Thursday, April 24, 2008

Curse Of The Understudy - Part IV

Curse Of The Understudy - Part IV

So yesterday, I took in the savagely reviewed musical version of Gone With The Wind in London. Although the show opened here just two nights ago, its Scarlett O'Hara Jill Paice is already gone with "a severe throat infection."

In her place was her Vivien Leigh-looking understudy, the appropriately named Savannah Stevenson (pictured). The actress received a standing ovation for getting through the tough slog of a show (clocking in around 3 hours and 40 minutes) with little preparation and blessedly no prompting. Good on ya, mate.

My SOB Review of the show itself, however, will be coming soon.

This is Steve On Broadway (SOB).

Click here for tickets.
Related Stories:
Is London's GWTW Already Went With The Wind? (April 14, 2008)
GWTW Composer: Knowin' Somethin' 'Bout Birthin' Babies (September 27, 2007)
Curse Of The Understudy - Part III (July 23, 2007)
Frankly My Dears... (July 1, 2007)
Gone With The Wind The Musical? (February 22, 2007)
The Curse Of The Understudy - Part II (January 15, 2007)
The Curse Of The Understudy (October 2, 2006)

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At 29 April, 2008, Anonymous Chris said...

I am looking forward to your review, although a little worried now I see you know the Whingers!
I saw the show on the 26th April, a full theatre and standing ovation, Jill Paice was back, not sure if it was a little soon as she still had a slight cough.
I enjoyed the show, and all the more as I was expecting a disaster of titanic length on entering the theatre after the bad reviews this has been recieving, it seems from the 4 hours that critics have been condemning, almost an hour has been cut, some of the songs slated by the reviews are no longer in the show and the effects seemed fine to me, all the cast did a great job, and the narrating I found to be enjoyable, making it seem like the Novels story was unfolding in front of you,the narrating added to the feeling of reading the novel at points, I didnt find the narration annoying, in fact it was a great way to connect the book to what you were watching. I was impressed by Darius as Rhett and was moved to tears one one occasion, in fact I found the time flew by so ingrossed in the story telling was I, all in all they did well to condense the novel into the time allowed with clever touches - Rhett in his Abraham Linclon fashion - no script need to convey his association with Northern fashion and thinking. nit picking apart, which I can do with all shows,I thoroughly enjoyed it all.

At 30 April, 2008, Anonymous BroadwayBaby said...

I can't wait for your review...although you better not give GWTW anything better than 2 1/2 stars after giving In The Heights only 2.5 stars! LOL

At 01 May, 2008, Anonymous Anonymous said...


Gone with the Wind - New London Theatre (review)

Review by Lizzie Guilfoyle


IT WAS never going to be easy stepping into the shoes of screen icons Vivien Leigh and Clark Gable but Jill Paice and Darius Danesh have risen to the occasion and made the roles of Scarlett and Rhett their own in Trevor Nunn’s musical adaptation of Gone with the Wind.

Set in 1860s Georgia, Gone with the Wind is a remarkable story, spanning 12 turbulent years in the life of Scarlett O’Hara, the beautiful but headstrong daughter of cotton plantation owner Gerald O’Hara. Outwardly carefree, Scarlett’s happiness is thwarted by the one thing she can’t have – Ashley Wilkes.

An obsessive love, it endures despite Ashley’s marriage to his cousin Melanie and her own marriages of convenience, first to Charles Hamilton and later to Frank Kennedy. Even a third marriage to the cynical blockade runner Rhett Butler, with whom she shares a stormy relationship, is no obstacle.

Yet the winds of change threaten everything Scarlett holds dear as Civil War sweeps into Atlanta, destroying her hopes and dreams and eventually, her love for Ashley….

I was one of a second wave of journalists charged with reviewing this epic production so, of course, I’d read the earlier damning reviews. However, I went with an open mind and was soon of the opinion that I was seeing an altogether different production.

Yes, it is long – a little over three and a half hours to be precise – but, with just over a thousand pages of small print, so is the book. And forgive me if I’m wrong, but the film ran for a marathon four hours and I don’t recall anybody complaining about that. Besides, the essence of Mitchell’s enduring and well-loved story would surely be lost in a ‘cut’ version.

That said, the second act which is considerably darker than the first, could be trimmed simply by cutting down the musical numbers. And yes, I know this is a musical but does Melanie really need to sing on her deathbed? I don’t think so. The music, however, is far from superfluous and catchy little ditties are interspersed not only with love songs but also with negro spirituals and blues numbers. Even so, listening to them just the once isn’t enough for their worth to be truly appreciated.

As I’ve already hinted, Danesh and Paice are superb as Rhett and Scarlett – Danish is roguish charm personified, yet at the same time, he manages to expose the inner pathos of a man deeply wounded by betrayal and the death of his beloved daughter. And Paice, as pretty as a picture, eases herself into the demanding role of feisty heroine who learns too late the error of her ways. There’s an undeniable chemistry even when grief tears them apart.

In fact, I cannot fault the cast in any way and special mention must go to Madeleine Worrall as Melanie, Edward Baker-Duly as Ashley, Natasha Yvette Williams as Mammy and Jina Burrows as Prissy, whose performances capture the characters they portray in a way I’m sure Mitchell envisaged them – helped in part by the rich array of costumes.

Finally, John Napier’s uncluttered set that extends into and around the auditorium suits the production well. It may lack the extravagance of certain shows and be somewhat short on spectacle – the burning of Atlanta, for example – but it serves it’s purpose adequately. Besides, these are shortcomings – if you can even call them that – that work very much to the cast’s advantage, allowing them to shine without unnecessary distraction.

If you love the book, you’ll love this production. And if the film was your introduction to Gone with the Wind, I don’t think you’ll be disappointed. I just hope critics haven’t condemned it to failure because that really would be a pity.

At 01 May, 2008, Blogger Steve On Broadway (SOB) said...

Chris, Please know that as much as I adore the Whingers, I reached my own conclusions (and in fact, stayed for CWTW's conclusion) all on my own. My review is now posted, but I'll forewarn you that you aren't likely to appreciate what you read.

I actually had a good time during the performance, but for all the wrong reasons. Something about making lemonade out of lemons, given the $330 or so I spent on the tickets....

Nevertheless, I appreciate our divergence of opinion and respect your views.

At 01 May, 2008, Blogger Steve On Broadway (SOB) said...

BB: As you may have now read, this was right down there with Cry-Baby, but this failure was of epic proportions, rather than the throw-away preview of Cry-Baby I took in.


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