Posts Tagged ‘Robert Maskell’

This 1978 musical is based on Jack Rosenthal’s 1976 TV play of the same name. It seems to me to be an unlikely collaboration – book by Rosenthal himself, the master of gritty realism, a score by conservative Broadway composer Jules Styne (Gypsy and Funny Girl, 20 and 15 years earlier respectively) and Lloyd-Webber’s regular lyricist Don Black! 

The fact it’s taken 37 years to be revived is partly due to Rosenthal’s refusal when he was alive, haunted by his relationship with Styne and his dislike of the Broadway-style production of Martin Charmin (the basis for his play Smash, revived recently at the Menier – https://garethjames.wordpress.com/2011/04/15/smash!). This version is revised by David Thompson, original lyricist Don Black and director Stewart Nicholls, going back to source material and scaling it down, losing a number of extraneous characters.

Elliott Green is 13 and its time for his Bar Mitzva, the Jewish boy-to-man ritual. The first act sees the preparations and panic from mum Rita and back seat resignation by taxi driver dad Victor. Though Elliott is refusing to get his hair cut, everything else is on plan – until Elliott does a runner from the synagogue. In the second act, his whereabouts are leaked by school friend Denise and big sis Lesley persuades him to return home to face the music.

I felt the story might be pared back a bit too much; the second half in particular isn’t meaty enough. Styne’s score is very un-Broadway and very much in keeping with the material and Black’s lyrics are witty. The layout of the theatre results in a wide playing area which had both good and bad points, but I liked the authentic 70’s sensibility of Grace Smart’s design.

It’s great to see Sue Kelvin again and she makes a brilliant archetypal Jewish mom, well matched by Robert Maskell’s Victor. Lara Stubbs as Lesley and Nicholas Corre as her boyfriend Harold share the vocal honours. 13-year-old Adam Bregman steals the show though as Elliott, an assured and confident performance of great charm.

It works well as a chamber piece for eight actors and a 4-piece band, though it’s not as successful a musical adaptation as Rosenthal’s Spend Spend Spend some 20 years later. Despite protestations to the contrary by its creators at the time, I think the show still resonates more with a Jewish audience. 

A gold star to Aria Entertainment for giving us the chance to see it after such a long time.

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This is the ninth annual musical play based on BBC Radio’s 1940s Dick Barton character that’s been staged at the Warehouse Theatre in Croydon. You’d have thought the formula would have run its course by now. It’s only the second one I’ve seen, but it was better than the first, so maybe not.

It’s a silly plot with dreadful puns and OK tunes, but somehow it does add up to a fun couple of hours. This is as much to do with the performers – six actors playing a lot more than six parts – as the writing and staging. Ryan Gibb is authentic as the BBC announcer, Matt Bannister captures the 40’s well as Dick, Ben Tolley is a good loyal sidekick and I very much liked Jonathan Busby’s kilted Jock.  Annabelle Brown did sterling work playing all the female roles – except the housekeeper (an excellent Robert Maskell, who also gave us a camp Red Indian chief, amongst others).

This talented cast also double up as the band (I like the way they acknowledge the band at the curtain call!). In the songs, they’ve sneaked in a few references to (amongst others) I Am What I Am from La Cage Aux Folles and a number from Grease in an otherwise original score.

I’m not sure I could go every year, but it was a lot of fun and I don’t regret checking it out once more.

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