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Member Since 05 Mar 2011
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#286789 From Morning To Midnight @ National

Posted mallardo on 14 December 2013 - 09:21 AM

I thought this was brilliant.  In terms of stagecraft and translating difficult scenes on the page into visually awe-inspiring drama, Melly Till is right up there with Marianne Elliott.  The opening scene in the bank was perhaps the best fifteen minutes I have experienced in the theatre this year.  And it carried on from there - the hotel scene, the amazing scene in the snow with the billowing sheet, the family. accompanied by the Tannhauser overture - all wonderful, leading to a strong Act One closer.

How anyone could depart at the interval - as a few people around us did - after all that is beyond me. What do they expect when they go to a piece of theatre like this? The German Expressionist style clearly took many by surprise - and yet this production is not weird and nonsensical.  It is totally grounded in reality - a heightened reality to be sure. But there was nothing here that should have been disorienting or off-putting.

The second act was not as successful although the bicycle race was fabulously handled and the sex club was not without interest. The weakest moments in the piece were, unfortunately, the final ones.  But this did not detract from the overall excellence.

Adam Godley was beyond praise, one of the great performances of the season.  The whole cast was great as was the onstage band playing Dave Price's atmospheric and beautiful music.

This probably wasn't the best programming for the Christmas season but, so what?  It was amazing.

#286591 Stephen Ward - The Musical

Posted mallardo on 12 December 2013 - 07:52 AM

Kevin, you make the best possible case for it.  But I didn't see the same Christine on that stage as you did.  I saw a girl who made herself available to Ward right from the start - the picnic scene, she was expecting a seduction - and he never made a move.  I don't believe for a second she would have refused him, if he'd tried.

I loved Charlotte Spencer's take on the role because she portrayed Christine as a heedless teenager (which she was) "going along for the ride", as you say.  I've known girls like her - she was real.  But she was not special.  And Ward seemed to think she was. Why? We don't see it and we don't hear it in the music.  ALW gave her no big musical moment, I assume because he couldn't justify it.

#286551 Stephen Ward - The Musical

Posted mallardo on 11 December 2013 - 10:52 PM

View PostKevinUK, on 11 December 2013 - 08:52 PM, said:

It's not a love story because it wasn't a love story. Stephen States right at the start he tried marriage and he didn't enjoy monogamy.

My interpretation was that Stephen enjoyed the relationships he was able to develop with his male acquaintances because of their involvement with Christine. The basis of their relationship - as explained - was that she told him everything that happened when he wasn't around, meaning he thought she could prove useful in obtaining information he couldn't.

But because they weren't sleeping together, there is a moment in the musical where Christine mentions that if their friendship continues, she could see herself loving him one day. But of course things don't get chance to develop quite in that way.

So then Ward was in fact pimping her out - not for money but for information. It doesn't explain why he didn't sleep with her but he did with Mandy - who he was using in the same way.  Why was Christine special?  That's what we don't get and what we NEED to get.

And if this really is the story, how sad and pathetic it is.  How sad and pathetic HE is, especially since we are told his information was useless.  He was just a fantasist.

The more this story is examined the more I wonder what the hell ALW saw in it.

#286214 Stephen Ward - The Musical

Posted mallardo on 08 December 2013 - 02:50 PM

The creators of this show have the same problem everyone has - and I have some experience with this - when trying to dramatize a "true" story.  Life invariably has bad structure.  You make changes here and there to make it play but you're still constrained by real events to a damaging degree.

The fact that Ward and Keeler and Rice-Davies get reduced stage time in Act Two reflects how this story has to be told - but it's bad theatre and fatal, especially, for a musical.

I don't fault Christopher Hampton for it, he did a professional job with the book - but his hands were tied by the truth.  It's why I think it was a bad idea in the first place.

#286081 Stephen Ward - The Musical

Posted mallardo on 07 December 2013 - 08:22 AM

"I'm Hopeless When it Comes to You" is THE big song in the show and the only song that made me feel like ALW has still got it.  Joanna Riding really sold it and, uniquely, it got spontaneous heartfelt applause.  If only Ward or Keeler, the leads, had gotten a song of that quality.

#285995 Stephen Ward - The Musical

Posted mallardo on 06 December 2013 - 09:35 AM

Re the reggae underscoring for the West Indians, ALW did the same thing for the Russian character - suddenly we were in balalaikaland. The Brit establishment types got stuffy Pomp and Circumstance-ish music.  He was consistent if little else.

#285867 A Small Family Business - NT

Posted mallardo on 05 December 2013 - 12:46 PM

View PostSnciole, on 05 December 2013 - 12:31 PM, said:

Kara Tointon in the cast again, surely?

Saying that I liked her in the one at Harold Pinter Theatre with Reece Shearsmith (I can't remember the name of it though)

Absent Friends.  I liked it too.

#283603 Betty Blue Eyes 2014

Posted mallardo on 12 November 2013 - 01:21 PM

This show seems to have taken on a retrospective glow that it didn't have when it was camped at the Novello trying to find an audience.

DeNada mentioned the Lionheart sequence and that was, for me, the one golden moment of the show.  That and the pig which worked well.  Otherwise it felt like a pretty drab affair.

The movie did not lend itself to musicalization.

#282698 The Scottsboro Boys

Posted mallardo on 02 November 2013 - 05:45 PM

After a couple of weeks of undernourished and uninspired wannabe musicals, how utterly blissful it was to be in the presence of the Real Thing.  The Scottsboro Boys not only has an important story to tell - it knows how to tell it.  Slick and professional and wildly entertaining yet deeply affecting, evoking anger and tears.  Doing everything the musical theatre is capable of doing - and is supposed to do.

The conception of the piece is brilliant.  The Minstrel Show format is the perfect way to frame this story and it is a totally realized idea, in no way detracting from the reality of the tale but, instead, giving it a kind of amplified life and driving home the awful truths it has to expose.  

A great Kander and Ebb score, an intelligent and eminently theatrical book by David Thompson, thrilling directon and choreography from Susan Stroman.  And a brilliant cast, top to bottom.  If there is a must-see show in London at the moment it is this one.

#282549 The Light Princess

Posted mallardo on 01 November 2013 - 09:09 AM

I suppose the original idea for this show was to be the anti-Wicked.  Instead of Elpheba's Defying Gravity, there's Althea who is about Acquiring Gravity.  Her conflict is not that she wants to change and grow - she wants to stay exactly where she is, in the air. "No one's gonna bring me down," she sings several times but only because she wants to be left alone. Not quite as resonant as Elpheba's dramatic cry of self-realization.

Neither Tori Amos not Samuel Adamson has written a Musical before and it shows.  The structure is awkward - no show should open with ten minutes of narration just to fill in the back story.  The characters are flat.  Yes, it's a fairy tale but that shouldn't preclude funny, interesting, quirky people.  Beauty and the Beast, anyone?

Ms Amos's score does not serve to differentiate or define the characters.  There is a soupy sameness to it all, not helped by an orchestra composed of strings and light woodwinds which allows for little in the way of musical colouring. There is no big number. As for Mr. Adamson's lyrics, the less said the better.  The constant use of "H2O" for "water", just because it provides better rhyming material, is lazy and inexcusable.

But if the "what" of the show is dubious, the "how" is sensational.  Marianne Elliott proves once again that she is a genius of stagecraft in scene after scene.  Althea's floating is miraculously achieved and provides the show's real magic.  It was instructive to me that, at the final bows, the four acrobats who kept her afloat got more applause than anyone else save Rosalie Craig.  They deserved it.

As for Ms Craig, she is, under the most challenging of circumstances, astonishing.  If she doesn't win all the awards there are for a leading lady in a musical it will be a gross injustice.  Alas, her love interest, Nick Hendrix, is weak, unable to fill in the blanks that have been left for him.  And while he has a decent voice, his penchant for shifting to falsetto every time the melody threatens to climb makes for anticlimax after anticlimax.  

The director's show then.  And Rosalie Craig's.  It should have been more.

#281703 From Here To Eternity, Shaftesbury Theatre

Posted mallardo on 24 October 2013 - 07:55 AM

If this show is worth four stars then Once and Titanic and The Color Purple and The Scottsboro Boys are worth twenty.

#281635 From Here To Eternity, Shaftesbury Theatre

Posted mallardo on 23 October 2013 - 01:17 PM

View PostSteve10086, on 23 October 2013 - 01:03 PM, said:

Yeah, I saw a number of people crying at the end, which doesn't imply "apathy"!

Those were the people who paid full price.

#281082 Roots

Posted mallardo on 17 October 2013 - 02:34 PM

In defense of yallerybrown, I've said plenty of things on here I wished I hadn't when frustrated by particular comments.  Not judging the comments in this thread, just saying.

#280830 Been On Broadway - Duchess Theatre Sun 13Th October

Posted mallardo on 15 October 2013 - 08:53 AM

Can't say I love the song selection.  I'm surprised they didn't include How 'Bout A Dance from Bonnie and Clyde - one of the great Broadway songs of recent years.

#280482 Ghosts At The Almeida And Trafalgar

Posted mallardo on 12 October 2013 - 07:20 AM

Ghosts is one long drum roll, gradually increasing in volume and intensity until at the end, in the most gut-wrenching scene Ibsen or anybody else ever wrote, it becomes unbearable.  It is the strength of Richard Eyre's brilliant production that there is no wavering, no letup, the intensity is maintained.  And the final moments are shattering.  

All five actors are superb - and superbly directed.  So many nuances and small revelatory touches.  I liked Will Keen's Manders very much, I thought he got this tormented, hugely conflicted man just right.  The production is very clear about what actually happened at the orphanage fire.  Young Jack Lowden is excellent as Oswald.  From his first entrance he is a presence and his disintegration before our eyes is perfectly - and horribly - wrought.

But the centre of the play is Helene Alving and, as others have noted above, Lesley Manville is wonderful.  In her subdued way she captures the character's inner strength right from the beginning. For Helene is a very strong woman - she has had to be.  She has had to make awful choices in her life but she has made them.  And in the end, when she has to rise to the occasion yet again - she does.  

I think it's interesting to compare her to two other Ibsen heroines who can be seen as women in cages - the cages of society.  Hedda Gabler is weak and can't escape her cage except by suicide.  Nora is weak in the beginning but finds strength in the course of A Doll's House and does escape - to an uncertain future.

Helene Alving stays in her cage by choice - it's entirely her decision and she takes it in order to build a fortress of lies within which her precious son can live without the shame she herself takes on.  The sad irony is that her strength is of no avail.  She can't protect him from the ghosts of the past.

She's a great character, beautifully and accurately played by Ms Manville.  Go see this production!