book by Luther Davis music & Lyrics by George Forrest & Robert Wright additional music & lyrics by Maury Yeston based on the novel by Vicki Baum.
Southwark Playhouse (The Large) 77-85 Newington Causeway SE1 6BO To 5 September 2015.
Mon-Sat 7.30pm Mat Sat 3pm.
Runs 1hr 45min No interval.
TICKETS: 030 7407 0234.
Review: William Russell 7 August.
It’s a Grand night out, all things considered.
Thom Southerland’s production of this 1989 Broadway show is slick, well-performed and ultimately rather less than the sum of its parts – if certainly better than the 1992 version swallowed up by the Dominion theatre.
Southerland has opted to stage it in traverse, which means the cast is stretched-out along a corridor, backs inevitably turned to half the audience, resulting in lots of inaudibility.
There are several story strands. Vicki Baum’s 1929 novel was about a group of people staying in the hotel over a weekend, and although Southerland tries to keep the focus it does not always work.
Traverse settings are a fringe favourite because they mean no set, but no Grand Hotel and something is missing right from the start.
The show opens splendidly, however, with a grand march of staff and guests, intricately choreographed by Lee Proud. But while Christine Grimandi sings well as the ballerina at the end of her tether and career, who falls for Scott Garnham’s jewel thief baron, a ballerina she is not.
Garnham is certainly loud of voice, his crescendos quite terrifying and raucous, but he makes a most plebeian aristocrat. As Flaemmchen, the typist tempted to succumb to her predatory boss, Victoria Serra sings sweetly but misses the character’s desperation – 1928 Berlin was tough for a girl trying to survive.
Jacob Chapman’s Hermann Preysing, the dying Jewish accountant who has turned up to enjoy life for once with the toffs, is, if anything, more irritating than Lionel Barrymore in the 1932 movie based on the book.
Most of the good songs are by Maury Yeston. The ghastly big ballad for the Baron and Ballerina, ‘Love Can’t Happen’, sounds like Andrew Lloyd Webber on heat, probably because the arranger has worked on countless of the Lord’s shows.
In sum, a decent revival of a show which, despite winning lots of Tony awards way back then, is not among front-rank musicals, whose plot strands do not all get the clarity they require, but with sound playing from the cast, good costumes, and terrific dance routines by an ensemble drilled to the last degree.
Herman Preysing: Jacob Chapman.
Raffaela: Valerie Cutko.
Rohna/Zinnowitz: James Gant.
Baron Felix Von Gaigern: Scott Garnham.
Elizaveta Grushinskaya: Christine Grimandi.
Sander/Chauffeur: Charles Hagerty.
Madame Peepee: Rhiannon Howys.
Witt: Paul Iveson.
Jimmy: Jammy Kasongo.
Trude: Ceili O’Connor.
Otto Krigelein: George Rae.
Colonel-Doctor Otternschlag: David Delve.
Flaemmchen: Victoria Serra.
Erik: Jonathan Stewart.
Jimmy: Durone Stokes.
Bellboy: Samuel J Weir.
Tootsie: Leah West.
Director: Thom Southerland.
Designer/Costume: Lee Newby.
Lighting: Derek Anderson.
Sound: Andrew Johnston.
Musical Supervisor/Adapted Orchestrations: Simon Lee.
Musical Director: Michael Bradley.
Choreographer: Lee Proud.
Dance Captain: Ceili O’Connor.