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Posts Tagged ‘Ed Kleban’

This is the second time The Landor have staged this unique show about American songwriter Ed Kleban. I’m not sure any other theatre in the UK has staged it even once. Given Kleban was the lyricist of A Chorus Line, which has just been revived at The Palladium, the Landor’s timing is impeccable. Frankly, I think it’s a much better show!

The deceased Kleban arrives at the Schubert Theatre in New York, where A Chorus Line is still running, for his own memorial (brilliant entrance!). The eulogies of his friends take us in flashback to various periods of his life from a mental institution in his late teens to his songwriting classes to Columbia Records, where he was a producer, to the rehearsal room of the only show that he would be remembered for. It’s a life full of anxiety and low self-confidence. The characters are real life people like Marvin Hamlish and Michael Bennett, composer and director respectively of A Chorus Line, and Lehman Engel, the leader of the songwriting workshop.

When he died of cancer, he willed his songs to his friends and fourteen years later they were incorporated into this show about his life. When you hear them, you cannot understand why he hadn’t had a string of hit shows. They are particularly strong lyrically, sharp and witty and in some ways Sondheimesque. When you hear his story though, you can see why he didn’t succeed – his insecurity and fragility getting in the way. It’s a bitter-sweet show which captivated me.

Director Robert McWhir has again assembled a fine cast led by a hugely impressive performance as Kleban by John Barr. McWhir’s staging and Robbie O’Reilly’s nimble choreography are outstanding. James Cleeve’s band play the score beautifully. It gets a touch too sentimental in the end, as American musicals have a habit of doing, but it’s absolutely not to be  missed.

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