Posts Tagged ‘Tom Conti’

Was this the first show title to be followed by an exclamation mark? Did it start it all? If only it was worthy of an exclamation mark.

Jack Rosenthal wrote some terrific TV plays, including The Knowledge and The Evacuees. One of them, Spend Spend Spend, was turned into a successful musical. Another, Bar Mitzvah Boy, a less successful musical, the experience of which provides the inspiration and source material for this play, which seems to be about as successful as the musical.

I’m not quite sure why it’s so flat. It’s occasionally very funny, the design by Paul Farnsworth is good and the performances are OK. Maybe 30 years on, it just isn’t particularly original. Somehow the story of endless re-writes and backstage disagreements now seems ever so conventional and the characters now stereotypes. There’s the naive first time book writer, novice lyricist, the veteran Broadway composer, the know-all American director and the Jewish (?) producer who tries to please everyone to keep it all together. It’s two hours of endless re-writes as the show progresses from office to rehearsal room to Manchester try-out and finally to the West End. With Rosenthal’s wife Maureen Lipman originating the idea of reviving it and his daughter Amy in charge of ‘additional material’ maybe it’s just too respectful to the original?

I’ve never been fond of Tom Conti – the John Wayne of theatre, who has raised glibness to an art form – and despite the heavy accent, he again plays Tom Conti – this time in big suit and moustache…… with an accent. The West Wing’s Richard Schiff is well cast as the veteran composer, though he seemed to be going through the motions last night. Josh Cohen’s lyricist is the most likeable character and he plays him, well, likeable. Carrie Quinlan made such an impression in a tiny cameo as a waitress that she got a round of applause as she left the stage – in my experience, an honour normally reserved for ‘stars’.

A bit of a ‘so what?’ show, I’m afraid. It’s now over a year since I had a great night at the Menier Chocolate Factory – something to be concerned about given it’s at the heart of Off-West End.

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