Saturday, 14 February 2009

REVIEW: Saturday Night

Back in the golden age of Broadway, there was a subset of musicals known as “tired businessman” shows. These were typically mediocre affairs that were decent in terms of quality, mildly entertaining, and inoffensive (Sweet Charity is a prime example, though Bob Fosse’s choreography and Gwen Verdon’s performance lent it extra weight.) Sondheim’s “lost” Saturday Night is a tired businessman show through and through, being unperformed until the 1990’s (despite being written in the 50’s but unproduced due to a funding crisis) and currently revived in a cleverly(?) timed production at the Jermyn Street Theatre.

Keeping the plot details short and spoiler free, Saturday Night focuses on a group of friends in late 1920’s Brooklyn who have two things on their mind: pulling girls and making some fast cash in the stock market. Led by wannabe playboy Gene, the group try to score with buddy girl Celeste’s lady friends and pool together on a tip that Gene received. This being a strictly by the book show complete with a checklist of clichés, I’ll leave it to you to guess what happens. Chances are you’ll be mostly right.

It’s sad that the show itself is so unimpressive, Sondheim or not, because the production tries so hard to outdo it. Engaging the increasingly common actor-musician concept (the male ensemble only - no female musicians here), director Tom Littler makes the best use possible out of the Jermyn Street’s tiny stage, and Tom Attwood’s arrangements are well played and never feel hollow or reduced. The cast, including reality show contestant Helena Blackman, vary between quite good and decent, though the accents were straight out of a gangster film and had their occasional lapses. The cast try desperately to land their jokes (they frequently succeed) but I never connected to David Ricardo-Pearce as Gene, and while the antics of the supporting cast are amusing, they wear thin.

Indeed, my biggest issue with Saturday Night was that even though I entered the theatre on Thursday night, it felt like I didn’t get to leave until Saturday in spite of a svelte 2:10 runtime. While I like old-fashioned musicals and understand that they run at a slower pace, Saturday was content to plod rather than keep marching along. Those who bemoan the loud music and hectic nature of more contemporary shows, however, may find themselves taken in by the show’s charms. I, however, will be spending my Saturday night at Avenue Q.

Where: Jermyn Street Theatre
When: Until 14 March, Tu-Sa @ 19:00, Sa-Su @ 15:00
How Much: £18
Concessions: £15
RZ Unofficial “Worth Paying”: £9. Half price for “okay but not amazing.”
RZ Other Notes: (In?)conveniently enough, I saw the Menier’s A Little Night Music the night before. I didn’t fall in love with it either, but that’s another review...

Also, I've been asked to point out that due to scheduling issues on my end, I went New York style and attended the final preview instead of the press night.


DeNada said...

Looks like Mr Littler likes his Sondheim - a brief Google reveals he premiered Passion in Scotland at the Fringe a few years ago, and ADed for Trevor Nunn on Night Music!

How's the set for this production? I've heard good things on the grapevine about Will Reynolds, although obviously I can't imagine they had much of a budget to play with.

Rogue Zentradi said...

The set is a skyline with a couple of doors and cutaways built in. There's a raised stage area where the larger instruments (drum, piano) are kept as well but otherwise it's pretty bare. TBH, I thought that the production was as good as they could do in spite of the material. Wonderful Town this wasn't.