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Posts Tagged ‘Andrew Lloyd Webber’

Well, I never thought I’d see two duds in the same year at the Menier, let alone two within 5 weeks! This revival of Andrew Lloyd-Webber’s chamber musical follows hot on the heels of the dreadful Paradise Found.

This is going to sound bizarre, but the most extraordinary thing about this show is that it’s dreadfully slow but seems rushed. It tries to cover too much ground in far too many scenes and in doing so it lacks depth of both characterisation and narrative. As you leave one scene, you can almost hear them say ‘right, quick, let’s do the circus scene then get the props off and move on to sunset at the Pyrenees house’. It didn’t involve me, engage me or move me at all.

There are some nice tunes, but two or three of them return so often it becomes relentless and you start thinking  ‘oh no, here’s that Love Changes Everything’ tune back again; the small orchestra play the score beautifully though. Michael Arden as Alex and Dave Willetts as George were believable and do their best with the material, but I’m afraid I thought Katherine Kingsley was badly miscast as Rose and her singing occasionally made me wince. The best performance by far was Rosalie Craig (who was also the best thing about Jermyn Street’s ‘Anyone Can Whistle’ recently) as Guilietta. The rest of the cast has little to do, so perhaps they should have worked more on their French pronunciation (there’s a fair bit of spoken / sung French) which was truly dreadful.

The usually talented David Farley has over-designed it and it comes out tacky. Given the number of scenes, locations and periods, it would have been much better to follow a more minimalist approach.

All in all, I’m afraid it left me completely cold – and it was a very long 2 hrs 45 mins; thank god for the new seats and a bit of portable aircon! Give it a miss and wait for the real thing when it transfers from Chichester to the West End – Howard Goodall’s Love Story.

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Well you have to, don’t you? Go and see something that divides people. Make your own mind up.

Well, I’m not with the phans and I’m not with the whingers. I actually don’t regret going (though I didn’t pay, so I might have felt differently if I’d coughed up the £67.50 my seat cost) though I wouldn’t go again. The show’s the problem; the production is the reason to go.

The truth is there isn’t much of a story – SPOILER WATCH – Phantom goes to NYC and sets up a freak show – anonymously invites Christine over to sing  (she needs the money as she’s now married to a drunken aristocrat) – her son turns out to be the Phantom’s – she dies. It’s spun out for 2.5 hours with another one of Ben Elton’s pathetic books, undistinguished lyrics from Glenn Slater and another dose of ALW’s mushy pop-opera music.

BUT the production and performances really are good, so there’s stuff to look and wonder at and singing and acting to admire. I wasn’t impressed by Sierra Boggess (the title song was the lowspot of the evening for me) but was hugely impressed by the Phantom’s understudy, Tam Mutu. The boy – Harry Child at the performance I saw – was terrific. Summer Strallen almost steals the show with her quick-change-almost-strip number. A big talent like Joseph Milsom is rather wasted in the rather underwritten role of Raoul.

The orchestrations are great and the 27-piece orchestra really does sound good. There is some nice music, though not enough – but it’s a lot better than Woman In White. Bob Crowley’s design with Jon Driscoll’s projections, Scott Penrose’s special effects and Paule Constable’s lighting are highly effective. The sound is amongst the best I’ve experienced in a musical. Director Jack O’Brien and choreographer Jerry Mitchell do their best with the material they’re given.

In the end, it proves yet again that ALW really does need a collaborator as good as Tim Rice; chairing a committee with Elton, Slater and Frederick Forsyth (!) just doesn’t produce a good show. So, a great production in search of a good show. You’re left to admire the talent on and off stage and in the orchestra pit.

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