Tag Archives: Ken Ludwig

“Crazy For You” at Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre

Crazy For You, which had its Broadway debut in 1993, is a tribute musical woven from the work of George and Ira Gershwin. Inspired by the 1930 stage hit Girl Crazy, Ken Ludwig provides a new book and adds hit songs. An appropriately slim, yet seamless, plot has a banker-cum- wannabe-dancer disguising himself as a theatrical impresario in order to save a neglected theatre and win a girl.

Taking us from New York to Nevada, mixing the Ziegfeld Follies with the Wild West, there are plenty of laughs and, more importantly, plenty of tunes. Musical theatre takes any opportunity to sing -‘Let’s put on a show’ – and witness, without questioning, the power of a show tune to change lives. This is joyous stuff full of the feelgood factor.

The Regent’s Park production is marked by a justified sense of confidence, most notably in director Timothy Sheader’s lightness of touch. These days, Sheader has an enviable reputation for musicals and he has reunited the team that brought us Hello Dolly, including Peter McKintosh, whose intelligent costume design surely merits him another Olivier nomination.

Sheader gets the best out of his cast. Sean Palmer takes the lead of Bobby with ever-present charm and elegance. His love interest, Polly, is played by Clare Foster. Her voice doesn’t zing, but it is wonderfully sweet and her acting skills are superb. And there’s a thrilling supporting cast, including Harriet Thorpe and Kim Medcalf, with a string of great numbers.

Gershwin’s music is made to dance to. This is the real joy of Crazy For You and Stephen Mear’s choreography, full of wit as well as grace, does it justice. McKintosh provides a moon to ride and Tim Mitchell’s lighting design means the stars aren’t just in the skies above you. This team succeeds in making Regent’s Park more glamorous and romantic than it has ever been.

Until 10 September 2011

www.openairtheatre.org

Photo by Tristram Kenton

Written 11 August 2011 for The London Magazine

“Lend Me A Tenor: The Musical” at the Gielgud Theatre

A musical farce is a tricky thing to pull off, but Lend Me A Tenor shows us how it’s done. The book is the important thing. Based on the play by Ken Ludwig, Peter Sham’s adaptation of a star tenor’s guest performance is as simple as a farce is able to be. Confused love affairs, disguises, behind-the-scenes dramas and onstage shenanigans at a Midwestern opera house are combined with ease and plenty of laughs.

Sham’s lyrics are a model of clarity and hilarity. And if it takes guts to rhyme the name Tito with “indeed-o” then it pays off. Brad Carroll’s intelligently nostalgic score is easy on the ear. So what if you can see the mechanics? It works.

Despite the manic action (with the doors on Paul Farnsworth’s impressive set naturally getting a satisfactory amount of slamming), Ian Talbot’s direction seems effortless. With this cast, he can afford to be confident – Lend Me A Tenor has plenty of experience on stage and it really shows.

Matthew Kelly takes the role of Henry Saunders, harassed opera impresario, in his stride. Michael Matus is the star singer with a believably great voice and the kind of Italian accent you only get on stage. This team knows there is only one thing funnier than an outrageous accent… another character faking an outrageous accent. Stepping into the tenor’s shoes is Damian Humbley as mild-mannered Max, who gets the show’s big tune, ‘Be Yourself’, just as he is going onstage to masquerade as the divo.

With its female leads, Lend Me A Tenor, also excels. Maggie (Cassidy Janson) is our ingénue, and the opera’s resident diva Diana DiVane (Sophie-Louise Dann) is the “not so ingen-new”. Both are infatuated with Tito the tenor for romantic and professional reasons: Maggie wants to borrow him for a fling before she settles down, leading to the show’s romantic title tune, DiVane sees him as a kind of bridging loan to the Met and has a show-stopping ‘audition’ number. The superb Joanna Riding plays Tito’s long-suffering wife with delightful comic timing.

This cast is so strong that the performers might seem somewhat wasted; it’s an enviable position for any production to be in. But a musical needs more – that special something that critics are loath to describe as ‘heart’, and Lend Me A Tenor is such an enchanting piece that it’s clearly in credit.

Until 6 August 2011

Photo by Tristram Kenton

Written 1 July 2011 for The London Magazine