case the play becomes a sprawling, untidy, lurid, not-very-convincing melodrama that, at three and a half hours, long outstays its welcome.

The rest of the cast is mostly fine except for Anna Maxwell Martin whose manic screeching - was she really directed to play Regan this way? - renders most of what she has to say unintelligible. It's a problem because Regan has a lot of information to impart hence much of the plot falls by the wayside.

The production itself is impressive but the updating provides no benefits.  Several times the contemporary spin on the action took me right out of the play - the waterboarding of Gloucester being the most egregious example.

When Lear brings on the body of Cordelia at the end we should all feel his agony and despair.  Not here.  No tears here.  At this point it's too late for empathy.  And the array of bodies sprawled around the stage has never looked more contrived - or sillier.

It was instructive to me that, at the final bows, no one in the full house stood to applaud. Not one person.  SRB's solo bow elicted some bravos but everyone remained seated.  We were unmoved.

#293633 In The Heights

Posted mallardo on 21 February 2014 - 08:15 AM

I saw it twice - which I rarely do - because I loved it so much.  Second time was with Lin Manuel Miranda back in the lead and his presence made a difference.  I think it's one of the great musicals of the last decade and in the small confines of the Southwark it will be AMAZING!!

I foresee no problem with its somewhat parochial subject matter.  It's about the Dominican Republic ghetto in Manhattan but the issues there are the issues everywhere.  I predict a Huge Hit and a transfer.

#293631 A Catered Affair - London Theatre Workshop, Fullham

Posted mallardo on 21 February 2014 - 07:54 AM

I saw it in San Diego pre New York.  Loved it.  Faith Prince was amazing in a part that demands amazing.  And John Bucchino's music is absolutely ravishingly beautiful.  I don't know why it didn't work in New York, I really don't.  I thought it would be a big hit and win awards.  There you go.

#293297 Walking Out

Posted mallardo on 18 February 2014 - 07:19 AM

View PostJoeM, on 18 February 2014 - 12:44 AM, said:

I have never walked out and probably never would unless I found something wilfully offensive. I prefer to see the whole thing and hate waste (it rarely is cheap to see theatre these days) and I am not sure you can form a credible opinion of a production if you haven't seen all of it. I did hate Bingo and Saved in recent times and was tempted but I have my rules. Then agian I finish every book I start!

It is rude to walk out (other than through illness or other genuine necessity) if in doing so you disturb other's enjoyment. Hang on till the interval if you must.

You may be interested in Completists Anonymous.  Our chapter meets every other Thursday at 7 pm for a two and a half hour session that ends precisely at 9.30.  Latecomers not admitted.  Last week one of our members left at the coffee break.  Quite a breakthrough.  As for the rest of us, we keep threatening to end early but haven't yet managed it.

#292814 The Last Ship Starring Rachel Tucker And Sally Ann Triplett

Posted mallardo on 13 February 2014 - 06:32 PM

View Postpaplazaroo, on 13 February 2014 - 06:21 PM, said:

Alright fair enough Mallardo it is a good book, this has only put my nose out of joint as I'm from Newcastle and know a load of Geordies who don't get many creative opportunities - I'm sure I'll stop seething soon :P
I completely understand, and you, as a budding playwright, probably take it more personally than most.  But a Broadway show is the big leagues and you can't blame producers for going with the tried and true.  In any case, in the writing profession, I'm a believer that talent will, eventually, be recognized.  If you're good people will know it because it's right there on the page.  Your talented Geordie friends will find their way.

#292797 Walking Out

Posted mallardo on 13 February 2014 - 03:57 PM

It's not bad manners.  It's perfectly fine.  It's just that some of us are compelled to stay, no matter what.  We're the ones with the problem.

#292794 Premiere Of Annie Proulx's Brokeback Mountain Opera

Posted mallardo on 13 February 2014 - 03:36 PM

Thanks for posting that.  First impressions are that a serialist composer like Wuorinen was just the wrong guy for the job even though, by his standards, it's quite accessible.

I think it would make a better musical than an opera.  A composer like Scott Frankel might do something great with it.  If you've heard the cast recording of Far From Heaven you'll know what I mean.

#292195 Lost Boy

Posted mallardo on 09 February 2014 - 11:43 AM

Not you, Freckles.  Never you.

#292187 Lost Boy

Posted mallardo on 09 February 2014 - 10:54 AM

"What are you working on these days?"

You should have resisted that remark.  Doesn't help your cause one bit.

#292079 Betty Blue Eyes 2014

Posted mallardo on 08 February 2014 - 07:17 AM

I saw Doyle's Sweeny Todd in New York and thought it was stunning.  I also liked his take on Company and on Mack and Mabel.  And let's not forget the actor/musician version of Sunset Boulevard at the (then) Comedy Theatre a few years back.  As Titan says, the style CAN work.