Posts Tagged ‘Emma Williams’

Review – Love Story – Duchess Theatre

January 26, 2011

Tonight courtesy of a local publicist I was treated to Love Story at the Duchess Theater. I have to say, I wasn’t really raging to see a play about a love affair terminated by cancer in the middle of the January doldrums, despite a quite positive review by the West End Whingers. Salad Days (“the musical about the magical piano that makes people dance and sing!”) was much more my speed. Still, I have a devotion to the new in theater – I want to see what’s being created and am an enthusiast for moving the art forward by building the canon. And a new musical is actually a rare thing – you don’t get many in a year (and sometimes none, it seems) – so you want to go out and see it while it’s fresh and alive and see if you’ve got yourself something with legs. Or, if you’re morbid, the next Carrie: the Musical.

Love Story seems like a professional job, although I found the trio of women singing in the opening number (“About a Girl?”) to have thin voices and an occasional wobble. But I loved the orchestration – a grand piano and string septet (including guitar) – and having the musicians onstage at all time did a nice job both of making the show look and sound good AND emphasize the musical background that Jenny Cavilleri (Emma Williams) is aiming for when she decides to give it all up and help support her freshly-minted husband Oliver (the impossibly tall Michael Xavier) get through law school.

The key drama in this story – the first half, anyway – is how a poor college student (I can’t imagine anyone from Radcliffe being anything other than born with a silver spoon in their mouth, but what do I know) manages to fall in love with and become the object of affection of a rich “preppy bastard.” She starts off with a chip on her shoulder, he is impossibly arrogant, but somehow her come-on line of “I like your body” overcomes their mutual rudeness and aversion and leads to post-hockey passion.

Oliver is really immature, selfish, and disagreeable, and I have to say, I can’t see just what it is that makes Jenny pursue him. She really seems to be on to something when she accuses Oliver of just going for her to alienate his WASP parents – but might she actually be going for him to get at his money? In a scene in which she sings about all of the pasta she’s cooking for him as he goes through law school, it’s clear that she’s in it thick or thin, but I find it impossible to understand her attraction to him. It’s the biggest hole in the plot and seriously undermines the tragedy of this show. Which, as you are told in the opening scene, is that Jenny will die at twenty five, leaving Oliver behind to sort out his issues with his father and probably marry someone who’s going to make his law career more successful.

While I liked how briskly this show moved along (1:45, no interval and not enough time to get the “rebelling from Oliver III” plotline taken care of), I wasn’t really captured by the songs and couldn’t empathize with the leads. Emma Williams was very believable in her role, though, with a nice singing voice (and piano playing skills). There were sniffs and sobs at the end and about 15 people went for a standing ovation, so I could just be a little hard hearted; clearly Love Story hit a nerve for many of the people in the audience. Me, though, I wish Jenny had gone for her piano career and left Oliver sitting on his ass; it’s just what he deserved and it would have been a much happier ending for me if she’d actually died having lived her dreams rather than sacrificing herself for someone who clearly didn’t deserve it.

(This review is for a performance that took place on Tuesday, January 25th, 2011. The Olivier-nominated Love Story finishes its run at the end of February.)

Review – “Zorro” (the musical) – Garrick Theater

October 16, 2008

Also known as “The Boots of Zorro” if you were so unfortunate as to be sitting with us in the back of the stalls. Entire songs were sung during which we mostly only saw Zorro’s feet!

While this was a really fun show, I’d like to warn people off of the bad seats. While my £23 tickets from LastMinute were perhaps appropriately priced for what I got (and it was still entertaining all the way back in the crap seats), I was personally embarassed when I realized I’d bought seats that hid about a third of the action (we could only see about seven feet up from the floor of the stage, and much is done in the upper levels of the set, such as Zorro flying in on ropes and such, and people singing and talking to people elsewhere). I thus looked about to confirm which seats are crap so that you can know what you’er getting into – I mean, it’s not really a “half priced” seat if there’s no way in hell you would have paid £55 for it in the first place, right? So:

Row Q back to Z: rotten sightlines, 1/3 of the production is not visible.
L forward decent, except on the far sides: avoid H 1-3 and 21-23, and K and L 1-4 and 20-23 – these are obstructed by the overhang.

Anyway, grousing aside: Zorro is basically a staged B movie, with bonus flamenco music and some very English panto-y songs tossed in. It is not deep, it is not attempting to copy any movie version I know of, it is not trying to Phantom or Cats, and there’s not a lot of concern about historical accuracy (and, my God, the very English pronunciation of “Los AnGuhLeez” by the “Alcade” at the beginning of the show made me laugh – it was like listening to Bugs Bunny).

The songs are mostly forgettable (other than the one about how women “like a man who can thrust”), but the flamenco is actually quite decent for staged (i.e. non-improv) stuff and, combined with the quite good Flamenco singing (something I seriously did not expect), really added a lot to the show. (I quite like Flamenco and was expecting the worst, but my only real complaint was the costuming not being right for the music.) They even found a way to make it make sense to have Flamenco (and gypsies) in a show set in California – they came over from Spain with Zorro! The dancing overall (which had far more than just flamenco) was fine enough, though occasionally it veered into bad Martha Graham slash Pat Benatar music video territory.

I must say, though, that the cast really made this show in a way that surpassed all of the cheese elements and turned it into a really good night out. Matt Rawle, our Zorro, had that Johnny Depp “yum” factor that made me think the movie could really have been so much better. His swordplay wasn’t so great, but hey, I blame the person who designed the fight, not him. Emma Williams as romantic lead Luisa was fun – she managed to not get into the whiny prude element of the character (whew!) (and had a bit of a Grease/Sandy makeover at the end of the show), and masked her lack of Flamenco skills well enough by being carried over the heads of the other characters during a key scene.

My favorites, though, were Nick Cavaliere as “Garcia,” the nerdy guy working for the bad guy, who started off looking like a spineless bootlicker but displayed more roundess as a character (rather than just pulchritude) as the evening wore on (as well as providing the most comic moments). Head scene stealer was Inez (Leslie Martinez), whose gypsy bad girl was just a pile of fun to watch. I don’t think she is a brilliant dancer, but she definitely showed star power and made the night a good one. Without these two characters, who could have been played/written in a very two dimensional way, the show would never have been such a good time.

If you’re considering seeing this, I would encourage you to do so. Pretty well from the first appearance of the “Mark of the Lesser Than Sign” (as that’s all I could see from my seats), I was enjoying myself. There was a wee bit of nudity (a booty flash from a lady), but other than some double entendres, I consider it fairly suitable family fare, and a fun night out to boot. Have a glass of sangria or two before the show, avoid the crap seats in the second half of the stalls, and I think it will be just about a perfect evening! (Thanks to the Westend Whingers for the recommendation – I would never have bothered otherwise.)

(This review was for a performance seen on Wednesday, October 15th. Note that later a friend of mind teased me about the Curse of LowRow, which is when I get what I deserve for being so cheap with my theater choices, but the occasional utterly crap seat is well worth the opportunity to see so many shows which I could otherwise not afford. And hey, I can – almost – always go back, and in this case I will.)


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