Posts Tagged ‘Piccadilly Theatre’

The transformation of the Piccadilly Theatre for this show is extraordinary; from the moment you enter the auditorium, it takes your breath away. Based on Baz Luhrmann’s 2001 film, the show itself is the ultimate juke box musical. Unlike others in the genre, it doesn’t use the songs of one artist / group or songwriter(s), but has 74 songs / extracts from artists as diverse as Rogers & Hammerstein, The Rolling Stones, Bob Dylan, Lady Ga Ga, Edith Piaf, Adele and Talking Heads. It arrives in London (late, like just about everything else at the moment) garlanded with awards, including ten of the fourteen Tony’s for which it was nominated.

It tells the story of the love of penniless American songwriter Christian for Satine, the star of the Moulin Rouge. The Duke has rescued the struggling venue, but at a price – he just about owns everything and everyone, including Satine, who he takes as a mistress, providing her with accommodation and showering her with gifts. With his friends Toulouse-Lautrec and Santiago, Christian writes a new show, which is also part of the rescue plan, though it came about by accident in covering up Christian & Satine’s romance.The Duke interferes with this too.

The snatches of songs, sometime just one line, act as dialogue and recognising them is fun. Others are performed in full, some more than once. John Logan’s book is hardly relevant as, like the film, it’s all about the spectacle, which it delivers, with bells on! Brilliant sets, sensational costumes, superb lighting & effects, a cast of 38 and a 10-piece band. In the week of its return after cancellations, there were four understudies at the performance we attended, including the leading roles of Satine, The Duke and Toulouse Lautrec, and it’s a tribute to them that you wouldn’t know it without checking out the board in the foyer.

As much as I enjoyed the fun, energy and spectacle, there was something missing for me. Not enough depth or substance to the story and a lack of emotional engagement. I felt like the narrative was relegated to become the bits between the spectacle. There were boos for The Duke (the character, not the actor) at the curtain call which made me think ‘panto’ – but with set pieces and production values to die for.

Go for the spectacle and you won’t be disappointed. Expect to be thrilled rather than moved and you’ll probably have a lot of fun.

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I was one of those who thought this Hereward Kaye & Robert Longdon show was fun first time around, 25 years ago. It wasn’t really West End material though, and I did wonder why Cameron Mackintosh put it on. The critics, of course, didn’t like it then as they don’t now. It’s not for critics. It’s a camp anarchic romp for people who go to the theatre to have fun – and it’s got a very good pop score.

The premise is that we’re in a St Trinian’s-like school called St Godley who are putting on a musical based on Herman Melville’s novel, written by one of the schoolgirls and performed by the girls, head teacher, teacher, caretaker and a security guard(!). It takes place in the gym with a ladder, gym bars and gym horse just about the only props. There are loads of sight gags and verbal innuendo, in truth too much to take in. It works better on this scale than in did in the vast Piccadilly Theatre. 

The chief reason why this revival is a success is a hugely talented young cast of eight and two former X-Factor finalists – Anton Stephans and Brenda Edwards – who know how to belt out a tune and raise a laugh. Director / Choreographer Andrew Wright’s high energy dancing is made to look shambolic but is clearly well-drilled precision. There’s a fine band too under MD Lee Freeman. I was particularly impressed by the vocals of Rachel Anne Raynham and Laura Mansell and the dancing of Glen Facey.

I had as much fun as I did last time round.

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