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Posts Tagged ‘Alex Clatworthy’

The most common criticism of this show seems to be ‘all spectacle, no heart’ which is a puzzle to me as I thought it had both heart and spectacle. It has always been one of my favourite stories so it had the potential to disappoint, but I thought they were spot on in this adaptation. I loved it.

Even though you don’t get into Wonka’s factory until the second half, the first didn’t lag. It focuses largely on Charlie’s word in the slums, with introductions to the four other silver spoon – golden ticket winners inside a giant TV. By the interval, you were in love with Charlie’s entire family. In the second half, the spectacle increases as we move around the factory and each of the four little monsters gets what they deserve. The Ompa-Loompas are brilliantly created in a surprisingly lo-tech fashion; in fact, the spectacle does have a charming retro feel to it that seemed to me completely in keeping with the material and its pedigree. I find it difficult to judge the score on first hearing, but there were a couple of stand-out solo numbers and some rousing choruses.

What impressed me most I think was the casting. Douglas Hodge captures the combination of eccentric, benevolent, mad and magical that is Wonka very well indeed. Nigel Planer is excellent as Grandpa Joe, the leader of a fine quartet of bed-bound grandparents. It was great to see Alex Clatworthy, who I first saw as (kiss me) Kate at the Guildhall School just two years ago, in such a high-profile role so soon and it was also good to see Jack Shalloo leap from the fringe (Departure Lounge & The Kissing Dance) to this; they were both great as Charlie’s parents. At our performance, Charlie was played with great confidence and charm by Louis Suc and the children playing the four less sympathetic characters were great too.

I actually enjoyed this more than Matilda, not only because the sound was a whole lot better, but because I thought it served Roald Dahl’s story better. It works equally well for children and adults of all ages – my younger adult companions adored it and for our 7-year old theatrical first-timer, well it may be all downhill from here!

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I’d almost forgotten what a great show this is. It’s packed full of standards (Wunderbar, So In Love, Always True To You In My Fashion, From This Moment On…..), has cracking openers to both acts (Another Op’nin, Another Show and Too Darn Hot), a superb comedy number in Brush Up Your Shakespeare and some of the best lyrics Cole Porter ever wrote.

We’re in Baltimore where a theatre company is about to open Taming of the Shrew, improved by a team of six new writers! The on-off relationship of producer / director / actor Fred and Hollywood star and leading lady Lilli mirrors Petruchio & Katherine in Shakespeare’s play. Add to this the fact that someone has posed as Fred, resulting in him being chased by a pair of gangsters, and Lilli is being courted by a General close to the president and you have a terrific set up for musical comedy.

I first saw the show when the RSC did it at the Old Vic 24 years ago and I think the only other time was a Broadway transfer to London ten years ago. I won’t easily forget the RSC production as I was on the Laurence Olivier Awards panel that year and had to bully the Society of West End Theatre (as it was then called) to get an extra statuette made so that we could give the Best Supporting Actor in a Musical award to both John Barton and Emil Wolk as we weren’t prepared to choose one over the other! Another memory is of taking a bunch of Commonwealth colleagues to see it and hearing one of them say it brought back fond memories of seeing Shakespeare in Rawalpindi! To say that this stands up well against both these productions is indeed a compliment.

Martin Connor has done some excellent work at GSMD and this is amongst his best. He has assembled one of the finest casts I’ve ever seen here. Leading man Alex Knox is outstanding, with particularly good vocals; he makes a great job of Where Is The Life That Late I Led. He is well matched by Alex Clatworthy as Lilli / Katherine. Kae Alexander is a superb Lois / Bianca, handling Always True To You In My Fashion brilliantly. The comic honours are shared between Lewis Goody & Stephen Wilson as the gangsters (who give us a fine music hall-style turn in Brush Up Your Shakespeare) and Kingsley Ben-Adir as the General. It was great to hear an orchestra of 27 play this lovely score (MD Steven Edis). Joseph Pitcher’s excellent choreography shines in Too Darn Hot.

Another big Broadway show, South Pacific, will be opening next door at the Barbican Theatre in a few weeks. It will cost you over five times to see it, but I bet it won’t be anywhere near five times better. This is an excellent production of a great show with added youthful enthusiasm and another big hit for GSMD.

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