Posts Tagged ‘Daniel Bartlett’

Mini-review – Once Upon a Mattress – Union Theater (Southwark)

December 3, 2012

There is no moment so jolly as finding a killer deal on a show you wanted to see on the very night you happened to have a hole in your schedule. But there it was Sunday evening, a half price Twitter special for Once Upon a Mattress at the Union Theater, and off Jonathan and I went to catch a second show on what had suddenly become a tightly packed day.

I didn’t know anything more about Mattress than it was a silver age musical (per J) that is beloved of American high schools. Its fairy tale structure centers around a non-traditional heroine and a queen who wants to keep her son from ever cutting the apron strings, with a dose of out-of-marriage pregnancy to keep the plot from seeming too entirely old fashioned.

That said, this musical is rather stale, and without the benefit of brilliant songwriting to really lift it up. That left us with the acting, singing, and dancing to enjoy …which, as it turns out, I did. Much of this has to be credited to the outstanding performance of Jenny O’Leary as Princess Winnifred. She radiated charm, had the kind of voice you cheer to be able to enjoy unamplified, and single-handedly got me emotionally involved in the outcome of the show. Winnifred had to pass the princess test, she had to! There was also two lovely, completely unnecessary showoff moments in the “Very Soft Shoes” quasi-tap number (nice job, Daniel Bartlett) and a “Nightingale Lullaby” I was sure was originally written for Yma Sumac and performed with a similar degree of coloratura kabang by Danielle Morris.

These touches make me more forgiving of a soft book because at £20 a pop, it’s still a good deal and an enjoyable escape after a long day. The production is warm and Ms O’Leary worth seeing at the start of what I suspect will be a long and successful career in musical theater.

(This review is for a performance that took place on Sunday, December 2nd, at 7:30 PM. It continues through January 5th.)

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Review – Dames at Sea – Union Theatre (Southwark)

August 10, 2011

Union Theater’s string of all-male Gilbert and Sullivan has been broken this summer with a “straight” musical, the very-1930s Dames at Sea (created as a parody of the style in 1966). Set in a failing Broadway venue during the World War II, it’s yet another show in which songs are only loosely linked together by plot, in this case “small town girl (Gemma Sutton) comes to Broadway with dreams of making it big” (but with the complication of “star (Rosemary Ashe) stands in her way,” and not just in terms of having the role she wants but for stealing her boyfriend (Daniel Bartlett)).

Unfortunately, while this show is a parody, I wasn’t really able to get my head around the joke, as the production had all of the flash and dazzle of a real 1930s show (as done by a tiny cast and two pianos) but not enough zinging music to make it memorable. It did have some enjoyable tap dancing (hard to see in the 3rd row), and I loved the “Singapore Sue” number despite its tinge of racism – it was acting out a story that seemed reasonable enough for a sailor to have – and the performances were spot-on Busby Berkeley over the top hamminess – and Rosemary Ashe was four times the voice the Union could hold. But … while it was fine entertainment for £15, it wasn’t genre-changing and sadly the songs were not up to the musial chops of Irving Berlin or Gilbert and Sullivan. It’s fine entertainment … but I was hoping for more. Sad, actually, that the Union has set my expectations so high that merely “good” isn’t good enough!

(This review is for a performance that took place on Wednesday, August 3rd. Performances continue through August 20th.)