Posts Tagged ‘London Palladium’

Mini-review – Cats – Palladium Theater, London

January 31, 2015

I know, the 80s was a long time ago, and I’m not an Andrew Lloyd Webber fan (to put it lightly), but I’d still nearly made it to 50 without seeing Cats, and while this seemed mostly to me to be a matter of expressing my own taste in musical theater, I had begun to question if I’d actually shut myself out of a little slice of history. But seeing the Story of [British] Musicals made me think that rather than avoiding a schmaltzy show with tunes not suited to my tastes, I’d instead cut myself out of a slice of history. The program described Cats as a groundbreaking show, with its non-linear throughline (i.e. lack of plot) and its focus on bringing poems to life, not to mention the entire movement style and makeup.

But as the leg-warmer wearing crew came on the stage and their amplified voices blared painfully from an overhead speaker, I began to fear the worst. This show had been promoted on the back of a has-been pop star rather than any kind of musical theater performer, which indicated to me they were really just trying to pack the house with curiosity seekers rather than attract people who want to see a top-quality production. And, ooh, they’d added some rap – but it was really rap music as written by musical theater hacks, about as believable as Blondie’s “Rapture.” I struggled to find an emotion to hold on to – was this supposed to be anything other than pretty and bland? What was it about a woman wearing a long coat and dreads that was somehow supposed to make us feel wistful and nostalgic? The whole thing skated by with nary a moment of genuine feeling until Mr. Mistoffelees (Joseph Poulton) blazed onto stage like a comet – then, holy cats, what a performance! Leaps, spins, kicks, non-stop amazement and all while dressed in a doubtlessly extremely warm head to toe black spangled bodysuit. I don’t think there’s a moment in this show worth remembering aside from the time he spent on stage, but I’m excited to think I got to see one blazing talent during this dreary night – not that I wasn’t seeing a London quality cast of performers, but they were unable to shine under the weight of so much schmaltz. (White cat: you were great too.)

I gotta say, there’s no getting around the fact that never in a million years was this musical ever intended for the likes of me. I want intelligence, I want to be moved, I want to see talent and be amazed. I don’t want to be coddled and cuted. I want songs that matter; I want my night to be worthwhile. I don’t want fluff. And Cats, with its full house of apparently satisfied patrons (at £60 a pop), deserves to be put in a sack and tossed in the Thames forever: and now I can say this not based upon my best guess but upon actually having gone and watched it. Please, somebody warn me the next time I try to see an ALW show that we do not in any way share an aesthetic sense and send me in search of something else.

(This review is for a performance that took place on Tuesday, January 20th, 2015. Unlike any of the professional reviews you might read, my tickets was paid for, in full, by myself, and my level of disappointment is based in part of what I expected to see for that price. It’s booking until April 25th, if I haven’t somehow discouraged you, but may I recommend you try to see Assassins or The Scottsboro Boys instead.)


Mini-review – A Chorus Line – London Palladium

August 22, 2013

If you’re a fan of musicals, you want to see every one of the greats at least once. Sometimes a mediocre score can really come to life in context in a way that just listening to a recording or even watching a movie may not get across. So I was excited when it was announced that A Chorus Line was coming to London – it was my first chance to see it! But then I saw the prices, which seemed exorbitant for a musical that doesn’t really have any kind of scenery overheads and only runs for two hours. I waited, week after week, for them to come down. Scarlett Strallen! “Dance Ten, Looks Three” done live instead of at the piano bar! Really, really high kicks! Then it announced it was closing in August, and it started to look like I was never going to make it. I finally gave up and broke my £20 barrier and got some £25 tickets off of LastMinute that they advertised as “in the front five rows” – I wasn’t sure why the crowds weren’t coming but I thought I should make a little bit of an effort or face ten more year of just never having seen it.

The setting is “New York, 1970s,” and, in a nutshell, I think this is where the show falls down. The play is about the stories of dancers – why they dance – with (usually) comic numbers that they perform to illustrate their little quirks. But the stories they tell about their lives seem really dated. Puerto Rican identity issues, lots of closeted gay guys … through the lens of 2013, a lot of these characters come off, not just as stereotypes, but as the kind of stereotypes people had of people during the 1970s that we have moved beyond. They really haven’t aged well. And while, for example, “Dance Ten Looks Three” is a snappy number, the bitchy intrologue was completely limp. Given my druthers, I’d strip the show down, rewrite all of the spoken bits, and look to replace maybe a third to a half of the songs with things that represent what the performers of today are like.

Of all of the stories, however, it was that of Cassie (Scarlett Strallen’s role) that just 100% still worked. A star fallen from the good roles and going back just to work; it’s timeless, and her dance to “The Music and the Mirror” was captivating. Zach’s line about how “she couldn’t dance like the rest of them” was just so true; Strallen’s dancing was just gorgeous. Maybe it was just the choreography – it’s designed so carefully throughout the show to demonstrate the skill level of the various characters – but even if she was given the best, well, she was up for it. This was the highlight of my evening – five minutes (time stopped, actually, it could have been three minutes or ten) of pure beauty and motion. Aaaaahhh.

The group scenes are also a treat, and, for a musicals fan, there’s no doubt that this is a fun evening, with lots of good dancing, excellent songs, and white-hot talent on stage. But I can’t help but think the run is not working out the way they hoped – fifth row seats shouldn’t be going for twenty five quid. That said – I do really feel I got my money’s worth; but even more so when I spent 65 to see Book of Mormon from off to the side. But that’s for another post.

(This review is for a performance that took place on Tuesday, August 13th, 2013. The final performances will be on August 31st.)