Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘David Shields’

This is the first of three new British musicals in less than a week. They are a rare species, but when they come they’re like buses. This is a great start to the trio, a big show for the fringe, and what impressed me most about it was the exceptional score, with particularly good choruses that are staged as well as they are sung. I suspect this won’t be the last we’ll see of it, but you should check out this first production which is way beyond fringe expectations and a highlight even for the Landor.

It’s an adult fairy tale set in fictitious Spindlewood some time in the past where the clockmaker, a widower, has created a clockwork woman, Constance, as a companion. She learns quickly and soon leaves her maker’s home to taste life in the town, where she sees the ruination of the mayor’s son’s fiancé’s wedding dress and creates a replacement that’s a whole lot better. This brings work, offers of jobs and the disdain of Ma’ Riley, the town’s dressmaker, compounded by the fact her son Will falls for Constance – but he’s not the only one. She’s initially made very welcome, but when her mechanical nature is revealed, the town turns on her and a witch-hunt begins, which brings in a moral theme of accepting difference. It’s cleverly framed by scenes in the present day which give it a pleasing structure.

David Shields’ design and Richard Lambert’s lighting and projections are outstanding and director Robert McWhir marshals his 20 strong cast in the limited Landor space impeccably, with great choreography from regular collaborator Robbie O’Reilly. Michael Webborn’s score really is excellent, with hints of folk and a touch of Irish about it. It’s jam-packed with lovely melodies and lots of uplifting choruses that risk taking the roof off this small theatre. I loved the orchestration for piano, double bass, violin and percussion and Michael and his band play it superbly. It’s another excellent Landor ensemble, with a particularly fine performance from Alan McHale as Constance’s love interest Will and a charming cameo from Max Abraham as Sam.

Most new musicals are chamber pieces, so it’s great to see something on this scale. Yet another feather in the Landor’s cap. Don’t miss.

Read Full Post »

In a famous ‘life imitates art’ moment, the leading lady and leading man of the 1994 West End production of this romantic comedy – Ruthie Henshall & John Gordon Sinclair – became an item during its run. I was a bit underwhelmed by the show then and it wasn’t until last night that I realised why. It’s really a chamber piece that’s so much more at home in the Landor than the Savoy, and here it gets a charming, sweet production.

Before its stage musical adaptation in 1963, Hungarian Miklos Laszio’s play had two film adaptations, one with music, and had another – You’ve Got Mail – 35 years after that. Jerry Bock, who wrote the music, and Sheldon Harnick, the lyricist, had done three shows together, but this was the one that made them. One year later they wrote Fiddler On the Roof, and never topped that again. It’s a love story about a shop manager and one of his staff who don’t realise they are pen pals, spending their days sniping at one another and their evenings pouring their hearts out in writing to their ‘Dear friend’. The show is filled out with the story of the shop owner and his wife’s affairs, the playboy shop assistant and his flings, the teenage delivery boy’s ambitions and other shop assistant’s family life and love life.

Designer David Shields has created a lovely 30’s Budapest parfumerie, with excellent period costumes. It fits the Landor like a glove and you feel like you’re in the shop. The leading roles are brilliantly cast (that man Newsome again). Charlotte Jaconelli has a very strong voice (and manages to sing well whilst being carried on another character’s shoulders!) and there’s real chemistry with the excellent John Sandberg as Georg (life imitates art again?!). Matthew Wellman and Emily Lynne, both new to me,  were very strong as Kodaly and Ilona, the former in fine voice, with the right measure of sleaze, and the latter providing one of the second act’s highlights with A Trip to the Library. I very much liked David Herzog’s interpretation of Sipos, an important but somewhat underwritten role. Joshua LeClair is an extraordinarily believable delivery boy, with bucketloads of charm. At the other end of the scale, it’s good to see Landor regular Ian Dring with a great characterisation of Maraczek the shop owner. Director Robert McWhir and his regular choreographer Robbie O’Reilly deliver the Landor’s usual fine staging, with a particularly masterly staging of Twelve Days of Christmas.

The show isn’t a classic, the first half is a bit long, and it’s a touch too sweet for my taste, but this delightful production in an intimate space is just about as good as it could get and shouldn’t be missed…..and it’s Valentines Day!

 

 

Read Full Post »

Well, that’s a turn up for the books – an Andrew Lloyd Webber show I rather enjoyed. I’d convinced myself he only produced pompous pop operas with mushy scores after Starlight Express, but I hadn’t seen this when it was first produced fourteen years ago. It probably helps seeing it on a small scale and in an imaginative production with a fine young cast.

Set in the late 60’s in Northern Ireland, it follows a catholic soccer team and the fate of its players and their partners during ‘the troubles’. Thomas joins the IRA. John gets married. Ginger is the victim of protestant paramilitaries. Daniel turns to crime. Though only Thomas becomes a terrorist, the others are dragged in. It does a good job showing how the troubles affected peoples lives and has more edginess and less sentimentality than I was expecting.

It’s traverse staging is effective (well, unless you get a pillar to partially block your view, like me) with particularly good presentation of the football games, with spectators behind the audience. David Shields’ simple but evocative design puts the band behind barricades, political slogans painted on doors & walls and four benches creating dressing rooms, churches and coffins. The musical standards are exceptional, with both band and vocals consistently hitting the mark. It’s a fine young cast with uniformly good acting, movement & singing.

The Irish influenced music is surprisingly good, but its let down by Ben Elton’s weak book and lyrics, which delivers some excruciating moments. That said, this is the kind of high quality intimate staging that can paper over the cracks in the show itself. Director Lotte Wakeham and choreographer Tim Jackson have done a fine job.

A surprise hit for me, which made me wonder if there are other ALW shows which would benefit from more intimate and less overblown productions.

Read Full Post »

Yet another Broadway flop becomes a London fringe hit – at the Union Theatre, where this time the capacity audience is just twice the size of the cast and band. Yet another minor Kander & Ebb – the third this year after Flora the Red Menace and Curtains; this one’s a European Premiere too.

They’re in They Shoot Horses, Don’t They territory here – the world of dance marathons. They could go on for weeks, despite the fact they only got 15 minutes break every hour. They were the X-Factor of their day – people desperate for fame, dancing for money, sponsorship and showcases. Along the way, they picked up coins thrown by spectators (as we did last night!) before they became exhausted, some also hallucinating.

This particular story sees MC Mick Hamilton colluding with his (secret) wife Rita Racine to not just win but also get precious exposure with a fake wedding. With no partner minutes before the start, she ends up with airman Bill Kelly. The trouble is she falls for him, Mick pushes her too far and, oh yes, he’s actually dead. I’m not sure if I was supposed to know he was in limbo from the start, but I only got it at the end and that’s where the show failed for me – a daft idea that just doesn’t work. It’s a fairly pedestrian score too, so on the whole not great material for a hit show.

The traverse staging with ballroom stage at one end makes for a lot of poor sight lines (those four pillars all getting in the way this time) but despite this David Shields art deco design with swing doors at the opposite end of the silver draped stage (and art deco touches to the pillars) is superb. There’s too little space for a show that’s all about dance, but despite this Richard Jones’ choreography is sensational. MD Angharad Sanders only has a five-piece band but despite this they make a terrific sound.

Above all, though, it’s the outstanding ensemble that take this unpromising material and make it something special. The four leads are excellent (three real Americans amongst them!) with Ian Knaur as lying cheating bullying Mick, Sarah Galbraith as his put-upon wife, Jay Rincon as her (sadly dead) love interest and most of all Aimie Atkinson’s Shelby Stevens, who brings the house down with her showstopper Everybody’s Girl.

I’m beginning to think that in the right space with a crack creative team and a premiere league cast and band, you can turn just about anything into a hit. Producer and director Paul Taylor-Mills certainly has with this one.

Read Full Post »

People seem rather surprised that someone has turned this into a musical – they even had a feature on Radio 4’s today show and the FT reviewed it. Well, why not? If you can make a successful 2-hour film from Kazuo Ishiguro’s novel, you can make a successful 2-hour show (as Howard Goodall’s Love Story  has just proved).

This isn’t the finished article, but there’s much to admire and enjoy. Alex Loveless is largely successful in conveying the repression of the relationship between the butler and the housekeeper and just as successful with the sociopolitical backdrop of the years leading up to the second world war. The goodallesque score works best when sung by the full chorus but less so in the lighter numbers ( ‘The End of the Pier’  is particularly incongruous – you can almost hear the creators saying ‘now it’s time for a lighter number’).

The two leads – Stephen Rashbrook and Lucy Bradshaw – are both believable and moving, and they are supported by an excellent company of  12 other actors. I was shocked when I realised the off-stage band was only 4 strong, such is the sound they make in the tiny Union Theatre. Director Chris Loveless uses the space very effectively, helped by an excellent design from David Shields (the costumes are particularly good).

This is a very promising first outing  for this show. It needs a bit of work, but I’ll be surprised if we don’t see it again in the not-too-distant future.

Read Full Post »