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Posts Tagged ‘Adam Wiltshire’

To be honest, I’m not that fond of this show, but I’m very fond of GSMD’s end-of-year musicals, which combine West End production values with terrific young talent and the biggest and best orchestra you’ll ever hear playing for a musical, and this year is no exception.

By 1964, Rogers & Hammerstein had made it OK to write musicals on serious subjects and Jerry Bock, Sheldon Harnick & Joseph Stein chose the early 20th Century Russian pogroms for theirs. They’d done five shows before this, but this was their big hit, running on Broadway for almost ten years, in the West End for almost five, made into a successful film in 1971, with countless revivals since, including three in the West End. Though the political background is dark, the story of dairyman Tevye, his wife and five daughters in the village of Anatevka is light, and the contrast doesn’t work for me, with the latter smothering the former. Though there are four numbers in the show which have become standards, I find the score a bit too twee.

Whatever you think of the show, though, Martin Connor’s production is superb, with an excellent design by Adam Wiltshire, great choreography by Joanna Goodwin and a luxurious 28-piece orchestra which sounds glorious under MD Steven Edis. Another outstanding cast is led by Alex James-Cox as Tevye, a hugely impressive performance. I was looking at the news of last year’s graduates in the programme to find they’ve since been at Shakespeare’s Globe, the Old and Young Vic’s, Almeida, Bridge and Chichester theatres, two in the Harry Potter plays plus Game of Thrones and the BBC’s A Very English Scandal. That tells you something about the talent that awaits you at a GSMD show.

Can’t wait to see this lot in my future theatre-going.

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It’s less than a year since I last saw this show, a lovely production at the Watermill Newbury, but I so love my July trips to the Guildhall School of Music & Drama’s end of year musicals that I couldn’t resist, particularly with Martin Connor at the helm. As it turned out, one of my best decisions. I’ve had so many wonderful evenings there, but this might just top the lot. 

When this Gershwin show first appeared twenty-five years ago, it revived a practice started by Handel & his contemporaries in the early 18th century, stealing tunes from other shows to make a better one. This is packed full of some of the Gershwin’s best – Someone To Watch Over Me, Embraceable You, I Got Rhythm, They Can’t Take That Away From Me, Nice Work If You Can Get It…..woven into a show that pits Broadway against the Wild West with a pair of posh Brits added for good measure.

Failed showman Bobby is sent by his mother, on behalf of the family bank, to foreclose on a theatre in Deadrock Nevada, but instead tries to revive it, while falling in love with owner’s daughter Polly at the same time. Despite getting his friends from the Zangler Follies to come west, with Zangler himself following for reasons of a romantic nature, he fails to find an audience or bag his girl so he returns to New York where he’s given the Zangler Theatre when that defaults. Unbeknown to him, back in Deadrock the show has become a success. He returns and we get our happy ending with three love stories concluding as they should. 

The production values are as good as any West End show, with an excellent design and costumes by Adam Wiltshire. A 33-piece band is a luxury and it did indeed sound luxurious. Luke Thallon is terrific as Bobby with vocals, dancing and acting all outstanding; a star is born, I’d say. Lucie Fletcher is great as the girl growing up in a man’s world; so much so, she took my breathe away when she came on glammed up for the finale. Steffan Cennydd’s excellent turn as the real Zangler shone in the drunk scene with Bobby’s imposter which was a masterclass of both staging and performance. The class of 2017 is one of the best ensembles ever presented at the Guildhall, and that’s saying something.

Such joy to see such talent. Unmissable.

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The oddest thing about this 1978 Broadway show is its sub-operetta score by Cy (Sweet Charity / Barnum / City of Angels) Coleman. Oh, and the fact it takes place almost entirely on a train. This is my fourth production and the second at GSMD. I rather like it.

The score somehow suits a story about theatre folk. Producer Oscar Jaffee has had a series of flops and he’s on the run from those involved in the last one in Chicago, which closed mid-performance when the last audience member walked out, on the train named the 20th Century bound for New York. He hears that former star of stage, now star of screen, Lily Garland, is going to board the train. An idea for a new show about Mary Magdalene comes to him and a rich religious businesswoman, Letitia Peabody Primrose, falls into his lap and becomes his backer. He then seeks to bag Lily as his leading lady. With a book and lyrics by musical comedy masters Betty Comden & Adolph Green, there’s a lot of fun to be had, particularly in the second half scenes getting the investment and contracting Lily, plus a delightfully politically incorrect song called She’s A Nut and a running joke about everyone writing a play.

Adam Wiltshire’s set and costumes wouldn’t look out of place on a West End stage – two big gilt proscenium arches and a superb period train carriage – and where else would you get a full orchestra of 35 and a cast of 30 these days! There’s excellent choreography by Bill Deamer, especially in the Act II Mayfair party scene. The musical standards under MD Dan Jackson are high, and whereas last time GSMD staged it many of the cast struggled to play older, that is absolutely not the case here. Bessie Carter was particularly good as Letitia and Michael Levi Harris & Carl Stone a terrific double-act as Oscar’s sidekicks. I very much liked Claudia Jolly ‘s Lily and Josh Dylan provided a great cameo as her new love Bruce Granit. The chorus numbers showed off the vocal and dancing talents of a fine ensemble.

It’s another one of those shows where the second half is sharper than the first, and you can see why the original production never made it across the pond like Coleman’s other shows, but Martin Connor’s revival is a great introduction for anyone who hasn’t seen it, or a fresh look for musical theatre buffs like me who can’t get enough of it. 

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