Quickie London theater reviews

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Here are my Germy-reviews for all the shows I saw during my London trip...

The History boys

I totally cheated and saw the film version of this back in November. I thought the film was good, even though the topic of paedophilia was handled in an unsettlingly normal and non-chalant way by some characters. "Maybe that'e the way it is in real life", my mon said. Maybe it is, who knows.

Anyways, I took The Guy to see this production in London, and even though it didn't feature the original cast, I do have to say that the production was extraordinary. A much better experience than the film. The production was fast-paced with small musical interludes in between the scenes that kept the action running smoothly; some of the more over-the-top elements of the film were much more credible on stage, were reality is a bit less strict for some reason.

The gay kid was a little too queeny for my taste but the cute boy was even cuter than in the film, if not quite as menacing or devious-looking. Seeing the play live I gained a much better understanding of what it means to study History, and what it means to educate in general. A great production of a great play.

Avenue Q

 I had also kind of cheated with this production because I had listened to a few songs already on the Internet. From what I had heard, this promised to an an outrageous and open-minded evening at the theatre. And boy did it deliver.

Even though it takes a little getting used to seeing actors holding puppets, this musical just wins you over from the opening number (which is projected on a flat screen, ha!). The fact that the two male leads were absolutely gorgeous deifnitely helped, but was also a little distracting, hehe. The actors actually enhanced some of the puppet's expressions, so all in all it was a very enriching distraction I must say.

The songs are very creative and scandalously hilarious, just like their titles: "Everyone's a little bit racist", "The internet is for porn", "If you were gay", "It sucks to be me", etc. There are some Bad Idea Bears that are just too good to be true and a Cookie Monster clone that just steals the show.

What completely surprised me about this show was how emotionally profound the ending turned out to be. "Gosh", I thought, "this is a trully affecting show... much more so than Wicked ever was." I'm so glad Avenue Q beat Wicked for Best Musical at the Tonys that year. It really is a fantastic musical all by itself. One song especially resonated with me, it's the closing number "For now". Enjoy.

Everyone's a little unsatisfied,
everyone's a little bit empty inside...
You'll be faced with problems of all shapes and sizes.
You're going to have to make a few compromises...
For now...

-For now, Avenue Q

Evita

 I totally had to see Argentine born Elena Roger in this acclaimed London production. I had never seen a fully staged production of Evita, so this was my big chance to see my absolutely favorite Andre Lloyd Weber score on the stage. And all I can say is "Wow".

The production values were fantastic and the staging was exciting and very dynamic. Ms. Roger was a great dancer and excellent actress, even if she couldn't belt out all the high notes like the great Patti Lupone (the original New York Evita, heard on the OBC). The production was first rate and the gorgeous score performed by a full orchestar was worth the price of admission alone.

Billy Elliot

 I had heard great things about this production and my curiosity was high when I entered the Victoria-Palace theater. The kid performing the role of Billy was an incredible dancer, I mean this kid pulled off some virtuoso moves that stopped the show more than a few times. There was a dance sequene in which he shared the stage with his future-grown-up-self and, damn, Billy sure grows up to have a fantastic ass, wow... haha.

The themes handled in the show are very English, involving the coal miner strike in the 80's and the political climate under Margaret Thatcher. It's a well told story that is both emotionally involving and funny. The only real problem I had with the show is that not a single song is not even remotely memorable. Yes, Elton John has written some great tunes in the past, most notably for Aida, but he didn't score a single winner here. A shame, what a muscial this could have been with half-decent songs.

The Seagull

I had always wanted to see a Chekov play, and this production starring Kristen Scott Thomas was my big chance. No, I did not pull a Serge and see this show just because a movie star was in it, I had actually read it before and it seemed interesting enough. The problem was that I was falling asleep towards the end of the third hour of duration. I know, Germy's is the lowest of the low. But it just made me think about how this play really does belong to another time and to another audience. A shame, really. The characters are pretty interesting anf the struggles it portrays about love and artistic creation, both modern and traditional, are heartbreaking and violently true. I was still dozing off, though. Oh well.

An interesting thing tha happened the night I saw it, one of the lead actresses was out sick. Since this was a small Royal Court production, there was no understudy, so they literally got an actress who had come in THAT VERY MORNING to replace the ailing one. The house manager came onstage to explain how the replacement actress was going to be reading fromt he script and that they weren't really sure what was going to happen. Cool, this is why I love live theater, what a rush. The new girl turned out to be great. I mean, yeah, she read from time to time, but she was always in character and never ever let on that she was insecure or hesitant in her demeanor. That's what I call professionalism, suckas! At the end she got a bigger standing ovation that Ms. Scott Thomas. Cool.

I leave you with my favorite passage of this great work:

"Now I understand, Kostya, I've understood, that with our work - doesn't matter whether it's acting or writing what's essential is not fame or success, none of the things I used to dream about: it's the ability to endure."

-The Seaguul, Anotn Chekov

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