Tag Archives: David Yazbek

Good Clean Fun

DIRTY ROTTEN SCOUNDRELS

New Alexandra Theatre, Birmingham, Tuesday 5th May, 2015

 

Opening night of the tour of this West End smash hit; I feel like a bit of a scoundrel myself for reviewing the show before the official press night (tomorrow) but then I can only talk about the performances I see.

I remember the Michael Caine/Steve Martin film from years ago only dimly: the Ruprecht scene, and the denouement – rest assured you need no foreknowledge of the movie to appreciate this adaptation in all its glory.

And glorious it is. There is a lightness of touch throughout – we are never invited to take any of it seriously. Even the supposedly more emotion numbers are tongue-in-cheek, and involve duplicity at some point. David Yazbek’s catchy tunes and witty lyrics are in keeping with the humour of Jeffrey Lane’s book, and there is a casual break-the-fourth-wall approach to the staging that adds to the fun.

Set on the French Riviera, this is the story of conman Lawrence (silver fox Michael Praed) who pretends to be a European prince in need of funds to save his country. Enter Freddy (Noel Sullivan, better than he’s ever been) a low-rent American trickster – the pair team up to fleece a Oklahoman heiress (Phoebe Coupe making a lasting impression as the bullish Jolene). When ‘soap queen’ Christine arrives in town, the pair become rivals, competing for both her money and the right to stay in town and ply their trade.

Carley Stenson is a powerful presence as the American target of the two conmen, belting out her songs in a good, old-fashioned musical voice. Noel Sullivan is spot on as Freddy, displaying a fine line in physical comedy, while Michael Praed is smooth and debonair and just as swoonsome as he was in Dynasty as European Prince Michael of Moldavia, managing to remain suave even when he’s swanning around in disguise as a German psychiatrist.  This talented and enjoyable trio are supported by the excellent Mark Benton as Andre, the crooked chief of police, and Geraldine Fitzgerald’s Muriel. It is clear from the off that the cast are enjoying themselves – without being self-indulgent. This enjoyment transmits to the audience and so we enjoy the performances rather than admire the reprehensible behaviour of this unscrupulous, immoral characters. It’s not even a morality tale. No one is reformed at the end.

The story flourishes in its new theatrical medium. Peter McKintosh’s elegant set hosts a lively ensemble of dancers for the production numbers. Jerry Mitchell’s choreography and direction give a flavour of the South of France, tempered with some Latin American moves and music.

It all adds up to a cracking night out – a superior example of a film-to-stage adaptation, a toe-tapping, laugh-out-loud fun ride performed by a stellar cast, company and band.

dirty rotten

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Talent Laid Bare

THE FULL MONTY

The Crescent Theatre, Birmingham, Tuesday 7th October, 2014

 

Based on the extremely popular British film, this musical adaptation transplants the action to Buffalo, New Jersey. It’s brash and perhaps a little shallower than the original but the change of location works very well: the issues it covers (the emasculating power of long-term unemployment and the reversal of gender roles and expectations) are universal.  The men’s strip show is not just a money-spinner, it’s a way of reasserting their masculinity.  They’ve been stripped of their traditional role, so they strip off their clothes to remind everyone they are still men.

Terrence McNally’s script follows the familiar story, and there is a lively, jazz-infused rock score with witty lyrics, both by David Yazbek: the band is excellent – flawless, in fact.

Chris Ranger leads as rough and ready Jerry, whose desperation to raise child support leads him to rally his mates to create a troupe of strippers. It’s opening night and Ranger warms into his role – especially his scenes with fat friend Dave (Mark Heath, in a bold performance that brings pathos). Ranger’s voice is well-suited to the score although needs to be a little louder in the mix – Mind you, my seat is practically on the musical director’s head, so it’s not the best position, acoustically speaking.

Stephen Duckham directs his strong cast with an assured hand – it’s the third time he has directed this show and so the attention to detail is spot on. Mary Dunn impresses as Dave’s wife Georgie, with a powerful singing voice and a touching manner. Dane Foxx gives Horse some lovely moves, accentuated by Sally Jolliffe’s choreography, and young Luke Flaherty is effective as Jerry’s son Nathan – who is more mature and level-headed than his dad. Rob Fusco is very good as Harold, trying to hide his joblessness from his big-spending wife (Michelle Worthington, who excels in her musical numbers)

Claire J Smith almost steals the show as chain-smoking, tough-talking piano playing Jeanette (a new character that adds to the Americanisation, and the musicalisation – if that’s a word, of this version) but above and beyond this hard-working and skilful bunch shines the exceptional talent of Mark Walsh, who makes uptight, skittish oddball Malcolm absolutely adorable in a performance of West End quality. He is consistently hilarious without upstaging his scene-mates and when he sings at his mother’s funeral, it breaks your heart. Walsh somehow lifts the whole production without overshadowing the rest of the cast, a feat which is as remarkable as his characterisation.

Funny, touching and still relevant, The Full Monty remains an entertaining piece and BMOS delivers “the goods” on all counts.

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