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Posts Tagged ‘Imelda Warren-Green’

If I was asked to create a musical writing partnership, I’m not sure I’d put together the writer of sophisticated, clever stuff like Sunday in the Park with George & Into the Woods, James Levine, and the man behind chirpy, quirky shows like The 24th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee and the three Falsetto musicals, William Finn, but here they are together, adapting the 2006 hit film of the same name.

Olive is runner-up in the regional Little Miss Sunshine pageant, but gets through to the national final when the winner is disqualified. This necessitates a road-trip for the entire family – mom Sheryl, dad Richard, Grandpa, Uncle Frank and teenage brother Dwayne – from Albuquerque, New Mexico, to Redondo Beach, California. They are beset with problems along the way – car breakdowns, dad’s book deal falling through, the discovery of a condition that will blight Dwayne’s chosen career, a chance meeting with an ex. and his new lover for Frank and something way more serious for grandpa – but they make it.

It’s hard to like a show about an institution you loathe, even if it is sending it up a bit, but its not helped by a fairly pedestrian book and a bland score. The first half in particular fails to engage enough, and the second half makes a customary descent into American musical theatre sentimentality. There’s nothing wrong with Mehmet Ergen’s production, with an excellent design by David Woodhead and some nifty choreography from Anthony Whiteman. I don’t know which of the three Olive’s we had on Tuesday, but she melted hearts on cue. The five leads are uniformly good – Laura Pitt-Pulver, Gabriel Vick, Gary Wilmot, Paul Keating & Sev Keoshgerian – and there are terrific comic turns from Imelda Warren-Green as Linda the bereavement liaison and Miss California.

I just don’t think it was really worth the transatlantic crossing, and why are they serving American cheese at the edgy Arcola anyway?

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This isn’t the 1996 Andrew Lloyd-Webber show, but an earlier 1989 musical by Russell Labey and Richard Taylor written for performance by young people, getting its London professional première. I never saw The Lord’s piece as I’d given up on his pompous mushiness by then, but this is a lovely, sweet chamber musical based on the same 1959 novel, filmed in 1961, given a fine production by Sasha Regan.

The three Bostock children stumble upon a man they believe to be Jesus when they’re looking for somewhere to hide the three kittens they have rescued from drowning by farm labourer Eddie. They can’t tell their widowed dad about either the kittens or The Man, but they do eventually introduce other children to him when they visit with food and other supplies. He is of course the well publicised convict on the run, but their belief makes them blind to that. It beautifully represents that blind faith that children have. Some may call it naivety or gullibility, but it’s really faith. The score has a very English feel, redolent of folk and choral traditions, with particularly fine choruses – think Goodall meets Britten, a touch operatic, with a nod to Sondheim!

The production faithfully represents both the period and Lancashire village life thanks to Nik Corralll’s simple but evocative design. I loved the instrumentation – piano, violin and horn – of David Griffiths’a small ensemble. The young adults playing the children completely capture the world of a child in the 50’s (and I should know!). Grace Osborn, Imelda Warren-Green and Alex James Ellison (who I admired in Apartment 40c last month) are all completely believable as the Bostock children and  Chris Coleman and Callum McArdle are excellent as Dad and The Man respectively. They are supported with a fine ensemble, as we’ve become accustomed to at the Union.

Three more weeks. You know what to do!

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