Those hoping to find a formula for the success of a musical may be confused by the The Grand Tour’s poor reception on Broadway. The 1979 show by the legendary Jerry Herman is only now receiving its London premiere at the tiny Finborough Theatre, and I can’t for the life of me work out why. The book by Michael Stewart and Mark Bramble is more than serviceable, while the music and lyrics by Herman are superb. The show’s themes certainly live up to its ambitious title.
OK, so The Grand Tour is old fashioned. Maybe it’s not that original either. And the escapades of Jewish intellectual Jacobowsky and Polish Colonel Stjerbinksy as they flee from the Nazis are sometimes a little silly: there’s a circus, a wedding and even some nuns. But these flights of fancy fill a desperate journey with colour – even a scene on a crowded train is vivacious – and Herman’s score looks past dark events to embrace affirmation.
Alastair Brookshaw succeeds in making the unbelievably optimistic Jacobowsky heroic, while Nic Kyle gives Stjerbinsky more dimensionality than he’s written with. The finest moments come with a gentle love triangle around Marianne, the Colonel’s fiancée, played by the charming Zoë Doano. The excellent Thom Sutherland directs a powerful ensemble and Phil Lindley’s set is cleverly cartographic. Sutherland works flawlessly in small venues and The Grand Tour deserves big success.
Until 21 February 2015
Photos by Annabel Vere