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Posts Tagged ‘Matt Kinley’

There’s nothing like a bit of child labour & abduction, domestic abuse & murder to lift your New Year spirits! It struck me more than ever on Saturday how dark this show is. Perhaps it’s the passage of time, or perhaps its Paul Kerryson’s very un-twee production. It also struck me how great the score is too; Lionel Bart’s masterpiece.

It would be pointless to relate the story; if you don’t know it, you’ve been hibernating. Here’s it’s performed on a brilliant set by Matt Kinley, which transforms from the streets to interiors, managing to convey a sense of 19th century London yet provide intimacy for ‘smaller’ scenes. I particularly liked the way the cast could come forward, in front of the orchestra pit, for choruses. Andrew Wright’s choreography feels fresh yet faithful to the period. It feels very much like a new production, but it’s hard to pin down exactly why. I liked it a lot.

It’s superbly well cast, with Peter Polycarpou one of the best Fagin’s I’ve seen and Oliver Boot a particularly menacing Sikes. Cat Simmons (now replaced by Laura Pitt-Pulford no less) was an authentic Nancy whose voice did full justice to her lovely songs. In the smaller roles I particularly liked James Gant’s Mr Bumble (a fine voice indeed) and Jenna Boyd’s Widow Corney (whose boobs caused much debate and some nervousness that they might not remain within. 8-year-old Lily called them jelly boobies!). The kids in the workhouse and Fagin’s gang were fantastic.

It might be questionable as seasonal fare and it may not be suitable for young children, but my gang of four generations all enjoyed it.

 

 

 

 

 

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Twenty-five years ago we didn’t have blogs and Twitter, so it’s even more of a miracle that this critic-panned show survived. Those like me who were captivated and fell in love with it called our friends and re-booked to see it again and the rest is history. We had people power then too, but I certainly wasn’t expecting to be back at the Barbican where it began 25 years later watching a new touring production.

It’s good to report then that it’s in fine shape and some aspects of the new production have improved upon the original, most notably the scene in the sewers of Paris and the death of Javert. I found the longish prologue a bit clunky, but from the moment the opening music of act one began, the tingling and tension of the muscles returned and by the interval we were cheering the wonderfully uplifting first act finale.

The new staging of directors Laurence Connor & James Powell, with set design by Matt Kinley, does work well – it seems much zippier without feeling rushed or without losing any narrative. I was very impressed by Earl Carpenter’s Javert, Gareth Gates (yes!) Maruis, Jon Robyns’ Enjolras the Thenadier’s of Ashley Artus and Lynne Wilmot. There was much to admire about the acting performance of Valjean’s understudy Christopher Jacobson, though his vocal’s were a bit hit-and-miss in the upper register. Rosalind James as Eponine let herself down by wandering into pop diva mode occasionally and I’m afraid I found Fantine Madalena Alberto’s voice highly unattractive. I don’t know which kids were playing little Costette and Gavroche, but whoever they were they were terrific. The chorus sounded great and the new orchestrations are so much better than the synth-heavy budget version now at the Queens Theatre.

I do wonder if Cameron Mackintosh been around at the beginning of the 20th century, whether Puccini would have had similar long runs with Madam Butterfly and La Boheme, for this is the musical territory this show occupies. When they write the history of 20th Century musical theatre, this will most certainly be in the top ten, in the top five of dramatic musicals and maybe even…..

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