The brand new, gender bender, Westend revival staring Broadway Royalty.
As soon as I heard whispers that this production was in the works, I got excited! When news soon followed that the queen, the legend, the unstoppable talent that is Patti LuPone, was coming out of her retirement (from musical theatre) to star in this show…. I had to be there.
It couldn’t be true, Ms Lupone, now Sixty- nine and in her prime reuniting with the creator of all that is good, Mr Stephen Sondheim. ‘Reunited and it feels so good’ in what is a thrillingly, funny, exciting and fresh revival.
I hasten to use the word revival because this production felt like anything but. Evoking feelings of a brand new show, something we as an audience have never seen or heard before. Helped majorly by the reversal of roles which saw Patti inhabit the character of Joanne and Rosalie Craig playing the leading man, now lady, BOBBY. If you happen to see this production, you will come home singing “Bobby, Bobby, Bobby” – its a given! My friends and I, sisters Grace and Andrea Kavanagh were in three-part harmony by the end of the night…
The score provides an all too familiar, homely feeling featuring songs like ‘Being Alive’ and ‘Ladies Who Lunch’, American musical theatre standards which Broadway fans will be all too familiar with.
The entire cast delivers a fun, fresh performance. The most notable ‘showstopper’ bake was cooked up by Mel Giedroyc, know as Mel from bake-off, bake off Mel! She’s one talented lady that’s got something classy going on. She succeeds in delivering a subtle, but believable performance with not a soggy bottom in sight and worthy of a Paul Hollywood handshake any day.
The real question here is will she make a shocking return to the bake-off tent, involving her newfound acting talents? in WAITRESS, the west end production – which has now opened starring Katharine McPhee, the star of ‘Smash’ and once upon a time ‘American Idol’ contestant. Mel has the American accent down and she knows a thing or two about cakes, pies and all kinds of bakes. Watch this space as she soon could be ‘Opening Up’.
This is a show starring women, about women and the expectations on women of a certain age (30 and above) – fall in love, get married, have a baby, the end. Company pushes this idea and questions were we are, how far we have come AND how far we have yet to go!
The cast and crew leave nothing to be desired, director of directors Marianne Elliott has taken the industry by storm of late. Winning a Tony award with co-director Tom Morris for War Horse in 2011 and more recently scoring big again, winning a Tony for Best Direction of a Play, for The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, her second Tony in a decade. Safe to say she was born to recreate this show.
Laughter is to the fore of everything and is heightened by wonderful physical comedy and human interaction with the set, particularly in the ‘nun scene’, at the wedding and during the one-night stand #spolierAlert – where Bobby multiplies, again and again, and again! I’ve never seen such a relationship with set and actor as in this production. Both played off each other in a symbiotic fashion which only draws you in closer to the action.
Any good show needs good material – Sondheim undoubtedly delivers, who ever doubted him? There were puns, inside jokes and wordplay upon wordplay, that one could only dare to dream to create. Jokes flew over my head until two scenes later and then, the penny dropped, ‘oh yeah, I get it’. Sometimes I’m a bit slow…is that normal?
Patti, as per usual, sets the tone perfectly before even setting foot on stage. With a wonderful security and safety announcement, that only she could pull off. The warning, “switch off all phones people!” with the added kicker, that those who don’t will be punished “believe me”. As a fan of her shutdowns and literal Broadway showstoppers, I was delighted. Don’t be rude people and turn off those devices – your Instagram story can wait until intermission or get them snaps before curtain up. Come to the theatre early, take it all in!
The show has recently been extended to March 2018 which is great news for all involved. More importantly, if you’re reading this and haven’t yet seen the show, grab a boat, a plane, a car (before Brexit!) and get to the Gielgud Theatre, in the heart of London’s Westnd, to experience this one of a kind production. I dread to say it but this could be Patti’s last ever musical, EVER! I want to go back. My only negative she’s not featured in the show enough. Thankfully a brand new cast album is now available, so you can relive the magic or get a taste of what’s to come.
Company gets 8 outta 10 – Laughter, inventiveness and thought-provoking wrapped up with a big shiny bow of talent, both on and off the stage. The only question now will they grab their bits and pieces to transfer to the bright lights of Broadway? Only time will tell. I’ll leave you with this…