Posts Tagged ‘John Caird’

Biblical musicals aren’t really my thing. I’m not at all fond of the Lloyd-Webber / Rice pair, Jesus Christ Superstar and Joseph & the Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat, or Godspell by Stephen Scwartz, who also wrote this (which flopped when it went straight to the West End twenty-five years ago). Somewhat perversely, I prefer it to the other three – all hits – but that may have a lot to do with the chamber scale and high quality of this revival.

Based on the Old Testament Book of Genesis, it tells the stories of Adam & Eve, Cain & Abel and Noah, the first two in Act I and the latter in Act II. I thought the score was rather good, as were Schwartz own lyrics, better than his other shows like Godspell, Pippin and Wicked. John Caird’s lucid book provides a cohesive structure. Even for an unbeliever like me, these are good yarns.

The staging (director Christian Durham) choreography (Lucie Pankhurst), design (Kingsley Hall) and lighting (Nic Farman) all come together to create a fresh, energetic and attractive whole. The animals were conjured up brilliantly and the use of umbrellas was very clever. Musical director Inga Davies-Rutter led an excellent quartet with particularly lovely woodwind sounds. It was very pleasing on the eye and ear.

There was a lot of doubling-up in the excellent young cast of eleven performers. I was particularly impressed by Stephen Barry as Adam / Noah and Canadian Natasha O’Brien (in her first UK role) as Eve / Mama Noah. There were other fine leading performances from Guy Woolf as Cain / Japeth, Daniel Miles as Abel / Ham and Nitika Johal as Yonah, and an excellent ensemble. They deserved a medal for getting through with the distraction of a front row of kids consuming an entire sweetshop with their mothers two rows behind necking cans of lager!

A very pleasant surprise, well worth catching.

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This play by James Phillips sets out to tell the story of fashion designer Alexander (Lee) McQueen, but in 110 minutes it doesn’t really tell us anywhere near enough. By introducing a lot of movement and music to give us a feel of the catwalk, it distracts from the story. It’s more pose than substance.

A girl called Dahlia has appeared in Lee’s workroom whilst he’s looking for inspiration for his next show, demanding a dress. She may be a burglar, a stalker, his alter ego or just a figment of his imagination. Together they visit the tailor where he was apprenticed where they meet his first tutor, on to meet his muse Isabella Blow, to his mother’s house and finally to a rooftop in Stratford, where he was brought up. A bunch of models / dancer occasionally appear to dance or pose. The story of his fascinating life is mere snatches. It doesn’t really go anywhere, feels very perfunctory and we don’t really learn much – except that he’s a genius and a tortured soul and he loves his mum. There’s a lot of stuff on the small stage but not much of it looks attractive, with the exception of a frock and a coat, which isn’t exactly what you might expect in homage to its subject.

The chief reason for seeing this is the performance of Stephen Wight as Lee, who does his best with the flimsy material. There’s a nice cameo from Tracy-Ann Oberman as Blow, making a terrific entrance laying on a chaise longue, but David Shaw-Parker and Laura Rees were wasted. I’m afraid I was unimpressed by Diana Agron as Dahlia, whose performance seemed very one-dimensional, though in fairness she didn’t have a lot to work with. Even the ensemble of eight seemed wasted, and very cramped on a stage made smaller by the design. Given the talent and pedigree of director John Caird and designer David Farley, the weakness of the production is a bit of a puzzle.

A missed opportunity to pay tribute to a design icon.

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I think the name of this show is deceptive (and unwise). It conjures up images of a kids show or something twee. Well, it is somewhat sentimental, but it’s a delightful musical two-hander based on an early 20th century novel by Jean Webster which is in essence a love story.

Rich-but-benevolent New Yorker Jervis, a trustee of an orphanage, funds their brightest young girl through university anonymously, with one of his few requests being a monthly letter by way of a report on her progress. The story is largely told through these letters, over a period of four years until just after her graduation. Orphan Jerush meets Jervis as he is the uncle of one of her college friends, but she doesn’t know he’s ‘Mr. Smith’ her benefactor. If course, they fall in love and it all ends happily.

Paul Gordon’s score is simply beautiful, superbly played by a six-pice orchestra under Caroline Humphris. It is almost, but not completely, sung through with so many gorgeous melodies and lyrics which propel the story forward, though sometimes unevenly (some time periods getting longer than others). David Farley’s wood panelled period design and John Caird’s simple staging enable to show to flow seamlessly through a lot of scenes and a years.

Though I liked both Robert Adelman Hancock as Jervis / Smith and Megan McGinnis as Jerush, it was the latter’s vocal performances which blew me away; one of the best musical theatre voices I’ve ever heard.

The cheese level is a little high, but well worth living with for what I thought was a delightful chamber musical. This was my first visit to the new St. James Theatre (such a good name) and it’s a nice intimate space – very much like Trafalgar Studio 1 (steep!) but a little smaller size.

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