London: Passion: to Nov 27
Posted by: Carole Woddis on Nov 21, 2010– 19.40PM
41 Earlham Street,
London WC2H 9LX
Mon-Sat 7.30; mats Thurs, Sat 2.30
Runs 1hr 45 mins without interval
Tickets: 0870 060 6624
Opening hours: Personal callers: Mon – Sat: 10am – curtain up
Telephone: Mon-Sat 9am-10pm, Sun 10am-8pm
Day seats from 10.30am, in person from box office. Max 2 tickets per person.
Standing £7.50 on day if perf sold out
Standby £12 available 30 mins before perf
Review by Carole Woddis of performance seen Sat Nov 20, 2010
Satisfaction, irritation, excellent production.Stephen Sondheim’s Passion appeared on the scene as a late addition to the Sondheim oeuvre. I should declare my cards where Mr Sondheim is concerned. Musically, he has given me more pleasure than almost any other composer-lyricist, and that’s including the Gershwins and Cole Porter. Company has me in floods, Sweeney Todd, Sunday in the Park with George I just marvel at. I genuflect before him.
So, how to record my reaction – irritation – to Passion, caught at the Donmar towards the end of its run?
Passion carries a daunting pedigree. Premiered in 1994, on Broadway, it scooped Tonys for Best Musical, Score, Book and Actress in 1994. It arrived in London two years later at the Queens Theatre with a cast that included Michael Ball and Maria Friedman.
At the Donmar, its intimate scenario – essentially it is a love triangle – receives a perfect realisation in Jamie Lloyd’s gently swirling, hallucinatory production. A musical whose emotional structure cries out for hermetic claustrophobia, not for nothing do its characters keep repeating the word `dream’.
Like Kleist’s The Prince of Homburg, also seen at this theatre and a late German slice of Romanticism as opposed to the Italian Iginio Ugo Tarchetti’s Fosca, subsequently made into a film on which Sondheim and James Lapine based the musical and book, it is as though the characters are experiencing their whole world through a dream.
Despite the `realism’ of an army officers mess, full in voice, hearty in manner, it is the eerie emotional possessiveness of Elena Roger’s (Piaf, Evita) Fosca that commands our attention. David Thaxton’s gallant Giorgio may sing of his passionate love for Scarlett Strallen’s impressive Clara – a married woman it turns out, Tarchetti, who died young, fervently wanted to epater the bourgeoisie – but Roger’s hollowed eyed Fosca, teetering on death, creates a world of heightened wilfulness that is all to do with fantasy.
When she succeeds in drawing Giorgio away by the egocentric relentlessness of her sickness, some, myself included, might feel this a deception too far. Passion is as manipulative as its heroine and musically less satisfying. For all that, Lloyd and his team have done it proud.
Clara: Scarlett Strallen
Giorgio: David Thaxton
Colonel Ricci: David Birrell
Lieutenant Torasso/Ludovic: Simon Bailey
Doctor Tambourri: Allan Corduner
Sergeant Lombardi/Mistress: Haydn Oakley
Lieutenant Barri/Fosca’s Mother: Ross Dawes
Major Rizzoli/Fosca’s Father: Tim Morgan
Private Augenti: Iwan Lewis
Fosca: Elena Roger
Musical Director/Piano: Alan Williams
Violin: Brian Wright
Viola: Robert Spriggs
Cello: Nerys Richards
Bass: Stephen Warner
Fluet/Clarinet: Neil Crossley
Oboe/Cor Anglais: Lauren Weavers
Trumpet: Toby Coles
Percussion: Matt Whittington
Director: Jamie Lloyd
Designer: Christopher Oram
Lighting Designer: Neil Austin
Musical Director: Alan Williams
Sound Designers: Terry Jardine, Nick Lidster for Autograph
Choreographer: Scott Ambler
Orchestrator: Jonathan Tunick
Casting Director: Anne McNulty
First performance of this production at the Donmar Warehouse Theatre, London on Sept 10, 2010.
Based on the film Passion d’Amore directed by Ettore Scola, originally produced on Broadway in 1994 by the Shubert Organization with the Lincoln Center Theater