Wednesday, May 30, 2007

"but all of my internet searches kept coming up with Tiny Tim's autopsy photos"

After they announced that Elaine Paige would be taking on the title role in the London mounting of The Drowsy Chaperone, I saw it in NY instead. I happened to be there at the time and I really can't tolerate Ms Paige, so it seemed perfect. I vowed not to see it in London.

However, I know the theatre manager of the show's London home and he got me an insanely good deal on tickets. So I went with a friend to the show last Thursday. In NY, I dismissed it as good but not great. Cute and fun but trying a little too hard.

I don't know WHAT I was thinking. I loved the show when I saw it a second time. LOVED IT. Yes, some of the American accents are ropey in the extreme. But as far as the cast go (with one exception) that's probably the biggest criticism I have. The energy, the enthusiasm and the obvious fun they're having makes anything else very hard to fault. It's MEANT to be over the top and silly. And for the most part, the cast nail the tone and style to a T.

Of course, the exception is Elaine Paige. The title role is one that it is writ particularly large. Beth Leavel found the key to playing a role like that is to take it in the opposite direction is to underplay everything and she did so to huge acclaim and many awards in LA and NY. Ms Paige, on the other hand, thinks too much is never enough and her performance sails wildly over the top. Which is a shame as it deadens the laughs the role provides and makes one wince to see her trying so hard to land all the jokes. You only need to listen to the Cast Recording of "As We Stumble Along" and her Beth Leavel's delievry of "Antarctica? Oh please" and then compare it to Ms Paige to see the difference.

There was one reason I was happy to see the show in London. Bob Martin is recreating his role of Man In Chair. It is without a doubt one of the most beautiful performances I have seen on stage. Pitch perfect. He's funny, he's wry, he's charming but the air of melancholy and loneliness tugs at the heartstrings. The last 5 minutes are so beautiful that I actually cried this time around. See it.

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