SONGS FROM A HOTEL BEDROOM
by Kate Flatt and Peter Rowe.
New Wolsey Theatre Civic Drive Ipswich IP1 2AS To 23 October
TICKETS: 01473 295900.
then Linbury Studio, Royal Opera House Bow Street London WC2E 9DD 4-6 November 2010.
Thu-Sat 7.45pm Mat Sat 2.30pm.
TICKETS: 020 7304 4000.
Runs 1hr30min No interval.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 20 October.
Singing out loud about love.
Kurt Weil’s career was one very much of two halves. The first, in Germany up to 1933, moved from atonalism to a popular, jazz-inflected style, famously including the mordant material he wrote with Bertolt Brecht, repertory which would have been sung to death if it weren’t for its imperishable quality. The second, across the Atlantic, included collaborations with American lyricists and playwrights, up to Weill’s death in 1950.
Yet, apart from ‘September Song’ (from 1938 political satire Knickerbocker Holiday, lyrics by Maxwell Anderson)), included in this new, small-scale piece built around the composer’s Broadway melodies, the American songs don’t leap for attention like the pre-Nazi German numbers.
Still, they’re well worth hearing. Many, like ‘Speak Low when you Speak Love’, ‘I’m A Stranger Here Myself’ or ‘It Never Was You’, etch themselves gradually into the memory. So Songs From a Hotel Bedroom performs a service in giving them room on stage, as it follows the post-war relationship of singing star Angélique and popular composer Dan.
Theirs is an on-off affair, though mainly off as he dedicates himself to composing, only to find life doesn’t automatically make time for love later on. Alongside the realistic scenes, mainly set in a recording studio and the titular bedroom (not always occupied by the pair alone), there are short sequences for two tango dancers, who usefully cover the sliding and carrying of scene-changes, while more significantly suggesting the spirit of desire, conflict and separation within the protagonists.
There’s more of Angélique than Dan, which unbalances things somewhat, especially because, singing apart, there’s little for Frances Ruffelle’s character to do except feel sorry for herself, as the script asserts Angélique’s stardom rather than allowing Ruffelle to develop it.
But it’s Nigel Richards, whose full-toned voice fits finely on the borderland of operatic quality and stage-musical style (no hint of crossover awkwardness), who makes a major impression in the songs. The band play well – despite their character names, however, they take little part in the action. But the story is hardly the point. It’s the songs – along with Richards in particular – that make this show.
Angélique: Frances Ruffelle.
Dan: Nigel Richards.
Tango Dancers: Amir Giles, Tara Pilbrow.
Piano/Jimmy: James Holmes.
Violin/Louis: Charlie Brown.
Double Bass/Lester: Neil Charles.
Drums/Percussion/Rich: Clive Deamer.
Trumpet/Mich: Steve Pretty.
Reeds/Flute/Nathan: Dai Pritchard.
Accordion/Romano: Romano Viazzani.
Director/Choreographer: Kate Flatt.
Designer/Costume: Chloe Lamford.
Lighting: Anna Watson.
Sound: Al Ashford.
Music: Kurt Weill.
Arranger/Musical Director: James Holmes.
Dialect coach: Michaela Kennen.
French coach: Nicole Tibbels.
Dramaturg: Peter Rowe.
Assistant musical director: Leon Charles.
Assistant choreographer: Amir Giles.