music by Dana P Rowe, book and lyrics by John Dempsey.
4 Stars ****
The Union Theatre to 06 August
229 Union Street, London SE1 OL3, to 6 August 2016.
Tues-Sat 7.30pm Mat Thurs, Sat & Sun 2.30pm.
Runs 2hr 40 mins One interval.
TICKETS: 020 7261 9876.
Review: William Russell 16 July.
Dazzlingly directed revival superbly performed
The Union has moved to its new home across the street and very handsome indeed it proves to be. To launch the new home the theatre has fielded one of the strongest casts to perform there in a long time – splendid principals, a first rate ensemble and orchestra, and immaculate direction by Michael Strassen.
That said, however, the show itself has its problems. First staged in 1997 by Sam Mendes at the Donmar, and at the Union two years ago in a production directed also by Strassen, which won good reviews, it is a satire on American presidential politics and the dynastic families who keep getting the job for favourite sons – the Kennedys and the Bushes are the most recent.
Dana P Rowe’s score is, however, only workmanlike, and although John Dempsey’s lyrics have bite, his book lacks focus, not fatally but damagingly. The Fix cannot make up its mind what it is satirising, has an awkward shift into melodrama after being played for laughs, and also keeps changing its mind who it is about.
Is it the demon mother, superbly played by Lucy Williamson, malevolent but sexy, who, when her potential presidential candidate senator husband expires mid coitus with a tart, decides to groom their less than intelligent son for the role? Is it about her late husband’s embittered brother, Ken Christiansen dominating his scenes, a Richard 111 on crutches forced to play second fiddle to his sibling?
Is it about hunky Calvin, Fra Fee singing beautifully, the son, not as stupid as they think who, after making a suitable dynastic marriage, fuelled on cocaine reluctantly embarks on the trek to the White House, but fatally falls in love with a stripper, Madalena Alberto impressively out of her depth in this snake pit? Or is it about not supping with the devil, a Mafia don – a stunning turn from Peter Saul Blewden who also plays the dead senator?
Everyone gets a turn to shine in the spotlight, and in this cast everyone duly shines with the ensemble members also given and seizing their chances. But at 2hrs 40 minutes it is a long slog even although the ending is gloriously cynical – you cannot keep a bad woman down. Strassen has worked wonders, his choreography is hugely effective, and nobody in the cast is miked. These players can sing. This band under Josh Sood knows how to accompany singers, not always the case. A very American show – Rowe and Dempsey are best known for Witches of Eastwick, – The Fix has had very few productions there in the last twenty years which says it all really. Go for the cast and the production. The four stars are for them, but not the show as such. What you get is a Strassen silk purse from a sow’s ear.
Cal Chandler: Fra Fee.
Violet Chandler: Lucy Williamson.
Grahame Chandler: Ken Christiansen.
Madalena Alberto: Tina McCoy.
Reed Chandler/Anthony Guardi: Peter Saul Blewden.
Peter: Sam Barrett.
Frankie Diamanti: Daryl Armstrong.
Bobby Cracker Barrel: Alastair Hill.
Deborah Pullman: Kate Parr.
Ensemble: Rhys Benjamin. Laura Bryars, Francesca Leyland, Sarah-Marie Maxwell.
Director/Choreographer: Michael Strassen.
Musical Director: Josh Sood.
Associate Director: Paul Callen.
Costume Designer: Jean Gray.
Lighting Designer: Iain Dennis.
Associate Choreographer: Iona Holland.