Posts Tagged ‘West End’

Cooper’s London

July 10, 2013

Theatre

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A Mad World, My Masters,
by Thomas Middleton
(a.k.a. Guys and Dolls in Soho)

If there is a chance to get to only one show this middletonsummer at Stratford, make it this one. Middleton is not as well known as he should be, and this is his ultimate masterpiecea wickedly satirical and utterly hilarious farce. It is also a production that makes it clear that you could consider Middleton to have been the Damon Runyon of 1605 in his approach to satire. The director, Sean Foley, has come sean foleyup with the idea of updating the action from Soho (the London lowlife areas of 1605) to Soho in 1955, and the parallels not only work, but give the show the feeling of a Jacobean Guys and Dolls. As in that show, the louche underworld characters are treated with a kind of indulgence and we see everything from their viewpoint.

mad worldWith some wonderfully evocative and edgy jazz music from the era being played and sung throughout, the evening feels like an intelligent and provocative musical; and there really are an awful lot of laughs.

 

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The performance I attended was rollicking fun and the audience was captivated from the moment the excellent Linda John-Pierre sang her bewitching opening number. With a little modernization of some of the more difficult Jacobean language and of some of the characters’ names, the points are made that much  sharper. I especially like the protagonist being named Mr Littledick (not to mention the hypocrite, Mr Penitent Brothel), excellently played by Steffan Rhodri and John Hopkins, respectively.  The text is remarkably clear and accessible in this production. I came out wondering why the play is performed so rarely.

I think they should transfer A Mad World, My Masters to the West End and then Broadway and that it could have the same success as the National Theatre’s update of A Servant of Two Masters (now known as One Man, Two Guvnors). I resist picking anyone out for special praise because everyone in the cast was giving a peak performance; the staging amounts to a brilliant piece of ensemble work.

This is Sean Foley’s debut at the RSC, and I expect to be returning to see his work as often as I can. Mad World: in repertory, Stratford’s Swan Theatre til 25 October 2013
Schedule/tickets

A Kick-Ass Chorus Line

chorus line 2When it opened in February of this year, a facsimile edition of A Chorus Line hit the Palladium road running, as it were, and got sensationally positive notices everywhere. Unfortunately, it’s not doing sensational business, even though it’s very good.

So if you’re in London and fancy seeing as-near-as-damn-it to the original production, then you should be able to get in at half price or less! They are keeping the show running through the tourist season and then sending it on tour all over Europe in September.

I saw A Chorus Line all those years ago when it opened off-Broadway in a small house at the Public Theatre, but I don’t remember its specifics well enough to be able to say point by point how this production differs or is fitted to the new cast. All I can say is that it doesn’t have the dazzle or, indeed, the surprise value that it did in 1975; and much of the stuff that was original with this showlike dealing with homosexuality openly in a musicalis now common enough not to shock or distress as it could when the show ran originally.  The things that made people gasp with surprise and recognition and with the excitement of breaking taboos just can’t do that any more.  Nor can sitting in the Palladium give you the sense of proximity to the stage or intimacy that the original production did before it transferred to Broadway for its .

That said, it is still a very appealing show, best seen live because of the energy and impact of the dancing. The cast is uniformly excellent zimmerman 2and Leigh Zimmerman deservedly won an Olivier award for Best Performance in a Supporting Role in March. That means she beat out the boys too, because in the Oliviers there is only one supporting role award, not one for each sex.

Zimmerman’s movingly acted, nuanced and dazzlingly sung-and-danced performance as Sheila is memorable. She conveys the tough carapace that Sheila has grown through years of disappointment as well as the vulnerability that still exists underneath. Scarlett scarlett strallenStrallen is a poignant Cassie. In both cases you wish the parts were longer, the back stories more fleshed out. And Cassie’s solo routine, a long and demanding piece of choreography, is a true show stopper.

The entire cast keeps on giving: I liked Victoria Hamilton-Barrit, Rebecca Giacopazzi, and the Zach of John Partridge, for example. A Chorus Line has been faithfully restaged for this London run by two members of the original cast, Baayork Lavian and leeee and Bob Avian, who were also members of the whole, fascinating lengthy workshop process that developed A Chorus Line in the first place. And though the Palladium is somewhat too large for what was originally done as an intimate show off Broadway in a small theatre, this theatre is a legendary venue in itself and some of the fun is simply being enveloped in a place which has hosted so many wonderful vaudeville stars and Royal Variety performances.

A Chorus Line stands up to repeated scrutiny despite my quibbles. The score by Marvin Hamlisch is a fine one, with superb lyrics by Edward Kleban, the whole show building inexorably to that famous climax when everyone you have gotten to know as individuals over two hours suddenly returns glitteringly attired and melts into the anonymity of the chorus line with the unforgettable number One.

chorus line 3A Chorus Line runs at the Palladium Theatre in London until 31 August 2013 and then starts its European tour.  Catch it while you can! One of the tempting offers for the show is at: Best price tickets

Cooper’s London

March 17, 2013

THEATER

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The Importance of Being Wilde:
Judas Kiss

I saw the original production of The Judas Kiss in 1998, was fascinated by the performances of Liam Neeson as Oscar Wilde and Tom Hollander as Bosie (Lord Alfred Douglas), and couldn’t quite understand why the play was not more highly regarded. With this current revivaljudas kiss1 in London (originally at the innovative Hampstead Theatre and now in the West End for a limited time), the David Hare play seems, at last, to be reaping the appreciation it deserves both as a well-made text and as a strong evening of theatre. It’s completely convincing in its presentation of Wilde, Robbie Robb, and the ineffable Lord Alfred (Bosie) Douglas.

The great success of the production must be attributed to the directing by Neil Armfeld who gets from his performers completely committed performances all of which deserve notice. But there is no doubt that for most people the triumph judas kiss everettof the evening is the performance of Rupert Everett as the older Oscar Wilde. In Act One he is about to be arrested but cannot leave the love of his life, Bosie, to escape to the Continent, though everyone is urging him to do so and even leaving him enough time for an escape. In Act Two, he is living with Bosie after his years in jail and receives, definitively from his lover, what everyone has been predicting, that Judas kiss. That he recognizes its probability himself and yet keeps hoping it will not be so is one of the strengths of this nuanced performance.

Displaying sardonic wit at every turn (with quips mostly made up by Hare but completely in character with what we know about Wilde’s repartee), yet heartbreaking in his pathos and degradation, Everett makes us understand the character as well as the argument of the play. His passivity, his searing intelligence, his self-destructive hubris, and his fatigue are all very strongly conveyed; but mostly we come to know of his commitment to an unconditional love of Bosie, even as he recognizes the young man’s mendacity, hypocrisy, self-delusion, and betrayal. Everett ‘s is simply one of the best performances in the West End at the moment, and for that alone you should try to see this production. Cal MacAninch is moving as the faithful Robbie; and the young judas kiss 2Robert Fox, a petulant yet oddly appealing Bosie (convincing himself constantly of his own sincerity that everyone can see through), is impressive and a worthy stage partner for the other two. The play is haunting, sad, touching, and as England finally passes its laws in favour of gay marriage, remarkably topical and thought-provoking.

At the Duke of York’s Theatre
104 St Martin’s Lane, London WC2
until 6 April 2013.


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