Album Review: Marguerite (2008 Original London Cast Recording)

“Come see the show,
She will neither know nor care”

It is always fascinating to listen to the cast recordings of shows that are regarded to have flopped, to see whether the writing was always on the wall or if some reason was responsible for the magic not happening. Lasting just four months at the Theatre Royal Haymarket in 2008, Marguerite is one such musical, despite (or maybe because of) the weight of expectation behind its writing team.

With a book by Alain Boublil, Claude-Michel Schönberg and Jonathan Kent (from the the Alexandre Dumas, fils’ novel La Dame aux Camélias) lyrics by Alain Boublil and Herbert Kretzmer, and music by Michel Legrand, the demands on these Gallic grandees were nothing short of recreating the exceptional success of Les Misérables (on which Boublil, Schönberg and Kretzmer collaborated) but it wasn’t to be. Continue reading “Album Review: Marguerite (2008 Original London Cast Recording)”

Review: The Fix, Union

“It’s just me and me alone who knows the score”

The Union is dead, long live the Union. Southwark’s Union Theatre has now moved into its new premises just across the way and for their debut production there, have returned to their 2012 production of John Dempsey and Dana P Rowe’s The Fix. Michael Strassen returns to direct a new cast but I have to admit that I think this is just a show that I am not destined to ever get on with.

I struggled with it four years ago and this time round found it no less problematic, perhaps even more so given the current state of political affairs on both sides of the ocean. With the post-Brexit omnishambles and the continued rise of Trumpism so fresh in our minds, fictional political satire is barely needed and it would be flattering The Fix to label it so, for it’s much more pulpy than that, soap opera-like even. Continue reading “Review: The Fix, Union”

Review: White Christmas, West Yorkshire Playhouse

“As a child I went wild when a band played
How I ran to the man when his hand swayed”

How else would you start December but with two theatrical productions of White Christmas in quick succession… But where London has a more predictable, traditional take on the hoary old classic with the well-established touring production faithfully replicated, Leeds has a reimagined and reinvigorated version which makes it altogether a more intriguing proposition in the hands of esteemed director Nikolai Foster (whose forthcoming artistic directorship of the Curve in Leicester looks to be most promising indeed) (PS he’s no relation).
I left the Dominion Theatre in London quite well inclined to the show as it does tick all the boxes, perhaps in a somewhat perfunctory manner but with dollops of old-school charm. But freed from those constrictions, Foster is able to give us a fresh new take which is retro rather than old-fashioned, taking its cues from 50s Americana in Matthew Wright’s glorious revolving design. And with arrangements refreshed with a real musical intimacy and integrity by orchestrator Jason Carr and choreography revitalised by Nick Winston, this is a creative team firing on all cylinders.
And delivering the fruits of their labour is a cracking cast who bring an unexpected depth to the we-gotta-put-on-a-show story. The root of Darren Day and Oliver Tompsett’s relationship as Hollywood stars is firmly in their shared past as WWII veterans and Emma Williams and Holly Dale Spencer, as the Haynes sisters for whom they fall on their Vermont holiday, perfectly capture the contemporary sensuality which is just irresistible. And so as Bob and Phil and Betty and Judy sing and dance their way to saving the day, their combined chemistry ensures a real investment in the show (even as it stretches out just a tad too long) especially in Williams and Spencer’s heartwarmingly lovely performances.
There’s great support from the rest of the talented company too – Melanie La Barrie darn well nearly steals another musical (after a barnstorming turn in Guys and Dolls – seriously, when is someone going to put this woman front and centre in a show?!) with a show-stopping rendition of ‘Let Me Sing and I’m Happy’, Siôn Tudor Owen’s Ezekiel Foster (no relation to Nikolai, or me for that matter) and Andrew Jarvis’ General Waverly both light up the stage in their own way, and the cumulative effect of everyone’s enthusiasm more than fills the vast auditorium as the long-awaited comes to pass as it surely must do. London 0 Leeds 1 by my count.
Running time: 2 hours 40 minutes (with interval)
Booking until 17th January

Review: Lucky Stiff, Landor

“We’re down on our knees braving rabies and fleas”

Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty’s Ragtime was one of the highlights of the musical year in London and along with their revival of Howard Goodall’s The Hired Man, marked a year with remarkable highs for the Landor Theatre in Clapham. Their small-scale but big-impact productions have proved a welcome boost to the London fringe musical scene, marked by their success in the Offies awards last week, and the Landor are clearly looking to maintain that by reviving Ahrens and Flaherty’s first show Lucky Stiff. A frivolous musical farce, based on Michael Butterworth’s The Man Who Broke The Bank At Monte Carlo, the plot revels in the nonsensical and ridiculous as we caper from a dowdy English shoeshop and an Atlantic City optometrist’s office to the glitzy casinos of Monte Carlo with gay abandon.

Harry Witherspoon’s existence selling footwear is thrown into chaos when an unexpected bequest from an unknown uncle falls into his lap, but with certain strings attached. In order to get his inheritance, Harry needs to take the embalmed body of his uncle on a trip to Monte Carlo and pass him off as alive, or else the money will go to the Universal Dog Home of Brooklyn. Further complicating matters is the uncle’s lover Rita, six million dollars worth of diamonds that have gone missing, an over-friendly Italian, cross-dressing maids, a representative of the dogs home with her eyes on the cash and a suspicious-looking Arab, as everyone descends on the South Coast of France in a madcap rush with much confusion ensuing. Continue reading “Review: Lucky Stiff, Landor”