Thursday, 17 March 2011

Old Reviews 6: A Touch of the Poet (Studio 54), Dirty Rotten Scoundrels (Imperial), Spamalot (Shubert) Spelling Bee (Circle in the Square) Jan 2006

Spamalot. I love Holy Grail and I love David Hyde Pierce and Hank Azaria. So I thought I was a Python fan, let me tell you something, you do not realise what being a python fan is until you've heard an American audeince! It was dreadful! I couldn't stand it, they laughed so much at everything, they even laughed to the extent that the joke became not-funny because of the laughter! Ok the laughing wasn't that bad, laughing's good, but what I could not
deal with was the people in the audience who decided that when a joke was "super-good" it deserved to be repeated in loud voices and laughed at some more! No! No! Don't do that! You turn something funny into something annoying!! And all I could think was "Oh god, oh god, I hope the audience at Dirty Rotten Scoundrels isn't like this, oh god! I couldn't stand it!"
Anyway, the show was more or less exactly the same as the film but they gave it an ending and a girl. Some of the musical numbers were good, and some were tedious. DHP's number was by far the best and Hank Azaria was the best actor as all the John Cleese parts.Next day was Gabriel Byrne in A Touch of the Poet which was absolutely wonderful, a lovely theatre too, all the actors were great and I needed a good straight(ish) play to get over the horror of the Python fans! There was a part in the second half though when I drifted off a bit, I was very tired, still jet lagged, but when Gabe was off stage for a good half hour I felt the days walking getting to me and Carolyn told me that she realised that in that part she was just staring at the wall! Some theatre lovers we are!! Gabe was great in it, especailly at the end when he came out of his pretentious bastard character for the happy(ish) ending.I think I'll just skip the next one and go to Friday's play The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee. This show was wonderful. I'd booked tickets the day before because my dear friend Lauren was ill for the entire trip and I felt so awful for her that I wanted her to at least have one treat while she was in New York. (of course tickets for Wicked were all sold out unless you want tickets at 300 dollars a pop!) I'm so glad we chose this show. The theater was decked out like a school assembly hall and the show was clearly one of those audience participation ones, which I'm always a little weary of. Spelling Bees don't go on over here in Britain, so I can't see this coming to the West End really despite how good it was. If you've seen the film Spellbound though, you'll have an idea what a spelling bee is. The actors in the play were absolutely brilliant, playing not only the kids taking part in the bee but with very little costume change, sometimes just putting on a pair of glasses or a hat they performed other parts in sort of flashback scenes of the kids with their parents before just sitting back down. All the songs were wonderful, very catchy and funny, and the actors pointing into the audience at their 'moms' and the whole feel of it was great, I didn't mind at all taking part in it and Lauren thought it was great so I'm glad we saw it.
Dirty Rotten Scoundrels. The show was so good, Jonathan Pryce was so surprising, it's great that even as such a big fan he could surprise me like that by acting so differently from anything I'd ever seen him do before. The word that springs to mind at the jet lagged moment is 'zany'.
That was one good wig, Calum didn't even know it wasn't real, and he calls himself a fan... Our seats were FANTASTIC. Front row centre of the circle, or the mezzanine as it's known in America. Calum kept looking at me to check if I was ok before it started, I was grinning and jumpy and sweaty palmed.
There was Jonathan for his opening number, Give Them What They Want, he was suave and so cool, then he totally made out with some chorus girls in the middle of the number as he took their jewelry. (You guys have seen the film right? It's ace, as a kid I had all of Steve Martin's films and I always loved that one. Especially the Ruprecht bits, my friend Paul and I have been doing Ruprecht impressions since we were 12!! "Oklahoma, Oklahoma! Oklahoma!!" etc.)
When they talked between numbers Jonathan played it so David Niven, I just loved him. The jokes were great, it was the film in musical form, the music went with it and the songs were great... Norbert Leo Butz, now there's a showman! He was a crowd pleaser indeed, very funny physical guy. And that's what struck me about Jonathan in the show, how physical he was being, and how energetic he is to do all that dancing and jumping about and still be able to sing so wonderfully, and it was wondeful.
'All about Ruprecht' and the Ruprecht scene was the highlight of the first act. Jonathan takes his loud and annoying Oklahoma fiance down to the garden to meet "the Young Prince" "Ruprecht will be so happy in Oklahoma!" Enter Norbert wearing underwear and too small shirt, clutching tridant and stuffed dead ferret (which wears the same costume) And so goes the scene straight from the film, Ruprecht tried to snog Jonathan's bird, Jonathan hits him off, he gets sad and Jonathan goes to hug him to forgive him, when Norbert jumps him and gets him on the bed, dry humping and sticking the tongue down the ear. But here's the best part, they roll off the bed and Jonathan sort of goes along with it, stroking his leg and smiling coyly as they recover and stand up to the horrified girl, where he sings a great song, and actually cracked up during one of the lines pulling Norbert's face into a grin as they dance and play. It was brilliant, Jonathan corpsing in the middle of a song was brilliant, it's clear that the two of them were having such a good time!
The second half had an equally good fun number, which was Ruffhousin' mit Shuffhausen where Jonathan's character continuously hits Norbert acoss the thighs with a whip-like stick while he's under the guise of a man who has no feeling in his legs. It was the numbers that they performed together which were the best, Norbert had some great songs and the lyrics to 'Love is My Legs' are just hilarious!! I sung it for the rest of the trip. There was a great big dance number in the middle, ('The More we Dance') Jonathan is so energetic, I was so surprised that he would do something that to me looked so tiring!!
I don't think I've ever seen him do comedy like that before, and the chemistry between the two leads was great.

2011 Author's Note: This was an Art School trip to New York which consisted (for me) of going to as many Broadway shows in five days as I could manage. I remember being sad that I'd missed John Lithgow in DRS but so bloody over the moon to find out Jonathan Pryce was replacing him! I loved seeing Jonathan in a musical, I remember the show so vividly, I'm glad I went to Dundee Art School for that reason alone. Also, Spelling Bee is actually on this month at the Donmar for a very short run.

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