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Posts Tagged ‘Pippa Winslow’

This 2009 musical adaptation of the 1980 film of the same name only survived four months on Broadway and has yet to make it to the West End, though a UK tour briefly visited the suburbs. So this London fringe debut is particularly welcome, to give us a chance to work out why.

Patricia Resnick, who co-wrote the film, provides the book and Dolly Parton, who played Judy in the film, adds music and lyrics. Set in 1975, it tells the story of the ladies in the office of Consolidated Industries, who’s CEO Franklin Hart is an obnoxious, corrupt, sexist misogynist. Life is hell under him, and after an accidental poisoning comes an intentional abduction whilst they gather enough evidence to get him his comeuppance and reform the workplace with family friendly policies at the same time.

I’m not sure why it didn’t do better on Broadway; it seems to me to be perfect musical comedy fare for a New York audience, though perhaps too American for the West End. Perhaps it was the feminist message?! There are some good country sounding songs and some funny lyrics. The book may be a bit lightweight, but it does the job. In this production, the design is functional, but a bit dull, and the choreography is a touch over-emphatic, trying a bit too hard, though I did like the country line-dancing references.

Though the performers were amplified, I missed some of the lyrics and dialogue because of the balance with the overloud band and the positioning of performers in the space. The three leads are all very good – Pippa Winslow as Violet, Amanda Coutts as Judy and Louise Olley as Doralee – and for once dodgy wigs seem appropriate. Leo Sene made a decent baddie as Hart, though he shouted when he should have sang. It’s a fine energetic and enthusiastic supporting cast.

Not a landmark musical, but good fun and Joseph Hodges’ production is well worth catching, while you can.

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This was written after Ken Hill’s Stratford East original but before Lloyd-Webber’s show, which sadly scuppered its Broadway intentions and quite possibly changed history. Even so, it’s had over 1000 productions worldwide but, astonishingly, this is its London professional premiere – and Maury (Nine, Grand Hotel & Titanic) Yeston & Arthur (Nine) Kopit’s show is rather good.

Of course, it shares the same source in Gaston Leroux’s book, but we get more of the phantom (Eric!)’s history / back story and the music is a nod to French operetta (somewhat appropriately for its late 19th century Parisian setting) rather than ripped off from an obscure Puccini opera set in the wild west! It’s a whole lot less pompous that Lloyd-Webber’s, with some nice tongue-in-cheek touches (this could be the production rather than the show, of course).

This is a room above a pub in Walthamstow, so there’s no multicoloured masquerade, boats sailing on dry ice lakes or falling chandeliers – indeed,the entire budget is probably less than the other one’s chandelier cleaning bill – but it’s a terrific production. This is largely due, as before at Ye Olde Rose & Crown, to sky-high musical standards plus, on this occasion, excellent casting by Ben Newsome (also responsible for One Touch of Venus here last year plus more recently A Class Act & Sleeping Arrangements at the Landor and Rooms at the Finborough).

Kieran Brown is outstanding as the phantom and Aussie Kira Morsley (her UK professional debut?) is a fantastic Christine, with the perfect voice for the part. I loved Pippa Winslow’s Carlotta and there are other fine performances from Andrew Rivera as her husband, Sean Paul Jenkinson as the count also in love with Christine and Tom Murphy as outgoing theatre manager Carriere. They are all supported by a fine ensemble.

I adored MD Aaron Clingham’s arrangements for piano, woodwind and strings and the idea of atmospheric ‘incidental’ music is a very good one. American Dawn Kalani Cowle (it’s a proper United Nations up there in Walthamstow) does a fine job of staging this in such a small space, with clever use of a red curtain across the whole space.

I thought One Touch of Venus was a turning point for this venue, and I think this proves it. Anyone interested in musical theatre should be heading to Walthamstow right now. No excuses.

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