Posts Tagged ‘Elena Roger’

This has always been my ‘problem Sondheim’. I don’t find the story at all convincing, so I find it difficult to engage with it. I admire it, but I don’t love it in the way I love most of his shows.

It’s set in 19th century Italy and the story concerns an army officer, his affair with a married woman and the obsession of the sister of a fellow officer with him. The love affair between Giorgio and Clara rings true, but there’s an implausibility about the behaviour of Fosca and the reaction of Giorgio. It’s played for 110 minutes without a break and the music is almost all sung dialogue rather than songs, so it feels like an opera rather than a musical.

On its first London outing 14 years ago, it was a bit lost on a bigger West End stage. A more ‘chamber’ staging here at the Donmar is better suited to the piece and Christopher Oram’s period design is simply superb. Jamie Lloyd’s staging is stunning, elegant and flowing, much helped by Scott Ambler’s brilliant choreography / movement. A perfect combination of period style and elegance.

Elena Roger follows her extraordinary Evita and Piaf with another fine performance as Fosca, but it was David Thaxton who blew me away with a terrific and appropriately passionate performance as Giorgio. Scarlett Strallen (yes, another Strallen – is there a production line?!) also impresses as Clara. In fact, there isn’t a fault in the casting, with every role excellently played and exceptionally sung.  Alan Williams’ small 9-piece string and woodwind dominated band played the gentle lush score beautifully.

Whatever you think of the show, it was and still is original and ground-breaking and here it’s given a definitive production in a theatre it seems to be made for. It won’t be the highlight of Sondheim’s 80th year for me, but I’m very glad I saw it again.

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