Friday, May 21, 2010

It's supposed to be a glorious weekend weather-wise... so I will of course be spending the evenings sitting in the dark!

I am genuinely nervy about tomorrow's show, PARADISE FOUND at the Menier Chocolate Factory. Nervy because it has the potential to be a real event... but it also sounds a bit dodge. The Shah of Persia and his Eunuch travel to Vienna and get involved in a LA RONDE-style escapade where everyone loves someone else's husband or wife... all set to a score of Strauss waltzes with new lyrics. The production is playing the Menier as a sort of glorified workshop with an idea of it transferring at some point to Broadway.

The reason I am worried is that in 2007 the Menier presented the World Premiere of Maltby & Shire's TAKE FLIGHT - which kinda didn't, and certainly didn't make it over the Atlantic. Once again one wonders whether an under-cooked musical is hoping for the seemingly-magical Menier name to carry it to Broadway.

The talent involved in PARADISE FOUND however is quite staggering...The musical is co-directed by 82 year-old Hal Prince, winner of 21 Tony Awards and a Broadway legend - among the shows he originally produced are THE PYJAMA GAME, DAMN YANKEES, WEST SIDE STORY, A FUNNY THING HAPPENED ON THE WAY TO THE FORUM and FIDDLER ON THE ROOF and he directed the original productions of SHE LOVES ME, CABARET, ON THE 20TH CENTURY, EVITA, THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA and KISS OF THE SPIDER WOMAN.

He of course is also famous for his close collaboration with Stephen Sondheim on his groundbreaking shows COMPANY, FOLLIES, A LITTLE NIGHT MUSIC, PACIFIC OVERTURES, SWEENEY TODD and MERRILY WE ROLL ALONG.
The show is co-directed by Susan Stroman who has won 5 Tony Awards for her choreography and direction and her shows include CRAZY FOR YOU, CONTACT, THE PRODUCERS and YOUNG FRANKENSTEIN.

The all-American cast also boasts many Broadway performers of the highest calibre:
They are led by Mandy Patinkin, Tony Award winner for Che in EVITA and nominated for a Tony as George in the original SUNDAY IN THE PARK WITH GEORGE. He appeared in the 1980s concert production of FOLLIES as well as appearing in such films as RAGTIME, THE PRINCESS BRIDE, YENTL and DICK TRACY and tv shows CRIMINAL MINDS and CHICAGO HOPE (Emmy Award). His only other book show appearance in the UK was in the frankly awful musical BORN AGAIN which opened and closed in Chichester in the 1990s - and yes I saw it!

He is joined by (from left to right):
George Lee Andrews: original companies of A LITTLE NIGHT MUSIC, ON THE 20TH CENTURY and PHANTOM OF THE OPERA (in which he appeared over 20 years - a Broadway record!)

Kate Baldwin: Best Actress Tony Award nominee this year for the revival of FINIAN'S RAINBOW

Nancy Opel: original companies of EVITA, SUNDAY IN THE PARK WITH GEORGE, URINETOWN (Best Actress Tony nominee) and TOXIC AVENGER: THE MUSICAL! I saw her a few years ago as Yente The Matchmaker in the Broadway revival of FIDDLER ON THE ROOF.

Judy Kaye: original companies of GREASE, ON THE 20TH CENTURY (replacing star Madeline Kahn as the lead 2 months after it opened), THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA (Supporting Actress Tony Award), RAGTIME, MAMMA MIA (Supporting Actress Tony nominee), SOUVENIR (Best Actress Tony nominee) and replaced Patti LuPone as Mrs. Lovett in the latest revival of SWEENEY TODD.

Shuler Hensley: National Theatre, West End and Broadway companies of Trevor Nunn's revival of OKLAHOMA! (Supporting Actor Olivier Award & Tony Award), TARZAN and YOUNG FRANKENSTEIN (as The Monster, Supporting Actor Tony nominee). His films include VAN HELSING where he played... yes you guessed.. The Monster!

John McMartin: original Oscar in SWEET CHARITY (Supporting Actor Tony Award nominee) which he repeated in the film version, original Ben STONE in FOLLIES, DON JUAN (Supporting Actor Tony nominee), Cap'n Andy in Prince & Stroman's revival of SHOW BOAT (Best Actor Tony nominee), HIGH SOCIETY (Supporting Actor Tony nominee), INTO THE WOODS revival (Best Actor Tony nominee) and GREY GARDENS.And that's not all! The seven supporting actors include Lacey Kohl who was in the short-lived musical CRY-BABY and Pamela Winslow Kashani who was Rapunzel in the original production of INTO THE WOODS.

All squeezed onto the Menier stage - Lord knows how I will have the energy for Ray Davies on Sunday!

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