StageScan Pick: The Girls

The Girls

The Girls at Phoenix Theatre, dubbed by Neil Norman (Express) “the musical of the play of the movie of the calendar,” received predominantly positive pro reviews, including three fives and a four-star majority.

Mark Shenton (The Stage) thought it “celebrates as well as commemorates” a “spectacular example of quiet English heroism”. He found it “stays faithful to its sense of time and place, but also deepens and amplifies the sense of intimate connection to the audience” and observed “authenticity” arising from the involvement of original Calendar Girls dramatist Tim Firth. Paul Taylor (Independent) found it “fresh and joyous… contributing something new to a familiar tale”. Michael Billington (Guardian) judged it “delightful… far superior” to both play and movie, suggesting “the story has now achieved its ideal form” with the “the collective disrobing” now “less of a lark than a means of overcoming issues such as grief, age or physical self-consciousness”. He thought “it destroys the traditional demarcation between composer and lyricist” giving it a “rare…  seamless quality”. Shenton agreed Firth and Gary Barlow “mutually enrich one another”.

Norman saw ”each character… sketched out through custom-made songs” which he thought “lyrically brilliant and musically adroit” and Shenton found “instantly catchy and moving”. Taylor found the lyrics’ “wry observational wit… ideally suited to tracing the permeable boundary in the show between quirky humour and heartbreak” and detected a “distinctively British sound” in “the lovely melodies” of a “beguiling score”.

Taylor reported a “cracking female ensemble” and Shenton found “extraordinary” this “spectacular line-up… holding the stage so compellingly yet utterly sympathetically”. Shenton admired Joanna Riding’s “hauntingly beautiful and radiantly lovely performance”. Billington praised “a moving portrayal of marital loss” and Taylor thought her “superb” admiring “unforced poignancy” when “she sings with a piercing, down-to-earth poetry about the painful practical chores that face the bereaved”. Shenton thought her “gloriously partnered” by Claire Moore’s Chris’s “effervescent practicality” and Taylor found Moore “gloriously gutsy”. Norman saw Michelle Dotrice deliver an “anti-ageist song… with kick-ass energy” and Taylor found her “a delight”. He also thought Danny “adorably played” by Ben Hunter while Billington acknowledged “good work” from Debbie Chazen, Claire Machin and Sophie-Louise Dann. Norman acknowledged Firth’s “tight direction” which Billington found “keeps them well this side of caricature”.

Norman praised a “hilarious peek-a-boo climax” and Taylor found it “well-timed… inspiring and poignant” suggesting: “If you think that ‘wiping away tears of laughter and sorrow’… only happens in reviews… give this show a visit”. Billington agreed it “works beautifully” hailing “a show whose feelgood conclusion is genuinely earned”. Shenton admired “a story that feels honest, raw and powerful” with a “pay-off” that “fills the heart and theatre with sheer joy” predicting “the biggest British musical hit since Billy Elliot”.

Currently booking to 15 Jul 2017 with tickets available from ATG and more dates to be released at the end of March.

StageScan Pick: The Glass Menagerie

The Glass Menagerie

The Glass Menagerie at Duke of York’s Theatre received a 4.4-star average from pro critics, including two fives. Michael Arditti (Express) observed “Thinly disguised portraits” of Tennessee Williams’ “domineering mother and fragile sister” in what Andrzej Lukowski (Time Out) called “the original memory play”. Dominic Cavendish (Telegraph) hailed an “exquisitely lyrical breakthrough masterpiece” which he thought “would have endured… even if Williams had written nothing else”.

Matt Trueman (What’s On Stage), acknowledging a “celebrated production,” felt John Tiffany “sews” the play ”tightly into its historical context with illuminating results”. Suggesting “other productions… tend to be sour or cynical, but… Tiffany’s absolutely isn’t” Lukowski thought  it “deceptively simply staged” yet “infused” with “magic” and found the result “pretty stunning”. He admired “stylised” movement, within an “inky void, a couple of rooms in a St Louis tenement surrounded by obsidian pools of water” and “haunted” by an “eerily beautiful score”. Truman felt “the warm fug of nostalgia” created by “a burnished sepia glow” adds “the most remarkable backspin” as Tiffany “serves up frustration as if fondly remembered”.

Arditti saw “the pain and the humour of Williams’s writing shine through” in “splendid performances” judging Cherry Jones “magnificent”. Lukowski described an “overwhelming” character “virtuosically” played and Trueman felt she makes Amanda “altogether more reasonable,” detecting  a “hustler” acting only from “hardened realism against a bleak economic climate”. Cavendish thought her “perfect” as she “effortlessly elicits… endurance and a kind of heroism” hailing her “wonderfully animated” depiction of a character “as confined as the son she goads and nags”.

Lukowski thought Kate O’Flynn’s Laura “fantastic… picking out the most delicate of paths between tragedy and comedy”. Cavendish hailed “an understated, introverted marvel” and Arditti found her “deeply moving”. He thought Michael Esper’s Tom “mannered” finding his  “assumed gaucheness” distracting, but Lukowski thought him “exemplary” as a narrator “existing in both the past and the present… wracked with guilt and irritation at the family he abandoned”.  Lukowski found Brian J Smith’s Jim “unexpectedly charming” and Arditti thought him “the picture of flustered decency”.

Trueman, observing, “Tiffany pulls our sympathies in unusual directions” found it “shattering” with an “emotional heart” that “lands late on, in the dark”. Cavendish, admiring the “domestic subtleties,” felt this production of the play “casts a greater, more shiver-making spell than most”.  Lukowski found it “generous” with “an extraordinary, dreamlike feel, halfway between hope and terror, innocence and despair, nostalgia and obliteration” and summed up “a vision of love, guttering in the void; a strange dream of America, falling through the night”.

Booking to 29 Apr 2017, with tickets available from StageScan.