Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘Matthew White’

This was one of those early 60’s US TV comedy shows, along with The Munsters the first foray into gothic-comedy-horror, that became a regular feature of the TV viewing of my youth, though I was surprised to find that they only made 64 episodes over 2-3 years (mind you, thats five times as many as Fawlty Towers!). A brief movie franchise came along in the early 90’s. What I hadn’t realised was that it all started with cartoons in The New Yorker in the 30’s. This musical adaptation originated in 2010. I saw an amateur production at the Edinburgh Fringe two years ago, but it’s taken until now to get a professional production in the UK. I caught it at the WMC in Cardiff.

It’s very faithful to the TV series, with family members Gonez, Morticia, Wednesday, Pugsley, Uncle Fester, Grandma and butler Lurch all featuring. The story revolves around Wednesday’s attraction to, and possible engagement with, the rather more normal Lucas Beineke, son of Mal and Alice. A group of dead ancestors – Viking, Roman, Tudor, Warrior, Matador, Geisha, Madam, Ballerina, Jester and Ringmaster – complete the cast of characters. It’s fairly predictable oddballs-meet-normals stuff, though the book by Marshall Brickman & Rick Elice (responsible for the rather different Jersey Boys) is often funny. Andrew Lippa’s music and lyrics are OK but not particularly memorable.

Diego Pitarch’s designs precisely recreate the family home, and family, most know very well. Matthew White’s staging was functional, but didn’t sparkle. The star of the show for me was Cameron Blakely’s Gomez, with great comic timing, lithe movement and a glint in his eye. Carrie Hope Fletcher is excellent as Wednesday, though her vocals become a bit X-Factor at times. Dickon Gough plays Lurch perfectly straight until his delicious exit at the curatin call.

It’s a big gig for the ever enterprising producers Aria Entertainment, it was good to catch it, but I doubt the tour will make it back to London.

Advertisements

Read Full Post »

For the second time in a month, I am in awe of a talented team’s ability to breathe new life into a somewhat twee old warhorse. This is as much of a treat as Half a Sixpence.

It’s a love story set in a perfumerie in 1940’s Budapest. Amalia is in love with her pen pal ‘Dear Friend’ who’s closer to home than she thinks. One of the shop’s sales clerks is having an affair with owner Maraczek’s wife. Young delivery boy Arpad is desperate to become a sales clerk. It’s the third adaptation of Hungarian Miklos Laszio’s novel, following a James Stewart film and a Judy Garland film musical, originally staged in London in 1964. They don’t come sweeter than this.

I wasn’t that keen on the 1994 West End revival, in which life imitated art as it brought stars John Gordon Sinclair and Ruthie Henshall together, but I warmed to it in the Landor’s revival last year. Now, like Sixpence, a combination of perfect ingredients – venue, staging & choreography, design, and performances – combine to create what may prove to be the definitive production. There’s a terrific café scene to end Act I, and the second half is full of show-stopping numbers like Arpad’s Try Me, Amalia’s Where’s My Shoe, Georg’s title song and Ilona’s Trip to the Library

Let’s start with Paul Farnsworth’s stunning design, creating a beautiful period parfumerie (with a lot of bottles), with no less than four revolves, that smoothly turns into a cafe, bedroom and the street, and his gorgeous costumes. Rebecca Howell’s chirpy choreography is a delight, especially in the somewhat manic Twelve Days if Christmas. Catherine Jayes’ band plays brilliantly.

The whole cast is terrific, but Scarlett Strallen deserves a special mention, returning to the Menier after her success in Candide, as does Mark Umbers as Georg, returning to the scene of two previous triumphs in Sweet Charity & Merrily We Roll Along, as her love interest. Katherine  Kingsley provides another of her show-stealing turns as Ilona and 17-year-old Callum Howells is an absolute delight as Arpad. It’s staged to perfection by Matthew White, who already has three Menier hits under his belt.

This is an absolutely unmissable seasonal treat.

 

Read Full Post »

This cult musical, which takes a real life event as its starting point, itself started life on the fringe in late 90’s LA. It ran 8 months Off-Broadway 4 years later and had its UK première at West Yorkshire Playhouse 3 years after that. Then they transferred it to the Shaftesbury Theatre, about the best place in the world to kill a show like this! So here it is ten years on in the much more suitable Southwark Playhouse in a new B-movie interpretation, the fourth show by the inventive Morphic Graffiti, in a co-production with Paul Taylor-Mills.

Three teenage friends stumble across Bat Boy in a local cave. He’s virtually naked, with pointed ears and fangs, and moves like an animal. They take him to the Sheriff who in turn takes him to the local vet. He’s not at home, but his wife Meredith takes him in, renames him Edgar and soon takes him under her wings, taming, civilising and mothering him. Her husband, Dr Parker, and the rest of the small-town community of Hope Falls, West Virginia, are less welcoming, not helped by the fact Bat Boy had attacked Ruthie and is now rumoured to have slaughtered a whole herd of cattle. What follows is the battle of the outsider, with the Parker’s leading the opposing sides.

The pop-rock score is a bit inconsistent, veering to more pompous pop-opera as the show progresses, but there are some good songs and a terrific opening sequence to the second half at an evangelical rally, where they attempt to save Bat Boy’s soul. It’s over-long at 2.5 hours, particularly after ‘the big reveal’ when even the most inventive staging can’t cover up the laboured conclusion. The whole thing does however have an appealing tongue-in-cheek quirkiness which saves the day.

Director Luke Fredericks and designer Stewart Charlesworth’s cartoonish production is packed with creativity, with excellent integration of projections (Benjamin Walden) and a huge selection of deliberately dodgy wigs! A couple of short scenes are given over to puppet dolls and the B-movie style is taken to its logical conclusion at the denouement. Clever stuff, with appropriately lo-tech production values. I thought it was too loud a lot of the time, and again at Southwark there were glitches in the sound.

The casting is terrific. Rob Compton is superb as Bat Boy, particularly in the physical stuff when he is discovered. Lauren Ward and Matthew White are outstanding as the Parkers, with particularly fine vocals from both. Simon Bailey excels in multiple roles, bringing the house down as Reverend Hightower in yellow suit and gold collar and shoes! I also loved Andy Rees characterisation of teenage Rick and there’s a brilliant turn from Nolan Frederick as mother nature in a hysterical ‘dream sequence’.

It’s a good rather than great piece, but there’s a lot to enjoy in this revival. A few cuts and a bit of a tone down would make it even better, but it’s the sort of production the show needed and on a much more appropriate scale. Well worth catching.

 

Read Full Post »

I’d only ever seen Candide on a big scale – Scottish Opera at the Old Vic in 1988, the NT in the Olivier in 1999 and the biggest of all, ENO at the ginormous London Coliseum in 2008. So forgive me for a ‘WTF?’ when this operetta was announced as the Menier’s Christmas show.

The theatre’s configuration for this has the audience on four sides with a mezzanine behind them and stage entrances on three sides and this works well (from where we were, but I suspect not for all). There are doors and windows in the mezzanine, with stairs down on two sides. The rest of Paul Farnsworth ‘s clever design is period costumes and the odd prop.

The story of Candide’s adventurous journey from fictitious Westphalia through Holland, Lisbon, Paris, Cadiz, Buenos Aires, Montevideo, mythical Eldorado and Surinam to Venice is completely preposterous, but there’s some lovely music and enough funny business to keep you amused. The four romantic leads are excellent – Fra Fee as Candide, David Thaxton as Maximilian, the lovely Cassidy Janson as Paquette and (under Rule 7 of musical theatre casting, stating that you must have a Strallen) the wonderful Scarlett Strallen.

Unfortunately, they’ve also cast James Dreyfuss as Pangloss and Jackie Clune as Old Lady, neither of whom are up to the roles (particularly when compared with Simon Russell Beale at the NT and Patricia Routledge at the Old Vic!); it undermines rather than ruins it, but its a shame. There’s some good choreography from Adam Cooper no less and good musical standards from the small (for Candide) band of nine under Seann Alderking. Matthew White has staged it with brio and it doesn’t feel its length.

If you go expecting high art, you’ll come out disappointed. If you go expecting musically up-market panto, you’ll have fun. I did.

 

Read Full Post »

The problem with this stage premiere of the 1939 Fred Astaire / Ginger Rogers RKO picture is that’s its way too reverential. Most new stagings of 30’s shows (Anything Goes, Girl Crazy, On Your Toes, Babes in Arms…..) have scrubbed up fresh, but this feels like a visit to the RKO Musicals Museum.

It’s typical musical comedy fare. American hoofer Jerry Travers falls for Dale Tremont during a London run, but she thinks he’s producer Horace Hardwick. The mistaken identity unravels and resolves during a visit to Horace’s wife in Venice, where a rather cartoon Italian dressmaker Alberto Beddini gets caught up in the plot. It all ends happily (except for Alberto).

From Hildegard Bechtler’s lovely art deco sets & Jon Morrell’s accompanying costumes to the perfect wigs & make-up to the period choreography to the permanent smiles, it’s as if they set about recreating the film in colourful 3D. It felt like you’d dozed off on the sofa watching the movie in B&W on a Sunday afternoon and awoke disorientated with these people live in colour in your living room.

I found the leads a bit wooden; Charlotte Gooch is new, so she could be excused, but Tom Chambers has been doing it for 15 months. The smaller parts fared better, particularly Vivien Parry as Madge Hardwick, Stephen Boswell as Bates and understudy Paul Kemble as Horace Hardwick.

Director Matthew White has produced exciting revivals of Sweet Charity and Little Shop of Horrors at the Menier and choreographer Bill Deamer has produced fresh choreography for shows like The Boyfriend and Lady Be Good at the Open Air Theatre, so I’m a bit puzzled why they chose to be so conservative here. A disappointment.

Read Full Post »