THE HUMAN COMEDY
book by William MacDumaresq from a story by William Saroyan music by Galt McDermot.
Palace Theatre 20 Clarendon Road WD17 1JZ 7-9 October 2010.
7.45pm Mat Sat 2.30pm.
2hr 15min One interval.
TICKETS: 01923 225671.
Review: Carole Woddis 13 September at Young Vic.
A Flying Start with a Spectacular production
The new Young Vic season has got off to a flying start with this spectacular community production. Like their award winning Street Scene, this collaboration between The Young Vic’s associate company, The Opera Group headed by John Fulljames, a local choir of over 50 and Watford Palace Theatre has produced another winning combination.
Fulljames, whose other credits include The Enchanted Pig for the Young Vic and several productions in the Royal Opera House’s small experimental space, the Linbury, has a brilliant way of creating drama out of music.
True, he’s working with a sweeping narrative but the disparate nature of the scenes somewhat dilutes the impact whilst the tone is unadorned American pie sentimentality.
Based on the book by William Saroyan and set during World War II in a fictional Californian town, Ithaca (named after the place Ulysses longed to return to), Saroyan sets out to explore the meaning of home and hearth, longing and loneliness.
Part Thornton Wilder’s Our Town, part the lament that is Blood Brothers, The Human Comedy revolves around a working class family, their mother and her three sons – one who has gone to war and the two left behind.
Galt MacDermot (famously, begetter of the musical Hair) and his librettist William MacDumaresq provide the music and book which turn out to be surprisingly patriotic (Hair was nothing if not subversive as well as being an anti-war anthem) with a sung-through narrative and musical styles ranging from spiritual to jive and a nicely understated sense of the imminent guitar craze of the 1950s.
If no single song stands out, Fulljames’ wonderful sense of atmospheric staging ensures a series of collective and individual moments of haunting beauty.
There is Helen Hobson’s sturdy, long suffering Ma, singing of the eternal loneliness of life (having already lost her factory packer husband), Terel Nugent’s soldier pal of Ma’s eldest, Marcus, describing how, as an orphan, he feels Marcus’s family are his own. And there are outstanding performances from Jos Slovick as Homer, no 2 son and Jordi Fray, who as Ulysses, Ma’s youngest, practically steals the show with an astroundingly assured stage presence.
Ma: Helen Hobson.
Matthew: Tomm Coles.
Marcus: Tom Robertson.
Bess: Kate Marlais.
Homer: Joe Slovick.
Ulysses: Jordi Fray/Theo Stevenson.
Mary: Sarah Harlington.
The Telegraph Office:
Grogan: Tony Stansfield.
Spangler: Jo Servi.
Diana: Brenda Edwards.
Toby: Terel Nugent.
Trainman: Chris Storr.
MD/Piano: Phil Bateman
1st Violin: Anna de Bruin
2nd Violin: Hazel Correa
Viola: John Rogers
Cello: Dom Pecheur
Trumpet: Christ Storr
Bass: Jo Nichols/Zoltan Dekany
Percussion: Greg Pringle
Local Chorus of 65.
Direction: John Fulljames.
Designer: Jon Bausor.
Lighting: Bruno Poet.
Sound: Fergus O’Hare.
Music Arranger/Musical Director: Phil Bateman.
Movement/Assistant director: Sasha Milavic Davies.