Things that have caught my attention this week

It’s been a quiet week for me – I’m off to New York on the weekend, so the next shows I see will be on Broadway… in the meantime, here’s a few things in the theatre world that have caught my eye so far this week…

The Wizard of Oz talkboard madness
The Southbank Centre’s summer musical, Jude Kelly’s production of The WIzard of Oz, hasn’t convinced the pundits. As I pointed out in my review last week, the show is just too long, and despite the best efforts of a strong cast, they are fighting a losing battle with a show that doesn’t replicate the excitement of the original film.

Unfortunately, it appears that problems have been compounded by some publicity that they really could have done without… after the show received a bit of pasting on the What’s On Stage talkboards, some of theatre’s employees decided to add some positive comments. The Observer picked up the story here, and What’s On Stage wrote their own response, which you can see here.

There is no suggestion that the producers asked employees to do this – it looks more likely that a couple of people forgot to engage their brains before acting. I doubt they’ll make the same mistake again!

 

Neil Simon – still funny or looking dated?
They’re Playing Our Song had its first night this week, and seems to be gathering mixed reviews. The negatives seem to have centred on the material itself, rather than the production of the cast.

There wasn’t complete agreement though – I was rather amused to see the difference of opinions between the Telegraph and the Guardian on this one…

Michael Billington in the Guardian thinks that “the show’s smartest feature is Neil Simon’s book.” Unfortunately, Paul Taylor of the Independent disagrees, instead suggesting that “the book is by Neil Simon at his most mechanical. As you listen to the non-stop barrage not-so-cracking wisecracks, it’s the other meaning of “gag” to which the mind fondly strays.”

Personally, I like it when critics disagree, especially over something like this… on this occasion, I think the truth is somewhere in between!

 

David Tennant is actually good – now there’s a surprise
A couple of months’ back, Dr Jonathan Miller was spouting off to anyone that would listen about the problems with celebrity casting. Unfortunately, he was rapidly discredited as a result of him picking the wrong targets… he used the example of David Tennant, “that man from Doctor Who”.

Plenty of people came to Tennant’s defence, pointing out that he is a well-respected, classically-trained actor, who worked at the RSC long before he came to the public’s attention as Doctor Who.

The time has come to see if Tennant deserved the criticism, and judging by the byline to Michael Billington’s review in today’s Guardian, Dr Miller’s words now look even more ludicrous… “David Tennant is the best Hamlet in years”. Within the review itself, he goes onto write:

“This is a Hamlet of quicksilver intelligence, mimetic vigour and wild humour: one of the funniest I’ve ever seen.”

So, apparently David Tennant actually is rather a good actor…

 

Is West Side Story really that good?
I absolutely adored West Side Story when I saw it at Sadler’s Wells last week (see my review here in case you’re wondering).  The show has also received very impresive reviews from almost all of the major national newspapers (see here and here for a couple of examples).

The fact I loved it probably had something to do with the fact that I consider it to be the greatest piece of musical theatre ever written. Whilst I suspect I’m not on my own in holding this view, I read an interesting article in the Guardian this week which dared to question how great the show it…

So, a thought for today to leave you with – Is West Side Story really as good as I think it is?

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