Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘Sean-Paul Jenkinson’

This was written after Ken Hill’s Stratford East original but before Lloyd-Webber’s show, which sadly scuppered its Broadway intentions and quite possibly changed history. Even so, it’s had over 1000 productions worldwide but, astonishingly, this is its London professional premiere – and Maury (Nine, Grand Hotel & Titanic) Yeston & Arthur (Nine) Kopit’s show is rather good.

Of course, it shares the same source in Gaston Leroux’s book, but we get more of the phantom (Eric!)’s history / back story and the music is a nod to French operetta (somewhat appropriately for its late 19th century Parisian setting) rather than ripped off from an obscure Puccini opera set in the wild west! It’s a whole lot less pompous that Lloyd-Webber’s, with some nice tongue-in-cheek touches (this could be the production rather than the show, of course).

This is a room above a pub in Walthamstow, so there’s no multicoloured masquerade, boats sailing on dry ice lakes or falling chandeliers – indeed,the entire budget is probably less than the other one’s chandelier cleaning bill – but it’s a terrific production. This is largely due, as before at Ye Olde Rose & Crown, to sky-high musical standards plus, on this occasion, excellent casting by Ben Newsome (also responsible for One Touch of Venus here last year plus more recently A Class Act & Sleeping Arrangements at the Landor and Rooms at the Finborough).

Kieran Brown is outstanding as the phantom and Aussie Kira Morsley (her UK professional debut?) is a fantastic Christine, with the perfect voice for the part. I loved Pippa Winslow’s Carlotta and there are other fine performances from Andrew Rivera as her husband, Sean Paul Jenkinson as the count also in love with Christine and Tom Murphy as outgoing theatre manager Carriere. They are all supported by a fine ensemble.

I adored MD Aaron Clingham’s arrangements for piano, woodwind and strings and the idea of atmospheric ‘incidental’ music is a very good one. American Dawn Kalani Cowle (it’s a proper United Nations up there in Walthamstow) does a fine job of staging this in such a small space, with clever use of a red curtain across the whole space.

I thought One Touch of Venus was a turning point for this venue, and I think this proves it. Anyone interested in musical theatre should be heading to Walthamstow right now. No excuses.

Read Full Post »

When I first saw this Howard Goodall musical 26 years ago, it completely changed my attitude to musical theatre and opened my eyes to the possibilities of serious storytelling through music. It was a ground-breaking piece and the first British musical of its type (well, there haven’t been that many since). From the US, we’d had West Side Story of course and Rogers & Hammerstein’s attempts to tackle serious issues in their shows, but here was a very British story with a uniquely British choral score.

It’s so rarely produced that I grab any chance to see it. In 1992 there was a terrific concert version, some time later a lovely small-scale production at the Finborough, a shortened amateur one at the Edinburgh fringe and then four years ago a touring version from Eastern Angles which paid a visit to Greenwich; but here it was on my doorstep in Clapham at one of my favourite theatres. The rioters almost ruined my chances when the show I had booked for had to be cancelled, and last night was my only free night to catch it before the migration north for the Edinburgh festival.

Based on Melvyn Bragg’s book, the hirings of the title are where men and employers met and contracted with each other, and that’s where we start. The first half is set in rural Cumbria where they eke out a living on the land, some chasing a ‘better life’ in the mines where we see the beginnings of trade unionism. John & Emily are devoted to each other; their relationship even survives ‘a moment of madness’ when Emily strays with the bosses son Jackson whilst John is away. In the second half, we take in the first world war and a mining disaster before we return to the land and back to the hiring.

Last night it was as thrilling as that very first time. Andrew Keates terrific production fits the Landor so well. Freya Groves design oozes authenticity, creating fields, pubs, houses, war trenches and mines very effectively with bales of straw and barrels and simple period costumes. There’s excellent choreography from Cressida Carre and realistic fights directed by Andrew Ashenden. Even the dialects are good! It has the best score of any British musical and those choruses soared. The new orchestration for piano and string trio by MD Niall Bailey is excellent and the singing is outstanding. I can’t praise this fine cast enough; they brought great passion and commitment, shivers up my spine and a few tears to my eyes. It’s very hard to believe that Joe Maxwell as John and Catherine Mort as Emily have recently graduated (Guildford School of Acting should be very proud); they are as fine a pair of leads as you could wish for. Abigail Matthews is lovely as daughter May in the second half and amongst a uniformly fine ensemble, I much admired Ian Daniels as Jackson and Sean-Paul Jenkinson as John’s brother Seth.

My one regret is that I had to leave for Edinburgh 8 hours later so I can’t go back! This is a superb revival of a great show; a triumph for everyone involved.

Read Full Post »