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Front Row DressMember Since 09 Apr 2012
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Posted vertigo1 on Yesterday, 01:01 PM
Posted steveatplays on 08 March 2014 - 10:29 AM
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.
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.
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.
Glad you had a good time regardless. Like Freckles, this was the first time I have seen this, and I didn't know the book or music before I did.
For me, this was like falling in love, I loved everything about it. I have no other version of this to compare it to, and I would balk at a toned-down or sanitised version of it. And that includes loving all the extreme things Jamie Lloyd did to underline the theme, to make it gory and filthy and mean and in your face.
I am aware that the producers are saying this version is "darker" than the original version because they feel darker plays more to the British psyche. However, I personally doubt this justification. As a take on an apocalypse scenario, Americans are lapping up the TV show "The Walking Dead," which is very bit as dirty and filthy and mean and visceral as this, though it lacks the humour of this as well as the satiric critique of what we are doing to our world.
So I believe over-the-top is perfect for this material. Blood will be spilled in the future in bucketloads over resources, and so it should be in this. The contrast between the humourous book and lyrics and the extreme visceral visions of a bloody dirty apocalypse are themselves hilarious to me.
The image of humans with rabbit heads I took to be a vision of that apocalypse, referencing the doom-foreshadowing image of the rabbit-headed human in the movie Donnie Darko.
Whether Urinetown is New-York-of-the future like Gotham City is in DC comics, I have no idea. But I certainly had no problem with Slinger's New York accent, and I especially liked his sadistic glee. Surely this type of revelling in cruelty is going to be a prevelant coping strategy of the apocalypse, just as sadomasochism itself is a psychological way of coping with insecurity, so will revelling and making hay out of other people's misery be a hellish coping strategy of the future. I'm glad Slinger is leering, rather than gleaming in his smiles. Gleaming would indicate that he is an inhuman robot, who we can dismiss as unrealistic, leering is a sadistic sickness of the human mind we all recognise.
All the buckets and buckets of blood that will be spilled in the future by our descendants are reflected back in our faces here, for us to look at right now, as they should be.
Oh, I love this show, I love this show, I love this show lol!
And I do envy anyone who saw the original Broadway run of this, even if it was very different to what we are seeing now.
Posted xanderl on 07 March 2014 - 06:19 PM
Posted freckles on 07 March 2014 - 09:50 AM
I knew very little about the show, other than what I've read on here & the knowledge of it's success in NY, wasn't really sure what to expect but I was intrigued. I found it funny, clever, stunning to look at (although I was back row so cursing that bloomin' platform for being just a few inches too high) and brilliantly executed.
It did have echoes of Sweeney Todd, but I adored the meta-musical concept and the intertwining of that silliness with the nastiness & gore. Fantastic cast.
I'm desperate (sorry) to go back and would be interested to see a transfer. Not too big a venue, but that impressive set was ill designed for the space. However all credit to St James for putting on a show of such scale. I overheard an audience member (at it again!) who seemed to be a friend of someone in the cast, saying that there was hardly any dressing room space & everyone was packed into two rooms.
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 ecm on 25 February 2014 - 08:59 AM
The problem is two-fold - the subject choice and their treatment of it. The bottom line is - a woman making a map is not inherently a very dramatic subject - or, rather, not a subject that sings. So immediately they've got their work cut out. Mrs P is an interesting woman but she's just not someone that, to me at least, cries out to be immortalised in song. Therefore the writers have to work overtime figuring out how to make the story dramatic and, to be brutally honest, they don't succeed.
The first act is simply boring. You start the show with a woman leaving her husband and leaving the country where she lives to go back to the city where she grew up. You don't feel this in the telling. It all remains incredibly polite and somehow overly cute. The cringeworthy things the ensemble are asked to do - make rain by going 'pitter patter' is a good example - are at best straight out of drama school and at worst remind me of Brian Cant on Play School. Mrs P herself gives the impression that she's maybe getting over agoraphobia - certainly not changing the course of her life. Things largely continue in this vein for the best part of ninety minutes.
Act two is markedly better. There are some strong songs, including a wonderful comic number when she's taking her A-Z around bookstores attempting to get it stocked, and a very striking and original duet for her mother and father. However, the big problem for me here is the drama feels tacked on. As if realising that the central story is lacking in drama, they delve further into her family history to uncover the story of her unstable mother and overbearing father. But in no way do they tie this in to the central story. Surely when telling a story actions have to lead to consequences? You have to get that moment where you say 'ah! I see! Now I know why x did y'. At no point does this happen. She had problematic parents. She made a map book of London, encouraged by her father. Those two things are completely separate and never tied together (maybe because they simply don't tie together!). There isn't even a cursory attempt in the book to have her talk throughout about wanting to map out her life, or put things in order, or make sense of her own personal chaos, which at least would have gone some way towards tying it all together, however forced it may have seemed. The family drama in act two could have come from a completely different show.
The writers also try to cram a much too big time period into a show that already feels overlong. The second world war starts and stops in about thirty seconds. A scene is immediately followed by another that casually tells us the preceding one was years (decades?) ago.
Ultimately this leaves us with an evening that veers from dull to emotionally unsatisfying. The writers even refrain from examining the only really interesting controversy surrounding the A-Z - the disputed claim by Mrs P that she walked every street of London mapping the book. Isy Suttie admitted as much on Radio 4 last night. I came away feeling rather sorry for the cast and wondering how something so dramatically misjudged could have wound up getting on, when it's so hard for any new British musicals to actually reach the stage.
Posted Althea on 24 February 2014 - 06:46 PM
From the cramped staging to the slightly insipid songs and the ensemble being forced to make all of the sound effects (who's idea was it to have a grown man voice a crying baby - it literally set my teeth on edge) nearly everything apart from the brilliant Francis Ruffell failed to gel. After thirty minutes I'd had enough and by the interval I rushed out of the theatre as fast as my legs would carry me. I usually try and stick out a show but the level of enjoyment I was going to get from another hour of Mrs. P's story (that had essentially been told in the first half) definitely didn't outweigh a glass of wine and House of Cards back on my sofa.
I hate to be negative about a show in a fringe venue but for something that has obviously had so much money spent on it, I expected a much tighter and coherent musical. Listen to Lovely London Town on sound cloud and skip the show. Booked for In the Heights and can't wait for that!
Posted Alf on 24 February 2014 - 04:30 PM
Have blogged about it in full if anyone is interested: http://thegreatestof...cal-when-i.html.
Posted Halpster on 24 February 2014 - 12:29 PM
Posted James84 on 24 February 2014 - 10:31 AM
I know it's a preview and hopefully it will tighten, but I just didn't find the story massively interesting. I also felt the traverse staging didn't work and left for a very small playing space that felt cramped, unlike "Titanic" that made great use of the space there.
Some nice orchestrations though.
Not one to avoid, but not one to rush to see.
Posted Lindsay on 20 February 2014 - 10:20 PM
Posted Mrs Lovett's Meat Pie on 16 February 2014 - 08:35 PM