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Posts Tagged ‘Rose Reynolds’

Presenting the London premiere of this show by Americans Ernest Kinoy, Lee Goldsmith & Roger Anderson may be considered a coup for the Guildhall School of Music & Drama. Thirty years ago, the Broadway production was cancelled just before the first rehearsal when financing fell through after another show about Chaplin was being prepared. Sadly, it proves a bit of a disappointment.

The show (somewhat pretentiously sub-titled A Memory as Entertainment) concentrates on Chaplin’s early life, up to his departure from Keystone films when he was just 26. It’s a fascinating life and reading Eliot Shrimpton’s excellent programme notes before the start heightens the anticipation.

The fatal flaw of the show proves to be the long first half (despite the fact it appears to have lost 15-20 mins in the last few days!) when a fascinating life is presented very slowly and made dull. The music, newly orchestrated by prolific MD Steven Edis, is unremarkable and the book rather clunky. It was all a bit Oliver! without any of the sparkle. Things improve in the second half, which starts on the ship to the US and zips through the five years that took Chaplin to stardom, but its a bit late.

Mark Bailey’s design is outstanding. There is a giant gold picture frame at the back, with projections onto its canvas, red velvet curtains descend for the music hall scenes and the costumes are excellent. The opening of Act II on a liner heading for NYC with the projection of the sea, a large smoking funnel and a pair of handrails looks brilliant. Bill Deamer, who has done such good work at the Open Air Theatre, choreographs well. In fact there’s nothing much wrong with Martin Connor’s staging other than its pacing.

The acting is better than the singing. Though the musical standards in the pit are good, the singing onstage is (unusually for GSMD) often ropey with far too many off-key moments. The most impressive performances come from Tim Bowie as elder brother Sydney (though he looks four years younger rather than four years older), Sion Alun Davies as Keystone films supremo Mack Sennett, Katherine Rose Morley as his Mabel and Rose Reynolds as the Lily Chaplin marries.

In the 20 or so years I’ve been going to the GSMD end-of-year musicals, I’m not sure I’ve ever left as disappointed as I did last night. Most of their previous shows have been revivals of tested material. This just shows that however good the talent, if the material isn’t good enough, you’re bound to end up with a dud.

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