Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘Stewart Nicholls’

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.

Read Full Post »

Maybe it wasn’t a good idea to see this on the same day as Love Story, though I booked this first. Initially, the contrast of silly and frivolous with the afternoon’s deeply moving was too much, but I have to say it won me over – largely because of a superb ensemble which sang Julian Slade & Dorothy Reynolds 1957 score gloriously.

It’s a sort of Carry On In The Channel, set in Jersey and another fictitious and very isolated channel island called Terhou (sounds more South Pacific than English Channel) which gets few visitors and likes it that way. The arrival of heiress Geraldine escaping the paparazzi (in 1957!) is initially welcome as it solves the problem that they’ve run out of young ladies to be Independence Day Queen (you can only do it once) but eventually causes havoc when the island’s Lord Paul Postumous (!) foolishly brings her suitor Jack and journalist Ivy back from his brief trip to Jersey. Lord Paul’s nephew falls for Geraldine, Lord Paul for journalist Ivy and all of the island girls for Jack. Oh, and there’s a sub-plot romance between the more mature Miss Catermole and Mr Potter the bailiff – and it ends with three happy couples; obviously.

It’s silly stuff but it’s got a score as light as air and this cast sing it terrifically – solo, in pairs & groups and most brilliantly as an ensemble – with solo piano accompaniment from James Church. There’s no set to speak of (it’s performed on the set of the Finborough’s other current play) but Stewart Nicholls’ manages to make it work, marshaling 17 performers in this tiny space, also with a light touch. Daft and frothy, but a lot of fun in these more than capable hands. The evening was made surreal by the reunion of a group of friends in the audience who had put on the show so long ago that not all of them could remember which part they played – but remembered enough to occasionally sing along!

These lost musical evenings at the Finborough really are indispensable.

Read Full Post »

The audience is only 66% bigger than the cast, but it’s a full house. It’s performed on the set of the play which occupies the same theatre most of the week. Only 400 people will get to see it (including 2 extra performance!). It hasn’t been revived since it was first produced over 50 years ago. Its crying out for a major staging & if it got one could be the sort of hit Me & My Girl was second time around (though they might have to change the title!). It’s simply wonderful.

Ivor Novello’s musical comedy starts on the stage of Manchester Opera House as the run of a musical flop ends before it gets to London (actually, the show within a show – Ruritania – is rather good). Actress Gay Daventry has lost a fortune backing the show. With start-up funding from a rich(er) fellow actor she gives up the stage and sets up a school of acting in Folkstone, surrounding herself with veteran teachers of singing, acting and dance. She struggles to make a living despite the arrival of a rich student and sub-letting to some smugglers. Of course, it all ends happily – this is 1950’s musical theatre.

The show has some great tunes and it’s very funny. Stewart Nicholls production sparkles. I think they’ve taken some liberties with the book but it adds to the freshness rather than spoils the original. It’s cramped in this tiny space (with audience all round) but this somehow improves audience engagement and enhances intimacy more than it detracts from the spectacle.

But it’s the cast wot does it and boy what a cast. Sophie-Louise Dann gives one of the finest musical comedy performances I’ve ever seen; she sings beautifully and is a master at comedy. Helena Blackman continues to impress with a particular affinity & suitability for this period, as she showed in Noel & Gertie last year. There’s a quartet of veteran ladies – Doreen Hermitage, Eileen Page, Myra Sands & Elizabeth Seal – who almost steal the show with the second act opener ‘Teaching’, Josh Little is an excellent romantic lead and the ensemble sparkles. We even get a cameo from Frank Barrie.

It is a huge treat and it must have a life beyond here. Bring on the Novello revival!

Read Full Post »