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Broadway Round Up

I’ve seen lots of stuff on Broadway lately.  Here are my views of what’s hot and what’s not.

I saw this in January 2011. The show is famously still in the middle of a massively long preview period, and Julie Taymor has since been fired, so bear in mind things may have changed but the first half was stunning – simply one of the most amazing pieces of staging I’ve seen. Ever.  Really nice production design, with some very clever treatment of height and perspective, good lighting and an excellent (and large) cast.  The aerial work was breathtaking. And the plot kind of made sense. Reeve Carney is easy enough on the eye and has a pleasant singing voice.  The songs, well… I’ve never been a U2 fan but they are ok.    Part 2 though was bonkers.  Made no sense at all.  But assuming they work that out (the show has re-opened this week but still in preview) I think the show will be great overall.  Go see it – the money they have spent (this is the most expensive musical ever) shows on stage.

Book of Mormon
Wow. Like everyone else I don’t really have anything bad to say about this show.  The guys who created South Park have a hit on their hands of monster proportions. Already rumoured to be planning a West End transfer the show is one of those rare hyped shows that didn’t disappoint at all. A genuinely funny catchy score is matched by brilliant cast performances across the board.  It’s also the hottest show in town – tickets are like gold dust so the atmosphere front of house is electric.  I found myself sitting next to Jodie Foster in the production seats!  The cast recording is out next week but I’d actually recommend you don’t listen to the score before you go as it will spoil some of the gags.

How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying
This is a revival of an old musical that is guaranteed to be a hit because it stars Daniel Radcliffe.  Beautifully staged with a set that fuses the aesthetic of Mad Men with The Jetsons the show also features terrific choreography. I’d describe the show as a slow burner in terms of audience engagement.  The first few songs don’t really connect but by the end of the first half I was really enjoying it, but it does takes a while.   A good third of the audience were simply there for Daniel it would appear, and whilst he has certainly put in the work learning some very athletic and complex dance routines I couldn’t help feeling that he lacks the natural carisma the person in this role should have.   The score is more catchy than you think it is (still humming some of it), and anyone who has worked in an office or tried to climb some form of corporate ladder can’t fail to find some of the scenarios amusing and wry, if not laugh out loud funny.

Priscilla Queen of the Dessert
Those of you who know me in real life will know that I love this show and will find any vague excuse to see the London production time and time again.  I think it’s a show that looks tacky, glib and moronic from the outside, but is actually a show with the most heart of any I’ve seen. It’s beautifully written and directed with a nuance and story that connects with people from all different walks of life. It’s truly universal and how they have worked the songs into the story is genius. It has audiences on it’s feet night after night after night.

Some changes have been made for Broadway.  Tick is now firmly the star of the show (America like their leading men to be clearly defined) and Adam worships Madonna, not Kylie.  Lots of other changes had been made too and having read about them in advance and also seen some unwelcome changes made to the London version I was ready to hate the show.  But I have to hand it to Simon Phillips and the rest of the creative team – they have pulled it off, and they actually have a faster, more focused and ultimately better production in the Broadway show. And that’s saying something considering how much I love the London production.

Key to the success of the show is the magnificent Tony Sheldon. It was a pleasure to see him perform the role of Bernadette again in NYC over a year since leaving the London production.  It’s a role he so convincingly owns and has perfected it’s just a joy to watch.   I found myself returning to the Palace solo the next day just to watch his performance again.   For Tony fans the best interview I’ve seen with him can be found here.

Mary Poppins
I’d wanted  to see this show for ages, having missed it during it’s residency in London a few years back, but have to say in all honesty I was really disappointed. So-so songs and a pretty boring storyline led me to almost nod off at one point.  The families in the house seemed to be enjoying it, and maybe the fact I’ve never actually seen the film put me at a disadvantage but I really struggle to find anything about this show that stands out.

It’s unfortunate this show is right across the street from Spiderman, as Spiderman’s aerial work totally shits all over the big end of Act 2 effect (Mary Flying over the audience).


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