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Posts Tagged ‘Ray Rackham’

London seems to have more Christmas shows than ever this year, so here’s the antidote – a lovely home-grown new musical without the tiniest fragment of tinsel in sight. Tom Lees & Ray Rackham, London Theatre Workshop’s Artistic Directors, have written, produced, directed and MD’d a hugely impressive show.

Apartment 40C is in New York City and newly graduated Eddie & Katie discover it has been leased to both of them. The fighting doesn’t last long before they agree to share it, and more. Their older selves Ed & Kate, now successful lawyer and journalist respectively are still living there when they arrive at a turning point in their relationship. The even more mature Edward & Kathryn, now divorced, meet back at the apartment where their son has been living at another turning point in their lives.

The show moves back and forth in time between these three life-changing moments and as it does you unravel the story for yourself; I very much liked the jigsaw effect this creates. There are often more than one pairing on stage, with an occasional glance between an older and younger self. The space doesn’t need much of a makeover to pass for an apartment and given the resources of this small company there’s a real authenticity to the set-up. I really liked Tom Lees songs and arrangements, played by himself on piano, with others on cello and violin, and Ray Rackham’s book and lyrics tell the couple’s story well.

They’ve got a uniformly excellent cast. Alex James Ellison & Alex Crossley (an impressive professional début) invest Eddie & Katie with youthful energy and optimism. Drew Weston, who seems to be a new arrival from Australia, and Lizzie Wofford, particularly impressive playing older than her age, are both outstanding as Ed & Kate (four years ago, before her training at Mountview, Lizzie was a terrific Mrs Lovett in NYMT’s Sweeney Todd https://garethjames.wordpress.com/2010/08/05/nymt-sweeney-todd). Peter Gerald & Nova Skipp provide both maturity and musical theatre experience as the mature Edward & Kathryn.

I’m not sure why they chose to set this in NYC, given that its a new British musical – perhaps it seems more plausible there? I’m also not sure how we get from a (controlled rent) apartment to an owned one, but these are minor points in a major achievement. If you are interested in musical theatre or sick of Christmas fare, or both, you really shouldn’t miss this lovely show.

 

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I missed this show on its brief visit to Trafalgar Studios, so it was good to catch it here at London Theatre Workshop’s new home above The Eel Brook pub in Parson’s Green.

Without a book, this is more songspiel than musical, though you learn as much about its characters as you do in many book musicals. Four young New Yorkers, a couple and two singles, navigate their city entirely in song. Jason and Claire are moving in together, so we see the uneasy first stage of their co-habitation. Deb and Warren meet when he finds her post-graduate notes and seeks to reunite them with their owner. In Jason & Adam’s apartment and in other locations around the city, they sing eighteen songs, mostly as solos but some in combination.

It’s nicely set, surrounded by NYC street signs with a handful of props, by director Ray Rackham and the unbroken score is played extremely well on piano, on stage by Thomas Lees. Four-hander chamber musicals like this are common currency in the US but the music of this Adam Gwon show seeems a cut above to me and it’s particularly sharp lyrically. The songs were very well sung by Oliver Watton & Marcia Brown and Olga-Marie Pratt & Anton Tweedale, the latter pairing with better characterisations (probably more to do with writing than performance).

Theatre Workshop have an exciting programme over the next four months, strong in musical theatre, but they may have to soften the venue’s natural acoustic which is a bit unkind to this type of show. A great start at a welcome new venue, though (and a very good pub!).

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