A
 
Web www.artsmart.co.za
A R T S M A R T
arts news from kwazulu-natal

music
www.artsmart.co.za
enquiries@artsmart.co.za
 A current news
crafts - dance - drama - film & tv - literature
music - supper theatre - visual arts
miscellaneous news - festivals
letters to the editor
home page
archives A
crafts - dance - drama - film & tv - literature
music - supper theatre - visual arts
miscellaneous news - festivals
 

NB: as of 23 September 2008, all new artSMart articles are being published on the site news.artsmart.co.za.

MAURICE KORT REVIEWS #2 (article first published : 2007-02-12)

This is a continuation of Maurice Kort’s reviews from his recent trip to London and New York. (See also Maurice Kort Reviews #1 and #3) Here he continues his reviews of London shows.

I was fortunate to obtain tickets to three other productions at the National Theatre as most of the tickets are pre-sold to subscribers and one has often to rely on returns. The Life of Galileo by Bertolt Brecht, in a version by David Hare, and The Alchemist by Ben Jonson, performed in repertory, with many cast members being common to both, particularly Simon Russell Beale as the leads Galileo and Face, the Housekeeper, in The Alchemist, a real tour de force. The third play was Exiles by James Joyce. The Life of Galileo is one of the greatest plays ever written about social responsibility and the conflict between faith and reason, when Galileo’s amazing proof that the earth moved around the sun shattered the contrary belief held sacred for two thousand years. He was threatened with torture, considered an enemy of humanity, and faced with the appalling choice between intellectual sell-out and integrity, a true edge of the seat thriller. On a far lighter side is the comedy The Alchemist, a supreme testimony to man’s greed and gullibility, bursting with energy and invention. Exiles, a picture of a marriage, based in part on James Joyce’s own relationship with Nora Barnacle, is set in Dublin where Richard Rowan and Bertha, after nine years abroad, have to confront two other people who love them on questions about guilt and responsibility.

The 39 Steps is a real fun romp, based on the well known Alfred Hitchcock 1935 classic movie thriller. This is a brand new version performed magnificently by four actors, playing no less than 150 roles and containing every legendary scene from the film, including the chase on the Flying Scotsman, the escape on the Forth Bridge, the first ever staged bi-plane crash and even the sensational death-defying London Palladium finale as well as the memorable stockings and suspenders scene. It is a most imaginative and polished production, on the lines of The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged). The Complete History of America (Abridged) and The Bible: The Complete Word of G-d (Abridged), all performed by small casts of three to five actors (also at the Criterion Theatre in London), the Shakespeare play also having been produced very successfully in Johannesburg and Durban.

Donkeys’ Years is a revival of Michael Frayn’s classic comedy set in one of the lesser colleges, at one of the older universities, concerning the reunion of the students 25 years later. This is slapstick farce at its best, very clever with perfect timing, by a stellar cast. Michael Frayn can always be relied upon for a good script.

Summer and Smoke, a traditional Tennessee Williams play, set in the South, has as its centre a damaged female character, Miss Alma and deals with the contrast between sex and sensibility. She is a nervous, genteel spinster who battles with a selfish mother unable to cope with the real world and who has morphed into a mild form of insanity. It is a moving, often funny, well crafted play and the cast are very convincing in their roles.

Bent, by Martin Sherman, is a brutal drama of the fate undergone by homosexuals under Nazi Germany and how they suffered in the concentration camps as well as the torture they had to endure. Alan Cumming and Chris New were outstanding as Max and Horst, respectively, supported by a strong cast. It is a gripping play.

Rock ‘n’ Roll, a new play by Tom Stoppard is difficult to follow, as per his usual standard. It spans the years 1968 to 1990 concerning a rock ‘n’ roll band in Prague which symbolises the resistance to the Communist regime and love and death shaping the lives of three generations in the family of a Marxist philosopher in Cambridge. The play is produced by Trevor Nunn who brought out the best from a superb cast which included Rufus Sewell (Jan), David Calder (Max) and Sinead Cusack (Eleanor/Esme). The sets were extremely good, many on a revolving stage.

The Cryptogram, by David Mamet, is a short three-hander play of about 65 minutes, performed without an interval. It starred Kim Cattrall (the blonde, Samantha, in the long running successful TV series Sex and the City) as Donny, Douglas Henshall as her husband Del and an alternating cast of three young boys as their son (John). The compelling play charts the breakdown of a family, particularly when childhood vanishes.

Unfortunately my plane from London on the Saturday landed too late for me to manage a matinee that day – one cannot have everything, but I did manage a show that night. I took full advantage of matinees on the days when there were ones, as well as morning shows.

The Color Purple is a musical based on Alice Walker’s Pulitzer Prize winning novel and the subsequent film which starred Whoopi Goldberg and Oprah Winfrey, who is one of the Producers and who had really plugged it on her show Oprah. When it started I was very under-whelmed as I didn’t like the music – soul I think best describes it, not my favourite type of music but that is very much the modern trend as that best describes much of the music in many of the shows I saw. However, to get back to this musical, it just became better and better as the show progressed and it is a superb show, deserving all the publicity hype and accolades. One’s heart goes out to Celie and her hopelessly sad life and one can only share in her joy when this is turned around.

The Wedding Singer musical is based on Adam Sandler’s hit movie comedy of the same name which I had never seen but managed to catch on TV a fortnight after seeing the stage musical and I was amazed at how well it has been adapted. Much of the dialogue is verbatim. Constantine Maroulis (American Idol) has taken over the role of Sammy. The story involves a rock star wannabe, Robbie Hart (Stephen Lynch, Adam Sandler in the film) making his living as a very popular wedding singer but when his fiancée leaves him stranded at the altar his life falls apart and he makes every wedding at which he sings (a hilarious) disaster until he falls in love with a waitress who is about to get married – to an absolute jerk. The staging is very skilful; how they portrayed the flight to Las Vegas was inspired.

The music and lyrics of Tarzan, a Tony Award winner, are by Phil Collins and they grow on one. It is a highly original production, what one would expect from Disney Theatrical Productions with great staging and an excellent musical adaptation of the well known stories by Edgar Rice Burroughs and the 1999 film. There are amazing special effects, from the shipwreck of the English couple and their baby (Tarzan) during a storm to the colourful flora and fauna, including a giant spider and its web and a giant butterfly. The apes and gorillas swing all over the stage through a curtain of dense green foliage, Tarzan even swinging over the audience. The giant waterfall, portrayed by falling material is something to see. Josh Strickland is a very agile, athletic and believable Tarzan, supported by a great cast.

I particularly enjoyed The Drowsy Chaperone, a new musical comedy originating in the Toronto Fringe Festival, and one can understand why it was a Tony Award winner, highly original and very clever. The show starts in darkness with a voice-over talking about how he hates going to the theatre and his various complaints and when the lights come on the owner of the voice, simply known as Man in Chair, is seated in the front corner of his home next to a gramophone. He puts on the LP of his favourite show (the title of the musical) which then springs to life on the stage. It is the story of a spoilt Broadway starlet who intends giving up show business to get married – strongly opposed by her producer who promptly sets out to sabotage the marriage using a Latin lover. Also involved are a couple of gangsters doubling as pastry chefs. What makes the musical so clever is the juxtaposition of the gramophone record and the live action. For example, when the needle sticks in a groove, the action and dialogue likewise move back and forth. Furthermore, the show itself is performed without an actual interval, but after the interval of the show within the musical, after putting on side two of the record, the man in the chair has to rush off stage to the toilet. What ensues are a completely different set, music and costumes, but with the same cast, performing a number. After it ends the Man in Chair rushes back on stage and sheepishly admits that he had played the wrong LP. He starts the correct record and The Drowsy Chaperone continues – it is really clever.

Obtaining Tickets for the Shows ; Half price tickets (with an additional small handling charge) can be obtained at tkts booths in Leicester Square, London, and Times Square, New York (now temporarily housed outside the Marquis Hotel on 46th Street while the original booth is being rebuilt). One can only obtain tickets for the matinee and evening performances for that day. Credit cards and cash only, are accepted in London, whereas only Travellers’ cheques and cash are valid in New York. I made good use of these two facilities but tickets for the real blockbusters are often not available at these venues. In addition, I would book in advance for the more popular shows, always by going to the theatres. There is seldom any problem obtaining single seats.

Copies of The Official London Theatre Guide can be obtained at the box offices of all the theatres. These are replaced with updates every fortnight. The equivalent Official Broadway Theatre Guide, also updated fortnightly, can be obtained at a Tourist Information Centre in Times Square. It takes some arranging, planning and foresight to see so many shows in so short a time. - Maurice Kort. (Other reviews are also featured on Maurice Kort#1 and #3)




 A current news
crafts - dance - drama - film & tv - literature
music - supper theatre - visual arts
miscellaneous news - festivals
letters to the editor
home page
archives A
crafts - dance - drama - film & tv - literature
music - supper theatre - visual arts
miscellaneous news - festivals
a co-production by caroline smart services and .durbanet. site credits
copyright © subsists in this page. all rights reserved. [ edit ] copyright details  artsmart