THE GRAND TOUR
music and lyrics by Jerry Herman book by Michael Stewart and Mark Bramble.
Finborough Theatre Above The Finborough Arms 118 Finborough Road SW10 9ED To 21 February 2015.
Tue-Sat 7.30pm Mat Sat & Sun 3pm.
Runs 2hr 10min One interval.
TICKETS: 0844 847 1652 (24hr).
Review: Timothy Ramsden 14 January.
Small-scale revival admirably suits minor-key story.
Starting-point here was a play by Prague-born dramatist Franz Werfel. Young writers are told to use their own experience for their early works; Werfel was revisiting his later-life experience for his final piece in 1944.
Jacobowsky is a Jew from Hungary rather than Czechoslovakia, but Werfel and his wife had their own ‘grand tour’, helped by an escape committee to cross wartime France and embark for America. Assuming the adaptation by American comedy writer S N Behrman (descended from a Lithuanian family) caught its adapter’s tone, then it and this musical share a wry sadness that seems echt-Werfel. Like Werfel, Jacobowsky was aided by nuns in his escape. And the Colonel’s lover shares her name, Marianne, with one of Werfel’s sisters.
Jacobowsky is a survivor who believes not just that while there’s life there’s hope, but that while there’s a choice the percentage stays in your favour. He has stayed alive in his travels around Europe by bending to the situation and devising means of escape, an ability developed through necessity in a series of pogroms It’s a trick Alastair Brookshaw’s shuffling, unassertive figure can teach the tall, demanding Colonel, unbending scion of Polish nobility who looks down on his enforced companion – and not just physically.
The importance of class is also seen in Zoë Doano’s Vision-of-Loveliness Marianne. As they travel, her hero-worship of the inflexible Colonel who was a fine peacetime poser is challenged by appreciation of the shuffling little man’s humble ingenuity. In outline the triangle recalls Raina, Sergius and Bluntschli in Bernard Shaw’s Arms and the Man, but for once the other writer, backed-up by historical necessities, is more realistic than Shaw.
Thom Southerland’s production fits so neatly on the tiny stage (with a table and very few chairs to provide variety of height, Phil Lindley’s set doesn’t even use the Finborough’s full postage-stamp space), it would be easy to ignore its own ingenuity. But ingenious it is. And if the two keyboard accompanists are packed off to the audience’s sides, their expert playing gives a stereophonic impact as involving as other aspects of this enjoyable rarity.
Jacobowsky: Alastair Brookshaw.
Colonel Stjerbinsky: Nic Kyle.
Marianne: Zoë Doano.
Undercover Agent: Michael Cotton.
Mme Boufffier/Mme Manzini/Sister Bernard: Laurel Dougall.
Ginette/Mme Clairon/Mother Pauline: Elizabeth Graham.
Lady with Pince-Nez/Claudine/Sister Martin: Natasha Karp.
Papa Clairon: Vincent Pirillo.
SS Captain: Blair Robertson.
Chauffeur/Conductor/Groom: Samuel J Weir.
Sister Rolande: Lizzie Wofford.
Director: Thom Southerland.
Designer: Phil Lindley.
Lighting: Derek Anderson.
Sound: Max Pappenheim.
Orchestrator/vocal Arranger/Musical Director: Joanna Cichonska.
Choreographer: Cressida Carré.
Costume: Sophia Simensky.
Assistant musical director: Chris Guard.