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London Theatre Roundup

Mini-reviews of several plays on the London stage from an off-duty U.S. reviewer's journal of a London theatre immersion.

"Tommy"
I had seen this show 3 times in the past month. My 15- year-old-daughter was playing Sally Simpson. The show here was so good that I wanted to see how the $5 million London production compared to the $30,000 local one. Great show. Phenomenal special effects. Outstanding cast. The Acid Queen could melt asbestos. My kid and the female lead here could have stepped into the roles, been nudged on the blocking and improved the show -- that's saying something since it was superb to begin with. I was one of about 15 in the audience to give it a standing ovation. It's high energy fun plus poignancy from start to finish. It's singable 60's rock. If you are into musicals and/or are a baby boomer, get the CD soundtrack. I'd be quite happy to see it again.

"By Jeeves"
I chose this because it was about as British as you could get and by Andrew Lloyd Webber to boot. Veddy Veddy British. Too British. It was "fun." It harkened back to the British music hall tradition rather than "Phantom." Very few songs, almost no dance. If I'da known what I was getting I'da made a different choice. Light, charming, amusing. No substance, no musical thrills, no staging. (The premise is a fundraiser in which the host ends up having to improvise all the entertainment. A mistaken identity farce rounds things out.)

"An Inspector Calls"
A rather Brechtian symbolist drama with the theme that our actions affect others. Heavy-handed repetition of same characterized the show, with starving huddled masses nearly ever present as witnesses to the callousness of the rich.

Stellar special effects (especially for a straight drama) including real rain and the literal disintegration of the home of the rich family. High emotional fireworks between the characters, but no emotional point of reference for the audience. It was too ensemble in this sense, with no central character with whom one could identify. I guess that suits its Socialist orientation.

"MacBeth" (Royal Shakespeare Company)
Wow! I'm not much of a classical buff, but that is in part because Shakespeare is usually entombed in respect and undone by good intentions. Skip local productions anywhere. (Ok, Ny'ers - Shakespeare in the Park is up there at the top of the "yes" list.) This is the only time I've seen what I knew was supposed to be comic relief played as such. The Hall Porter scene was hysterical. Low brow physical comedy the way the bear-baiting audiences in Will's day would have wanted it. I have brushed off my video tape collection of the Bard, even though I know that spark will be missing.

"Martin Guerre"
La creme de la creme. "Les Miz" meets "Stomp." Incredible choreography. Repetitious, but so good, it was forgiveable. From the team that created "Les Miz" and "Miss Saigon." Wonderful soaring music, gorgeous staging, as always with Cameron Macintosh and company, the best of the best. So what if the aforementioned and "Phantom" are even better and if a tune or two bore a hint of their predecessors? This was one of the best of the best. I did not find it as emotionally involving as its sister plays, but since I was at the point of exhaustion of having microsleeps by the finale, I can't fault the show for that.

The American film, "Sommersbie" (Richard Geere, Jodie Foster) was based on the same French folk tale. The movie made me cry. The musical did not.

If you want more on London theatre, click here.

Editor's note: More reviews by Karen can be found at her own Web site


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