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Posts Tagged ‘Tabard Theatre’

This is a new chamber version of the Michel Legrand – Herbert Kretzmer / Alain Boubil / Claude-Michel Schonberg (the Les Mis team) – Jonathan Kent 2008 West End flop. I loved it first time around; went twice and bought the music. It’s much scaled down and now feels more like a Howard Goodall show, which is a compliment not a criticism.

It’s occupied Paris in the second world war and Parisian chanteuse Marguerite is a ‘kept woman’, showered with attention and gifts by a Nazi general. She falls for Armand, a young jazz pianist, but after an intense initial three-day relationship, its doomed. There’s no way her Nazi is going to allow her to go off with a younger model. Tragedy ensues as her best friend is killed and she is forced to reject Armand. Armand’s sister and her friends join the resistance and urge him to follow, but he’s obsessed with Marguerite.

The new orchestrations for a small 7-piece band under Alex Parker (who also produces) suits the music and there’s some lovely singing (though a few too many off-key moments and too little subtlety on the night I went). Overly loud solo’s notwithstanding, Yvette Robinson was a believable Marguerite, well matched by Nadim Naaman as Armand looking much like Julian Ovenden,who played the original, but without the age gap we have here. There’s good support from Michael Onslow as Otto, Mark Turnbull at Georges and Jennifer Rhodes as Madeleine. Director Guy Unsworth (who also contributed to the new book) makes good use of the small Tabard space with help from Max Dorey’s evocative set and excellent costumes.

If it had been more consistently sung I would be more enthusiastic. As it is, I was glad I went but don’t feel I saw it at its best.

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This isn’t a panto, but a made-for-TV musical by the masters of the form. It starred Julie Andrews and when it was aired in 1957, some 100,000,000 watched – 60% of the US population! Though it has been on stage before, outings are rare. I saw a lovely production at Bristol Old Vic almost exactly 8 years ago, but I’m not sure it has been in London in the 30 years I’ve lived here. So off to Turnham Green we go…..

They haven’t changed the age-old story, but it’s stripped down to nine characters, with an excellent Helen Colby here doubling-up as the Stepmother and the Fairy Godmother, and an ensemble of two! The music isn’t their best, but better than much (and certainly better than any panto version I’ve seen) and its played really well here by a 5-piece band (which sounds a lot bigger). Christopher Hone’s design is superb, working wonders with the tiny Tabard Theatre space in very inventive ways that themselves make you smile and Alex Young’s direction is very sure-footed indeed.

Kirsty Mann and Vlach Ashton are excellent romantic leads and Brendan Matthew & Sarah Dearlove very good as the King & Queen. I loved the interpretation of Cinderella’s sisters – Kate Scott as a somewhat manic Joy and Lydia Jenkins with rather more ‘attitude’ as Grace. The prince’s Steward Lionel was given a bit of a camp makeover by Josh Carter to good effect.

Given the time of year (and this was a matinée too), this somewhat sophisticated entertainment was played to rather too many young children I’m afraid and the seat kicking, crisp & sweet eating and fidgeting rather wore me down. This is far too good for kids (and in my opinion certainly not suitable for under 7’s) and maybe an evening performance would have been better. That said, congratulations to the Tabard for quality alternative seasonal fare.

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This isn’t exactly culture, but after plays about dysfunctional relationships, broken Britain, grief & sectarian conflict and an opera set in Auschwitz, it was a welcome tonic to end the week!

It’s a 22 year-old reworking of a 44 year-old Broadway show by Clark Gesner based on Charles M Schultz  ‘Peanuts’ comic strip, given a delightful small-scale production by Anthony Drewe at the little Tabard Theatre in Chiswick. There’s no story as such – just cartoon strips turned into sketches with songs – but it’s the characters which make it hang together. The songs aren’t particularly distinguished, but its funny in a panto sort of way, appealing to adults and children, but each getting something different. For us adults, it’s wry, tongue-in-cheek and quirky.

It’s the performances that pull it off – six lovely characterisations. It’s great to see Hairspray’s Leanne Jones again here as Lucy, with Adam Ellis terrific as her brother Linus, with comfort blanket and speech defect. Nathanial Morrison has a wonderfully expressive face, which means you rarely stop smiling at his Schroeder and Hayley Gallivan gives us a cheeky gregarious Sally. Of course, it all revolves around Charlie Brown and Snoopy and Lewis Barnshaw & Mark Anderson respectively are spot on with their sense of resignation at whatever they encounter.

Great for kids and adults who’ve overdosed on angst and bleakness!

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I think this was Stiles & Drew’s first show. It’s first production at the Tricycle Theatre, twenty years ago, was directed by Mike Ockrent no less and Cameron Macintosh was its godfather. I loved it, and amongst my fond memories is the appearance of a young Clive Rowe who’d impressed me in the Guildhall School of Music & Drama’s end-of-year musical Girl Crazy – it may even have been his professional debut.

It still strikes me as an impressive debut musical, with catchy tunes from Stiles and witty lyrics from Drew. Based on Rudyard Kipling’s Just So stories, it’s more about the characterisation of the animals than it is about the simple story.

In this production, it is mostly well sung, though the small band feels as if it’s in the room next door – well, it almost is, sitting behind a screen on a ‘shelf’ to the left of the stage. The performances too are mostly good – particularly by the three leads. Lee Greenaway is cute and charming as Elephant’s Child, Ian Knauer an authoritative presence as The Eldest Magician and I loved Lisa Baird’s feisty Glaswegian Kolokolo Bird.

The Tabard is a small stage for 11 actors; unfortunately designer Christopher Hone has made it even more difficult for them by over-designing a two-tier set which restricts movement and adds little. In addition, the costumes, though clever, fail to create the magical animal world.

So, a good show well performed but let down by the design and staging I’m afraid…..but worth a second look twenty years on.

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