Weekly review roundup: 17 February
This week saw two openings get a raft of four-stars and 1-2 five-stars. Winning the week was The Recruiting Officer, a 1706 drama which marks the start of Josie Rourke’s tenure as artistic director at the Donmar Warehouse. It averaged in at 4.25 stars, with five-star reviews from Sarah Hemming (FT), who only gives them rarely, and Charles Spencer (Telegraph), who is a softer touch; he gave two this week.
Spencer said Rourke’s new role “gets off to a tremendous start with George Farquhar’s wonderful English play about soldiers and townsfolk in early 18th century Shrewsbury.” In contrast to the “heartless hermetic plays of the period set in high society London,” he continues, “there is a whiff of clean country air and a sense of new horizons about it, and though the comedy is often bawdy and robust, there is a generosity of spirit, and lack of viciousness about The Recruiting Officer that proves hugely attractive.”
Of the acting, with leads played by Tobias Menzies and Mackenzie Crook, he says “This is one of those rare evenings when one wants to go through almost the entire cast merrily sprinkling praise and approval. The performances are almost all blessed with freshness and revealing comic detail, even in the smallest roles, and the whole show goes with a tremendous swing.”
Donmar tickets are always tough to come by, and the show is sold out (though with some limited availability tonight), but they do offer same-day seats to every show – ten per day, put on sale Mon-Fri at 10:30 a.m. at their box office. Runs to 14 April.
The other opening of note and success was Singin’ in the Rain, a 1983 stage musical based on the 1952 movie musical. This also topped a four-star average, based on another five-star from Charles Spencer. While the other reviews were all positive, it must be noted that this same production pulled several five-star reviews when it premiered last year in Chichester, and that some of the chemistry of that production may be yet to rematerialise in the capital.
Paul Taylor (Independent) said “the four stars on the top of this notice might look a tad curmudgeonly. So let me be clear from the outset that I think the production contains sequences as rapturously enjoyable as any I have seen in a stage musical. What mars the show, for me, is that there are places where the desire to do nothing if not knock the audience dead again and again brings in a faintly metallic and driven feel to the proceedings.”
The theatre is booked for a long run, and hopefully the show will settle in to something that feels more organic, and gets the unmitigated raves it did last year. In the meantime, good-but-not-great reviews have the benefit of increasing the odds you can get tickets on a discount, either same day from the TKTS booth in Leicester Square or on one of the many discount sites. Runs to Sept 29th.