Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘Dex Lee’

This is a musical based on a poem! Somewhat bizarrely, another musical based on the same poem opened in the same 2010 season in New York. This one, by Michael John LaChiusa, was on Broadway; the other, by Andrew Lippa, ran Off-Broadway. It crosses the Atlantic seven years on to open the newly rebranded The Other Palace, formerly St. James’ Theatre. Given it lasted less than two months over there, I wasn’t expecting to be quite so blown away, though more so by the terrific staging and sensational performances than the material..

It’s a slice of roaring twenties decadence. Queenie and Burrs are Vaudeville entertainers who form a stormy, abusive relationship. They throw the wild party of the title, fuelled by alcohol and cocaine, resulting in all sorts of sexual activity and depravity. When the party’s over, there are hangovers, regrets and recriminations, before its tragic conclusion. It feels more like a song cycle than a musical (and there are almost forty of them!). Above all, it’s a showcase for the performers.

The story is subservient to the jazz-influenced score. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a show with so many showstoppers and so many show-stealing opportunities, distributed evenly so that almost everyone gets their moment. The longer first half doesn’t let up and by the interval I was exhausted; I think I’d have liked more light and shade. This is delivered in the shorter and darker second half with a series of sensational solo turns, many of which bring the house down. 

Soutra Gilmour’s design has a ‘stairway to heaven’ and terrific costumes. Drew McOnie continues his successful transition from choreographer to director / choreographer with a staging that took my breath away and choreography that was positively thrilling. Theo Jamieson’s eight-piece band sounded terrific.

I’m not sure where to start with the performances as they were all stars. John Owen-Jones was in fine acting and vocal form as Burrs, miles away from his usual territory, and Frances Ruffelle was clearly relishing every moment as Queenie. US star Donna McKechnie was a treat in her cameo as Delores. We’re used to scene-stealing turns from Tiffany Graves and Victoria Hamilton-Barritt and they deliver yet again. Sebastien Torkia & Steven Serlin make a superb double-act as the budding producers, particularly in their second half comic duet. Casting women as ambisexual brothers Oscar & Phil D’Armano was an inspired idea and Genesis Lynea & Gloria Obianyo are outstanding. Dex Lee and Ako Mitchell are superb as Jackie and Eddie respectively. It’s hard to imagine a better cast.

This exceeded my expectations; it’s rare to see such faultless casting and such a stunning production. Head to Victoria while you have the chance. 

Read Full Post »

When I left the first outing of this show, in Stratford 27 years ago, I had two questions – ‘What on earth were they thinking of, turning this into a musical?’ and ‘Why did the RSC get involved?’ I think my companions’ question was ‘Why the hell did he bring is to this?’

Some hot-shot American producer had persuaded the RSC to première a musical of Stephen King’s first novel (horror, obviously) with a book by the man for whom the screenplay for the film of the book was his debut and music and lyrics by people who’d never done a stage musical before (though they had written for Alan Parker’s film Fame). It was directed by Terry Hands, whose only previous musical was Pete Nichols brilliant satirical panto Poppy. They’d even persuaded Barbara Cook to come over (though she tried to exit after almost being decapitated on opening night with a close encounter with a piece of the set). Despite the poor critical reception, they still showered it with millions of dollars and took it to Broadway, where it closed three days later and went down in history as one of the greatest flops of all time. I never expected to see it again.

I don’t know whether it’s the passage of time, the subsequent cult success of the teen horror genre, re-working of the show or just a bloody good production and cast, but it’s a whole lot better in this Southwark Theatre revival. It’s still a bit incongruous, the music is fairly formulaic pop-rock and the production may be papering over the cracks in the story, but I think its well worth catching. It starts in the school showers as naive Carrie is shocked by the onset of her first period, leading to humiliation by her fellow students and ongoing bullying. Her bible-bashing mother knows she’s an ‘odd’ / ‘special’ girl and tries to prevent her socialising, but fellow student Sue, full of remorse for the humiliation, decides to make amends by loaning her boyfriend as her partner for the school prom, an offer she can’t refuse. Sadly, some of the other girls are determined to continue the humiliation at the prom, which unleashes Carrie’s considerable powers for revenge. Cue blood and carnage.

This is all very well staged by Gary Lloyd, with a very good design from Tim McQuillen-Wright and excellent special effects by Jeremy Chernick. The musical standards are high, with a great six-piece band under MD Mark Crossland. The young cast is outstanding, with fine leading performances from Evelyn Hoskins as Carrie, Greg Miller-Burns as Tommy and Sarah McNicholas as Sue and Gabriella Wiliams and Dex Lee as the baddies. Kim Criswell and Jodie Jacobs are both excellent in the adult roles of mother and teacher respectively.

It’s not a great show, but it is a fine production and producer Paul Taylor-Mills should be congratulated for giving it another chance, as he did recently with that other flop Batboy. Two more weeks to catch it, and you should. Oh, and the writer Lawrence D Cohen is writing a book about his Carrie experience and it’s going to be called ‘ What Were They Thinking?’!

Read Full Post »