Newest Review: ... in the show, with the aging actress paired off with the young screen writer, some very thoughtful moments but also a few humorous scene... more
A great and interesting revival of a good musical
Member Name: Asdf1
Date: 22/01/10, updated on 22/01/10 (29 review reads)
Advantages: A very novel production
Disadvantages: No tour details yet
Based on the 1950 Billy Wilder film, this musical version has songs by Andrew Lloyd-Webber and Don Black. Transferring from The Watermill Theatre in Newbury this version is an actor-musician production. The cast is the orchestra and the orchestra is the cast. The show was directed by the Strictly Come Dancing judge, Craig Revel Horwood and ran from December 2008 - end of May 2009. No tour is looking likely now unfortunately. I will post this review in case a tour does go ahead and as a useful review on the musical in general.
I think this is one of ALW's best scores - and certainly his best of the past 20 years. My favourite songs included "With One Look" and "As If We Never Said Goodbye". It may not be quite as good as Phantom of the Opera or Cats but it's probably my third favourite. There is lots of drama in the show, with the aging actress paired off with the young screen writer, some very thoughtful moments but also a few humorous scenes to lighten the mood. There are quite a few big ensembles pieces in the show which also have a real party feel about them. The real highlight is the 13 minute long climax of the show which wraps it up nicely and leaves you feeling just a little unsettled. It's a bold, brash, heart-breaking and very dramatic conclusion.
Secondly, onto this production. All the cast I thought were terrific and instruments and actors blended perfectly - this was particularly notable in the ensemble performances like "Let's Have Lunch". There are only 13 in the cast and some slight doubling up of roles, but it's pretty easy still to know who's who. Again, the business and 'buzz' of being inside paramount I think is conveyed quite nicely - the small cast not detracting in the slightest. It proves you don't need masses of people to make it work as I thought 13 people for the 'big' scenes would be way too few.
The stage is cleverly designed with a piano doubling up as a pipe organ and as Joe's writing desk. There's also a cleverly disguised drum kit.
Katherine Evans played Norma very well, it was a pity she didn't play an instrument though (I suppose the role was possibly too big to allow this). I was also very impressed by Ben Goddard's (playing Joe) rendition of the title song, which was also brilliantly orchestrated. He also spends a bit of time on the piano. All the other cast were great as well and I can't really fault any of them. Laura Pitt-Pulford played Betty and marked her first appearance in the west end - well, it certainly went well.
I have a few minor gripes including the entrance music for act two being too similar to the overture and a verse cut from Norma's "final scene". "As If We Never Said Goodbye" is beautifully performed, but you don't quite get the atmosphere - the theatre is normally completely dark with just the single spotlight on Norma. With this production the lights aren't dimmed and the ensemble/ orchestra are a bit of a distraction. Ticket prices were awfully high as well, I paid £54 for back stalls, front stall tickets cost over £60.
The programme was £3 and contained cast bios, background information on the show and production, but no photos - I don't think I would have bought one if I had known this. Also what's not mentioned is what instruments each character plays which would have been nice.
There were rumours this production was going to go on tour. Sadly, these don't seem to have been realised as it's not a bad musical (10 year original run I think in the west end) and the way this stage show is done has been a great novelty.
Summary: Watch out for a tour