Singin’ in the Rain, June 2nd, ’12

london west end

It’s a fabulous show, so very well executed with so many incredibly talented actors/dancers. Therefore it’s almost unfair to start comparisons with the incredibly famous movie with Gene Kelly. And I’m not quite sure if it actually is a compliment, but I certainly mean it as a compliment, a HUGE one in fact, when I say that the show is so much alike the movie, it’s almost as if you’re watching Gene Kelly, Donald O’Connor and Debbie Reynolds on stage. At times it seemed as if the original hollywood stars were on stage instead of Adam Cooper as Don Lockwood, Daniel Crossley as Cosmo Brown and the lovely Scarlett Strallen as Kathy Selden.

They even left the famous “Be a Clown” number in it, in which O’Connor finally runs up the walls to somersault back to solid ground, by just carrying a fake theatre wall across the stage! It was a hilarious inside joke not everyone in the audience got, but I was certainly delighted.

The precision of the whole company was breathtaking and complimented the marvellously talented stars of the show perfectly. And the story itself was of course fun too: in the advent of “the speaking movie” silent movie stars were discarded left and right because they had the “wrong” voice. New stars were rising because they were able to sing and talk and dance – and that was the new rage. And true love can cross boundaries of fame and wealth and find a way. sigh. 😉

Most fabulous was the titular number as it actually started to rain on stage – and much to the chagrin of the audience in the first five rows in the stalls this choreography too was recreated just like in the movie, complete with splishes and splashes that splattered the best seats in the house with water!

This was of course the last scene before intermission – which was good, as the cleaning crew did a marvellous job during intermission to dry out the stage again. They mopped and polished and were actually finished after ten minutes, which earned them a well deserved ovation from the audience.

And when we were stagedooring, the theatre’s incessant advertising had it raining so that we were able to recreate the most famous number of the play yet again! Despite the really dreadful weather Michael Brandon (of Dempsey and Makepeace), Daniel Crossley and Katherine Kingsley (Lina Lamont) were very sweet and took the time in the pouring rain to sign their hearts out! Of course we were really grateful – and wet, so very very wet…

The Sunshine Boys, June 2nd, ’12

london west end

Danny DeVito in a Neil Simon play. could almost be enough said!

It’s an amazing display of great acting without overacting, a very subtle display of loneliness, hard feelings and a longing for a purpose in life. The man is never off stage and he is absolutely fabulous, too.

The story is the portrait of Willie Clark (DeVito), who for 30 odd years had played a double comedy act with Al Lewis (the equally great Richard Griffiths) – the two had a fantastic career and were a sought out success – until one day and out of the blue for Willie Al decided he wanted to retire. And while Al had a wife, a home and basically a life to fall back to, Willie’s life collapsed. With no money to speak of and an estranged wife, he fled into a shabby old hotel where he now lives in a desolate apartment, dreaming of happy days past and nursing a huge grudge towards Al, whom he holds responsible for his situation. His only connection to the real world is his nephew Ben (Adam Levy) who comes every Wednesday to fill up the fridge and provide Willie with his favorite entertainment magazine he peruses only, it seems, to scour the obituaries.

Until one day Eddie has news: The TV station for which he works plans a program about Vaudeville and comedy acts and wants both Willie and Al back for one performance. For Willie, this is a way out of being forgotten, for Al a way to reconcile with his earstwhile partner. So the two meet.

Unfortunately they know each other far too well – so just like an old married couple the bickering starts immediately and because they do know each other so well they find exactly the things to say to drive the other up the walls.

The sketch they plan to do (a variation on the real life performance of “Dr Kronkheit [Krankheit=illness in German] and his only living patient” about an incompetent Doctor and his wiseass patient with which two actual comedians – Smith and Dale – have been incredibly successful for – brace yourselves – 70 years till the 1970!!) is hilarious but at the day of the show Willie doesn’t show up – he claims some new grudge but the fact is that he is ill – and collapsing with a heart attack.

True to form he survives and soon entertains his nurse with his sardonic humor – but he has to admit – he won’t be able to live in the shabby unhealthy hotel room for much longer. His nephew provides him with an opportunity – a home for retired actors, where there is both medical help and enough independence to make living easy – even more so as the actors perform on their own stage quite regularly.

A perfect solution – and you’ll never guess who ELSE is going to live there so that he won’t be a burden to his daughter and their kids…

It’s a play that celebrates true Vaudeville performances – a joy to watch, sarcastic humor to boot and two brilliant actors to give life to the parts of Willie and Al who were partly created from the jewish duo Smith and Dale (who were best friends in real life) and – for the grouchiness and sarcastic comments – from Edward Gallagher and Al Sheen, who had an on/off turbulent relationship, performing their highly successful signature song “Mr. Gallagher and Mr. Sheen” while having fighting arguments backstage. Again, eight years afterThe Odd Couple had premiered, Neil Simon portraits a dysfunctional, but oddly enough functioning relationship between two crabby men set in their ways not to say what they really mean. It’s a brilliant dance with which they avoid being lonely, and still have a great time, while never having to admit that they enjoy every moment of it. Take actors like DeVito – whose stage presence is amazing – and Richard Griffiths and you have the perfect set up for a great evening in the theatre.

Apropos Theatre: The theatre took a while to grow on me – I usually prefer the velvety kitchy golds and reds kind of theatres and the Savoy is an elegant silver Art Deco place in the basement of the almost too posh Savoy hotel. But once I got over the initial “shock” of a totally different interior I started to like it – very much! And it is definitely gorgeous!

We didn’t do stage door there – we had to get back to the hotel, change clothes and off to the next performance! LOL

One man, two guvnors, June 1st ’12

london west end

The reviews were all correct – it’s hilarious! Goldoni’s play is transferred to England of the 60ies and not taken seriously at all and focusses on the farce of the commedia dell’ arte and does so with incredible gusto. Thanks to a fabulous cast – first and foremost Welsh actor Owain Arthur – the show has not one moment where the audience is allowed to relax and / or stop laughing.

There is one big nuisance tho – as an additional fun factor the theatre brings a group of musicians on stage, the band highly talented and also providing the necessary distraction from stage resets, but they are brought on stage 10 minutes BEFORE the show starts and before intermission ends. This is highly annoying as ppl who come back in time are as distracting as people who wait for audience members coming back after intermission.

Of course the central figure is Arlecchino, the harlequin, Owain Arthur, who is the minder of a  small time crook, but doesn’t know that his master has been stabbed to death and his twin sister Rachel has taken to a disguise to pose as her late brother Roscoe. As fate will have it, Arlecchino Frances Henshall also meets Stanley Stubbers who is the boyfriend/fiancee of Rachel who, it turns out, has to lay low because he had stabbed Roscoe to death. He needs letters fetched and finds Frances whom he installs as his servant. So going from unemployed to being employed by two masters, Frances’ only regret is that he doesn’t get anything to eat!

Because Arlecchino/Frances does involve the audience in his antics on stage (once ordering two men up to help him transport an apparently heavy suitcase into the pub), it is almost no surprise when after starting a rant on how hungry he is and asking if anyone in the audience has a sandwich for him, someone actually pipes up “ME!”. That of course wasn’t supposed to happen and caused poor Owain to corpse on stage – after a moment of stunned silence he broke into laughter and then quipped: Sir, this is an honorable british theatre not panto!! to which the whole audience roared with laughter.”so what kind of sandwich is it anyway??” “Hummus” at which we finally veered off into panto land!

Then finally poor Frances can squirrell away food – as he serves two masters he cuts their respective plates to get something from everything for himself. He is aided in that by yet another member of the audience – or so it seems. this time, tho, it is actually an actress who helps out and finally gets stowed under the table, set on fire and being doused in fire extinguisher foam.

Thus ends the first act.

The second act is all about finding an Arlecchina for Arlecchino, now that his bodily urges – his hunger – are silenced. And he finds her, but she’s not very taken by him, so he poses as his brother whom she likes. now this brother causes mayhem with the two guvnors as he informs each of them that Rachel and Stanley are dead so that Stanley and Rachel decide to commit suicide, Luckily they choose the same bridge to fall to death and find each other.

So not only do Rachel and Stanley come together, Stanley is also going to the police and aided by a shrewd lawyer will probably get acquitted in the trial. also the – hilariously hamming – actor gets his love, the daughter who was supposed to marry Roscoe. And Frances gets a long weekend in Spain with his Arlecchina (Jodie Prenger) and spending money too from his two guvnors.

It’s a brilliant, fast paced tour the force for Owain Arthur and he has the audience in the palm of his hand from the first moment on till the stage door where he graciously chatted with us. A very likeable guy with an adorable Welsh accent he made good use of in the play. Also incredibly nice: the talented Jodie Prenger who took the time to talk with us, too.