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Posts Tagged ‘Leslie Bricusse’

This Frank Wildhorn & Leslie Bricusse show has never had a West End run, though it has toured the UK (I saw it a few years back in Wimbledon with Paul Nicholas in the title role). On Broadway it ran for c.4 years (but never made a profit). It has now been scaled down for the Union Theatre as the first production by Morphic Graffiti with an interesting configuration which limits the performing space but facilitates some clever set changes and dramatic intensity.

There’s little point in telling the story (who doesn’t know it?) which in this production starts by Jekyll seeking approval for his research from an NHS Trust board and ends with what seems like a production line of murders. The score is a little too pompous in a Lloyd-Webberesque way, though there are some nice solo numbers and good choruses. The first half is a bit slow but in the second half, when we get to some serious carnage, it zips along in an excellent staging by Luke Fredericks. It seems like a better show here, which given the resources relative to the touring production, is a big compliment.

I’m sure Stewart Charlesworth’s design budget was miniscule, but what he achieves is highly inventive and suitably atmospheric. With 16 actors playing 18 + characters, it can get a bit cramped, but it moves from hospital to house to street to church to brothel etc. with slick ease (apart from one moment when a mini-revolve stuck). Ben Walden’s projections and Catherine Webb’s lighting made a significant contribution.

After a slightly shaky start, Tim Rogers came into his own as Jekyll / Hyde, bringing a brilliant manic intensity to Hyde in the second act. Joanna Strand as his fiancée and Madalena Alberto as the prostitute both act and sing very well and there is as fine a supporting cast as you’d wish for, with an auspicious professional debut from Anthony Lawrence as Stride. The musical standards are high and I loved the orchestration of keyboards, cello, acoustic guitar and woodwind, which Dean Austin’s band played beautifully.

It’s not a great show, but I’d doubt if it could get a better small-scale production than this one – and an impressive debut for this new company.

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What an odd musical this is. A Brechtain allegory on the British class system by Leslie Bricusse & Anthony Newley with a (long) pun for a title! Waiting for Godot – The Musical.

Set in a Big Top (well, this in the Finbrorough, so not so big – but a superb use of the space) with a game board floor on which an incomprehensible game between Sir and Cocky is taking place, in a Mornington Crescent sort of way. Sir appears to make up the rules to suit himself; Cocky can’t possibly win. Our other characters are The Kid, The Girl, The Negro (this show is 47 years old!), The Bully and six ‘Urchins’ dressed as Pierrot’s just like Oh What A Lovely War. As I said a, Brechtian allegory in a Beckett frame! I loved it.

It’s got some great songs, including standards Who Can I Turn To, Look At That Face, The Joker and Feeling Good, which are sung brilliantly by a first class cast and played miraculously by Ross Leadbetter on solo piano. Somehow, the Finborough have attracted hugely experienced director Ian Judge and hugely talented designer Tim Goodchild to give this odd little show a stunning production. Matthew Ashforde is outstanding as Cocky and Oliver Beamish a perfect Sir. There’s excellent support from Lucy Watts as The Kid and Terry Doe as The Negro and a fine ensemble.

It’s not a great show, but I doubt it could get a better production. It’s a bit baffling in 2011, so it must have been utterly mind-blowing in 1964 and positively jaw-dropping when it hit Broadway a year later. It toured the UK but never made the West End, so this is a fabulous opportunity to catch a fascinating rarity and you shouldn’t miss it.

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