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Posts Tagged ‘Gary Trainor’

This was the ninth and last show from the team most famous for Fiddler on the Roof. It had two runs in New York, in 1970 as The Rothschilds and in 1990 in this reworked version, both running over a year. The first garnered nine Tony nominations and won two. This is its UK premiere, with two leads from the 1990 production and both director and designer crossing the Atlantic with it.

It tells the story of the beginning of the Rothschild dynasty, from shopkeeper Mayer Rothschild arriving in Frankfurt, trading old coins with the Prince to whose bankers he becomes agent, until he usurps them to begin his financial empire. He sends his five sons across Europe to collect the Prince’s debts and he underwrites the bonds that fund the war against Napoleon in exchange for a bill of rights for Jews at its successful conclusion. The Prince rats on the deal but when it comes to future transactions, the Rothschilds take the upper hand, the title Baron and begin a successful financial house that continues until the present time. Though it’s the family’s story, the plight of Jews in Europe at this time is the heart of the piece

It’s a fascinating true story. I’m sure the book by Frederic Morton on which it’s based is a good read, and I think it would have made a good play, but I’m not sure a musical is the right form. Jerry Bock’s score is serviceable but rather dull, with a classical crossover style which doesn’t always feel comfortable. Sherman Yellen’s book and Sheldon Harnick’s lyrics do tell the tale well, though. The production seemed a bit lifeless, with both design and staging little more than pedestrian, as if they weren’t really confident in the material. In a good cast, I particularly liked Gary Trainor as son Nathan, who heads to London, and Tony Timberlake’s cameos as two contrasting princes.

One to add to my musicals collection, but that’s about it for me.

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When I discovered the master of mush was going to adapt Richard Linklater’s 2003 film I was a bit baffled. Julian Fellowes also seemed an unlikely candidate for the book, and Glen Slater only a bit more likely as lyricist. Only when I read the reviews did I decide to give it a go.

The story concerns failed rock musician Dewey Finn, who impersonates his best friend and temporary landlord Ned Schneebly to get a teaching job at a prep school. He discovers the musical talents of his pupils and decides to mould them into a rock band and enter them into the Battle of the Bands, up against his old band, No Vacancy, which dumped him. He manages to cover up the fact his class have only been studying the history and practice of rock music and rehearsing the band until the day of the contest, when both the principal and the parents find them at it. Dewey disappears, but the kids won’t give up and they find him and persuade him to take yet another risk and perform at ‘the battle’, after which all is forgiven in a sea of goodwill. It follows a similar path as last Saturday’s Strictly Ballroom – allow kids to be themselves and their true talents will emerge.

It’s even more fun on stage than on screen, largely because of the talent and infectious energy of the thirteen kids and their pied piper Dewey. There’s something delightful about seeing pre-teenage kids playing cracking guitar licks, mean bass lines, thrilling drum solos and keyboard pyrotechnics on what sometimes seem like giants instruments, and the singing and dancing (mostly jumping!) is terrific. It’s also very funny, even more so than I remember the film being. I got the alternate Dewey, Gary Trainor, who was no second best – superb – as was Rosanna Hyland, covering the role of the school Principal, with sensational vocals. The kids were ridiculously good.

I surprised myself by how much I succumbed to the infectious charm of Laurence Connor’s excellent production. The master of mush has, at least for the moment, become the master of rock. Great fun.

 

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Very late to the party with this one, but it was a lovely party. All the best ‘jukebox’ musicals are biographical stories of the songwriters / performers whose songs populate them – Jersey Boys, Sunny Afternoon and now Beautiful, the Carole King Musical. I was surprised when I realised this ended as she found fame as a singer-songwriter with the iconic album Tapestry, but in the end it made perfect sense. I also wasn’t expecting fellow songwriters Mann & Weill to feature so much, or indeed other songs from the age of the contract songwriters.

It is an extraordinary real life story. She wrote her first commercial song – It Might As Well Rain Until September – aged 16 and was immediately put under contract by Donnie Kirshner to write songs for acts like The Drifters and The Shirelles, pairing with school friend and wannabe playwright Gerry Goffin as lyricist. They also became an item, she became pregnant by Goffin and they married. They became good friends with fellow contract songwriters Barry Mann and Cynthia Weill but were also professional rivals. Goffin’s infidelity eventually destroyed both their marriage and their songwriting partnership, just as Mann and Weill’s long courtship finally resulted in their marriage. King found herself writing songs alone, with no-one in mind to sing them, soon realising they were her personal story and meant for her and there began her second career and the conclusion of the show.

It begins and ends on the Carnegie Hall stage at the concert which signposts this second extraordinary stage of her life. In between we follow her life chronologically. As songs are written (by both partnerships) they morph into performances by the artists for whom they are composed, as the show moves seamlessly from scenes at home into the office and the studio. Early on there’s a lovely Neil Sedaka running joke (he dated her at school and wrote Oh Carol about her. She was also at school with Paul Simon!) and lots of other nice touches, most classic New York Jewish humour. I very much liked Douglas McGrath’s book and of course the songs are wonderful.

Katie Brayben is sensational as Carole, a fine actress with a glorious voice and spot on Brooklyn accent who ages and matures before your very eyes. Her three co-stars, Lorna Want as feisty independent Cynthia, Alan Morrissey as the troubled Gerry and Ian McIntosh as hypochondriac Barry, are all excellent in both acting and vocal departments and Gary Trainor is very good in the non-singing but pivotal role of Donnie Kirshner, and there’s a nice cameo from Glynis Barber as Carole’s mom. They are supported by a fine ensemble of twelve paying multiple roles, eight dancers and a great sounding ten-piece band under MD Matt Smith (presumably not the Dr Who one).

This is a lovely heart-warming, feel-good show which is also a true story with an exceptional soundtrack that virtually defines the period from the late 50’s through the 60’s to the early 70’s. I’m so glad I caught up with it.

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