Saturday, July 18, 2009

Theater reviews round 4

The spring and early summer have been BUSY from a theatre perspective….and I am happy to report a diversified field of shows have been attended. The end is not in sight yet as there are several mores shows still in the queue. Gotta love it!

So, in no particular order, a brief synopsis of our theatrical amusements of late…

(1) Rodgers and Hammerstein’s The King and I

Review: My personal favourite in the R&H musical songbook, it took no convincing whatsoever for me to attend. Interestingly enough, this show was staged in the cavernous Royal Albert Hall for a 2 week limited engagement. Personally, I thought the sets and costuming were superb, even if the stage was a bit too large to traverse. I was a bit concerned during the March of the Royal Children that we would be there until Christmas because those little legs did not cover that huge stage too quickly…no worries in the end. All in all, a capable King, a fairly adequate Anna (her voice seemed tired and raspy), and s stupendous Tuptim! The scene depicting the Thai interpretation of Uncle Tom’s Cabin was the highpoint for me, and the song, We Kiss in a Shadow, was fantastic.

Verdict: A somewhat generous 3 out of 4 thumbs up because this is one of my top 3 all-time favorite musicals. OK, so I am a bit of a homer.


(2) Tom Kempinski’s Duet for One with Juliet Stevenson and Henry Goodman

Review: Duet For One, a two-actor play, centers on Stephanie Abrahams (Stevenson), a brilliant concert violinist who is forced to re-evaluate her life when struck down by an unforeseen tragedy. Faced with a truth too difficult to comprehend, Stephanie consults psychiatrist Dr Feldmann (Goodman), and through a series of highly-charged dramatic encounters is led to examine her deepest feelings and darkest emotions and finally to consider the possibility of a future without music. As an interesting sidenote, Stevenson is best known to US audiences as the mother of Kiera Knightley’s character in Bend It Like Beckham and Goodman is best known to US audiences as the front desk manager in Notting Hill. A very sobering look at the physical and emotional toll that this dreadful disease takes on those afflicted. A bit overacted in places, I still enjoyed it and felt the desolation that this disease brings.

Verdict: 2.5 out of 4 thumbs up.

Duet for one 1

(3) Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Sunset Boulevard

Review: A non-traditional staging by Craig Revel Horwood (the caustic judge on the UK’s Strictly Come Dancing (the US equivalent of Dancing with the Stars). Small theatre and stage, where the actors were also the musicians – so the instruments were always in plain view on the stage. Clever and compact staging made this show mesmerizing as if Webber’s music would not under normal circumstances. Having never seen Sunset Boulevard before, I can now say this musical is safely ensconced in position #2 behind Evita as my favourite of Lloyd Webber musicals.

Verdict: 3.5 out of 4 thumbs up in large part to the clever staging and set decoration.


(4) Arthur Miller’s A View From the Bridge with Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio

Review: A powerful treatment on the somewhat taboo of incest, I found ALL the actors compelling in their roles. A special round of applause for Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio and Ken Stott who play the aunt and uncle. The Brooklyn accents of the UK cast were spot in as well. And yes, I LOVE Arthur Miller plays.

Verdict: 3.5 out of 4 thumbs up.


(5) Samuel Beckett’s Waiting for Godot with Ian McKellen, Patrick Stewart, and Simon Callow

Review: I will preface my remarks that I know this play is supposed to be a classic, but I just didn’t get it. A bunch of ranting nonsense. The most labored 2 ½ hours I have spent in a London theatre to date. We would have left at intermission if not for the three stars in this production (McKellan – where to begin but recently Lord of the Rings and X Men, Patrick Stewart – Star Trek-Next Generation, and Simon Callow, who I loved in Four Wedding and a Funeral). Call me a theatre illiterate but this was plain awful! An over-acted to boot!

Verdict of 0.5 out of 4 thumbs up…and only for its stellar cast.

Waiting for Godot

(6) Stephen Sondheim’s A Little Night Music

Review: Not being at all familiar with this musical and sorely lacking on my Sondheim music trivia, the only thing I knew about this musical was that the song Send in the Clowns is from A Little Night Music. Quite an entertaining little comical farce with great music (think a Noel Coward play set in Scandinavia). Lovely production, and the female lead was quite the comedienne. Highly recommend!

Verdict: 3 out of 4 thumbs up.

A little night music

(7) Oliver with Rowan Atkinson

Review: Thoroughly charming! The kids were fabulous and it was money and time well spent! Great chorus numbers, a thoroughly lovable Oliver and Jack, and Rowan Atkinson (think Mr. Bean) was worth seeing, although he must be an acquired taste. One of the best musicals showing in the West End right now.

Verdict: 3.5 out of 4 thumbs up.


Upcoming shows include Regent Park’s Open Air Theatre production of Hello Dolly!, Tom Stoppard’s Arcadia, Jude Law in Hamlet, Old Vic Theatre’s production of Inherit the Wind with Kevin Spacey, Entertaining Angels with Penelope Keith, Mrs. Warren’s Profession with Felicity Kendall, and the all-black production of Cat on a Hot Tin Roof with James Earl Jones and Phyllicia Rashad.

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