Tuesday, 22 February 2011

I forgot about Matilda

Three musicals to report back on. I love musicals. But you probably knew that.

Matilda - RSC, Stratford

To my eternal shame (well, about 10 seconds of shame if I’m honest - it’s only a blog), I missed out Matilda from my January round-up. And it’s so good! If I am completely honest, I didn’t exactly come out humming the Tim Minchin songs - clever though the lyrics are, the music doesn’t stick in your head. The honourable exception to that is Miracle, the opener, which is funny, sharp and clever, and opens the show on exactly the right off-beat note that a Roald Dahl adaptation deserves. The whole show, though, is exuberant, warm-hearted and full of jokes for adults and kids. It also has some wildly enthusiastic dance routines and a couple of routines with swings and a gym vault that had my heart in my mouth. Special mention to Bertie Carvel (who I always love) for his grotesquely brilliant headmistress. If this moves to London, don’t miss it. And tell every parent you know to take their kids - they’ll adore it.

The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee - Donmar

Another month, another madly exuberant musical. Again, songs which didn’t really stay with me, but with a script as funny as this one, it doesn’t matter in the slightest. I didn’t stop laughing from the second it started. It’s got some good singing, some enthusiastic dancing (including an excellent cheerleading bit) and I enjoyed every minute. Big fun all round.

Company - Southwark Playhouse

Oooo, I’d never been to the Southwark Playhouse before - I felt so adventurous! I HATE open seating, by the way, I’ll just get that off my chest first. And if you go to see this show, try to sit in the centre bank - I was house left and I missed out on some of the choreographed numbers. In general, though, it’s worth seeing, if only because Company has some of the loveliest musical theatre numbers ever written - Marry Me a Little and Being Alive in particular, but it’s almost craven to single anything out since the whole show is fabulous. The production itself isn’t perfect - a couple of the songs were awkwardly staged, and a bit further down the cast list you’d have to say there are a couple of weaker links. But the leads, especially Rupert Young as Bobby, are charming, and there is a brilliant comic performance from Katie Brayben as April which is almost worth the price of admission on its own. Oh - stand-out vocal performances were Cassidy Janson and Greg Castilioni singing Getting Married Today - both moving and hilarious. In conclusion - well worth seeing.

Only one (maybe two) more theatre trips this month. Then (deep breath) eight (maybe even nine) in March. Yikes.

Monday, 14 February 2011

New Year FAIL

So, I made a new year’s resolution to review every theatre trip I went on. Exciting, right? Imagine how much fun reading them would be. If you dare. My thinking was that I spend a fortune on these bloody tickets - if I am not then sharing my thoughts about the shows with the whole world, what on earth is the point? The world NEEDS MY OPINIONS.

The resolution lasted exactly no shows. I could defend myself, but I think we all know that would just be a waste of typing energy, and my lack of blogging already demonstrates the paucity of said energy. I am weak. Very weak.

I am going to try again for February. First trip is this Wednesday - I bet you’re on tenterhooks. In the meantime, though, here’s a January wrap-up, even though most of this is now out-of-date and my views are of even less relevance than they were back then.

Twelfth Night - Cottesloe

Hmmm. I wanted to love it. I think that was probably the problem. Peter Hall directing Twelfth Night? With Rebecca Hall who I think is ace? I wanted so much to love it that perhaps my expectations got in the way. It’s a perfectly good production, but I wanted magic. Rebecca Hall is as charming as ever, though I like a Viola with a bit more oomph. Simon Callow is... Simon Callow. And it has the most bizarre Orsino I have ever seen (seriously, it’s like he’s in a different production from everyone else - everyone else is playing it straight and this guy sort of prowls and pouts his way around the stage - it’s incredibly distracting). But I liked the melancholy, autumnal feel of the whole thing, and Simon Paisley Day as Malvolio is super and dignified even when suffocated by indignities. Best of all, Charles Edwards is probably the funniest, most sympathetic Sir Andrew I have ever seen - totally stole the show. In short - worth seeing, but don’t kill anyone for a ticket. (I mean, I hope you weren’t planning to, but if you were: DON’T.)

A Flea in Her Ear - Old Vic

Great fun, but we saw Tom Hollander’s understudy. Tom Hollander’s understudy was perfectly fine but he’s not, you know, Tom Hollander. Disappointing. Especially at the prices the Old Vic charges. So I am in the unhappy position of knowing it’s a rather good production but still being unable to recommend it, because when I saw it, it was woefully undercooked.

Barbershopera - Trafalgar Studios

This was a second trip to see a show I very much enjoyed in Edinburgh last summer - did I enjoy the show, or did I enjoy the show because I was seeing it in Edinburgh WITH BEER? It turns out, I enjoyed the show. No mean feat to perform an entire show a cappella in four-part harmony, and all four of the cast perform with a huge amount of energy and focus. That said, this has been through some rewrites since Edinburgh - story-wise, they’re definitely for the better, but the new songs aren’t quite as good as the ones that have been around for a while - I’m sure this will get refined through future performances. I’ll definitely go and see whatever this lot do next - they’re good writers, with a nice line in cheap jokes which, as we know, I adore - I’d love to see them write a full musical, to be honest, where they’re not governed by the a cappella thing. Definitely worth checking out if you like musical comedy (come on, who doesn’t?).

Becky Shaw - Almeida

A fairly new American play - a hit off-Broadway apparently. I loved it. It’s not perfect, by any means - I’d rework the ending, for a start - but it is incredibly funny and acerbic and full of excellent performances. Worth seeing just for David Wilson Barnes, who appeared in the off-Broadway production. He is eerily like Kevin Spacey in this part - by turns laconic, funny, bitter and warm-hearted - a wonderful performance. Whole-heartedly recommended.

Less Than Kind - Jermyn Street

The year of Rattigan begins. Every Rattigan play I have seen has begun gently and quietly and then, before I even know what’s happening, the play has my heart in a vice-like grip and is squeezing gently. They make me laugh and make me tense and make me sad, all at the same time. This production is of a not particularly well-known Rattigan play, and you would have to say it’s not quite the powerhouse play of After the Dance or The Winslow Boy. But it’s a gorgeous, unhistrionic production, filled with unshowy, strong performances, particularly from Sara Crowe and Michael Simkins. I very much hope it has a life after Jermyn Street - if it does, go and see it straight away.

And that’s it for January, other than two failed attempts to see King Lear at the Donmar (don’t ask) and a Rory Kinnear talk at the National about his performance at Hamlet (interesting talk, fantastic performance - try and see it on tour if you can). February brings with it (currently) only three shows - the Donmar, Hampstead and Southwark. Let’s hope I report back rather more quickly this time round...