Tuesday, 15 January 2008

ARTICLE: 2007 In Review

The RZ saw more theatre in 2007 than he had in the four years prior combined - over 60 performances (lightweight compared to most of the London bloggers). Ideally this number will rise further in 2008. Below are some of the best and worst of what the RZ attended in 2007.

Best designs: Lord of the Rings. Eye popping and jaw dropping and capable of justifying the cost of admission alone.

Biggest waste of good design: Car Cemetery at the Gate. The tiny space was converted into a beautifully decaying junkyard, but the play itself left much to be desired.

Best case of stunt casting saving a show: Angela Lansbury in Deuce. Even in her 80’s, Ms. Lansbury exudes warmth and presence in a vapid role. And folks, let’s be honest, she’s why anybody bought tickets (especially after the reviews), no insult meant to Ms. Marian Seldes, her lovely co-star.

Best reminder of why you should see the original cast: Anthony Rapp and Adam Pascal return to RENT. Two returning cast members full of energy, one stuntcast actress trying her best, and twelve sleepwalkers.

Best puppets: War Horse. Handspring’s equine beasts were the most lively things on the stage in this year’s family offering at the National.

Best school group show: Tom Crean Antarctic Explorer. One man, some props, and an Irish accent guide the audience towards the South Pole. Coming to London’s New End Theatre in 08.

Biggest Musical Mediocrity: Bad Girls. Nobody expected this show to work, and while it did, there was nothing special or exciting on the stage. Mary Poppins almost won, but the RZ saw it at the end of three years, not when it was relatively new.

Long Runner Most Ready To Close: Les Miserables. Tired casting, tired sets. The formaldehyde is leaking and it’s time to put this one down.

“Close But Not Enough” Award: The Perfect Pitch Festival. Three months later and no word of any of the pieces performed going anywhere or doing anything. Hopefully the money will start to flow in as the festival continues running.

“Don’t Quit Your Day Job” Award: William Baker (Director, RENT Remixed). The RZ hears that Primark are always looking for new staff.

Best “Show the RZ didn’t need to see because the hype said enough”: Masque of the Red Death. Tickets are still available for the final extension, but at this point, why bother?

Best “Not Really a Cast Recording”: Jonathan Sings Larson. A wonderful retrospective of a fascinating composer. The RZ never got his review into a form he found acceptable.

Best Non-Traditional Evening: Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea. 1927’s cabaret of animation, piano, and black humour. Currently playing at NYC's PS122.

Best Pantomime: Dick Whittington at Hackney Empire. The RZ has talked it up enough.

Best Play (Revival): The Emperor Jones at the National. Solid design and a powerhouse performance in Paterson Joseph. Boeing Boeing deserves an honourable mention, as does the Pryce-led production of Glengarry Glenn Ross. A great year for West End revivals.

Worst Play (Revival): The Blacks at Stratford East. Genet himself is said to have hated this play, and so did the RZ. For all of its sound and fury, it was little more than a tempest in an onstage teacup as the play’s themes so pervade American media that the play is laughably tame by comparison.

Best Play (New): Rafta Rafta. No, it’s not the best play that opened in London or New York, but it’s the one the RZ saw and liked the most. Seeing better new plays in 08 is on the RZ’s goal list.

Worst Play (New): The Girl Detective at Ateh Theatre Company (NYC). Amateur in every regard, and a reminder of why the RZ usually avoids the New York fringe for traditional drama.

Best Musical (Ongoing): Starlight Express. Eighteen years after opening in Bochum, StEx remains the gold standard in theatrical spectacle and stays fresh thanks to relentless rehearsals and a catchy, upbeat score.

Worst Musical (Revival): RENT Remixed. While massively reworking a show for a new production is nothing new, screwing it up on this level takes talent.

Best Musical (Revival): Parade. An example of reworking done right as the Broadway mass is shaved down to a haunting chamber piece.

Worst Musical (New, London): Desperately Seeking Susan. Dull, annoying, and ugly. Is this really all the West End has to offer? Maybe entrusting Gone with the Wind to a total newbie is the best move after all...

Worst Musical (New, Broadway): The RZ didn’t see anything truly atrocious for NYC musicals in 07.

Best Musical (New, Broadway): Spring Awakening. Technically this is a 2006 show due to its Off-Broadway run, but the RZ saw it in 07 and it won the 07 Tony so there. A high energy, rocking score combined with a cast that grew closer and stronger with every performance has proven that Broadway again has space for unhappy musicals. At the same time, if we’re talking strictly 2007 new, the RZ has to give the award to Xanadu for its razor sharp book and intelligent basis in adapting a movie that was already a musical to start with.

Best Musical (New, London): Hairspray. Officially it’s a transfer and therefore new, even if the RZ did see it back in 2003. And come on, it’s not like the West End had anything better to offer this year. Are there any interesting new British musicals coming up in the next six months besides GWTW? As it stands, the RZ is currently betting on an American transfer to win this again next year as well.


Scott said...

"a reminder of why the RZ usually avoids the New York fringe for traditional drama."

Of course. Why would anyone look to the NY fringe for traditional drama? It exists to create precisely the opposite.

Perhaps you can enroll in a theater history course at your prestigious university, kiddo?

Rogue Zentradi said...

Well, for what it's worth, it was a piece featured on a number of fringe sites as a worthy endeavor by a feminist company adapting a well respected short story. And, for what it's worth, it did make me want to go out and read the book.

Likewise, good things in the bounds of "tradition" do emerge from the NY fringe, or make themselves accessible (Look at how long the NY production of "Too Much Light Makes the Baby Go Blind" has stayed running, albeit as a transfer from Chicago...). NYMF has provided all kinds of off the wall and exciting productions which fit the bill of utilising aspects of traditional form while tackling unusual subject matter, such as 2006's The Screams of Kitty Genovese. It's the ability to blend populist form with alternative subject matter that makes NYMF and much of Off-Broadway so appealing and a great deal of that attitude does spread to Off-Off-Broadway (which the RZ, perhaps mistakenly, associates with the NYC Fringe).

Next time, I'll have to watch the interpretive dance piece by the bondage gimps tapping out the text in morse code on Tibetan prayer bowls.

Anonymous said...

see pictures of the theatre set and rehearsal pictures of the cast at www.gwtwthemusical.com
We may need a newcomer to wrting to freshen up the Westend, although the writer is heavily involved in music theory, Trevor Nunn, William David Brohn gareth valentine to name a few have had more than a small hand in adapting this production.