DO I HEAR A WALTZ?
book by Arthur Laurents based on his play The Time of the Cuckoo lyrics by Stephen Sondheim music by Richard Rodgers.
Park Theatre (Park 200) Clifton Terrace Finsbury Park To 30 March 2014.
Tue-Sat 7.30pm Mat Sat, Sun 3pm.
Runs 2hr 25min One interval.
TICKETS: 020 7870 6876.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 9 March.
Opera in a teacup.
Though he brought about its creation, Oscar Hammerstein was not involved in this musical, having died before the project was under way. His composer-collaborator Richard Rodgers worked (somewhat awkwardly, it seems) with his lyricist protégé Stephen Sondheim and Arthur Laurents, who had been involved in musical as well as non-musical theatre, including the play from which Waltz sprang.
It shows big talents in studio mode. Just the thing for Charles Court Opera, who can cut any piece down to size. Though they hardly need to do so with this piece in the Park, apart from onstage accompaniment being limited to piano and percussion – which shows how percussion can create climaxes where none need have existed, simply by raising volume and emotional intensity.
The gain from this scale is in the drama. Laurents, through some unromantic locals, indicates the most serene republic in the world is mundane as a regular workplace. But the beauty of the city in the sea grips lone American traveller Leona.
She stands alone on the stage singing-out her heart, in front of a watery Venicescape from designer Louie Whitemore, as local people and fellow tourists alike hurry about their sightseeing or daily occupations.
It’s in her romance with Renato di Rossi the piece find its authentic chamber voice, dissecting feelings and motives, both pinning-down and opening-out character. The mistakes, imagined slights and awkwardness of explanation – particularly on his side – are built round a gift from him to her. The inwardness of their music contrasts the more forthright numbers often found elsewhere.
Rebecca Seale’s Leona is a figure often alone or isolated amid crowds, vulnerable yet resilient, and the performance that is the production’s heart. Hope and nerves help her connect with Philip Lee’s robust-looking Venetian, and her fine voice to connect with the audience. Lee also sings well, though the high sustained notes become strained when the volume quietens.
There are some neat comic moments in John Savournin’s production of a piece that does not grab attention at once, but may reveal initially veiled musical pleasures once the taste for them has been acquired.
Mauro: Theo Coleridge/Ernesto Xhema.
Leona: Rebecca Seale.
Floria: Rosie Strobel.
Eddie: Matthew Kellett.
Jennifer: Rebecca Moon.
Mr McIlhenny: Bruce Graham.
Mrs McIlhenny: Victoria Ward.
Giovanna: Caroline Gregory.
Alfredo: Will Haswell.
Vito: Arcadio Fernandez.
Renato di Rossi: Philip Lee.
Director: John Savournin.
Designer: Louie Whitemore.
Lighting: Nic Holdridge.
Musical Director: David Eaton.
Choreographer: Damian Czarnecki.
Assistant director: Manuel Bau.