by Jack Rosenthal additional material by Amy Rosenthal.
Menier Chocolate Factory 53 Southwark Street SE1 1RU To 8 May 2011.
Tue-Sat 8pm Mat Sat, Sun 3.30pm.
Runs: 2hr 10min One interval.
TICKETS: 020 7907 7060 (£2 transaction fee).
no box office during weekday lunchtimes.
No on-site box office at any time when theatre is dark.
Review: Carole Woddis 1 April.
Doesn’t sound like springtime for Rosenthal.
Oh dear! What happened?! A play about a musical that flops is perhaps tempting Fate. In 1981, when Jack Rosenthal, the much acclaimed and popular stage and TV writer decided to tell the story behind the failed musical adaptation of his BAFTA award winner, Bar Mitzvah Boy (1978) it was apparently warmly received.
Thirty years on, with a different cast and director, it’s hard to describe how disappointing this experience is.
Perhaps the omens weren’t good last Friday evening when gales of laughter greeted every line from the off, followed shortly after by the sound of someone noisily stomping out of the auditorium, only hesitating long enough to berate Tom Conti with illegitimate parentage. “Not part of the show,” quipped Conti. But the damage was done.
From there on, nothing seemed to be quite working. Rosenthal’s account of hope and despair, the titanic ego clashes between his Bar Mitzvah Broadway director and composer, and ingénue young British lyricist (Don Black) and writer, barely kept in check by long-suffering Broadway producer, fell flatter than yesterday’s Lib-Dem promises.
Only Conti, playing Theo, the producer with an east European accent you could cut your teeth on, seemed to be enjoying himself. West Wing star Richard Schiff as a temperamental composer (based on Jule – Gypsy– Styne) looked as though he was still suffering from jet lag. Natalie Walter’s female version of Rosenthal, Liz, seemed to have wandered into the wrong theatre. She looked utterly lost.
Cameron Blakely, a trouper if ever there was one, girded his loins to deliver the kind of tyrant Broadway director for which it’s famous (Martin Charnin apparently, fresh from his then success with Annie). Paul Farnsworth provides a clever gold and crimson pros-arch set and Jason Carr some typical showbiz belt-‘em-out background score.
There’s nothing worse than realising you’re watching a dud, particularly as here with heavy irony, it’s mirroring the play’s storyline.
Imagine the best moment being provided by Carrie Quinlan as a Manchester waitress with half a dozen lines and you get some idea of
Theo: Tom Conti.
Liz: Natalie Walter.
Stacey: Cameron Blakely.
Mike: Josh Cohen.
Bebe: Richard Schiff.
Dancer/Waitress: Carrie Quinlan.
DJ/Board Operator/Waiter: Sam Parks.
Director: Tamara Harvey.
Designer: Paul Farnsworth.
Lighting: Tim Mitchell.
Sound: Gareth Owen.
Music: Jason Carr.
This production of Smash! Opened at the Menier Chocolate Factory on 24 March 2011.