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Posts Tagged ‘Matthew Cavendish’

This is more of a rediscovery than a revival, a 1980 musical which may well have remained lost but for the ever enterprising Finborough Theatre and Mercurius. Written by a man in late career, David Heneker, who’d done eight shows before, including Expresso Bongo, Half A Sixpence and Charlie Girl, and another, Warner Brown, in early career, it seems to have been a critical success but a commercial flop.

Like Jerry Herman’s Mack and Mabel, it’s set in the silent movie era and features real life characters like film-makers D W Griffith and Adolph Zukor of Paramount, actresses Mary Pickford and her friend Lillian Gish and the godfather of silent comedy, Mack Sennett. Over sixteen years, Griffith makes serious epics with Gish and Zukor populist fare with the eternally juvenile Pickford. As it ends, United Artists is born and talkies arrive. The personal relationships are interwoven with the history.

It’s a very good score and the book, in this scaled-down version, is excellent. They’ve reintroduced two songs that never made it to the West End, one which accuses Griffith of racism and the rather chirpier They Don’t Call ‘em Flickers too. MD Harry Haden-Brown plays the score alone on piano, which somehow suits the silent movie aesthetic. Jenny Eastop’s simple production, virtually without decor, allows the show to move and breathe.

I loved Matthew Cavendish’s Sennett, all his work with Mischief Theatre giving him great physical comedy skills, but a great voice too. Sophie Linder-Lee is a delight as Mary Pickford, who’s much more savvy than the girliness would have you believe. Emily Langham’s performance as the more serious and restrained Lillian Gish (who apparently attended the 1980 premiere), somewhat in awe of Griffith, is lovely too. Jonathan Leinmuller has great presence as Griffith, and there are five fine supporting performances, with the MD stepping forward to play a role.

A very worthwhile rediscovery given a fine production. Yet more gold stars for the Finborough.

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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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