Posts Tagged ‘Aimie Atkinson’

Review – Snow white and the Seven Dwarves – Richmond Theatre

December 24, 2014

I have to say, if I’d known this show was a nearly complete rehash of the Wimbledon panto of two seasons back, I’m not sure if I would have bothered making the trip to Richmond to see it again. Jerry Hall is not my idea of a showstopper celebrity (mine are all actual actors), though the show itself was enjoyable. However, the jokes have been kept nearly entirely intact and an entire pastiche of Britain’s Got Talent that was witty (albeit at a panto level) two years ago is now as past its best buy date as if it were a particularly pungent set of French cheeses … from 2012. And what the f**k was up with them showing ADS before the show? If I’d known (and been free to go), I would have just walked the fuck out. If ATG thinks a captive audience means they’re going to start wasting my time with pre-show ads, I won’t be visiting their theaters again … ever. ATG YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED.

But as it turns out, you take the powerful acting talents of our height-challenged cast members and add a really strong wicked queen to the mix, and suddenly what you’ve got is a Snow White that’s actually better than the original. Jerry Hall is a natural as the Wicked Queen with a face only money can buy (at her age) and long blonde hair with that peculiar trashy texture I associate with heavy bleaching. Let’s just say she seemed very much a construct of magic. But she’s just what you want in a Panto baddie, with a rich voice, a genuine swagger, and a confident line delivery that makes it easy enough to forgive the fact that she’s not performing the singing live. Hall is also comfortable in the Anglicized dialogue: though she may be unsure as to what a chav is exactly, she didn’t struggle to say Chiswick and was certainly aware of what a football club is. Hall also had a lot of good jokes about her life (there’s a lot of tabloid gossip to cover) and seemed to enjoy herself – making her all the more fun to boo. And she rocked her slit-to-the-hip glittery gowns.

Unfortunately, if you’ve seen the previous outing of this Snow White, there isn’t a lot new here, as most of the songs are recycled (although Pharrell William’s “Happy” makes an obligatory appearance). But with the addition of a sparkling hot Wicked Witch, it’s now a panto with all cylinders firing, including some very on-topic jokes (the one about wasting time playing Candy Crush was especially funny) and first rate costumes and sets. It’s impossible to not enjoy the scenes with the dwarves, who represent a solid swathe of acting talent I feel honoured to see on stage. The highlight of the evening is still their arrival at their cottage to a medley of Madness songs (“Welcome to the House of Fun” and “Our House”) that made me giggle all the way to my toes. Is it good enough to justify the Richmond admission prices? I assume the answer is yes if you live in the neighborhood already: but for pure entertainment value, you’re going to get funnier and fresher at Greenwich or Hackney, and if you can travel, I’d highly advise you make the effort to catch these instead of this slightly stale production.

(This review is for the opening night performance, which took place on December 11th, 2014. It runs until January 11, 2015.)

Review – Steel Pier – Union Theater

November 14, 2012

This has really been a great year for Kander and Ebb for me. Not only did I get back to see Chicago, but I managed to see THREE shows by them that haven’t been revived in ages – Flora the Red Menace (originally done in 1965), Curtains (the next to last of their shows, from 2006), and, now, Steel Pier (1997). All of these shows were new for me, and I took the same approach for all of them, of not reading up on them beforehand so I could have the maximum experience.

Steel Pier has a fun premise – a bunch of people are gathered together at a dance marathon in the 1930s, trying to make a little money when there was not a lot to go around. Some of the people have been to a few of these things and know each other; first among these is Rita Racine (Sarah Galbraith), who has a career singing at small carnivals. She winds up dancing with a stunt pilot (Bill Kelly – Jay Rincon) who’s also shown up partnerless; but, as it turns out, she is actually a woman trying to escape her partner, and the shiftless life she’s been leading. Will this dance be her final turn on the stage? Who is the stunt pilot, really? And why do both he and the MC (Mick Hamilton – Ian Knauer) seem so creepy?

It’s fun seeing these shows in the context of the wide body of Kander & Ebb’s work: the strong women characters and dissonant melodies that are present at the very beginning in Flora; the dark look at life and unflattering portrayal of showbiz that runs straight through Cabaret to Curtains. Steel Pier has a lot of the markers of a K&E work. The dancers aren’t the aspirational kids of a 40s musical; most of them are pros who are on the circuit, out to make a buck, and not above using tricks if endurance is not enough. But the whole thing is a gimmick, anyway, just a way for the MC to make himself some money, attract bigger sponsors through trumped up events, and promote his own favorite on his way to even higher realms of celebrity. In some ways, it’s reality TV 1935, but played out on the radio. Ah, delicious cynicism: I love you so!

As performed, Steel Pier is a showpiece for two side characters: the sociopathic, manipulative MC Mick (with his great “power” duet “A Powerful Thing,” performed with his dupe minion); and Shelby Stevens (Aimie Atkinson) the hoofer with a heart of gold who steals the show with the quite crass “Everybody’s Girl,” providing both the pipes and pins to make this number blaze.

Sadly, I was uncompelled by the rest of the drama: neither the sideshows of the various couples failing to make it to the end; or, more critically, the “romance” between Rita and the pilot. Neither she nor he ever really clicked for me as actors or characters. Both seemed wooden and unbelievable; and while stiffness seemed appropriate to the MC, I needed to feel Rita being torn and betrayed. But I never bought it any more than I bought the pilot with his pasted on grin. He just wasn’t real enough for me to believe he was desperately in love with anybody – he seemed to be sleepwalking through it all, albeit while smiling all the way.

Fortunately, there were lots of great songs and fabulous dancing – no shortage of dancing! – to get us from point A to point B, and while I wasn’t sold by the story, I was definitely wowed by the production. In the intimate confines of the Union, to have this many people singing and high kicking was positively electric, so much so that I feel that complaining about the leads seems almost churlish. And there was certainly magic at times, like during the dream/hallucination sequence “Leave the World Behind.” This show is not perfect, but it’s still a good night out and an excellent value, and I recommend it to musicals fans as well as K&E aficionados.

(This review is for a performance seen on Friday, November 9th, 2012. It continues through November 24th.)