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Posts Tagged ‘Rosalie Craig’

Well, I never thought I’d see two duds in the same year at the Menier, let alone two within 5 weeks! This revival of Andrew Lloyd-Webber’s chamber musical follows hot on the heels of the dreadful Paradise Found.

This is going to sound bizarre, but the most extraordinary thing about this show is that it’s dreadfully slow but seems rushed. It tries to cover too much ground in far too many scenes and in doing so it lacks depth of both characterisation and narrative. As you leave one scene, you can almost hear them say ‘right, quick, let’s do the circus scene then get the props off and move on to sunset at the Pyrenees house’. It didn’t involve me, engage me or move me at all.

There are some nice tunes, but two or three of them return so often it becomes relentless and you start thinking  ‘oh no, here’s that Love Changes Everything’ tune back again; the small orchestra play the score beautifully though. Michael Arden as Alex and Dave Willetts as George were believable and do their best with the material, but I’m afraid I thought Katherine Kingsley was badly miscast as Rose and her singing occasionally made me wince. The best performance by far was Rosalie Craig (who was also the best thing about Jermyn Street’s ‘Anyone Can Whistle’ recently) as Guilietta. The rest of the cast has little to do, so perhaps they should have worked more on their French pronunciation (there’s a fair bit of spoken / sung French) which was truly dreadful.

The usually talented David Farley has over-designed it and it comes out tacky. Given the number of scenes, locations and periods, it would have been much better to follow a more minimalist approach.

All in all, I’m afraid it left me completely cold – and it was a very long 2 hrs 45 mins; thank god for the new seats and a bit of portable aircon! Give it a miss and wait for the real thing when it transfers from Chichester to the West End – Howard Goodall’s Love Story.

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Sondheim does Brecht & Weill !

This early (36-year old) Sondheim show was only his third. It would be another six years before he’d produce his first great musical, Company (though the earlier A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum was fun, I wouldn’t call it great).

He seemed to be finding his way, trying out things which would later become part of his unique style. It is clearly derivative of Brecht & Weill’s ‘political’  musicals with what seems to be tongue-in-cheek sniping at the then generic Broadway style.

It’s the story of a town mayor who ‘creates’ a miracle in an attempt to breathe life into the local economy. What follows is exploitation, corruption and oppression. There is a charming naivety to it, but in terms of plotting and story-telling, it’s all a bit clumsy. There’s little of the lyrical inventiveness or musical originality which Sondheim was soon to deliver.

Tom Littler’s production makes the best of the material and the cast of 14 double up as musicians in the John Doyle way. I was particularly impressed by Roslaie Craig as the nurse, but felt that Issy van Randwyck was too doll-like as the Mayoress.

It’s an excellent contribution to Sondheim’s 80th year, as a rare opportunity for fans / completists / collectors like me to see the development of someone who was to become the greatest writer of musicals, rather than as a great musical itself.

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