Review: An Officer and a Gentleman, Curve

Emma Williams reconfirms her star status in this 80s musical adaptation of An Officer and a Gentleman at Leicester’s Curve Theatre ahead of a UK tour

“Way to go, Paula! Way to go!”

From its opening number (which provides an unsettling reminder that Status Quo actually had a decent tune or two), this major new musical of An Officer and a Gentleman shimmers with a sense of real quality. Some might demur at the notion of a movie remake peppered with a random assortment of pop songs from the 1980s but the resulting piece of theatre is highly enjoyable.

This is down to the integrity and craft of Nikolai Foster who rightly takes this source material (book by Douglas Day Stewart and Sharleen Cooper Cohen from his original screenplay) seriously. We may be in 1982 but there’s no jokey visual gags about that decade here, just an over-riding sense of life on the edge for the working class community of Pensacola, Florida, looking on at the US Naval Aviation Training Facility that dominates their city. Continue reading “Review: An Officer and a Gentleman, Curve”

Review: Evita, Dominion

“The lady’s got potential”

Right, first things first, Marti Pellow’s name is deliberately bigger than Madalena Alberto’s on the poster. Really? He may have the greater name recognition factor, indeed Popped In Souled Out was one of the first cassette albums I ever owned, but is the show called Che? It is not, it is called Evita. And more significantly, in the role of Eva Perón, Alberto delivers an utterly magnificent performance (one which should give Anna-Jane Casey pause for thought in the recently rewritten Forbidden Broadway, star quality indeed…) which far outshadows Pellow’s perfunctory work. Simply put, this is not a West End-standard leading man turn and so demanding higher billing than the show’s true star feels even more inexcusable.

Andrew Lloyd Webber’s show has been touring the country since May 2013 and has now turned up at the Dominion Theatre to finish its run with a seven week stint in the West End. It’s quite a successful transfer too – Matthew Wright’s design holds up well on the vast stage and directors Bob Tomson and Bill Kenwright ensure a sense of grandeur infuses this story of the rise to power of Eva Perón under the auspices of her husband Juan who became the Argentine president. Creatively, the only disappointment comes in Bill Deamer’s choreography which lacks the organic Latin spirit that so elevated the last West End revival (the explosive power of that ‘Buenos Aires’ is one of my all-time favourite theatrical memories).

Continue reading “Review: Evita, Dominion”

Review: Betty Blue Eyes, Mercury

“Time that the whole town was stirred up”

At a time when West End shows are closing left right and centre, this touring version of Betty Blue Eyes serves as a timely reminder that that isn’t always the end. Itself a victim of a curtailed run at the Novello back in 2011, this production emerges as a model of collaboration with 4 regional powerhouses co-producing – Mercury Theatre Colchester, Liverpool Everyman & Playhouse, Salisbury Playhouse and West Yorkshire Playhouse – a UK tour which currently stretches into August. 

Ron Cowen and Daniel Lipman’s book adapts Alan Bennett and Malcom Mowbray’s witty story from the film A Private Function – a northern town’s determination to celebrate the Princess Elizabeth’s wedding is kyboshed by the unrelenting yoke of post-war austerity and rationing, though chiropodist Gilbert Chilvers and his social climbing wife Joyce have other plans. And the beautifully constructed music and lyrics are provided by British musical theatre stalwarts Stiles & Drewe. Continue reading “Review: Betty Blue Eyes, Mercury”

Review: The Hired Man, Landor

“No greater pleasure than work done well”

The Hired Man was Howard Goodall’s first musical, setting Melvyn Bragg’s story of turn-of-the-century everyday rural Cumbrian life to a score inspired by Kurt Weill but primarily influenced by English choral and folk music. Based on events that happened to Bragg’s grandfather, the plot revolves around farmhand John Tallentine, his wife Emily and their family during a period of considerable social and economic upheaval as agriculture declines, pit mining advances and the shadow of the First World War threatens everything and everyone.

Though the scope of the story is huge, taking in a significant chunk of British social history, it is actually intimately told by focusing in on this single family and how the larger events impact their daily lives. In this respect, Andrew Keates’ production at the Landor is a great match of venue and material as we are taken right into the heart of this story and the struggles of its tightly-knit society to find just a little daily happiness as they work the land whether through a pie and a pint in the local or breaking marriage vows. Continue reading “Review: The Hired Man, Landor”