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Posts Tagged ‘Justin Teasdale’

So the first Sondheim show I’m seeing after he’s left us is his biggest flop, which lasted for just nine performances after its 1964 opening night on Broadway. In recent years, though, the London fringe has been interested in it enough to stage it four times in less than twenty years. This is the fourth, and I’ve seen them all. It’s also the best.

It’s a satire without enough satirical bite. It has a Brechtian quality about it, but that doesn’t quite work either. One could argue it hasn’t stood the test of time, but it’s stage history suggests it never worked in the first place. What this production does, though, is invest it with a more manic quality, much more of a sense of fun and exceptional musical standards. If only someone would rewrite Arthur Laurents’ book.

In a bankrupt town, they search for a miracle that will bring in tourist bucks. A spring provides the opportunity. Mayor Cora Hoover Hooper and her three officials start to exploit their luck, or is it? So far so good. Then there’s the arrival of the residents (cookies) of the local asylum (the cookie jar) under the care of Dr Detmold, led by Nurse Fay Apple, intent on disproving the miracle. This derails it. A new doctor, J Bowden Hapgood, arrives (or is he?) and joins Nurse Apple, now in disguise as a miracle inspector from Lourdes. Let’s just forget the story, shall we?

The show does have three great songs which have had a life outside it, and two of them – There Won’t Be Trumpets and the title song – are sung by the nurse, and Chrystine Symone’s excellent vocals ensure they are highlights. The third – Everybody Says Don’t – showcases Hapgood, and Jordan Broatch delivers this superbly too. I’ve been following Alex Young’s career since she brought me to tears singing Send in the Clowns in A Little Night Music whilst training at the Royal Academy of Music (something Judi Dench and Hannah Waddingham hadn’t previously done!) and here she reveals a real flair for comedy as Cora, and sets the tone of the piece brilliantly.

The show has clearly been cast purely for talent, which makes it an exceptional diverse ensemble. I thought the musical standards achieved by MD Natalie Pound were outstanding and the venue’s troublesome acoustics were mastered by Justin Teasdale. This is a relatively new production team, led by director Georgie Rankcom, who bring new life to a dodgy show. The late Bridewell Theatre did well in 2003, as did Jermyn Street Theatre in 2010 and the Union Theatre in 2017, but for me this comes out tops. Sondheim fans should be flocking to Elephant & Castle!

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