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Posts Tagged ‘David Haydn’

This Olivier nominated show (7 noms!) was up against Mamma Mia and The Lion King for Best Musical, but it lost to Stiles & Drew’s Honk! It pre-dates Billy Elliott as a British working class musical and if I ever write the history of the great British musicals it will be up there with Billy and The Hired Man. The shows original choreographer, Craig Revel Horward (for it is he) directed a splendid small scale actor/musician revival at the Watermill in Newbury on its 10th anniversary and now we have a new young team ripping it up under the arches in SE1 and its a delight from start to finish.

Could there be a more glamorous and romantic setting than Castleford for this biographical show about pools winner Viv Nicholson (using her infamous press call quote as its title)?! It takes us from her youth, through the big win (which now seems not at all big), the exploitation by friends family and begging letters, the spending spree, the new home in a posh neighbourhood, the rejection by new and old neighbours and friends, the four husbands, her boutique venture and the inevitable bankruptcy – starting and ending in the hairdressing salon where Viv ended up, being visited by the forever inquisitive. The story is brilliantly told by Steve Brown & Justin Greene’s book and deliciously witty lyrics.

There’s a grittiness about it which I love and Katy Dean captures young Viv’s combination of naivety, greed, feistiness and defiance superbly. I loved Julie Armstrong’s older Viv, narrating the story of her rise and fall with resignation rather than regret. The show is packed full of catchy tunes and Christian Durham’s production has great pace and energy, with witty, quirky choreography from Heather Douglas and an excellent four-piece band. In a fine ensemble, Dave Haydn stood out as Viv’s dad, Tom Brandon as hapless first hubby Matt and newcomer James Lyne as second husband Keith.

Great to see it again, and in such a lovely production at the Union. Don’t miss!

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This is the London premiere of a Rogers & Hammerstein show, one based on a John Steinbeck novel no less, for which we owe the Union Theatre a debt of gratitude. It came after Oklahoma, Carousel, South Pacific and The King & I but before The Sound of Music. It was a huge flop.

The setting brings together the world of a brothel, a man’s doss house and a marine biologist (!) in Monterey’s Cannery Row in California. New-girl-in-town Suzy is ‘adopted’ by brothel madam Fauna and a love story develops between Suzy and Doc, the marine biologist. That’s about it, really – and that’s its problem; an extraordinarily slight story. There are some nice tunes, but nowhere near enough to redeem what is in reality a turkey from the most unlikely of sources. How on earth did it even get to Broadway in 1955?!

Sasha Regan has done her best with such material, with an evocative setting by Elle-Rose Peake. The few choruses are stirring, with fine choreography by Lizzi Gee, and there are outstanding performances from Kieran Brown as Doc ad Virge Gilchrist as Fauna, and good turns in smaller roles from David Haydn and Nick Martland. My one quibble with the production is that the keyboard / percussion duo are musically underpowered.

Whatever you think of the show, though, it’s a must-see for musical theatre completists like me who want to see all of the work of the great masters, not just endless revivals of their hits like The Sound of Music, currently revived at the Open Air Theatre less than five years aft it closed at the London Paladium.

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Yet again, I find myself reflecting on how you can visit a show again and come out with a completely different reaction. Earlier in the Summer I found Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead irritatingly glib, having previously found it clever and entertaining. When I first saw Alfred Uhry & Jason Robert Brown’s show four years ago at the Donmar, even though I’m perfectly comfortable with musicals on serious subjects, the musical form seemed wholly inappropriate for the subject matter and the musical style jarred. Now, having seen Thom Sutherland’s masterly production at Southwark Playhouse, I feel completely differently. Your frame of the mind at the time is so crucial to your response. If you’re in a Mamma Mia mood, however fine the Richard III production is, it just won’t do. If you’re up for a dysfunctional Sam Shepherd mid-west family, there’s no point in going to Priscilla.

Parade tells the true story of the framing a New York Jewish man for murder in Georgia in the early 20th century. The governor makes it clear he needs a conviction and the prosecutor delivers one by dubious means including the coaching of young witnesses. Just when it appears the governor’s review of the case will lead to a reprieve, a hasty hanging is arranged.

On this occasion, I found the music heightened the intensity and emotion of the story and Sutherland’s production grips throughout. Though it’s a tiny space with a traverse staging, it somehow feels epic. It flows seamlessly from scene to scene by having the set at either end of the space and just a handful of props to bring on and off. Wherever you sit, you’re never far away, so you always engage with the characters and the story. John Risebero’s set and costumes are excellent and there’s particularly effective lighting from Howard Hudson.

Yet again, Danielle Tarento’s casting is outstanding. Alastair Brookshaw and Laura Pitt-Pulford give hugely committed performances in the central roles of Leo & Lucille Frank; Laura’s singing is exceptional. Mark Inscoe has great presence as prosecutor and would-be governor Hugh Dorsey. It’s a tribute to David Haydn that it wasn’t until the end that I realised he’d played three roles including the pivotal ones as governor and newspaperman. Terry Doe follows two fine musical performances at the Finborough, with three fine performances in one evening here. There is also an auspicious London debut from Samuel J Weir, a 2011 graduate. The 7-piece band under Michael Bradley play the score brilliantly.

It’s not without its faults. Though mostly effective, the traverse staging was occasionally irritating, the over-amplification took away some subtlety from the solo vocals and at 2 hours 40 mins it was a little too long. That said, this production turned around my view of the show, won me over and deserved its spontaneous standing ovation.

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