Posts Tagged ‘Gielgud Theatre’

Mini-review – Ladykillers – Gielgud Theater

April 2, 2012

Given this play opened months and months ago, it’s rather sad that it’s taken me so long to get to see it. However, it’s been a budget conscious time for me and I was waiting for discounted tickets to come up. Sadly, when they appeared, it was around the same time as the closing date was announced (April 14th) – but at least I knew there was no more time for fooling around, especially with LastMinute running a “dinner and show” deal for 25 quid. And now it’s running for just a few more days (until April 14th) and all shows are 19.50 each (discount at checkout) ….

So what I need to say is this is a FUN show. It’s not really deep and the performances aren’t about giving you insight into the human soul. It’s overacted a bit but with everyone pitching in to be just a little too much at the same time it adds up to a very positive effect in that it’s meant to make you laugh. And it did! I liked the silly gawping, I liked the cute doddering little old lady, I liked the constant dangling muffler around the male lead’s neck that seemed to be a long set up for punchline that did eventually arrive. In fact, much of the show seemed to be setting us up for jokes that would show up later (except for the strange presence of men in drag during the old ladies’ classical music concert).

Two things made this show extra outstanding for me. One was the set, which unfolded like a Chinese puzzle and had a final configuration that completely baffled me – where had they been hiding it all this time? The second was the wonderful performance of Clive Rowe, who, as the “dumb” one of the gang, was given a star turn in his final scene that included a show-stopping performance of “Silver Hair Among the Gold” (with a knife in his head) that really let him show off his pipes. I won’t say that it alone was worth the price of the ticket but it was really a high point for me. And at the end of the night, with the group of eight I’d brought with me, I didn’t need to give a single word of apology – we had all had a lovely evening.

(This review is for a performance that took place on March 19th, 2012. I had never seen the movie upon which this show was based and I still had a good time. Not for those who want to leave the theater with further insight into the human condition.)

Review – Hair – Gielgud Theatre

April 13, 2010

Hair: musical event of the year? That was what I expected when I sat down in row F of the “FeelGood” tonight, chuffed about my £20 seats (thank you Facebook and Twitter!). The show had been a major event in New York, with people waiting in line at 6 AM to get tickets for the Central Park version, and this was even the imported American cast! I wanted to get me some of that!

I ask now: some of what? Through some comic mis-wiring in my brain, I’d mixed up Hair with Jesus Christ Superstar, apparently thinking there was just one hippie musical in the entire Broadway canon, and spent probably 15 minutes trying to figure out which guy was supposed to be Jesus and which Judas. Sex machine Berger (Will Swenson), with his thick, dark hair, seemed possible; but when he stripped down to his leather thong (his battery pack for his mike covered more of him than his costume did), I was pretty sure this was not the designated Son of God. Claude (Gavin Creel), with his focus on his Aquarian destiny and air of doom, had real potential until slightly mad Woof (Luther Creek) showed up. But then it registered just what I was watching, and some tiny voice in me asked, “So if we’re not going to Calvary, where is Hair taking us?” I’d gone and bought tickets and yet I couldn’t remember a thing about the plot!

Two and a half hours later, I still don’t know where Hair was going. It’s full of good pop songs (many of them dodgy), energetic performances, and piles of color and spectacle. I was amazed by the cheekiness of “Black Boys” (and “White Boys”) and dumbstruck by the bell-like voice of Kaitlin Kiyan in the Hare Krishna song. And there was so much to look at – my goodness, the cast is now naked! (rather less shocking considering how many times they mimed having sex) – and then there were racial issues, drug use, and homosexuality depicted on stage (most jaw-dropping of which was the supposed mind-blowing powers of smoking pot), but … well, for me, rather not too much to care about. There was a bit of drama attempting to happen between people who loved folks who didn’t love them, and then the “story,” of Claude and how he deals with being drafted, but I didn’t feel any sense of commitment to the characters or, in fact, any dramatic arc – well, maybe, but it was drawn with a crayon, and I’m used to more deliberate choices in my theater.

The whole thing, in fact, just felt like a paper thin excuse to shove a huge pile of songs together with a very thin through line, and, provided you’re willing to accept that and give up all hope of a tremendous evening of “theater,” it was a fun night out. But I’m, well, a burnout of sorts. I know what I like, and a musical with a weak book cannot just sell me on spectacle. I’m sure lots of people will see this show and love it, but … gosh, I wish I could have seen it outdoors in Central Park, where it would have had not just the magic of fresh air and actual stars overhead, but the history of the location and the kids who were actually living there forty years ago to make it more of an “event” rather than just a show that makes money off of selling the hippie experience to a white, middle class audience.

Even though I joined in the dancing on stage, I couldn’t get behind this show, and my feeling was that this production was good as it can possibly get – unless you were actually able to see it under a night-time sky. Maybe someday in the future I’ll have that opportunity, but I’m sorry to say this production is not going to be “the theatrical event of the year” for me.

(This review is for the press night performance that took place on Tuesday, April 13th, 2010. Hair is booking through January 2011. Despite the grousing, I think I might go ahead and buy the soundtrack.)

Review – Macbeth (the Patrick Stewart one) – Gielgud Theatre

October 19, 2007

After spending the night thinking about what I’ve just seen, I have to say … it’s worth paying full price for this show. This isn’t “Patrick Stewart’s Macbeth,” it’s a fantastic, top-quality production of Macbeth that was so good at one point I heard the entire audience holding its collective breath for three minutes. I had goosebumps several times – never has the element of the supernatural in this play read more clearly. And this was also a play about evil, and it was very dark, even all the way up in the £20 seats.

The whole conceit of having the “weird sisters” played as nun-nurses was especially cutting, given the recent trial here of a male nurse who “chose when people would die,” as well as another story about NHS hospitals where the nursing staff told sick patients to lie in their shit because the hospital was more concerned about saving money than providing good care; it seemed very topical and extremely believable.

And the production values of this show were REALLY good. No silly “we need to make this hip for the young’uns” or “hey, let’s be cutting edge and use video:” instead, it was a single, static set that increased the claustrophobia (and yet performed as well as a dining room, a music hall, a train, a kitchen, and a hospital), lighting that served the show instead of itself, and use of (shock!) video that enhanced the story instead of calling attention to itself. Macbeth talking to a guard through an intercom and watching him on a security television? Totally believable. The … video of blood dripping across the walls? Ooh, baby, a white tiled set has never made me feel so creeped out before – it was like The Shining.

And the cast was good – the WHOLE cast (well, maybe not the ten year old girl), so this wasn’t Patrick Stewart’s “Macbeth” at all, like a lot of pathetic, celebrity-driven shows here. (Jessica Lange’s The Glass Menagerie proved you could ruin an excellenet script with weak casting.) The minor characters all had life – I mean, I saw them doing things on stage that made me think about them, and then they’d blossom to life later and be just as real as if the show had been about them. I remember seeing this done by a “Shakespeare in the park” group back home and it was all muddled who was who – but this was not the case last night.

Anyway, if you’ve been reading about how this is “the greatest Macbeth ever” or “the Macbeth of a generation” or some such overenthusiastic twaddle … I can’t say whether or not it was true, but I can say this is a truly great show. (I also enjoyed the company of , , , Mr. Mel, and – especially because now we can enthuse together and use it as a touchpoint for discussing how good or not other shows we see are.)

Four stars, baby. Go get your tickets now or join the people who said, “Yeah, I could have seen it, but …”

(This review is for a performance that took place on October 18th, 2007.)

Mini-review – Frost/Nixon – Gielgud Theatre

November 24, 2006

NOTE: This was ultimately the best play I saw in 2006.

Last night’s play Frost Nixon was insanely good. I never thought a play about a president would be really interesting, but Nixon had the dramatic power of Oedipus or Lear, with a fantastic actor (Michael Sheen) portraying him. The show itself – well, I was reminded of The Crucible, with modern events seeming only too tellingly inferred in the dialogue taking place on stage. Yes, this was the best play I’ve seen all year. I only regret not managing to catch it at the Donmar!

(This review is for a performance that took place November 23, 2006, and the review was migrated from another blog.)