The moment the curtain goes up at Drury Lane you know 42nd Street is going to be a huge popular success. Songs by Harry Warren and Al Dubin include iconic numbers, like We’re in the Money, Lullaby of Broadway, I Only Have Eyes For You and 42nd Street. Randy Skinner’s production is a spectacular, no-expense-spared, song-and-dance extravaganza. The cast, led by Clare Halse and Stuart Neal, never stops tap dancing: and it is the fantastic tap dancing at exhausting speed which is so thrilling.
ENO is short of cash and needs more audiences. One way to raise its profile is to semi-stage famous musicals with big names. Lonny Price revives Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Carousel with Alfie Boe and Katherine Jenkins. There are some people who think it inappropriate for musicals to be staged by ENO – but classic musicals have as much right to the Coliseum stage as classic operas; and the advantage of Carousel playing at the Coliseum now is that it gets ENO’s 42-piece orchestra and ENO’s chorus. The sound is great. ENO’s hope is that audiences coming to the Coliseum for the first time to see Carousel will think of giving opera a try next time.
At the Orange Tree Theatre Richmond is The Lottery of Love, John Fowles’s translation of Marivaux’s Le Jeu de l’amour et du hasard, one of the most popular romantic comedies. It premiered in Paris in 1730. Sylvia, wanting to find out what a potential husband is really like, swaps places with her maid so that she can observe him unawares. But unbeknown to her, he has decided to swap places with his servant so that he can observe her. The result is that all four of them fall in love, each believing the other is either beneath them or above them socially. Beautifully written, its delicate wit and lightness of touch are disarming.
At the National Theatre Nina Raine’s Consent, highly critical of the UK’s legal system, particularly when it comes to rape, takes a sharp look at the behaviour of barristers in court and in private. The confrontations and cross-examinations are even more bitter in the home. A wife (Anna Maxwell Martin) accuses her husband (Ben Chaplin) of rape. But was it rape? Did she consent and then afterwards call it rape? Or did she consent only so that she could accuse him of rape?
Some members of the audience at Theatre Royal Haymarket found Edward Albee’s The Goat, or Who is Sylvia? so shocking and disturbing that they tried to laugh it off. But Albee is being serious. The dialogue is often funny; the situation never is. Laughter is, of course, a defence mechanism. A world-famous architect (Damian Lewis) falls in love with a goat. Not surprisingly, his wife (Sophie Okonedo) starts throwing the crockery around.
At Southwark Playhouse Cy Coleman’s Life, a relentlessly sordid American musical about pimps and prostitutes, has a dynamic score and a brilliant performance from Sharon D Clarke.
Tom Robertson had as great an impact on British theatre in the 1860s as John Osborne had in the 1950s. His Caste, a sentimental comedy about class distinctions, which was excellently revived all too briefly at Finborough Theatre, deserves to be much better known than it is.
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