Around The World with Peter Pinne
LONDON - September 2005
ELLIOT is an enjoyable show
but not the greatest British musical ever written as one of the critics
claimed. It's a good story with a second rate score. In fact it made me
think of BILLY the 1974 Michael Crawford starrer, set in similar territory,
with a strong play as its base, but a weak score. BILLY ELLIOT is more
musical play. All of the emotion in the piece comes from the book. There's
no emotion in Elton John's music. But there is a pas de deux in the second
act that works beautifully with Billy and his older self which is done
to Swan Lake. It's tears time, but then it's Tchaikovsky's music! The
boy playing Billy was terrific as was the kid playing Michael his gay
friend. Their cross-dressing number was a showstopper. The juxtaposition
of the miners strike against Billy's powerful drive to dance works at
times, but sometimes the social comment takes over, ie: Margaret Thatcher
etc. I didn't warm to any of the adult characters. The accents were very
broad and it was difficult to understand some of it. I have to admit I
came to the show with some baggage as I never really liked the movie.
The score very rarely rose to the occasion, although I did like the grandmother's
song “We'll Go Dancing.” The first song “The Stars Look Down” was beautifully
arranged and sung, but seemed to have a musical range of three notes.
It became very boring. I was outraged by the second number “Shine,” sung
by the dance teacher and her class of little girls. The first line of
the chorus, which was repeated several times, was “Give ‘em the old razzle
dazzle,” which immediately made one think they were going to do the number
from CHICAGO. It didn't help that it was in the same style as that number.
Couldn't they have thought of a different lyric? There was another number
in the first act with the dance teacher and Billy where the piano player,
a fat man, joined in for no reason at all. He immediately took over the
number and did cartwheels across the stage. It was all so false but the
audience loved it. Likewise, the curtain calls when every cast member
entered wearing tutus. It was pretty ‘camp,' and the audience loved it,
but it was out-of-place with what we'd seen before. At times you could
see the hand of the director. It was not seamless by any means. Still,
it's a gigantic hit and will run for years. I doubt it has an international
life. It's been slated for Broadway and it'll be interesting to see how
it does there. I personally don't think it stands a chance.
POPPINS on the other hand was a wonderful well-crafted musical
awash with joire de vive. I loved it. Everything about it worked beautifully.
The new songs which supplemented the film score were spot on, the cast
were one of the best I've seen in ages, and the choreography and production
was first rate. It's difficult to single out performances, they were all
so good, but Gavin Lee as Bert was just a little bit better than everyone
else. But I still loved Laura Michelle Kelly as Mary Poppins, David Haig
and the father and Linzi Hateley as the mother. Jenny Galloway landed
all the laughs as the housekeeper, and Rosemary Ashe was a delicious vile
Mrs Andrew. One aspect of the production I really liked was that all of
the principals could dance as well as the chorus, so that when it was
a full routine, everybody did it. It made for extremely exciting theatre.
There's no doubt this show has an international life. I can see it working
NEW YORK - September
ROTTEN SCOUNDRELS is a good old-fashioned musical comedy, with
the emphasis on comedy. A funny book, witty lyrics, and a cast to die
for, the show is an exhilarating romp from start to finish. John Lithgow
and Norbert Leo Butz were terrific as the con men of the title, with Sherie
Rene Scott just wonderful as the woman they con. Joanna Gleason turned
in a good performance as the "older" woman, and Sara Gettelfinger
made her mark as Jolene, the girl from Oklahoma. The score by David Yazbek
was fun and worked for the show. I doubt there will be any breakout numbers,
but "Nothing Is Too Wonderful To Be True" is a classy ballad.
The production has a very art deco look to it, in keeping with Riviera
ALL SHOOK UP was a jukebox musical which
used the Elvis Presley catalogue of songs for a story about a young, guitar
playing, roustabout who fires up a rural town. The cast were terrific,
the choreography was terrific, and the production was terrific, but the
book was so lame that interest paled midway through the first act. Second
was not much better. Cheyenne Jackson as the hip-swinging roustabout was
a spunk, with a glorious voice and charismatic stage presence. Everyone
worked hard but ultimately the material defeated them.
BOYZ is a show about a Christian boy band. The gimmick is that
during each performance they save the souls of the audience. It's a thin
premise, but the show is a hit and the audiences love it. It isn't really
a show, but just a send-up of a boy band group. The four piece musical
group are on-stage the whole performance, with the five guys of the group
fronting them. There are no set changes, just some appropriate lighting
cues throughout the short piece. It plays without an interval. There are
some amusing lyrics, "Jesus called me on his cell phone. No roaming
charges were incurred," which is witty, but there's not enough of
THE LIGHT IN THE PIAZZA by Adam Guettel
is really a chamber opera, even though it won the Tony for Best Musical.
It's an exquisite production, a wonderful cast, and it's beautifully sung,
but it's hard going. One third of the piece is sung in Italian, which
distances the audience from the characters and doesn't allow them to become
emotionally involved in their story. And it's a very emotional story with
a mentally challenged young woman in her twenties falling in love with
a young Italian man whilst on holiday in Italy with her mother. Victoria
Clark as the mother was brilliant and deserved her Tony Award. Kelli O'Hara
as the girl and Aaron Lazar as the boy were both excellent. The string
heavy orchestrations were lovely, but the score is short on melody and
long on recitative. You don't come out whistling the tunes!
ON BROADWAY is an annual event where traffic is stopped in Times
Square and Broadway performers give a free concert. It happened on Sunday
morning September 18. A huge stage was built on the roadway, big enough
to accommodate a full Broadway orchestra and cast The event was televised
and as it was happening all of the TV screens in Times Square showed the
performance. Christina Applegate and John Lithgow hosted the show with
the cast members from 14 current, and 2 upcoming, Broadway shows
strutting their stuff. Paul Gemignani conducted the orchestra which started
the concert with the FUNNY GIRL overture. Shows represented included AVENUE
Q, HAIRSPRAY, CHITTY CHITTY BANG BANG, ALL SHOOK UP, THE LIGHT IN THE
PIAZZA, MAMMA MIA, THE PRODUCERS, WICKED, SPELLING BEE, BEAUTY AND THE
BEAST and SWEET CHARITY. The two new shows were THE COLOR PURPLE and IN
MY LIFE. Artists included Cheyenne Jackson, La Chanze, Ann Harada, Darlene
Love, Victoria Clark and Ashley Brown who all performed in street clothes.
Best performances were Kissy Simmons and Josh Tower doing "Can You
Feel The Love Tonight" from THE LION KING, the cast of RENT doing
"Seasons Of Love," and the cast of LENNON singing "Imagine"
which closed the concert. It was a wonderful celebration of Broadway which
was topped off at the finale by ticker-tape descending from all of the
buildings around Times Square. A magical moment.
BROADWAY UNPLUGGED was the second annual
"Unplugged" concert at Town Hall. The cast roster was enormous
with many of the performers from the "Broadway By The Year"
series; Sutton Foster, Marc Kudisch, Emily Skinner, Euan Morton, Chuck
Cooper, Mary Bond Davis and others. Ross Patterson handled musical direction,
with direction by Dan Foster and hosting by the creator, Scott Siegel.
There were some standout performances which included; William Michals
"Some Enchanted Evening", Mary Testa's "The Thrill Is Gone",
and Cheyenne Jackson's "Joey, Joey, Joey".
is President of Bayview Recording Company: www.bayviewrecords.com