Tag Archive | "Robert McWhir"

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Review: Meet Me in St Louis, Landor Theatre

Posted on 17 December 2013 by Jemma Anderson

Meet Me In St Louis

Meet Me in St Louis, currently playing at the Landor Theatre, is based on the classic 1944 film of the same name starring Judy Garland – and it’s the perfect Christmas treat for musical fans!

The story follows the Smith family living in St. Louis, who are all eagerly anticipating the arrival of the World’s Fair right on their doorstep. Older sisters Rose and Esther dream of romance, one waiting for a long distance phone call with a proposal, and the other falling in love with the boy next door. Younger sisters Tootie and Agnes are out to cause chaos, whilst brother Lon is dreaming of college. But when their father returns home one day with news of a promotion in New York, the family have to adjust to leaving their beloved St Louis behind.

Artistic Director of the Landor, Robert McWhir, has lovingly recreated the musical that’s jam packed with songs everyone will know and love, including ‘The Trolley Song’, ‘Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas’ and, of course, the title song. It’s a classy reworking of the film set in 1903, complete with period costumes and a small but versatile set, and they’ve even managed to squeeze in a small but perfectly formed live band too.

The cast is made up of many young graduates fresh from drama school, and they all contribute to the telling of the great Christmas classic. Special mention should go to little Rebecca Barry who, as young Tootie, provides some of the best one-liners of the evening, as well as possessing a great voice. Sisters Rose and Esther, played by Emily Jeffreys and Georgia Permutt respectively, form a tight duo that bounce off each other well. Piers Bate as John provides the love interest for Esther, and thoroughly charms the audience along with his girl. The rest of the Smith family provide the sensible groundings for the children, except for housemaid Katie (Carolyn Allen) who makes the audience giggle at her every exuberance.

Choreography in such a small space would always be tricky, but Robbie O’Reilly manages to compartmentalise the larger company numbers by cleverly using props and the set to emphasise the routines. As for the songs, you forget that this is where so many classics originated. All are sung with great conviction and meaning, and Esther’s songs are particularly enjoyable, with Permutt’s voice reminding me of Laura Michelle Kelly.

The icing on the cake of the evening, however, is the rendition of ‘Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas’, which is sung through a picturesque window whilst projected snow is falling outside. You can’t help but feel spectacularly warm inside and very Christmassy once hearing that song.

Meet Me in St Louis is playing at the Landor Theatre until 18 January 2014. For more information and tickets see the Landor Theatre website. Photo by Darren Bell.

Jemma Anderson

Jemma is currently studying Drama, Theatre and Performance at Roehampton University. Between studying and reading about theatre, she also watches and reviews as Editor-in-chief of the Drama Department's newspaper, The Call.

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Review: Curtains

Posted on 01 August 2012 by Julia Rank

Having recently hosted a transfer of All Star Pro’s enjoyable production of Kander and Ebb’s first show Flora the Red Menace, the Landor now presents the professional British premiere of the partnership’s last show Curtains, a romp of a backstage musical murder mystery set during the golden era of musical theatre.

Like Flora, Curtains wasn’t an unadulterated hit on Broadway, even though it’s probably the least political and most straightforwardly crowd-pleasing show that Kander and Ebb ever wrote (no Nazis, communists or critiques of the justice system). This majorly scaled-down staging shows Robert McWhir to be one of the most ingenious directors of small-scale musicals, in which the suggestion of Broadway glitz can be as effective as an enormous budget.  

All is not well at the Boston tryouts of Midwestern-set musical Robbin Hood, a blatant attempt to cash in on Oklahoma!’s success. When the show’s reviled leading lady is poisoned on opening night, the damning reviews are much more upsetting than her demise (cue much critic-bashing). In steps Lieutenant Frank Cioffi on his dream investigation, being a pillar of community theatre and a musical theatre fanboy, with two missions: to catch the murderer and re-stage the show (the latter is perhaps more important). While quarantined in the theatre, egos, rivalries, partner swapping and lost love rear their heads and tempers inevitably become frayed.

Backstage musicals are nothing new, but the sparklingly self-referential book (co-written by Peter Stone and Rupert Holmes as Stone died on the job) is filled with laugh-out-loud one-liners. It’s very much like Dames at Sea with more innuendo, but thankfully not as smutty as Lend Me a Tenor. The first half flies by, though the second could lose about fifteen minutes. I was never overly concerned as to who the murderer was (the plotting could be sharper); the best fun is seeing how far the theatrical archetypes can be pushed. Many of the best lines go to Bryan Kennedy as the ever-flippant British director (“It’s an honour just to be nominated”, he proclaims when he’s named as the chief suspect) and Buster Skeggs as the tough-as-nails theatrical capitalist (forget artistry, “It’s a business”).

The cast is uniformly likable and energetic, featuring a mixture of young and experienced performers: Jeremy Legat is full of starstruck eagerness as the mild-mannered yet shrewd detective whose spiritual home is in the theatre (he’s considerably younger than the original star David Hyde Pierce, which works in his favour in regard to the romance with Bronwyn Andrews’s ingénue). Fiona O’Carroll gives a striking turn as the show’s lyricist-turned-leading-lady Georgia, a real old-school Broadway trouper, and Thomas Sutcliffe is also eye-catching as her leading man.

Robbie O’Reilly’s choreography spills out from all corners, and behind the sideways proscenium arch and red curtain of Martin Thomas’s set, the whole theatre world comes to life. A love letter to the theatre accompanied by plenty of the old razzle dazzle has to be the most fitting way to draw a forty-year writing partnership to a close.

Curtains plays at Landor Theatre until September 1 2012. For more information and tickets, please visit the website.

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Review: Ragtime

Posted on 11 September 2011 by Jack Thomas

Something very exciting is happening at The Landor Theatre in Clapham. I’ll cut to the chase – buy your ticket now!

Ragtime is an epic musical by trio Terrence Mcnally, Stephen Flaherty and Lynn Ahrens, and follows several groups of people from all social backgrounds, class and race as America journeys into the twentieth Century… a time for change. With some powerful, rousing numbers and a storyline that brings a tear to the eye, what on earth were the team behind this production thinking when they chose Ragtime, originally staged with a cast of 60 into a small theatre above a pub? I can only imagine the initial conversation went: “We really want to do this show, and we’re going to do it well!”

The cast of 23 lift the roof with a powerhouse of vocal talent. By the end of the first number I was left with goosebumps. The tightly drilled vocals brought the epic score to life, giving us huge numbers from a strong cast but also allowing beautifully intimate moments for duets and solos, especially Louisa Lydell’s rendition of ‘Back to Before’, which had the audience hanging on every word. George Dyer as Musical Director not only leads the band and cast but he has re-orchestrated the music for the band of five, which is no mean feat and is done at no cost to the overall sound.

A cast of 23 in a space no bigger than the office I am currently sat in may seem ridiculous, but full credit to Director Robert McWhir and Choreographer Matthew Gould who have evidently worked hard to make sure there are good sightlines for all, with a good rotation of movement in each piece to allow all cast members to be seen. Gould manages an exciting routine of dance which never feels restricted, with lifts, turns, and a beautiful duet between Aston New and Lauren Alexandra.

The other big player in this production, which moves it far beyond a pub theatre performance, is the wonderful and inventive set by Martin Thomas, complemented beautifully  by a lighting design by Howard Hudson. The set which ties beautifully with the narrative of the character Tateh, played by John Barr, replicates his industry of a silhouette cutter and in doing so solves all the major issues you have from switching setting from New York to Atlantic City to New Rochelle.

This production is put together with dedication and all the professionalism of a good West End show. The standard in all areas is very high, with not one element letting this production down. You could argue that the size of venue is its downfall, but really it’s the intimacy that really makes this highly-polished performance more of a treat.

The exciting thing about a piece of theatre this well produced above a public house is that it moves away from a negative perception of fringe theatre and gives audience members a taste of what New Yorkers get when visiting an off-Broadway venue.

I cannot sing the praises of this production enough and if you want to know how to put on production, buy a pint from the bar, head upstairs at the Landor and take note.

Ragtime is playing at the Landor Theatre until 8th October. For more information and tickets, see the Landor Theatre Website.

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