Posts Tagged ‘Kaisa Hammarlund’

It’s taken 22 years for this Jane Tesori musical to cross the Atlantic. She wrote it with Brian Crawley 7 years before her collaboration with Tony Kushner, Caroline or Change, recently revived and now in the West End, which she followed another 7 years on with a collaboration with Lisa Kron for Fun Home, premiered here last year at the Young Vic, and may yet be West End bound. This is a newer one-act version which was on Broadway in 2014

Scarred in an accident when she was thirteen, the 25-year-old Violet begins a journey by Greyhound bus through four states, across half of America, from Spruce Pine NC via Nashville and Memphis to Tulsa OK. It’s the 60’s and civil rights and the Vietnam war preoccupy the country, but her preoccupation is getting to meet a TV evangelist who claims he can heal. Along the way she is befriended by a woman visiting her son and grandchildren in Nashville and two GI’s, one black and one white, one protective and one predatory, both of whom fall for her as she does them.

It’s a journey of a lot more than the miles travelled, during which we flash back to scenes with her dad as both her older and younger self. Tesori’s score is complex, eclectic Americana, largely sung through, with musical twists and turns which keep you on your toes, but it could have done with less volume to bring out the subtlety and ensure all of the lyrics are audible to everyone.

Morgan Large has brilliantly reconfigured the theatre into an intimate traverse space with a revolve which emphasises the sense of travel. I’ve seen Kaisa Hammarlund in many supporting roles, so its great to see her embrace and rise to the challenge of such a difficult lead role. Jay Marsh & Matthew Harvey are excellent as the GI’s and in a superb supporting cast there’s a terrific turn from Kenneth Avery Clark as the preacher. This is the first Charing Cross Theatre co-production with their new Japanese partners, and director Shuntaro Fujita, an assistant to one of my theatrical hero’s, the late Yukio Ninagawa, makes an assured UK debut.

It has its faults, but it’s an original piece which is well worth catching, Kaisa Hammarlund’s performance alone is worth the ticket price.

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This was the first musical adaptation of a Shakespeare pay; well, there haven’t been that many in the 75 years since it was written. I don’t think we’ve seen it in London since Judi Dench’s production at the Open Air Theatre back in 1991, which is a bit of a puzzle as Shakespeare’s comedy of mistaken identities lends itself to musical theatre adaptation and this show has a pretty good score, including the standards Falling In Love With Love and This Can’t Be Love.

In this production, the audience is on three sides with a small, but little used, stage on the fourth; when all 18 were dancing, they were in danger of falling over each other! It’s quite a challenge for a small theatre and a relatively inexperienced company, and in the somewhat ragged first half, this showed when things got a bit too close to panto with performances a bit too broad. Things picked up significantly in the second half, though, by which time it was steaming.

Perhaps what puts others off producing it is the need for eight principles and its here that the Union has done particularly well. The twins – Aaron Hayes Rogers & Matthew Cavendish and Oliver Seymour-Marsh & Alan McHale were well-matched and invested great physical energy into the many entrances and exits of these roles. The girls fared particularly well, with Carrie Sutton’s Adriana, Natalie Woods’ Luce and Cara Dudgeon’s Luciana delivering the show’s highlight, Sing For Your Supper, superbly. Kaisa Hammurlund leads the courtesan’s extremely well in the deliciously titled closing number Oh, Diogenes!

It’s great to see this Rogers & Hart show again after so long. I hadn’t realised until I read the programme note that part of Lorenz Hart’s motivation for doing it was to provide a role for his brother Teddy and a lookalike he continually came up against at auditions, enabling them both the get a Dromio role! If they could tighten up the first half, this revival would go from good to great. As it is, still worth catching.

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The show must go on spirit was alive at the Rose Theatre in Kingston last night when the actress playing Milady – a rather significant role – was taken ill at short notice. Their novel solution was for director Francis Matthews to read the part, script in hand, whilst composer George Stiles sang the part from the side of the stage.  The only braver stand-in I’ve ever seen was when writer / director Terry Johnson stood in for David Haig during the original run of Dead Funny at Hampstead Theatre – a part the writer / director had decided needed full-frontal nudity!

It was only the second preview, but the show is in good shape. The book by Peter Raby & the director and the lyrics of Paul Leigh tell the story well, with a good balance between serious story-telling and tongue-in-cheek humour. I’ve never understood why a composer as talented as George Stiles hasn’t had the success Just So and Honk suggested he would; his score for this is very good indeed. Simon Higlett has erected a multi-layered set with lots of entrances and exits which facilitates a pacy staging with plenty of swash and buckle. It’s choreographed by someone more experienced in plays than musicals and most of the time this helps, but the actors aren’t yet comfortable with the movement required of them. I think the best way to describe it is Les Mis Light – and that’s not a criticism!

I really liked Michael Pickering’s D’Artagnan, a combination of fearlessness and naivety. Hal Folwer, Paul Thornly and Matt Rawle are all excellent as the musketeers (the latter is clearly specialising in swash-buckling roles having given us Zorro fairly recently). Kaisa Hammarlund, with four Menier musicals under her belt, is perfect as the love interest, and Iain Fletcher and Kirsty Hoiles (straight out of Spend Spend Spend) make a fine King & Queen. In fact, it’s a great company with a great seven piece band.

This show will clearly grow; based on this showing I think the Rose have a hit on their hands and I hope the proposed West End transfer comes off. More than great seasonal fare, but great seasonal fare nonetheless.

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