Tag Archives: Ira Gershwin

REVIEW: Crazy For You – King’s Theatre, Glasgow

Based on the 1930 musical Girl Crazy, (where Ethel Merman made her stage debut and turned Ginger Rogers into a star overnight) and utilising the glorious back catalogue of the Gershwin brothers, Crazy For You was reworked in the 1990s by Ken Ludwig to recreate the golden age of Hollywood and Broadway musicals.

This Watermill Theatre production starring Tom Chambers, Charlotte Wakefield and Caroline Flack, stops off in Glasgow this week on its UK tour.

New York boy, Bobby Child works in the family bank, he’s sent to Deadrock, Nevada to foreclose on a failing theatre. However, stage-struck Bobby harbours a secret desire to be a song and dance man. Instead of shutting down the business, he disguises himself as Hungarian theatre impresario Bela Zangler, and utilises the classic ‘let’s put on a show right here!’ device. There are multiple plot twists and the old ‘boy-meets-girl, girl-hates-boy-on-first-sight’ too.

Despite Ludwig’s attempts to beef up the original material, the characterisations are so thin they are positively see-through and the storyline is frankly, barmy. It’s also a mystery why, with one of the richest back catalogues in musical history, that it’s been padded out with some of the least well known Gershwin tunes.

The big hitters that remain from the original Girl Crazy are glorious: Embraceable You, I Got Rhythm and But Not For Me as are Someone to Watch Over Me from Oh, Kay! and They Can’t Take That Away From Me from Shall We Dance, there are also some tantalising snippets of An American in Paris.

The Watermill Theatre has had mixed success with the actor/musician approach employed here. The cast of 19 certainly fill up the King’s Theatre’s tight stage, but under Paul Hart’s fussy direction, they are more of a curse than a blessing. It’s all just a bit too busy visually, and the poor women who are having to give their all while hoofing are doing it while holding on to a trumpet or a violin.

Diego Pitarch’s multi-level set serves the production well, with smooth and simple transitions it transforms into Deadrock, New York, the theatre and the saloon. Howard Hudson’s clever lighting adds depth, warmth and atmosphere.

Where it does win out is in the casting of Chambers (Bobby) and Flack (Irene). Chambers looks as if he’s having a ball throughout. For someone who dreamed of being Fred Astaire as a little boy, those dreams have certainly come true. Flack is clearly talented and her American accent remains on-point throughout, but it’s a mystery that such an excellent dancer, barely gets to display what she can do. Wakefield, has an excellent singing voice, however, it’s not a singing voice entirely suited to this material, with the arrangements of the songs she sings straying into more modern territory, she also, for reasons that are hard to pinpoint, isn’t easy to warm to. The ensemble, provide excellent support throughout.

The energy levels are high from all, but despite this the second act drags and suffers from unnecessary filler material, both in song and in dance routines.

This is a corny piece of fluff, with an excellent, hard-working cast, and in some ways a welcome escape from the grim world outside, but ultimately that certain stardust that makes a production truly spectacular, is missing.

Runs until 21 October 2017| Image: Richard Davenport

This review was originally written for The Reviews Hub: http://www.thereviewshub.com/crazy-for-you-kings-theatre-glasgow/

REVIEW: John Wilson Orchestra – Glasgow Royal Concert Hall

Cole Porter, Rodgers and Hammerstein and the MGM, golden era of Hollywood movie musicals have all been celebrated over the years by the wonderful John Wilson Orchestra. The lost scores recreated note by note and bar by bar by the supremely talented Wilson. This year, the spotlight turns on George and Ira Gershwin.

From a vast back-catalogue of hits, Wilson presents a broad spectrum of the composer’s work; some pieces recognised from the first few notes to some lesser-known gems, and a perfect balance of orchestral pieces and vocal numbers.

The hand-picked orchestra as always, are in the finest of form, getting the evening off to the best of starts with the overture from the 1945 biopic Rhapsody in Blue. Featuring West End leading lady Louise Dearman and John Wilson Orchestra veteran and big band star Matt Ford, there’s not a weak link anywhere. The playful chemistry between Dearman and Ford is a delight to watch and the playing and singing a joy to the ear. Vocal highlights include Dearman’s Someone to Watch Over Me and The Man I Love, and Ford’s S’Wonderful  (with the most spectacular whistling I’ve ever heard) and They Can’t Take That Away From Me.

It seems like a disservice to mention so little of the evening, but quite simply, this is as close to a perfect evening’s entertainment as you are likely to get. Sheer class.

John Wilson’s DVD celebrating the music of Frank Sinatra is on sale now.

CD REVIEW: An American In Paris Original Broadway Cast Recording

64 years since the classic movie musical, the first stage adaptation of An American in Paris is currently wowing them on the Great White Way, trailing 12 Tony Award nominations in its wake alongside a wave of positive reviews.

Re-set to the immediate aftermath of WW2 and the liberation of Paris (unlike the movie which allows a few years to pass): former G.I. Jerry Mulligan (Robert Fairchild) now a struggling artist living on the Left Bank, and beautiful young French girl Lise Dassin (Leanne Cope), meet in the City of Light and fall in love. However, the path to true love is, as always, never smooth.

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Just reading the track listing is enough to get fans of the Great American Songbook salivating. “Inspired” by Vincente Minnelli’s 1951 six-time Academy Award-winning movie starring Gene Kelly and Leslie Caron, this new production adapts both the original storyline and score. Adaptor, arranger and musical supervisor Rob Fisher shamelessly adds a few glorious George and Ira Gerschwin tunes that didn’t appear in the movie but more surprisingly standards such as “Embraceable You” and “Our Love is Here to Stay” fail to make the cut from the original.

As the first notes ring out from “Concerto in F” the motifs within give us a tantalising glimpse of the more familiar American in Paris suite to come as well as a clever representation of both the melancholy and optimism in the air in the post war years.

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The other orchestral pieces: “Second Prelude”, “Second Rhapsody” and “Cuban Overture” provide welcome depth and atmosphere throughout, but it is when we are treated to familiar hit after hit the piece really soars. “I’ve Got Beginners Luck” showcases the lightness of touch of the orchestra as well as Robert Fairchild’s golden era of Hollywood voice; Royal Ballet alumni Leanne Cope (Lise) is given a chance to demonstrate her singing as well as dancing chops with a sweet, delicate performance of “The Man I Love” and “I’ll Build a Stairway to Paradise” is a jazzy delight.

As we move through the tracks some are less successful than you would wish: you might think we are on familiar territory with the classic “I Got Rhythm” but here we are presented with a trio delivered by the three male leads. As they bang out the tune on the piano we are treated to a series of cod accents and it’s only when the ensemble gives full voice to the song is it given the justice it deserves. However to Robert Fairchild (Jerry), Brandon Uranowitz (Adam) and Max Von Essen’s (Henri) credit their diction is razor sharp throughout. S’Wonderful is also given the trio treatment and though competently sung, it is robbed of some of its joy of a love reciprocated. One real clanger is novelty number “Fidgety Feet” which adds nothing musically.

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The big-hitters, and the songs that stay in the memory are the gloriously sung “Who Cares/For You, For Me, For Evermore”, “But Not For Me” and “They Can’t Take That Away From Me” and the near 13 minute “An American In Paris” suite, a ravishing evocation of a jaunty, jangling journey along the Champs Elysees is luscious and full of life.

The quality of the recording throughout is first rate and the orchestra manage to be both sprightly and sumptuous, however, one can’t help mourning the loss of some of the Gershwins’ best-loved tunes. It also begs the question with a Brit at the helm, “when can we expect to see this classic in the West End?”

The CD was released on 1 June 2015.

This article was originally written for and published by http://www.thepublicreviews.com at: http://www.thepublicreviews.com/cd-review-an-american-in-paris-original-broadway-cast-recording/