Matthew Bourne’s hugely enjoyable dance-drama, The Car Man, at Sadler’s Wells Theatre, is now subtitled Bizet’s Carmen Re-Imagined. The choreography has been much improved since I last saw Bourne’s thriller in 2002.
The only Carmen aspect about the production is the reorchestration of Bizet’s music by Rodion Shchedrin. Bourne has got rid of Mérimée’s story of cigarette girls, soldiers, toreadors and bullfighting. Instead, he tells a lurid film noir melodrama of lust and murder, set in a small town in 1950s America’s Midwest and loosely based on James M Cain’s The Postman Always Rings Twice. There is additional music by Terry Davies.
The production – loud, brash, crude and erotic – has a strong storyline and bags of raw energy and humour. The dancers are character-driven rather than dance-driven. There are fine performances by Chris Trenfield as a drifter, Zizi Strallen as the woman he loves, Alan Vincent as her abusive husband and especially Liam Mower as a sensitive young man who is arrested for a murder he did not commit.
What’s It All About? Bacharach Reimagined is a 90-minute upbeat celebration of the American singer-songwriter whose songs from the 1960s and early 1970s have been rearranged, refashioned and updated by Kyle Riabko for acoustic guitar, percussion, bass and keyboard. It’s a major deconstruction and it works really well in the intimacy of the Menier Chocolate Factory.
The personable and talented Riabko heads a cast of seven talented singer-musicians. The show, imaginatively staged and choreographed by Steven Hoggett, keeps the cast on the move. He gives the performance such a lively spin, literally so, with not one, but two revolving stages. It doesn’t look like your typical jukebox musical at all.
The Gathered Leaves, Andrew Keatley’s promising but flawed three-generational family drama at Park Theatre, feels like an adaptation of a 1930s novel which had been intended for television. There are far too many characters and far too many short scenes. Antony Eden directs with too many blackouts and there is a lot of unnecessary moving of furniture. The acting, however, is excellent. Clive Francis is the cruel pater-familias who cannot (despite himself) open his mouth without saying something rude and hurtful. Nick Sampson is his 49-year-old autistic son living in a world of childish fantasy – an anathema to his dad. Alexander Hanson is the loving, protective younger son who cares deeply for his brother.
Sinatra: The Man and His Music at the London Palladium is very similar to the Frank Sinatra show seen there in 2006. Once again I wondered why I was in a theatre watching an inadequate and sanitised television documentary. The performance celebrates Sinatra’s 100th birthday. David Gilmore’s production, which uses huge blown-up footage of him singing, is accompanied by a 24-piece orchestra on stage and 20 energetic dancers, who try very hard, with irrelevant choreography, to persuade the audience that they are watching a West End musical. Easily the best and most dramatic clip is of Sinatra in a bar, playing a sad and tipsy film-noirish character singing and acting One for My Baby (and One More for the Road).
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