Saturday, April 30, 2011

Memorable Theatre Performances #5:
June Watson as 'Mrs. Peachum' in THE BEGGAR'S OPERA
(Cottesloe, NT, 1983, seen here with John Savident)

"The actors seemed to be enjoying themselves... June Watson was particularly good as Mrs Peachum" - Peter Ackroyd, Times ~

In a production teaming with vivid, memorable performances June Watson was a wonderfully conniving and venal Mrs. Peachum, firing off endearments to her daughter Polly as "Not wiv an 'ighway man you sorry slut"

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Memorable Theatre Performances #4:
Bryce Ryness as 'Woof' in HAIR (Al Hirschfeld Theatre, 2010)

"The production's veterans have honed their characterizations into second skins... Bryce Ryness' Mick Jagger-loving Woof drolly balances swagger and sweetness" - David Rooney, Variety

The other men who made an impression were Bryce Ryness' Woof, a blissed-out giant going to great lengths to stress he was not gay but was gagging to sleep with Mick Jagger" - me, ChrisNThat blog
I suspect we shall know by the end of the year where we stand with Terence Rattigan. Much is being made that this year marks the centenary of his birth and a slew of productions are being staged to celebrate this as well as the release later in the year of Terence Davies' remake of THE DEEP BLUE SEA.

It's all rather odd as 2011 is also the centenary of Tennessee Williams' birth and he is a writer whose work has received more attention in the past few years in London than Rattigan's but of Tennessee there appears to be nary a peep of celebrations this year.

Rattigan in truth has never been that far from our stages with fairly frequent revivals of THE DEEP BLUE SEA and, to a lesser extent, SEPARATE TABLES and THE WINSLOW BOY but I suspect the upswing in Rattigan's profile has been due to the phenomenal success last year of the National Theatre's AFTER THE DANCE. This seems to have led to him now being seen more as a playwright to be taken seriously as opposed to a writer whose plays make handy vehicles for starry revivals.Trevor Nunn is launching his tenure as Artistic Director of the Theatre Royal Haymarket with a production of Rattigan's 1941 play FLARE PATH, written while he was serving with the RAF. It is what you expect from Rattigan, a solid well-made West End play with a beginning, a middle and an end - in that order. Not as haunting as AFTER THE DANCE but worthy of a revival I guess.

The Falcon Hotel is a genteel Lincolnshire hotel which has as it's clientele the officers (and wives) of the neighbouring RAF airbase. We follow the events that take place over a single night when the airmen are recalled to the base for a night flight over Germany. One of the four planes in the squadron is fired upon by waiting enemy planes on take-off and one is reported Missing In Action and we watch as the news of a missing pilot refracts on his wife and his friends.
Rattigan rewrote the play for the 1945 film THE WAY TO THE STARS which packs a more emotional punch as he didn't hedge his dramatic bets as he does here. I suspect that because the film script was written towards the end of the war, it was easier to include lead characters being killed in action.

The action here is given a melodramatic twist by having the hotel's occupants surprised by the appearance in their midst of Peter Kyle, an actor who has made a name for himself in Hollywood. It turns out that it isn't just a random visit as Kyle has been conducting a clandestine affair with Patricia, one of the pilot's wives. She is on the verge of telling her husband that she is leaving him when the call comes through for the night flight so the tension is stretched to breaking point between the lovers.
With not much sub-text to play, Trever Nunn ramps up the tension of the waiting women and this works very well. He also elicits sympathetic performances from his cast, the stand-out being the 'West End's Sweetheart' Sheridan Smith as Doris the down-to-earth and amiable ex-barmaid who now finds herself the Countess Skriczevinsky after her marriage to a Polish airman.

Sheridan was the real heart of the play and as the realisation dawned that her husband had not returned with the others, she shone with a stoic sadness. In the scene where Doris asked Kyle to read her the letter that her husband left to be opened in the event of his death, her delicate reactions were heart-breaking.Owing to the non-appearing James Purefoy, the lead role of Peter Kyle was played by Jim Creighton and he was very good. Kyle secretly knows he is coming to the end of his Leading Man roles and is banking all on his relationship with Patricia and Creighton played this quiet desperation very well.

The role of Patricia was played by media darling Sienna Miller. She was ok as the stage actress torn between her love for Kyle and her duty to her obviously disturbed pilot husband but watching her I was amazed that her name has such cachet. There are any number of actresses who could play the role as well if not better and her blandly attractive, blonde looks conjure up the model on a Timotei ad rather than a memorable actress. The media's constant infatuation with her is truly baffling.

The role of the golden boy pilot Teddy Graham who is becoming more and more frazzled with each sortie was played well by the impossibly posh-named Harry Hadden-Paton and there was fine support from Joe Armstrong as Sgt. 'Dusty' Miller, Emma Handy as his visiting wife Maudie, Mark Dexter as Johnny the Polish flyer and in particular from Clive Wood as Squadron Leader Swanson aka 'Gloria' who made a sympathetic older 'uncle' to the pilots.

It was an additional pleasure to see the play in a full theatre - although it was amusing to find that his personification of his core audience 'Aunt Edna' - "a nice, respectable, middle-class, middle-aged, maiden lady, with time on her hands and money to help her pass it, who resides in a West Kensington hotel" - is alive and well. She is going to need that money to catch up with all the upcoming productions of his work!

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Memorable Theatre Performances #3:
Laura Osnes as 'Nellie Forbush' in SOUTH PACIFIC (Lincoln Center, 2010)

"Incadescent... With her ability to be adorable, charming and alluring all at once, she'll make you laugh your head off with her fearless comedic efforts." - Lee Hernandez, Latina

She gave a wonderfully nuanced performance with no attempt to gloss over the character's more questionable side - oh that any of our graduates from the tv talent school shows should make such an impact." - me, ChrisNThat blog

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Memorable Theatre Performances #2:
Danny La Rue in DANNY LA RUE AT THE PALACE (Palace, 1970-2)

"By 1970, when he performed in a long-running revue at the Palace Theatre in the West End, he was being described as the highest-paid entertainer on the british stage. He liked to describe himself as Max Miller in sequins" - The Times obituary

"Danny la Rue ruled that stage... holding the audience like a true star and managed to bring the house down with a look" - me, ChrisNThat blog

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Memorable Theatre Performances #1:
Gillian Anderson as 'Nora' in A DOLL'S HOUSE (Donmar, 2009)

"A superb Nora, by turns sexy, neurotic, manipulative, terrified, and in the great last act absolutely merciless" - Charles Spencer, Telegraph

"Her realisation of her worth in her husband's eyes at the end of the play was admirably played, growing in strength and steely determination" - me, ChrisNThat blog

Friday, April 15, 2011

Constant Reader I am ALL behind... now where was I? Oh yes. National Theatre Part 2.So it turns out, you can keep your jukebox musicals or over-hyped film-to-stage west end shows... the show that is the #1 fight-for-a-ticket production is the National's FRANKENSTEIN by Nick Dear, directed by Danny Boyle and starring Benedict Cumberbatch and Jonny Lee Miller who are alternating the roles of 'Victor' and 'The Creature'.

The Benedict Frankenstein/Jonny Creature combo was the one that made most sense to me but the only performance we managed to get was last Saturday matinee. It made an interesting contrast to leave the brilliant sunshine and chattery throng to sit in the darkened Olivier feeling the cold clutch of the undead. Well, I was never that much on sitting in the sun - give me a thumping, edge-of-the-seat work of pure theatre anytime. The immersion begins even before the play starts - Underworld's unsettling, electronic soundscape plays in the foyer as you enter the Olivier (the urge to use their BORN SLIPPY track was obviously ignored!) and, as we settled into our stalls seat in the red-lit auditorium, we nervously eyed the huge bell that hung above the stalls with an actor waiting patiently underneath holding a rope! Sure enough BONG went the bell and all attention was on the circular frame that had slowly rotated on the stage showing the form of the Creature within, echoing Leonardo's Vitruvian Man.

Unlike other adaptations of Mary Shelley's novel, the story is initially told through the eyes of The Creature - from his 'birth' pangs to Victor's rejection and on to his scary first experience of the real world and the hatred of strangers. It was a hypnotic beginning and one that acclimatised you to Jonny Lee Miller's astonishing physicality as the Creature. Naked, flapping and rolling about on the Olivier stage, Miller literally threw himself into the role. It also got you accustomed to Danny Boyle's vision of the play and his full use of all physical theatre trops - lighting, sound effects, music, water and fire, all of which culminated in the thrilling appearance of a steam train - all bright lights and showers of sparks.
The story then settled down to the Creature's education at the hands of Karl Johnson's kindly blind professor, driven from his university into a rural exile by a political regime. It was the first of many reflections and echoes between characters that Nick Dear has found in the tale. Needless to say, the Creature's idyll cannot last long as the Professor's son and daughter-in-law react in horror at his appearance and he responds by wreaking revenge on the family by burning the house.

The Creature journeys to Geneva where Victor has returned to his father's house and to his fiancee Elizabeth, who he has ambivalent feelings for at best. Benedict Cumberbatch is not an actor I warm too but here his shtick of cerebrally emotional coldness was well-used as Victor. When Victor's infant brother is found murdered, he confronts his creation who presents him with an ultimatum - make him a female companion so he will know love and he will vanish from his creator's life. Initially horrified, Victor's vain-glorious ambition cannot be suppressed and he agrees to the deal, which, as we all know, leads to disaster...
I will admit that at times Nick Dear's script was alarmingly thin when it came to the supporting characters but the confrontation scenes between Cumberbatch and Miller were wonderfully vivid, owing much to the chemistry between the two actors. The fact that they are alternating the roles I suspect gives them a rare insight into the characters and each other as performers.

As I have said, of the two I found Miller absolutely thrilling. He has filled out a bit since his Sick Boy days but this solidity works well for the Creature, making him more believable as a figure of menace. He gave a nuanced performance, by turns bitter, humorous, angry and with a genuine feeling of loneliness.Karl Johnson made the most of his featured role as Professor De Lacey, just the right actor to 'settle' into the play with as his character is the first the Creature relates to after the sturm und drang of the production's opening.

Being the National we have the inevitable non-traditionalist casting which works both for and against the production. Naomie Harris brought vitality and intelligence to the role of Elizabeth - I am still haunted by the execrable performance by Helena Bonham-Carter in the misguided Branagh film - but even she can do nothing with Dear's line of "We'll have less of that" when the Creature touches her breast in the bedroom scene. Excuse the pun but there were titters.

Sadly the same cannot be said for George Harris as Victor's father. All I can say is that Victor and murdered William must both take after their mother. It's not the fact that he's black that makes him stand out, it's the fact he is so under-powered as an actor. In a fairly anonymous support cast, Ella Smith was a delight as Elizabeth's maid Clarice.

It's 15 years since Danny Boyle directed a play and it seems that he has burst back onto the stage with a fevered imagination that rarely shows in his films - THE BEACH anyone? As I said the show is a real Sensurround experience with Mark Tildesley's set, Bruno Poet's lighting and Underworld's score all contributing to the experience, but it's Danny Boyle's vision that holds it all together.How pissed must the National be that this sell-out production is only going to have a run of 3 months thanks to the lead actor's availability? I would hope that they will be able to revive it at a later date - but would it have the same impact with two other actors?

If only there was some way for Cumberbatch and Miller to be cloned... they could run it till the wheels dropped off then. Cloned... *reaches for test-tube and Bunsen burner*

Monday, April 11, 2011

Two...count 'em two... visits to the National Theatre in the past week.

Midweek I flew solo to the Lyttleton Theatre launchpad to take Clifford Odets' ROCKET TO THE MOON. There, got all the puns in at the start. Owing to Owen's continued lurgy I had the option of an empty seat next to me to use as a table for coat, programme, bag etc. Better that than offering the ticket back to the box office due to the worrying sign Tickets Available for the Lyttleton.In 1984, Bill Bryden directed a revival of Odets' boxing melodramatic GOLDEN BOY at the Lyttleton and 27 years later the National Theatre have decided to do another of his plays!

When it comes to productions in London, Odets definitely loses out in the shakes to Tennessee Williams and Arthur Miller and after seeing ROCKET TO THE MOON I'm not that surprised. His plays are well-constructed with well-drawn, meat-and-potatoes working class characters but they lack that extra something to lift them to a more profound level.
Last produced in London in 1982 at Hampstead which transferred briefly to the West End, ROCKET TO THE MOON takes place in New York during the broiling summer of 1938. In the stifling offices of dentist Ben Stark business has dropped as the heat has risen, and with the empty hours comes restlessness and temptation.

Ben had ambitions once but they have been stymied through circumstance and is happy to be under the benign thumb of his wife Belle, both of them trying to move on from the death three years earlier of their baby son. Their main point of contention is his friendliness with her father who she has distanced herself from since her mother's death.
Ben sublets his offices to a fellow dentist Phil Cooper, whose sardonic asides barely cover his desperation at his livelihood vanishing. Into this tinderbox situation sashays Ben's new dental nurse Cleo Singer whose office and nursing skills leave much to be desired but whose zest for life and affability can not be matched.

When Cleo confesses to Ben that her stories of a happy family background are told to cover up her real existence as the only wage-earner in an ungrateful household, they are drawn together and start an affair, Cleo's love making him believe in himself again. But when Ben's father-in-law starts laying siege to Cleo's affections too - and the Talent Agent down the hall starts sniffing around too - it can only lead to disappointment and regret.
The play, for all it's blue-collar ranginess of 'little' people struggling to keep their head's above the flow of the times, feels oddly paced and is hampered by a fairly long first half and a second which abruptly changes emphasis. It is as if Odets approached the play differently every time he came to write a new scene. One can only surmise that the actions of the Ben, Cleo and Belle characters mirrored at times his own life as at the time of writing he was married to Hollywood screen star Luise Rainer while romancing another, Frances Farmer.

Odets had started the affair with Farmer the previous year after she left Hollywood in an attempt to gain some kudos as a stage performer by appearing with The Group Theatre company in GOLDEN BOY. The Group Theatre - who had staged all Odets' plays since his ground-breaking debut about the unions WAITING FOR LEFTY in 1935 - was *the* theatre company to work for but Farmer eventually felt disenchanted with the company and, when no further roles were offered, had the impression she had only been used as a box office draw for the play. It was indeed their most successful play financially.Director Angus Jackson tries to keep the various shifts of emphasis under control and it's not entirely his fault or his company that the last odd lurch of the play doesn't quite ring true. He is not helped either by the play being staged on the expanse of the Lyttleton stage, no wonder Ben's business is dodgy - he is paying rent on an office the size of Grand Central Station. The play and Jackson's direction seemingly cries out for the intimacy of a space such as the Cottesloe or the Donmar.

That is not to put the blast on Anthony Ward's set which is virtually a 3-d rendering of an Edward Hopper painting - large windows illuminating solitary figures surrounded by suffocating silence.

Bizarrely enough I was even more impressed with the small corridor at the left of the stage - the perfect recreation of the awful, drab corridors found in any NY office block from the period. My attention however kept getting drawn to the fact that the top section of the set wasn't joined to the main back wall so kept waiting for a massive set change that never happened.

One thing Odets knew how to do was give actors chewy characters to work with and mostly they make good. Joseph Millson was an interesting choice as Ben, I suspect the character should be played by an older, more burnt-out actor but if there is one thing Millson does well it's the conflicted leading man and he made Ben more sympathetic for that age shift. Keeley Hawes however could do nothing with the role of the exasperated Belle, it was a portrayal that seemed to entirely consist of mannerisms with no interior spark.
Making the most of their supporting roles were Nicholas Woodeson as the wealthy and gregarious Mr. Prince, Ben's father-in-law and Peter Sullivan as the unlucky fellow-dentist. Always 'on' and with the rejoinders of a Catskills resort comic Mr. Prince can be an exhausting character but Woodeson played him with a roguish charm no more so than in his brusque proposal of marriage to Cleo, merely a business merger for their mutual gain.

Peter Sullivan was excellent as the flailing, failing fellow-dentist, denied help at every turn and finally becoming a paid blood donor to make ends meet. Through this role and Sullivan's performance one gets a suggestion of why the play is being performed now with his fear of being unable to pay the never-ending bills that his family and failing business engender.The performance of the evening was Jessica Raine as the endearingly naive Cleo. In a role that Marilyn Monroe would - and should - have triumphed in, Cleo's ditsy exterior covers a heart as cowed and afraid as the men surrounding her and in the final scene, when Odets gives her the possibility of a shining future lived according to her own ideals, you find yourself willing her on.

Odets seems entranced with his glittering creation and I suspect Cleo would have had a more depressing end in the hands of other writers. Raine went from fluttering Judy Holliday-like daftness to wordly-but-wise Jean Harlow go-getting broad in the blink of an eye and was utterly enchanting.If you want a meandering but solidly well-acted night at the theatre, than you could do a lot worse than visit the Lyttleton. Ultimately however, I left feeling once again that Clifford Odets' literary reputation isn't fully justified.

I guess you had to be there at the time.

Monday, April 04, 2011

Ah the last show in New York... always a tricky one to get right. You can end up with a SOUTH PACIFIC or if you are unlucky, you get CRY-BABY.

This year marks the centenary of Tennessee Williams' birth so to get the party started the Roundabout Theatre Company were staging his 1963 play THE MILK TRAIN DOESN'T STOP HERE ANYMORE at the *big breath* Laura Pels Theatre at Harold and Miriam Steinberg Center For Theatre.Far be it from an American to donate to the arts anonymously. There was the Hymie Goldfinkle Staircase, the George Bumfarter Gents Restroom, the Shagger Beikenhoff Bar etc. etc. - and none of it was all that to be honest. Harold and Miriam could have picked a better architect.

I have to applaud Roundabout however for putting the play on as it has a dodgy track record. Williams wrote it under the shadow of the failing health of his lover Frank Merlo - something Williams could not face - and the first Broadway production closed after a month although Hermione Baddely was nominated for a Tony for Best Actress.

Merlo died from stomach cancer and Williams sunk his pain and guilt into rewriting MILK TRAIN which re-opened a year after the first in a new production directed by Tony Richardson with the jaw-dropping cast of Tallulah Bankhead and Tab Hunter as Flora Goforth and Christopher Flanders. However it was greeted with even less enthusiasm and closed after only 5 performances.

For some unfathomable reason, Joseph Losey filmed it in 1968 with Williams rewriting the play for the screen. Renamed BOOM! the film starred a totally miscast Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton and it further charted their decline into box office poison.

The play's last London outing was at the Lyric Hammersmith with Rupert Everett as Flora Goforth - yes, as Flora - directed by Philip Prowse. It's a rare role that can be played by such distinctive players as Baddely, Bankhead, Taylor and, um, Everett - and now it's Olympia Dukakis' turn to have a go.

Flora Goforth is dying, a fact acknowledged by everyone but Flora who refuses to give in to the inevitable and rages against the night by racing through the dictation of her memoirs to meet her publisher's - and maker's - deadline. She is aided by her secretary Blackie although she isn't much happier as she is still mourning the sudden death of her husband and bridles against Flora's incessant demands on her time.

Flora chides Blackie for her mourning - she has buried a string of husbands whose fortunes now keep her in lavish surroundings in a villa on the Italian coast. Now, recollecting her progress from showgirl to millionairess, she acknowledges the loss of her young first husband and the lost chance of companionship with the death of her last.

Into their closed world, comes itinerant poet and mobile-maker - go know - Chris Flanders who is acting upon a possible past invitation from Flora to visit the villa. Flora likes what she sees and thinks that he will be the answer to her problems.

In a way he is... her bitchy gossip friend The Witch of Capri tells her that Flanders is known in their circles as The Angel of Death as he has a habit of being with elderly wealthy women when they die.

And there you have it... Flora rages louder and more desperately against the encroaching darkness and Chris' presence, Blackie realises that there is a life to be lived and Chris waffles on about life, death, poetry and mobiles.MILK TRAIN started the decline in Williams' output with the onset of his alcohol and pills addictions and it shows. Like the glass mobile that twirls at the side of the stage, flashes of his genius illuminate the text occasionally but much of the text seems to be writing for the sake of writing, as if by doing this he hoped that the play might form itself.

The production was directed by Mike Wilson who helmed the play in 2009 in Connecticut with Dukakis and while a perfectly adequate production I am not sure why he felt the urge to stage it as his obvious passion for the play is not felt in it's staging.The supporting cast went through various stages of adequacy but overall Maggie Lacey as Blackie was monotonously one-note - she could do 'terse secretary' but the human heart that is being denied was nowhere to be seen. Darren Pettie played Christopher Flanders adequately enough but again I was left feeling vaguely frustrated as his Angel of Death had all the enigma of a carpet salesman. I am also not sure the production had to hold such a long beat when he whipped his towel off - it was like a penis, only thinner.

Continuing the casting gender twist that started when Losey cast Noel Coward as The Witch of Capri in BOOM!, in this production Broadway's default waspish queen Edward Hibbert played that role.

He did his usual shtick and certainly gave the show a galvanising bitchy uplift, his heightened theatrical style seemed at odds with the naturalistic playing of Lacey and Pettie but it was all the more welcome for that.

And then there was Olympia Dukakis. I had seen her before on stage in 1999 at the National in the rather dull one-woman play ROSE so I was aware of her scouring powder quality onstage. She don't do soft.

It certainly was a fascinating performance - Tennessee has Flora's moods change almost in the blink of an eye going from a tough old broad to introspection, from sorrow to anger, from cutesy to belligerent, from swaggering to frightened. It's a big ask for any actress brave enough to put herself out there out of their comfort zone. Suddenly Vanessa Redgrave has sprung to mind!

On the whole - physically and emotionally - I think she triumphed apart from one fatal error. She played the role like she was doing an impression of Foghorn Leghorn. And there was me thinking it was only British actors who overdid the Southern accents. No word was knowingly let go without a couple of vowel sounds boinging away in the middle like a slapped ruler. But here I am. a week and a bit after seeing it and I am still haunted by her.Apart from her haunting performance, what I take away from the event is my flat refusal to ever go to a matinee at the Laura Pels Theatre again. I was appalled at the behaviour of the mainly octogenarian audience who you would think would know how to behave in a theatre - the kids at SPIDER-MOOSE knew to shut up - why the fuck can't you lot?

Talking loudly during the start of this tricky play, zipping and unzipping handbags, rustling sweet papers... I had half a mind to stand up and request Christopher Flanders work his deathly magic on the noisy old cows and alter kockers in the audience and leave Flora be.

Oh and Constant Reader? Owen has made me promise never to take him to a Tennessee Williams play again. So stand by to be ready for some theatre trips....

Sunday, April 03, 2011

THE ADDAMS FAMILY last Saturday afternoon had left me in a state of terminal boredom thinking I never EVER wanted to see another musical again. Who could come riding to my cultural rescue? Step forward Frank Loesser - I should have guessed.

On Saturday evening we went to see the last preview of Loesser's 1961 Pulitzer Prize-winning HOW TO SUCCEED IN BUSINESS WITHOUT REALLY TRYING at the Al Hirschfeld Theatre.
I have never seen the show - either on stage or film - so it was nice to experience it all through this bright and breezy production. I am guessing it's distinctly American flavour explains why it has not been seen in London since it's 1963 premiere although Joe McFadden and James Bolam starred in a production at Chichester in 2005.

I guess there is a chance we will see this production here as it marks the musical debut of one Daniel Radcliffe and he has chosen his show well. And no, he doesn't show his arse in this one.
The lead character of J. Pierrepont Finch, a window cleaner who by following the dryly Machiavellian instructions of his How To... book manages to rise up through the corporate world of World Wide Wicket Company, is a fairly unlikeable character on paper so you need a performer of unshakable charm to make him sympathetic. Luckily director/choreographer Rob Ashford has Daniel Radcliffe and what he brings to the party is an instant likability, bags of charm and - who knew? - a nice singing voice and unflagging energy in the dance routines.

I have had a quick squint at the reviews and some seem very grudging about his performance. I suspect the taste of sour grapes in the air - get over yourselves, you have an actor who can do the job, does it surprisingly well and is getting a charming book show on where otherwise there would be a jukebox musical.After the tired vaudeville shtick of THE ADDAMS FAMILY and the poe-faced cluelessness of SPIDER-MOOSE it was a real joy to watch a show which had a funny book with likeable characters - GUYS AND DOLLS co-writer Abe Burrows co-wrote this too - and a score that not only was good to listen to but that moved the story along and gave the characters a little more depth.

Frank Loesser wrote the scores to only six musicals and one of them, GUYS AND DOLLS, has my enduring affection as being the show that, in Richard Eyre's production at the National Theatre in 1982, was my entry into the world of theatre-going. WHERE'S CHARLEY? was seen in NY for the prestigious Encores series last month but has only been seen in London twice - I guess London managements are more likely to put on CHARLEY'S AUNT rather than the US musical! THE MOST HAPPY FELLA is rarely seen as is GREENWILLOW while PLEASURES AND PALACES has not been seen since it's 1965 Boston try-out when Loesser cancelled it and it's Broadway run.
His conversational, vernacular lyrics suit the business milieu of the show - not knowing the show I was only familiar with two of the numbers: the show's hit I BELIEVE IN YOU and the rousing finale BROTHERHOOD OF MAN. I suspect I will be getting the cast recording!

If I have a criticism of the show it's that while Rob Ashford's direction keeps the energy up and the plot running smoothly, his choreography seemed at times at odds with the score and seemed at times to pull the focus away from the dancing, as t'where. However I did like his Fosse-esque moves for the men in the office plotting to knock Finch off his perch. Boom and, indeed, boom.I wasn't overly sold on Derek McLane's MAD MEN-ish design but I don't want to criticise the show too much as it was such fun.

Ashford has cast fine performers in all the roles - John Larroquette was nicely harassed as J.B. the boss who picks Finch to run his advertising after believing they share the same college and Christopher J. Hanke had great fun as J.B.'s conniving nephew who is Finch's rival for the Big Job. Ashford also has CNN's Anderson Cooper providing the dry, laconic narration to Finch's progress.

Rose Hemingway was a delight as Rosemary, the secretary who sets her cap at Finch and Tammy Blanchard was a riot as Hedy LaRue, J.B.'s mistress who he sneaks into the company as a secretary. She had echo's of G&D's Miss Adelaide, a good-natured broad who sashays before she thinks.

Mary Faber as Rosemary's office friend and Ellen Harvey as J.B.'s tough-as-nails secretary Miss Jones also made an impression.

So thank you Rob Ashford, Daniel Radcliffe and Frank Loesser for restoring my faith in theatre musicals!
On the holiday we left two theatre slots free to see what we could pick up while there and owing to the lack of any BOOK OF MORMON tickets, we plumped instead for a Saturday matinee of THE ADDAMS FAMILY.

On the whole I should have opted for banging my head repeatedly with the hotel door. It would have been less painful. Yes Constant Reader, I come not to praise THE ADDAMS FAMILY but to bury it. And hopefully they will stay there.

I had an inkling of how things would pan out when looking around the audience - mostly families who looked like they were taking a break from shopping or sightseeing for a few hours by sitting in the dark. Large shopping bags had to be negotiated at every turn. I suspect they would have been happy to have the tabs raise on an empty stage and they wouldn't have minded.

I suspect the actors have a similar feeling of going through the motions. By the look of things THE ADDAMS FAMILY is the 'big' show you get tickets for when you can't get into the more popular 'big' shows and there was a real air of forced jollity among the cast. The reason I wanted to see the show was so I could see Bebe Neuwirth on stage for the first time. She gave us a nice star turn but the show sells her short - and she knows it. The best the creators can come up with for Moticia is that she is upset that Gomez might be thinking she is too old. Oh do come on.

The cast has recently changed so they should feel anything but tired. Don't get me wrong, there are actors giving the best performances they can - Brad Oscar as Fester, Jackie Hoffman as Granny, and now Nathan Lane has left the role of Gomez is played by Roger Rees - yes you read that right. They all give charming performances - but are fighting a losing battle against Marshall Brickman (he co-wrote ANNIE HALL you know) and Rick Elice's lame book and Andrew Lippa's uninspired score.The plot, such as it is, revolves around Wednesday falling in love and the lad's conformist parents coming to spend the night at the Addams mansion. There, you didn't see that coming eh? How about the biggest kick in the pants... the parents discover 'themselves' through exposure to the Addams' way of life! The show is yet another product of Oy Gevalt Productions (Hi Suzanne!)

The show was originally directed and designed by Phelim McDermott and Julian Crouch (of SHOCKHEADED PETER fame) but was re-directed by Jerry Zaks after a troublesome out-of-town tryout. This messy birth has not helped the show. So... I also enjoyed Brad Oscar's song about his love for the moon performed in a Black Theatre of Prague style, Bebe Neuwirth and Roger Rees' second act tango was very well done... oh and the heavy swagged red curtains were luscious. And that's about it. Oh and I can mark off the Lunt-Fontanne theatre as visited.

It's the kind of show where you sit wondering when it will take off - as the ushers are sweeping the rows for sweet wrappers.

It's the kind of show that I suspect is put on for no other reason than their hadn't been an ADDAMS FAMILY musical before.
It's the kind of show that I can imagine would turn non-theatre going people off the theatre - "What? You want to see a Broadway show?? We saw that ADDAMS FAMILY musical remember???"

Although isn't it odd... people will happily sit through any amount of shite films but they never say "What?? Go to the cinema? We saw that Danny Dyer film remember?" But one duff show and some people refuse to set foot in a theatre again.

It's the kind of show where these things occupy your mind as there is nothing else to engage the mind. Yes, a worse experience than SPIDER-MOOSE.