Theatre

Review: Legally Blonde

By John Nathan, January 14, 2010

This is the popular Broadway musical version of the famous film that was based on the American novel that nobody had heard of.

It appears a pattern has formed. Legally Blonde arrives in London hardish on the heels of Sister Act, another musical version of a Hollywood comedy.

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Review: The Lady Or The Tiger

By John Nathan, January 7, 2010

Michael Richmond’s and Nola York’s quirky little musical made its debut at the Orange Tree in 1975 and, judging by this revival, overreached and overachieved when it transferred to the Fortune Theatre in the West End.

Perhaps it became a victim of its own success. The show built up quite a following when it first appeared. Queues went around the block when the block was the pub in whose upstairs room founding Orange Tree artistic director Sam Walters set up shop in 1971. These days the venue has its own building over the road.

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A shtetl wedding on the trapeze

By Simon Round, December 30, 2009

Think of acrobats, jugglers and clowns in Eastern Europe and the image that comes to mind is the Moscow State Circus.

However, there is a show coming to London which uses traditional circus skills in a new context — a unique cultural fusion called Circus Klezmer. The performers use circus tricks to tell the story of a wedding in an Eastern European shtetl, to the accompaniment of klezmer music. And if all that is not culturally fused enough, all the parts and instruments are played by a cast from the Spanish Catalan region.

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Review: Rope

By John Nathan, December 29, 2009

I admit to a rush of guilty pleasure when it was announced that the Almeida had chosen Rope for its seasonal offering. It arrived with childhood flashbacks of a Sunday afternoon in front of the telly gripped by the Hitchcock film and enthralled — and appalled — by the ruthlessness of the conceit, that killing can be a creative act, and that murder can be a civilising influence.

I would have been even more fascinated had I known that the film was based, via Patrick Hamilton’s play, on real events.

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Review: Misanthrope

By John Nathan, December 22, 2009

Two lessons were learned during one of the biggest opening nights of the year. One was that Keira Knightley is a very good actor; the other is that Martin Crimp’s modern London version of Molière’s comedy has less to say about today’s facile obsession with celebrity and status than the 17th-century Parisian original.

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Review: Red

By John Nathan, December 22, 2009

John Logan’s two-hander focuses on the dilemma faced by Jewish artist Mark Rothko over accepting a commission to paint murals for a restaurant. Has he sold out or not? Alfred Molina glowers splendidly as the troubled artist but it is Eddie Redmayne as his questioning helper who shines.

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Review: Sweet Charity

By John Nathan, December 22, 2009

The Menier has become the UK’s most trusted reviver of the great Broadway musical, and it scores again with this classic by Dorothy Fields, Neil Simon and Cy Coleman. Tamzin Outhwaite in the role of the lovelorn dance-hall hostess Charity Hope Valentine has a hardness missing from Shirley Maclaine’s film version, the show is stuffed with great numbers — Hey, Big Spender, If They Could See Me Now, Something Better Than This — and the choreography is pure Bob Fosse.

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How the best show in town was born

By John Nathan, December 17, 2009

The best seasonal show in London this year has nothing to do with the season. Charity is involved, it is true, but it comes in the form of Charity Hope Valentine, the lovelorn heroine of the musical Sweet Charity. The 1966 Broadway show has been thrillingly revived this year at producer David Babani’s Menier Chocolate Factory venue in Southwark. Matthew White’s production, starring Tamzin Outhwaite, will be in the running for some major best musical awards.

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Review: Jack And The Beanstalk

By John Nathan, December 17, 2009

Other than Caryl Churchill’s Seven Jewish Children, the most controversial play this year was Richard Bean’s England People Very Nice. With its stereotypes of militant Muslims, agricultural Irish and hora-dancing Chasids it greatly offended those with a sense-of-humour bypass.

Now Bean has co-written his first pantomime — with Che Walker, Joel Horwood and Morgan Lloyd Malcolm — and it too has a distinct un-PC strain.

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Review: Red

By John Nathan, December 10, 2009

Did you see the Mark Rothko exhibition at the Tate Modern earlier this year? It focused on the Seagram Murals, the giant, fathomless landscapes the New York artist produced for the Four Seasons Restaurant in 1958 and ’59. What a wonderful companion piece John Logan’s play would have made to that exhibition.

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