Review: The King and I, Palladium

So much to like in The King and I at the London Palladium, not least the exquisite costumes and a superb Kelli O’Hara

“Getting to hope you like me…”

Despite my love of a classic musical, it has taken me a wee while to work up the enthusiasm to go and see The King and I at the Palladium. A big Broadway success, Bartlett Sher’s production kept its leads of Kelli O’Hara and Ken Watanabe but with that pedigree comes an element of playing it safe, which is what I think has kept me at bay.

And in watching the show, you can’t ever really escape this feeling of sedateness, splendidly mounted as it is. Catherine Zuber’s costume work is beyond lush, Michael Yeargan’s set has an epic scale and the sweep of Christopher Gattelli’s take on Jerome Robbins’ original choreography is quite often breathtaking – they don’t make em like this any more etc etc. Continue reading “Review: The King and I, Palladium”

Review: Chess, London Coliseum

Nobody’s on nobody’s side – an all-star cast can’t save this game of Chess from itself, for me at least

“From square one I’ll be watching all sixty-four”

It’s taken over 30 years for Chess to return to the West End (though it was seen at the Union in 2013) and though it has a huge amount of resource thrown at it in Laurence Connor’s production for English National Opera, it doesn’t necessarily feel worth the wait. An 80’s mega-musical through and through with an intermittently cracking score from ABBA’s Benny Andersson and Björn Ulvaeus, Richard Nelson’s book hasn’t aged particularly well and bears the hallmarks of the  substantial tinkering it has had at every opportunity.

It’s not too hard to see why it has needed the tinkering. The mix of Cold War politics told through the prism of rival US and Soviet chess Grandmasters, love triangles and power ballads is a tricky one to get right and part of the problem seems to be just how seriously to take it all. On the one hand, the chess matches are backgrounded with montages of the real-life tensions of the 80s; on the other, scenes that take us through the various locations of the tournaments are a cringeworthy riot of cultural stereotyping that revel in their utter kitsch. Continue reading “Review: Chess, London Coliseum”