Posts Tagged ‘Yvette Robinson’

However good your staging and design, however fine the performances, however impressive the production values; if the material is poor, you still end up with a dud. A well produced dud, but a dud nonetheless. And, sadly, so it is…..

This 13-year old American show is getting its London premiere (clue?). It appears to be the only show written by Damon Intrabartolo & Jon Hartmere (2nd clue?). It was originally called a ‘pop opera’, then changed to a ‘rock musical’ – it’s virtually sung through, so in my book, it’s a pop opera. Even though it’s only 13 years old, it seems ever so dated.

We’re in a US catholic boarding school. Matt is in love with Ivy. Ivy is in love with Jason. Peter is also in love with Jason. Jason appears to be in love with both Ivy and Peter. They are rehearsing and performing Romeo is Juliet. Romeo is Jason & Ivy is Juliet, obviously. Peter is Mercutio & Matt is Tybalt,  obviously. It’s all about their sexual awakenings and it all ends in tears, obviously. The problem is it’s too contrived for its own good. It starts as earnest and becomes melodramatic. The characters are stereotypes.  The score is bland pop-rock. Musicals-by-numbers. I’m easily moved, but it left me cold.

When you walk into the Union Theatre, you can’t fail to be impressed by its transformation to a school chapel, complete with leaded windows and gilt altar. In fact, the only gripes I have with the production are that the three ‘nightmare’ sequences are not signposted / differentiated enough and the unamplified vocals are uneven and inconsistent and therefore sometimes incoherent or inaudible (this could be because I was in the side block with the band behind me). Otherwise, it’s a lot of talent focused on a work that isn’t worthy of it.

In a fine young ensemble, Hannah Levane stands out as teacher Chantelle and there’s an impressive professional debut from Melanie Greaney as Jason’s sister, token fat girl (and nurse in the play within) plus a small but excellent contribution from Yvette Robinson as Peter’s mum.

There’s bags of talent and fine craftsmanship, but it’s still a dud.

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This is a new chamber version of the Michel Legrand – Herbert Kretzmer / Alain Boubil / Claude-Michel Schonberg (the Les Mis team) – Jonathan Kent 2008 West End flop. I loved it first time around; went twice and bought the music. It’s much scaled down and now feels more like a Howard Goodall show, which is a compliment not a criticism.

It’s occupied Paris in the second world war and Parisian chanteuse Marguerite is a ‘kept woman’, showered with attention and gifts by a Nazi general. She falls for Armand, a young jazz pianist, but after an intense initial three-day relationship, its doomed. There’s no way her Nazi is going to allow her to go off with a younger model. Tragedy ensues as her best friend is killed and she is forced to reject Armand. Armand’s sister and her friends join the resistance and urge him to follow, but he’s obsessed with Marguerite.

The new orchestrations for a small 7-piece band under Alex Parker (who also produces) suits the music and there’s some lovely singing (though a few too many off-key moments and too little subtlety on the night I went). Overly loud solo’s notwithstanding, Yvette Robinson was a believable Marguerite, well matched by Nadim Naaman as Armand looking much like Julian Ovenden,who played the original, but without the age gap we have here. There’s good support from Michael Onslow as Otto, Mark Turnbull at Georges and Jennifer Rhodes as Madeleine. Director Guy Unsworth (who also contributed to the new book) makes good use of the small Tabard space with help from Max Dorey’s evocative set and excellent costumes.

If it had been more consistently sung I would be more enthusiastic. As it is, I was glad I went but don’t feel I saw it at its best.

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I first saw this Sondheimesque show four years ago at the even smaller New End Theatre in Hampstead where the young couple was Stephen Ashfield (who went on to be a Jersey Boy) and Emma Williams (soon to open in the transfer of Love Story from Chichester – more of her in the footnote!).

The show intertwines the stories of a young couple about to get married with another about to get divorced 10 tears and one son later. Both couples are on stage virtually throughout and there is little dialogue, so it feels more like a songspiel. I found it hard to get into it or even care about the characters in the first half, but things looked up in the second. It’s a clever show – maybe too clever for it own good; this might actually inhibit emotional engagement with the characters – but four years on still seems unfinished.

The Landor have attracted Jon Lee and Julie Atherton, who together with Grant Neal and Yvette Robinson, make a decent job of it. In truth, though, it wasn’t ready at this last preview. The cast do not yet seem comfortable, they and the band didn’t seem to have  quite mastered the complex score and there were issues with lighting and sound. Chris de Wilde’s design, though, is superb – an ‘Ikea’  wall of 45 large boxes onto which there are projections and into which props go in and out. 

It was often far too loud for the style and subject matter, though in contrast Julie Atherton was occasionally inaudible. I’d question the wisdom of amplification in this small space – with the inclusion of percussion, this is probably necessary, but it’s a chamber piece, so maybe a quieter orchestration without amplification would be better.

With hindsight, I wish I’d gone later in the run by which time I’m sure it will be very much the finished article.

* Emma Williams must be one of the most unlucky leading ladies in Britain. After being one of the youngest ever as Truly Scrumptious in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang early in career, she was part of the Bat Boy failure (which I actually liked!) then got unsigned as the alternate Maria when Connie Fisher went public on doing all 8 shows a week, then flopped again in Desperately Seeking Susan (where I lost a money!). In between though we got successful fringe outings of this show and Model Girl plus Sweeny Todd (the show, not the role!) with Bryn Terfel & Maria Friedman during the RFH re-opening season.

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