Posts Tagged ‘Michel Legrand’

This musical by Michel Legrand had a short run on Broadway in 2002 and, despite being a commercial flop, managed to get some Tony nominations, including Best Score. A Broadway musical it is not, but a delightful, funny, charming, tuneful chamber musical it is, and the Royal Academy of Music’s British première is both a coup and a triumph.

Based on a short story by Marcel Ayme, and set in early 50’s Paris, the show follows civil servant Dusoleil’s through his very dull life – until he discovers he can walk through walls! – entirely in song; around 40 of them in fact, some quite short. He consults a doctor but doesn’t take the prescribed medication, and does nothing much with his new powers until he gets a nasty new boss on which he exerts revenge. This leads him into a life of crime and he ends up in prison, which of course isn’t much of a problem for a man who can walk through walls. When he escapes he meets Isabelle, abused by her husband, and he uses his powers for clandestine visits to see her. When he gets a headache, he takes the prescribed medication mistakenly for asprin and loses his powers.  When he finally ends up in court, he finds he’s a bit of a folk hero.

The story is immortalised in Paris by a statue, a fact made great use of in the show. The tunes are lovely and Jeremy Sams’ English lyrics are very funny indeed. Director Hannah Chissick’s excellent staging, with a simple monochrome design by Adrian Gee, has a lightness of touch and flow that has a lot to do with the movement of co-director and choreographer Matthew Cole. Jordan Li-Smith’s seven piece band plays the jazz influenced score beautifully and there are some fine voices in the cast of nine led by Chris McGuigan, who navigates Dusoleil’s journey from dull bureaucrat to a man uncomfortable with his powers to a more bold one using them freely. They all deliver in both the vocal and acting departments and once you’re into the unusual rhythm of the piece, you’re drawn in by its charm and humour.

A delightful show and showcase for some outstanding talent that I’m sure we’re going to be seeing much more of.

Read Full Post »

This is a new chamber version of the Michel Legrand – Herbert Kretzmer / Alain Boubil / Claude-Michel Schonberg (the Les Mis team) – Jonathan Kent 2008 West End flop. I loved it first time around; went twice and bought the music. It’s much scaled down and now feels more like a Howard Goodall show, which is a compliment not a criticism.

It’s occupied Paris in the second world war and Parisian chanteuse Marguerite is a ‘kept woman’, showered with attention and gifts by a Nazi general. She falls for Armand, a young jazz pianist, but after an intense initial three-day relationship, its doomed. There’s no way her Nazi is going to allow her to go off with a younger model. Tragedy ensues as her best friend is killed and she is forced to reject Armand. Armand’s sister and her friends join the resistance and urge him to follow, but he’s obsessed with Marguerite.

The new orchestrations for a small 7-piece band under Alex Parker (who also produces) suits the music and there’s some lovely singing (though a few too many off-key moments and too little subtlety on the night I went). Overly loud solo’s notwithstanding, Yvette Robinson was a believable Marguerite, well matched by Nadim Naaman as Armand looking much like Julian Ovenden,who played the original, but without the age gap we have here. There’s good support from Michael Onslow as Otto, Mark Turnbull at Georges and Jennifer Rhodes as Madeleine. Director Guy Unsworth (who also contributed to the new book) makes good use of the small Tabard space with help from Max Dorey’s evocative set and excellent costumes.

If it had been more consistently sung I would be more enthusiastic. As it is, I was glad I went but don’t feel I saw it at its best.

Read Full Post »

The producers, co-producers and associate producers of this show – and there’s 12 of them – deserve to lose every penny they are about to lose because they didn’t do their job. What upsets me so much about this is that it is a shocking waste of talent and seems to me to be both predictable and preventable and it will tarnish the reputation of Kneehigh and their director, Emma Rice. One week after opening to mediocre reviews, the theatre was less than a quarter full and, in the first half at least, the show fell flat on its face.

To the producers, I’d say this:

1. The Gielgud Theatre is too big for this show. Not only is it a lot of seats to sell, but if you don’t sell them there is no atmosphere. The cast will have to work very hard, they probably won’t succeed and the word-of-mouth that has given Kneehigh their success so far won’t be there – or will work in reverse.

2. Kneehigh and Emma Rice are hugely talented, but they are musical novices. They know how to fill a 250-seat studio theatre for six weeks with delightful small-scale shows at £25 a seat from a strong fan base; that’s less than 1.5 weeks at this 900-seat theatre where you’re charging twice as much. Their biggest West End show was not a musical, it was in a much smaller theatre and it benefitted from being the first of this type. Where’s the experience with musicals coming from?

3. The director is clearly smitten with the film (as you and the composer are clearly smitten with her). This is a show not a film and even though she’s got a track record in adapting films, it’s still a very different challenge to anything she’s done before. To allow her to double up as adapter and choreographer is criminal; there will be no healthy creative tension, no questioning, no challenge. If nothing else, you should have hired a musicals choreographer (or promoted your very experienced assistant choreographer).

If I’d been the producer, this is what I’d have said to Emma Rice during the Leicester try-out / London previews:

1. However inventive you are, you will never succeed with a big musical where the book, lyrics and score don’t work. This isn’t a musical theatre score.; it’s two songs, sung dialogue and some incidental music – it’s monotonous and repetitive and it won’t carry a full evening sung-through show. In opera, they’d say ‘all recitative, no arias’. Turn it into a play with music (you know how to do that) by replacing some of the singing with dialogue.

2. Nothing happens in the first half. By the interval, the audience (those that are still there ) will be so disappointed you will have to work very hard to get them back. Cut the first part by half and dump the interval and you just might get away with it.

The show’s already dead, which is sad as I really do think it could have worked. There are some great ideas (as always with Kneehigh). The ‘Maitresse’ is a great idea; her opening turns are fun if a little long and her French song is the best musical moment of the show. The sailor chorus, with their scene changing signs and bells, are a great idea. Lez Brotherston’s design is fine (oops, I’m not supposed to mention him in a blog….). The performances are fine.

This is the third Kneehigh show in as many months to disappoint. If I were Emma Rice, I’d take a sabbatical to rejuvenate my creative juices and let the phone ring out; she may damage her career forever if she doesn’t. This may all sound very arrogant –  but I suspect I’ve seen a lot more musicals than Emma Rice and invested in nine of them, so I consider it helpful and constructive – and free!

Read Full Post »