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Posts Tagged ‘Samuel Edwards’

I wasn’t planning to see another production of this Cole Porter show. Three great ones in 32 years, the last just 6 years ago, seemed like enough for now, but I have no willpower. The rave reviews and a desire to check out the acclaim for the London debut of Broadway’s Sutton Forster and the next thing you know you’re lying in bed on a Sunday morning booking for that afternoon on your iPad.

It is a great musical comedy, amongst the greatest, and this is a definitive production. You can tell it’s staged by a choreographer (Kathleen Marshall); it seems to glides and flow, and for once the Barbican Theatre feels like the most intimate of venues. The set, aboard a liner travelling from the US to the UK, and costumes are gorgeous and the band sounds terrific. This all serves the show well – the great tunes, the witty lyrics and the daft but hysterical story. Then there are the performances…..

A trio of national treasures with an average age of 70 – Felicity Kendal, Robert Lindsay & Gary Wilmott – are clearly a draw, and they all deliver. Lindsay in particular seems to be the epicentre of an infectious team spirit, perhaps the most nimble septuagenarian song & dance man, perfect for the role of lovable rogue Moonface. As always, he’s such a natural that you’re never quite sure how close he’s staying to the script. Sutton Foster redefines the triple threat – a superb dancer, a fine actor with exquisite comic timing and lovely vocals. No disrespect to Megan Mullally, but her injury appears to have provided us with an opportunity to glimpse this extraordinary talent, and she’s given a rousing welcome to these shores.

There are many other great performances, with Haydn Oakley as Evelyn, Samuel Edwards as Billy, Nicole-Lily Baisden as Hope, and especially Carly Mercedes-Dyer as Erma, who also brings the house down, but it was hard to take your eyes off the leading lady, simply mesmerising.

This is my third musical theatre treat in eight days. I don’t know how much of my euphoria is down to a 16 month famine, or the boundless enthusiasm of the performers and musicians back to doing what they love, but I’m enjoying the ride anyway. A good Sunday morning decision leading to a delightful Sunday afternoon.

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It was touch and go at the Open Air Theatre on Tuesday, with the rain continuing until minutes before the start, but apart from a short break to mop the stage it went ahead, and the warmth from the stage just about made up for the chill in the air. OAT continues it’s pre-eminence in musicals revivals with this wonderful production of Bernstein’s rarely performed musical comedy, which I’ve only seen in ENO’s 2005 production, and we all know opera companies rarely do musicals well because they are, well, opera companies.

Three sailors arrive in New York on 24 hours leave, determined to make the most of it. Chip wants to see the sights, but Gabey and Ozzie prefer more hedonistic options. Gabey falls in love with a poster girl on the subway and they set about finding her, splitting up to visit the locations mentioned in the poster. Chip finds Hildy who’s just been fired from her job as a taxi driver and Ozzie finds anthropologist Claire in the Natural History Museum, and eventually Gabey finds his poster girl Ivy at Carnegie Hall. They all plan to meet for a date, but Gabey is stood up by Ivy. He eventually learns where she is from her music teacher and sets off for Coney Island to find her, whilst the others go on a bar crawl that gets seedier as they go.

Betty Comden & Adolf Green’s book and lyrics are much funnier than I remember and Bernstein’s score is better than I remember too, proving to be much more than its most famous songs New York, New York (not THAT one) and Some Other Time, and there’s a fantastic 15-piece band under MD Tom Deering to do it full justice. Drew McOnie’s hugely successful transition from Choreographer to Director / Choreographer continues and his staging of this is thrilling, with the balletic dancing so true to Jerome Robbins simply sensational. Peter McKintosh has designed a three-story set inspired by the opening and closing scenes at the dockyard which transforms into streets, subway trains, taxi, museum, apartment and nightclubs, with gorgeous bright and colourful costumes. When we get to Coney Island, the transformation takes your breath away.

Danny Mac, who plays Gabey, doesn’t have a strong voice, but it has a nice tone, he’s a good actor and his dancing is outstanding. Samuel Edwards is a great Ozzie and Lizzy Connelly a superb Hildy. Jacob Maynard has taken over the role of Chip after Fred Haig’s accident, and I thought he was terrific. Then there are two extraordinary professional debuts from Siena Kelly as Ivy and Miriam-Teak Lee as Claire – wow! The whole ensemble is wonderful and contributes much to an exciting, uplifting evening.

Not the best conditions for an evening at the OAT, but one of the best shows I’ve seen there. Go!

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The film on which this is based was a post-Grease vehicle for Olivia Newton-John. It was a premiere league turkey and won the inaugural Razzle Award; in fact, it inspired them. Twenty-seven years later someone had the idea of this stage musical adaptation. Bonkers? Well, obviously not as it was a Broadway hit, clocking up more than 500 performances. It’s taken eight years to get to London and it turns out to be a preposterous story and as camp as a decade of Christmases, but with its tongue firmly in its cheek it proves to be rather irresistible.

A Venice Beach artist has created a chalk picture of the muses. These immortals arrive from Mount Olympus with the chief muse transforming into a mortal Aussie woman, who sets out to help him. They go about persuading a local property developer to let them open Xanadu, a club which was built but never opened, as a roller disco. Bonkers. The music by ELO’s Jeff Lynne and John Farrar is typical 70’s pop disco with numbers like Evil Woman, Physical and the title track hits at the time. Douglas Carter Beane’s book cheekily sends up anything and everything, including the show itself. It’s hard not to succumb to its crazy charms, particularly in a full house cheering and whooping as if its a cult show they’ve seen many times before.

Nathan M Wright’s choreography is a hoot, featuring roller skating of course, including one duet between the chief muse on skates and the artist in a phone box! Morgan Large’s design is a riot of colour and includes more glitter, and glitter balls, than you’ve probably seen in one place before. Paul Warwick Griffin’s staging uses every opportunity to get a laugh. It really is rather hard to resist.

Samuel Edwards is terrific, in particularly fine voice, as naive artist Sonny. Carly Anderson’s Aussie accent is (intentionally) all over the place, which results in an awful lot of laughs and she milks the role for all it’s worth. There’s great support from the other six muses (two played by men!), but it’s a particular joy to see Alison Jiear as evil muse Melpomene in a stage musical once more.

I have a sneaky feeling this is going to become a Rocky Horror-type cult – we certainly haven’t seen the last of it.

 

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