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Posts Tagged ‘Diego Pitarch’

This was one of those early 60’s US TV comedy shows, along with The Munsters the first foray into gothic-comedy-horror, that became a regular feature of the TV viewing of my youth, though I was surprised to find that they only made 64 episodes over 2-3 years (mind you, thats five times as many as Fawlty Towers!). A brief movie franchise came along in the early 90’s. What I hadn’t realised was that it all started with cartoons in The New Yorker in the 30’s. This musical adaptation originated in 2010. I saw an amateur production at the Edinburgh Fringe two years ago, but it’s taken until now to get a professional production in the UK. I caught it at the WMC in Cardiff.

It’s very faithful to the TV series, with family members Gonez, Morticia, Wednesday, Pugsley, Uncle Fester, Grandma and butler Lurch all featuring. The story revolves around Wednesday’s attraction to, and possible engagement with, the rather more normal Lucas Beineke, son of Mal and Alice. A group of dead ancestors – Viking, Roman, Tudor, Warrior, Matador, Geisha, Madam, Ballerina, Jester and Ringmaster – complete the cast of characters. It’s fairly predictable oddballs-meet-normals stuff, though the book by Marshall Brickman & Rick Elice (responsible for the rather different Jersey Boys) is often funny. Andrew Lippa’s music and lyrics are OK but not particularly memorable.

Diego Pitarch’s designs precisely recreate the family home, and family, most know very well. Matthew White’s staging was functional, but didn’t sparkle. The star of the show for me was Cameron Blakely’s Gomez, with great comic timing, lithe movement and a glint in his eye. Carrie Hope Fletcher is excellent as Wednesday, though her vocals become a bit X-Factor at times. Dickon Gough plays Lurch perfectly straight until his delicious exit at the curatin call.

It’s a big gig for the ever enterprising producers Aria Entertainment, it was good to catch it, but I doubt the tour will make it back to London.

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This re-working of the Gershwin’s’ 1930 show Girl Crazy came over sixty years later and was a huge hit on both Broadway and in the West End. It was a hit all over again five years ago when the Open Air Theatre mounted it, then transferred it ‘up West’ (https://garethjames.wordpress.com/2011/08/07/crazy-for-you). Now this third outing in Newbury’s lovely Watermill Theatre makes it a triple hit.

Ken Ludwig (best known for stage comedies) made significant changes to the original story, a culture clash between the wealth and sophistication of New York City and the somewhat wilder west. In his adaptation, stage-struck Bobby Child, who’s tried and failed to get into the Zangler Follies, is sent by his businesswoman mom to foreclose on a theatre in a Nevada desert town. Theatre owner Everett Baker is a former entertainer who’s deceased wife used to grace the stage with him. Billy falls in love with Everett’s daughter Polly and ships the Follies girls west in an attempt to rescue the theatre and get his girl. His strategy includes impersonating Zangler, which becomes problematic when the real Zangler turns up. In a bizarre but delicious addition, the Fodor’s of travel guide fame (British here, though they weren’t really) turn up to add a third culture to the mix.

The Gershwin’s score has been supplemented by numbers from a handful of their other shows, so the standards count is sky high – Someone To Watch Over Me, Embraceable You, I Got Rhythm, They Can’t Take That Away From Me, Nice Work If You Can Get It……and the musical standards are high too under Catherine Jayes supervision.  As usual here, the actors double-up as musicians, but the musical quality is so good you’d never know it if your eyes were closed.

The Watermill really does seem like a small-town American theatre, a small shed-like building with the addition of a gold proscenium arch and red curtains by regular designer Diego Pitarch, whose costumes are excellent. This is the first show I’ve seen by their new AD Paul Hart, and his staging is at least a match for all those other lovely summer musicals we’ve seen here. Choreographer Nathan M Wright works wonders in the small space. Watching burly, clumsy cowboys burst into dance alongside showgirls is a delight. There’s a particularly good comic scene where the Zanglers meet, and Tom Chambers climbing of, and dangling from, the balcony had us gasping on more than one occasion.

I wasn’t keen on the West End production of Top Hat, or Chambers performance in it, but here he is outstanding in every respect. Caroline Sheen is lovely as Polly, feisty and tomboyish, melting in the end. With another dozen performers, it’s a big ensemble for a small stage, and a very talented one too.

I do love these summer outings to the Watermill…..

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National Youth Music Theatre are celebrating their 40th anniversary with a programme of four shows, of which two have timely World War I themes – a revival of 2014’s Brass which I will be seeing in Hackney Empire in a couple of weeks time, and this ambitious new musical at the Rose Theatre Kingston – and its great to report that its ambition has really paid off with this one.

It’s 1916 and a group of kids are trying to figure out what they can do for the war effort when the eldest of them lies about his age and enlists. Those left behind eventually decide to build boat to sail to France and help, but a group of local bullies is intent on scuppering their plans. However, what they don’t have in might they more than make up for with ingenuity and bravery. It has a great children’s adventure story feel to it and its heart-warming stuff.

It has an outstanding score by Jenna Donnelly and Ethan Lewis Maltby, very melodic, with rousing choruses and some complex sub-operatic moments. It’s superbly played by a 12-piece band under Candida Caldicot and the young cast more than rise to the demands of the score with some terrific singing. Director Kate Golledge makes great use of the Rose’s wide apron stage, with a backdrop of maps and a handful of wooden boxes and towers by Diego Pitarch, whose costumes are excellent. Darragh O’Leary’s choreography and movement creates some great moments. Above all, though, its a stage brimming with talent that sweeps you away – twenty-seven young actors whose enthusiasm and energy is completely infectious.

I’ve been going to NYMT shows for many years (though not 40!) and this is as good as any. When you look at their alumni, the chances are very high that you’ll be seeing some of these on professional stages in the future. Only twenty years ago I was seeing Sheridan Smith in three shows. Stars are born indeed.

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Well, I never thought I’d confess to going to a Barry Manilow show – such is the draw of the Watermill’s musicals, with acting musicians on their pocket-handkerchief stage. This is the fourth I’ve seen here (plus another four on transfer to London) and though its is far from the best, largely because it isn’t a particularly good show, its well worth a visit to Newbury.

It’s a simple tale centring on one of those ‘cabaret’ clubs in post-war New York, though it jumps to Havana – in a Guys & Dolls sort of way – much like the clubs themselves did. Lola gets her break then falls into the clutches of a baddie but gets rescued, obviously. Along the way, we get a multitude of styles from Chicagoesque sexy to farcical comedy taking in a fair dose of camp (well, it is directed by Craig Revel Horwood), lots of feathers and even a dance routine where showgirls meet S&M boys! It doesn’t take itself seriously though, so you’re laughing along rather than laughing at it.

This ensemble may be the most talented they’ve ever put together here. Just 12 of them play every part and every instrument, including drums, piano, trumpet, clarinet, sax, guitar and bass! There isn’t a weak link in the casting. It should be preposterous watching a couple of scantily clad and feathered showgirls dance and play saxophone, but it isn’t.

Designer Diego Pitarch works wonders to create a two-tier set including a proscenium, grand piano, entrance stairs and four palm trees in a space not much bigger than my bedroom, his costumes are terrific  and there are even plastic flashing palm trees in the garden! Sarah Travis orchestrations are masterly – sounding just like a club big band when it needs to sound like a club big band.

Craig Revel Horwood has successfully picked up John Doyle’s ‘house style’ and you’d have thought that after eight such shows you’d tire of it, but you don’t. This proves that whatever the show, you are in awe of the talent and ingenuity of it all.

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