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Posts Tagged ‘City Lights Enterprises’

The producers, co-producers and associate producers of this show – and there’s 12 of them – deserve to lose every penny they are about to lose because they didn’t do their job. What upsets me so much about this is that it is a shocking waste of talent and seems to me to be both predictable and preventable and it will tarnish the reputation of Kneehigh and their director, Emma Rice. One week after opening to mediocre reviews, the theatre was less than a quarter full and, in the first half at least, the show fell flat on its face.

To the producers, I’d say this:

1. The Gielgud Theatre is too big for this show. Not only is it a lot of seats to sell, but if you don’t sell them there is no atmosphere. The cast will have to work very hard, they probably won’t succeed and the word-of-mouth that has given Kneehigh their success so far won’t be there – or will work in reverse.

2. Kneehigh and Emma Rice are hugely talented, but they are musical novices. They know how to fill a 250-seat studio theatre for six weeks with delightful small-scale shows at £25 a seat from a strong fan base; that’s less than 1.5 weeks at this 900-seat theatre where you’re charging twice as much. Their biggest West End show was not a musical, it was in a much smaller theatre and it benefitted from being the first of this type. Where’s the experience with musicals coming from?

3. The director is clearly smitten with the film (as you and the composer are clearly smitten with her). This is a show not a film and even though she’s got a track record in adapting films, it’s still a very different challenge to anything she’s done before. To allow her to double up as adapter and choreographer is criminal; there will be no healthy creative tension, no questioning, no challenge. If nothing else, you should have hired a musicals choreographer (or promoted your very experienced assistant choreographer).

If I’d been the producer, this is what I’d have said to Emma Rice during the Leicester try-out / London previews:

1. However inventive you are, you will never succeed with a big musical where the book, lyrics and score don’t work. This isn’t a musical theatre score.; it’s two songs, sung dialogue and some incidental music – it’s monotonous and repetitive and it won’t carry a full evening sung-through show. In opera, they’d say ‘all recitative, no arias’. Turn it into a play with music (you know how to do that) by replacing some of the singing with dialogue.

2. Nothing happens in the first half. By the interval, the audience (those that are still there ) will be so disappointed you will have to work very hard to get them back. Cut the first part by half and dump the interval and you just might get away with it.

The show’s already dead, which is sad as I really do think it could have worked. There are some great ideas (as always with Kneehigh). The ‘Maitresse’ is a great idea; her opening turns are fun if a little long and her French song is the best musical moment of the show. The sailor chorus, with their scene changing signs and bells, are a great idea. Lez Brotherston’s design is fine (oops, I’m not supposed to mention him in a blog….). The performances are fine.

This is the third Kneehigh show in as many months to disappoint. If I were Emma Rice, I’d take a sabbatical to rejuvenate my creative juices and let the phone ring out; she may damage her career forever if she doesn’t. This may all sound very arrogant –  but I suspect I’ve seen a lot more musicals than Emma Rice and invested in nine of them, so I consider it helpful and constructive – and free!

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