Review: Romance Romance, Above the Stag

Caught in a bad romance, a gayed-up take on Romance Romance does nothing for me at the Above the Stag theatre

“There are days he blows his fuse now 
And there are nights he’s just not there”

Romance Romance was nominated for 5 Tonys in 1988 and performance nods aside, you have to wonder what the standard of the other nominees was (actually, they included The Phantom of the Opera and Into the Woods…!) as its charms really rather eluded me. 

Steven Dexter’s production reframes Barry Harman’s book and lyrics into a gay context which certainly has interest. But the disparity of the two acts, based respectively on Arthur Schnitzler’s The Little Comedy and Jules Renard’s Le Pain de Ménage, means it is a curiously disengaging watch. Continue reading “Review: Romance Romance, Above the Stag”

Review: Gatsby, Union Theatre

“I’m too old to lie to myself”

Louis Armstrong used to sing ‘it don’t mean a thing if it ain’t got that swing’ and unfortunately, Ruby in the Dust’s Gatsby hits the floor rather flat-flooted and singularly lacking in any discernible rhythm. The Roaring Twenties that characterise F Scott Fitzgerald’s iconic novel The Great Gatsby were all about the freedom of jazz, the liberating release of the Charleston, the fizziness of gin rickeys but so little of that spirit is in evidence here, in a production intended to mark 10 years since this company opened their first show here at the Union. 

Bookwriter Linnie Reedman and composer and lyricist Joe Evans first adapted Gatsby a few years back and have retooled the show for this new venue but this new version struggles on a number of counts. The decision to make Jay Gatsby’s compadre Wolfshiem the focal narrating figure as opposed to the novel’s Nick Carraway could have worked if implemented more thoroughly but where as the latter is present at many of the key moments (and thus able to tell us about them), the former isn’t and so neither actor is able to make their character find a satisfactory role in the unfolding of this version of the tale. Continue reading “Review: Gatsby, Union Theatre”

Review: The Grand Tour, Finborough Theatre

“I think, I think…”

Jerry Herman’s The Grand Tour flopped on Broadway which explains a little of why it has taken 36 years for it to make its premiere in Europe. Another reason is the strange tone of Michael Stewart and Mark Bramble’s book, based on a play by SN Behrman, which plots an odd couple roadtrip and ensuing love triangle against the Nazi occupation of France in 1940. Polish compatriots Jewish intellectual SL Jacobowsky and Catholic aristocrat Colonel Stjerbinsky reluctantly join forces in Paris to make their escape, picking up the Colonel’s French lover Marianne on the way, and ending up in all sorts of jolly japes and adventures which are more Boy’s Own than Wilfred Owen.

Director Thom Southerland has great form with musical revivals though and aspects of his work here are superb. Phil Lindley’s approach to designing this show should be studied by all aspiring designers as an inspired way of dealing with the intimacy of a space such as the Finborough. His European map-featuring set unfolds multipally like the pages of a pop-up book to take us from the front seat of a car to the heights of a high-wire, the stillness of a church and the bracing winds of a harbour amongst many other locations, and it does so with real elegance. I’d only question why Belgium appears to have been erased from the map and given how much Saint-Nazaire is referred to in the show, whether that might have been added too. Continue reading “Review: The Grand Tour, Finborough Theatre”