Posts Tagged ‘Alan McHale’

This is the first of three new British musicals in less than a week. They are a rare species, but when they come they’re like buses. This is a great start to the trio, a big show for the fringe, and what impressed me most about it was the exceptional score, with particularly good choruses that are staged as well as they are sung. I suspect this won’t be the last we’ll see of it, but you should check out this first production which is way beyond fringe expectations and a highlight even for the Landor.

It’s an adult fairy tale set in fictitious Spindlewood some time in the past where the clockmaker, a widower, has created a clockwork woman, Constance, as a companion. She learns quickly and soon leaves her maker’s home to taste life in the town, where she sees the ruination of the mayor’s son’s fiancé’s wedding dress and creates a replacement that’s a whole lot better. This brings work, offers of jobs and the disdain of Ma’ Riley, the town’s dressmaker, compounded by the fact her son Will falls for Constance – but he’s not the only one. She’s initially made very welcome, but when her mechanical nature is revealed, the town turns on her and a witch-hunt begins, which brings in a moral theme of accepting difference. It’s cleverly framed by scenes in the present day which give it a pleasing structure.

David Shields’ design and Richard Lambert’s lighting and projections are outstanding and director Robert McWhir marshals his 20 strong cast in the limited Landor space impeccably, with great choreography from regular collaborator Robbie O’Reilly. Michael Webborn’s score really is excellent, with hints of folk and a touch of Irish about it. It’s jam-packed with lovely melodies and lots of uplifting choruses that risk taking the roof off this small theatre. I loved the orchestration for piano, double bass, violin and percussion and Michael and his band play it superbly. It’s another excellent Landor ensemble, with a particularly fine performance from Alan McHale as Constance’s love interest Will and a charming cameo from Max Abraham as Sam.

Most new musicals are chamber pieces, so it’s great to see something on this scale. Yet another feather in the Landor’s cap. Don’t miss.

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This was the first musical adaptation of a Shakespeare pay; well, there haven’t been that many in the 75 years since it was written. I don’t think we’ve seen it in London since Judi Dench’s production at the Open Air Theatre back in 1991, which is a bit of a puzzle as Shakespeare’s comedy of mistaken identities lends itself to musical theatre adaptation and this show has a pretty good score, including the standards Falling In Love With Love and This Can’t Be Love.

In this production, the audience is on three sides with a small, but little used, stage on the fourth; when all 18 were dancing, they were in danger of falling over each other! It’s quite a challenge for a small theatre and a relatively inexperienced company, and in the somewhat ragged first half, this showed when things got a bit too close to panto with performances a bit too broad. Things picked up significantly in the second half, though, by which time it was steaming.

Perhaps what puts others off producing it is the need for eight principles and its here that the Union has done particularly well. The twins – Aaron Hayes Rogers & Matthew Cavendish and Oliver Seymour-Marsh & Alan McHale were well-matched and invested great physical energy into the many entrances and exits of these roles. The girls fared particularly well, with Carrie Sutton’s Adriana, Natalie Woods’ Luce and Cara Dudgeon’s Luciana delivering the show’s highlight, Sing For Your Supper, superbly. Kaisa Hammurlund leads the courtesan’s extremely well in the deliciously titled closing number Oh, Diogenes!

It’s great to see this Rogers & Hart show again after so long. I hadn’t realised until I read the programme note that part of Lorenz Hart’s motivation for doing it was to provide a role for his brother Teddy and a lookalike he continually came up against at auditions, enabling them both the get a Dromio role! If they could tighten up the first half, this revival would go from good to great. As it is, still worth catching.

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