Tuesday, January 13, 2009

West End Report for 2008-2009

Stan Mazin Reports

I just returned from London after spending my yearly 8 nights there and here are my mini-reviews of the shows seen...

Zorro, the Musical... a delightful funny show filled with wonderful talent and probably my favorite show seen there. Matte Rawle is terrific as Zorro, and the queen of the gypsies, played by Lesli Margherita would make Chita Rivera proud. And the flying and sword play are well worth the price of admission.

La Cage Aux Folles was staged in a very small space so there were only 5 cagelles (I'm told usually 6, but many were out due to flu, etc.). Even the role of Georges (ZaZa) was played by the 2nd understudy, and the audience gave him a standing ovation (very rare in London). I honestly missed having a couple of real girls in the lineup, so the audience would always be pondering which ones were real women, etc. But the show had much heart, and I thoroughly enjoyed it.

Treasure Island, by no means a children’s show, had plenty of fighting, and smoke, but not much else... a hearty try, but much like a beautifully wrapped package, and afterwards, you forgot what it contained.

Piaf is a beautifully directed, acted, and sung biography starring an incredible Elena Rogers. From start to finish, I was enthralled. I had seen a production of Piaf (a different book, I believe) starring Elaine Paige many years ago, but I think this production is better directed, even though I loved that one as well.

Well is a well meant play concerning the relationship between mother and daughter. The daughter was wonderfully played by Natalie Casey, while the mother was played by Sarah Miles, and one couldn't help but think that she had Ruth Gordon in mind while playing that role. I wanted more.

Carousel was a fairly well produced show with choreography by Adam Cooper (the lead swan in Mathew Bourne's Swan Lake). Since I come from a dancing background I am more affected by that, and I felt the only time the choreography stood out for me was Louise's ballet in Act II... but the show was still quite good.

A Little Night Music was directed by Trevor Nunn, and put on in a little space called The Chocolate Factory, and it was completely sold out... so I waited very early for returns, and thankfully we were the only first 2 persons they let in that night. This was a wonderfully directed, and beautifully sung show, perfectly lit, with the exception that for me, I would have preferred the exact lighting, only a little brighter all around. The result was that in the beginning overture and waltz, one might think we were watching Sweeney Todd instead. Other than that, the evening was a smash for me.

I wanted to see Imagine This, as I was told it was wonderful, even though it did not get such great reviews, but it closed 1 week prior to my arrival... so I had to choose another show, and I had seen many of the American versions of the shows running, but even though I saw Jersey Boys in NYC, I chose to see that again. It was better than the NY version, which I loved... one minor, minor improvement could have been the crispness of just a few of the movements of the guys... but I am being so picky now... it was a fabulous show.

And finally the last night there I saw a show at the Hippodrome called La Clique, which was supposed to be like a burlesque of sorts. It was a variety show including an aerialist from America, a comic singer, a contortionist, and among others a strip tease with the same woman whom I had seen do the same strip on You Tube that someone sent me. An amusing show, with no program, so I couldn't even give you any names... sorry!

Looking forward to New York in April.



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