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Posts Tagged ‘Martin Connor’

I’d almost forgotten what a great show this is. It’s packed full of standards (Wunderbar, So In Love, Always True To You In My Fashion, From This Moment On…..), has cracking openers to both acts (Another Op’nin, Another Show and Too Darn Hot), a superb comedy number in Brush Up Your Shakespeare and some of the best lyrics Cole Porter ever wrote.

We’re in Baltimore where a theatre company is about to open Taming of the Shrew, improved by a team of six new writers! The on-off relationship of producer / director / actor Fred and Hollywood star and leading lady Lilli mirrors Petruchio & Katherine in Shakespeare’s play. Add to this the fact that someone has posed as Fred, resulting in him being chased by a pair of gangsters, and Lilli is being courted by a General close to the president and you have a terrific set up for musical comedy.

I first saw the show when the RSC did it at the Old Vic 24 years ago and I think the only other time was a Broadway transfer to London ten years ago. I won’t easily forget the RSC production as I was on the Laurence Olivier Awards panel that year and had to bully the Society of West End Theatre (as it was then called) to get an extra statuette made so that we could give the Best Supporting Actor in a Musical award to both John Barton and Emil Wolk as we weren’t prepared to choose one over the other! Another memory is of taking a bunch of Commonwealth colleagues to see it and hearing one of them say it brought back fond memories of seeing Shakespeare in Rawalpindi! To say that this stands up well against both these productions is indeed a compliment.

Martin Connor has done some excellent work at GSMD and this is amongst his best. He has assembled one of the finest casts I’ve ever seen here. Leading man Alex Knox is outstanding, with particularly good vocals; he makes a great job of Where Is The Life That Late I Led. He is well matched by Alex Clatworthy as Lilli / Katherine. Kae Alexander is a superb Lois / Bianca, handling Always True To You In My Fashion brilliantly. The comic honours are shared between Lewis Goody & Stephen Wilson as the gangsters (who give us a fine music hall-style turn in Brush Up Your Shakespeare) and Kingsley Ben-Adir as the General. It was great to hear an orchestra of 27 play this lovely score (MD Steven Edis). Joseph Pitcher’s excellent choreography shines in Too Darn Hot.

Another big Broadway show, South Pacific, will be opening next door at the Barbican Theatre in a few weeks. It will cost you over five times to see it, but I bet it won’t be anywhere near five times better. This is an excellent production of a great show with added youthful enthusiasm and another big hit for GSMD.

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This was Kander & Ebb’s (Cabaret, Chicago…..) last show; in fact, Ebb ebbed away and died during (but not because of) it! It was nominated for eight Tony’s when it was produced on Broadway in 2007, and won David Hyde Pierce his Tony – rather spookily he was across town making his UK debut in La Bete on the same evening! I think this Guildhall School of Music & Drama production might be its UK premiere.

It’s a comedy whodunnit which takes place on stage and backstage at an out-of-town opening of a Broadway-bound musical in Boston. The inspector who calls turns out to be a musicals fan and there are three murders to solve and a show to put on.

It’s not a great show, but it’s fun. The book and music are just OK but the lyrics are good and it gets a spirited production by Martin Connor. It’s not the best GSMD cast I’ve seen, but there are excellent performances from Fred Lancaster as the cop, Paloma Oakenfold as the producer and Patrick Osborne as the British director.

Well worth catching if you’re interested in musical theatre and guaranteed to put a smile on your face.

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