A genuinely updated I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change is a really rather lovely thing at the newly renamed Chiswick Playhouse
“The groom tried to stroke me
While we danced the Hokey Pokey”
Expectation can be a funny thing. A revival of Joe DiPietro and Jimmy Roberts’ musical I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change was the choice to christen the newly renamed Chiswick Playhouse (the Tabard as was) but as I caught a version with a luxury cast and terrible venue choice a few years ago, I wasn’t hugely enthusiastic about the prospect of seeing the show again.
But Charlotte Westenra’s production emerges as a really rather lovely thing, benefitting from an updating that does a fantastic job of retooling the show for a contemporary audience. There may be those who roll their eyes but the incorporation of same sex storylines and stronger female voices, while still maintaining the integrity of the book, genuinely makes it all the more powerful. Continue reading “Review: I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change, Chiswick Playhouse”
“Gods of the theatre, smile on us”
No matter the star quality of the names associated with The Frogs – Meryl Streep and Sigourney Weaver were in the original student company who performed it in a Yale swimming pool in 1974, Nathan Lane was one of the co-writers who expanded it for a Broadway run in 2004 – but there’s no escaping the fact that it is one of Sondheim’s rarely performed musicals. It’s a descriptor that rightly causes a deal of trepidation – more often than not there’s a good reason that works collect dust on the shelf and the hunt for worthy rediscoveries only rarely turns up a diamond.
Another way of looking at it is that you need to kiss a lot of frogs to find a prince and if this isn’t an outright amphibian, it’s also by no means royalty. Loosely based on a 405 BC play by Aristophanes but sending up Greek comedy at the same, we follow Michael Matus’ Dionysos and his slave Xanthias, played by George Rae, as they journey to Hades to find someone who can “enlighten the easily misled and coerced masses of Earth”. They light on George Bernard Shaw as a saviour but Shakespeare has something to say about it, as do Herakles, Charon, Pluto and a chorus of frogs… Continue reading “Review: The Frogs, Jermyn Street”
“Harmony, not discord”
There’s something rather appropriate about the UK premiere of Adding Machine: A Musical opening in the same week as a new production of Floyd Collins, as it was casting director Josh Seymour who helped with the latter at the Southwark Playhouse four years ago and has now turned his own directorial attentions to the former. And you can see he has a type – 1920s Americana filtered through an Expressionist lens and the kind of Modernist score that revels in being called an “anti-musical”, pushing the boundaries of conventional musical theatre as it does.
Jason Loewith and Joshua Schmidt’s adaptation of the Elmer Rice play The Adding Machine maintains much of the original story – after 25 years of constant if undistinguished service, book-keeper Mr Zero finds his role is to be replaced by an adding machine. And as we’re in the world of the anti-musical, he reacts by killing his boss, is hanged, and goes off to the Elysian Fields where he finds that heaven may not be all that it’s cracked up to be, especially when you’re a miserable murderer. Cue jazz hands! Continue reading “Review: Adding Machine – A Musical, Finborough”
Best Supporting Actor in a Play
John Simm, The Homecoming
Anyone who has seen Doctor Who knows Simm can do menacing but it has never been as appealing as it is here, giving Lenny a directly sexual charge that fair flew off the stage. I’m no big fan of Pinter but I could watch this performance over and over.
Honourable mention: David Moorst, Violence and Son
If it’s good enough for the Oscars (Alicia Vikander as Best Supporting Actress for The Danish Girl, gurl?!), it’s good enough for me. As the younger half of the titular pair, Moorst was heartbreaking, and horrific in the same moment, a thoroughly complex performance for a thoroughly complex part.
Harm Duco Schut, Glazen Speelgoed
Johnny Flynn, Hangmen
James Garnon, As You Like It (Globe)
David Sturzaker, Nell Gwynn
Jolyon Coy, Creditors; David Mumeni, Lela & Co.; Pearce Quigley, The Beaux’ Stratagem; Luke Thompson, Oresteia
Best Supporting Actor in a Musical
Emmanuel Kojo, Show Boat
You may think that you know the song ‘Ol’ Man River’ but Kojo’s incandescent rendition(s) of this standard imbue it with an extraordinary power that is just memerising. Don’t wait for a transfer which hasn’t been confirmed yet, get to Sheffield while you still can!
Honourable mention: Ako Mitchell, Little Shop of Horrors
‘Here he is folks, the leader of the plaque!’ I’ve seen Mitchell in a range of roles but as dastardly dentist Orin Scrivello DDS, he really unleashed his devilishly fun side with memorable results.
Matthew Malthouse, Mrs Henderson Presents
Ian McIntosh, Beautiful – The Carole King Musical
Jamie Parker, High Society
George Rae, Grand Hotel
Paul Harwood, Singin’ In The Rain; Stephen Matthews, Anything Goes ; Sam O’Rourke, The Smallest Show on Earth; Renato Paris, Close To You
“Come begin in old Berlin”
Finally, a traverse staging that feels properly justified. It’s still highly dependent on where you sit – despite being a little late, I was able to secure a great vantage point from the middle of the back row from where the full length of the stage for Grand Hotel was suitably visible and I was glad for it. Thom Southerland’s musicals at the Southwark Playhouse have become something of an annual fixture now, becoming big hits for them (Parade) even if they haven’t always floated my boat (Titanic…).
Based on Vicki Baum’s Grand Hotel, the book by Luther Davis swirls around the residents of this Berlin establishment in 1928 over one fateful weekend. A grande dame of a faded ballerina, a typist dreaming of Hollywood, an aristocrat who has lost his fortune, a businessman facing ruin, a man who has little time left to live, their stories and more intertwine elegantly and fluidly in a constantly moving state of flux which captures some of the unpredictability and increasing darkness of interwar Germany. Continue reading “Review: Grand Hotel, Southwark Playhouse”