Sunday, 25 January 2009

CATCHING UP: Mandy/Norton/Spring

So I actually did go to quite a bit of theatre this week. However, I also had a fatal computer death from City of Heroes doing the final deed to my recalled graphics processor and making it impossible to post before Friday. Any other procrastination was, to be honest, laziness.

So first and foremost was the final performance of Mandy Patinkin’s whirlwind week in London. I’d meant to see Mr. Patinkin back in 2004 in New York but the timing didn’t work out and I missed out. To be honest, though, I didn’t really - consistency is a guarantee with the man as are overdramatic renderings of every song he does. I’m not knocking his abilities as a performer - he’s played two of my favourite roles in film (Rube in Dead Like Me and of course Inigo Montoya in The Princess Bride - which he did NOT say the line from) but the Forbidden Broadway lines about Super-Frantic Hyper-Active Self-Indulgent Mandy are totally true.

That said, I still defended the man against angry audiences after who felt the set list was far too old and unfamiliar. Anybody who reads up on the man’s concerts knows exactly what they’re in for: Sondheim, more Sondheim, and classic American songbook with a focus on Tin Pan Alley and early Broadway. If you’re lucky (I wasn’t) he sings Harry Chapin.

Anyways, on to Tuesday, where I should have (but didn’t) run into the West End Whingers as we were both independently at La Cage Aux Folles to see how Graham Norton was holding up as Albin. And to be honest, they were far kinder to the man than I’m going to be - utterly horrid were both my and my companion’s opinions. He failed to land many of the jokes (this is bad for a comedy poof) and, in the words of the professional drag queen, “moved like a straight man in a dress.” He was consistently off key, out of time with the orchestra, and they significantly upped the reverb on his lowered “I Am What I Am.” At no point did I or my companion truly believe that Norton’s Albin was in love with Georges, and he was Graham Norton in a series of (very unflattering) dresses rather than a true character.

So thank goodness for Spring Awakening at the Lyric on Friday, as it was NOT “Totally Fucked” though Iwan Rheon was undoubtedly cursing out “The Bitch of Living” as he hurt his back during rehearsal and understudy Richard Southwind proclaimed “Mama Who Bore Me!” and covered Moritz for first preview. The cast are, thankfully, strong overall (minus Lucy Barker who portrays Ilse as a third-rate first-act Sally Bowles) and Christine Jones’s set fits beautifully into the Lyric’s space as does the true third star (after Sater’s book and Sheik’s music), namely Kevin Adams’s beautiful, breathtaking lighting designs. While a West End transfer is all but announced, book now and see it in the more intimate space and at a lower price. I’d also recommend sitting in the circle - there are a few design issues which are difficult if not impossible to see from the stalls due to the high stage. Highly recommended and worth the £35 top price.

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