ShentonSTAGE Daily for MONDAY MAY 30

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Welcome to today’s edition of ShentonSTAGE Daily.

June is bustin’ out all over….

We are very nearly in June, with an abbreviated week ahead as Thursday and Friday are bank holidays.

This week duly sees a reduced schedule of theatre openings, though tomorrow has Amy Adams making her London stage debut in a new production, directed by Jeremy Herrin, of THE GLASS MENAGERIE at the Duke of York’s

It was only five years ago that a different production of this play ran at the same address,bringing the extraordinary Broadway actor Cherry Jones to London to reprise her Broadway performance in John Tiffany’s production, following a run as part of the Edinburgh international Festival.

I interviewed Jones at the time for The Stage, and we met in a restaurant in New York right next door to where Sally Field was about to appear in yet another revival of Tennessee Williams’s play, and she commented, “I’m thrilled. I know people tread lightly around me about it, but this play can never be done enough. Sam Gold is a remarkable young director and I know how much this play means to him because we’ve discussed it a bit. Joe Mantello is also in it, and we worked together when he was still working only as an actor in a Paula Vogel play – The Baltimore Waltz. I know what the play means to Sally and to the producer, Scott Rudin. Tennessee would be popping buttons to think that within three years there are two productions that have taken all the dust away.”

So here we are, five years (and a pandemic) later with THE GLASS MENAGERIE back at the Duke of York’s; I can’t wait to see it again.

I’m also looking forward to seeing Benjamin Scheuer’s extraordinary solo autobiographical musical THE LION, also opening tomorrow (after being rescheduled from last Friday) in a new production at Southwark Playhouse — I first saw Scheuer perform it himself in 2014 at the Other Palace (then I saw it again in both New York and New Haven); now he is being played by an English actor/musician Max Alexander-Taylor (pictured above).

For details of these and other shows opening this week, visit my regularly updated list of upcoming productions in London, selected regional theatres and Broadway here: http://shentonstage.com/theatre-openings-from-w-c-may-30-onwards/

Better late than never…..

Critics typically attend opening nights (or specially designated previews) so that their reviews can help to publicise a show; but we can’t get to everything, and I often find myself instead catching shows at the very end of their runs.

This happened twice over the last weekend: on Friday, when the opening of THE LION (see above) was suddenly postponed, I hastily made plans to use the evening to catch ZORRO! at Charing Cross Theatre which I’d otherwise resigned myself to missing; and on Saturday afternoon, I caught the penultimate performance of Mark Ravenhill’s four-person, 80 minute abbreviated production of Puccini’s LA BOHEME at the King’s Head, where Ravenhill is now co-artistic director (and this week sees him starring in his own new play  THE HAUNTING OF SUSAN A, ahead of an official opening next Monday).

Last week there was an alarming-sounding “show stop” at BONNIE AND CLYDE at the Arts, when a heavy prop fell on an audience member from the stage, leaving them bruised and bloodied; on Friday, when I saw ZORRO, there was a chilling moment when one actor apparently stabbed another in the eye with a sword.

Happily, there was no serious injury and the show was able to continue; afterwards, the actor concerned tweeted,

If the accident caused an unexpected drama, the show itself turned out to be both heartfelt and passionate even before that; the pulsing Latin rhythms of the Gipsy King songs — mostly original to the show with a few greatest hits mixed in — are fun. The cast put across the songs with verve and commitment, especially as many double as actor-musicians.

At the King’s Head in Islington, LA BOHEME proved to be a wonderfully astute heavily abbreviated version of Puccini’s opera that preserves much of the wonderful score that was beautifully sung in this tiny theatre, but adds a fresh interpretative spin that re-casts the central relationship between Rodolfo and Mimi as one between two gay men, Lucas (also known as Mimi) and Robin, who meet on a dating app. It ran for just 80 minutes — thank goodness, given the King’s Head’s punishing benches — but packed a powerful punch.

Back at the Cabaret, old chum. (thanks to a chum)….

I was also back at the wildly overpriced CABARET at the Playhouse on Saturday evening, sitting in premium seats at a front table that were £250 each. No, I did not buy them myself; an American friend had bought them for herself, but was unable to make the trip, so kindly donated them to me.

I was very grateful for the opportunity to see it again at such close quarters; and to see new cast members Fra Fee (as the Emcee) and Amy Lennox (as Sally Bowles, pictured above). Of course Eddie Redmayne and Jessie Buckley were a tough act to follow; but as the new cast members valiantly made it their own to the template provided by Redmayne and Buckley, it proves that at however marvellous their predecessors were, the show is the star (as it should be). But so is the Playhouse Theatre itself: its bold and radical transformation plays a major role.

Also new to the cast (and just wonderful) is Omar Baroud as Clifford Bradshaw. Alas I didn’t see Vivien Parry as the new Fraulein Schneider, but second cover Emily Benjamin — though palpably too young for the role (she also covers Sally) — pulled it off.

It was also just wonderful to see Elliot Levy as Herr Shultz again (a performance that has already won him an Olivier); I’ve long adored this actor (he’s doing GOOD at the Pinter Theatre next opposite David Tennant), but he is devastating in his fiercely protected dignity here. We ran into each other as he was leaving after on his bike (pictured above)! He only has another three weeks to go in the show; see him if you can.

SEE YOU ON WEDNESDAY

I’ll be back here on Wednesday. If you can’t wait that long, I may also be found on Twitter here: https://twitter.com/ShentonStage/ (though not as regularly on weekends

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