"Sir Percival Glyde..." x10, each more annoying than the last!

Only the day before, my sister and I had been to see The Producers. The following day was all about university work *snigger*. Before embarking on all that r - , ur, important business, as a joke, we strolled into ye olde Palace Theatre, now home sadly to The Woman in White. It's suposedly hard to book up, and naturally there's no student tickets, but how about the boxes? Yup! One for that evening, slight restriction, nothing major. Woo hoo! All smug and self - congratulatory, we headed off to draw (Asti was to draw the musical merchandise shop Dress Circle, I a restaurant of my choosing. Well, naturally I had to go to quite a few, 'forcing' myself to sample the food and drink in each one, woe is me!).

We arrived at the theatre early, as it really is a great place to wander round. I was feeling a little out of place, as it was a Friday evening, with everyone dressed smartly and giving us odd looks. I didn't know we'd be going to the theatre that night! I swear baseball boots will be banned on Friday and Saturday evenings soon, they seem to be the height of scruffiness (only ruled out if you're wearing Converse...which I'm not, though am open to offers!). Heading up early to our box, I was mildly horrified to discover 2 middle-aged women already sitting inside it, with 2 seats set out behind them. Upon hearing my gasp, they turned round, all friendly, and said they'd squeeze along a little. Aww. They were lovely, and said to me the last time they'd been in that theatre was "to see Phantom." Phantom? "Oh yes, was amazing when the chandelier fell!" Seeing as I'd only just met them, I didn't want to start correcting them, that no no, Les Mis was in here beforehand, for a measly 18 years or so. Aww (reprise). How lovely to be in a box though! If only I'd have some wine to quaff, and a gorgeous waiter at hand, would have been perfect! My only problem with boxes are it feels as if you're on display to the entire audience, urgh, they might have seen me refusing to clap for something, picking my nose, anything!

Onstage was, urrrr, well it's hard to describe. A huge, high-walled hollow circle, that could turn (gotta use that turning floor somehow!), and had computer generated images projected onto it. Hardly any set pieces, these projections were to do it all. Now, I really do hate to moan (honest!), but as an experienced computer games player, the games I play have better graphics than those projections. They already look dated! I gasped in horror at some bits, and at the rather appalling frame rate, which for many games would be thrown in the face of the animators and render artists, and told to do again. But as my sister commented, the general age group seeing this show wouldn't be concerned about things like that. Maybe it's because I'm into that side of things. And yes, it is the people onstage we should be more interested in, right? There were a few good moments, where the actors would be walking on the spot, but the background would be showing them ascending a staircase, very clever really, but not used nearly enough. Also, the view from the box wasn't fantastic, and that bit at the end *SPOILER* with the train whooshing out didn't effect us all, unlike the shrieking audience behind!

Onto the actors. Since hearing the Phantom soundtrack, I'd wanted to see Michael Crawford (Count Fosco) perform live. I'm not a great fan of his 'singing' voice, so was interested to see him live. Before the performance, a hilarious guy in Dress Circle had said, "Arrange the title of the show and you'll get 'The Man is Shite'!" He then placed Michael Crawford albums on the shelf, making "Bleargh!" sounds each time one was put down. Soooooo was Mr Crawford any good? Actually, I really enjoyed him! By far the most memorable character, with that 'fat suit' (ahem) and all the animals onstage. I bet he really means it when he sings, 'You Can Get Away With Anything'! I'm not sure whether the rat is not meant to cross over him during the song, but it refused to, so after repeatedly clicking his hand at it, he ended up lifting the thing over into his other hand, was very funny! Not on enough though - a repulsive character, so naturally I liked him.

Maria Friedmann played Marian, a character who only became interesting from the second act on (particularly liked her sneaking around outside the window, lightening crashes and all). A good singer, performing the best song of the night, 'All For Laura.' A showstopper that one (as in that's the best you're going to get tonight, may as well go home now, heheh). Jill Paice played Laura, who regretably, I can't remember much about, other than a scene with her which made me want to cry ;) Almost stood up out of my seat, pointing at the stage yelling, "I KNEW it!!" Martin Crewes played Walter, who I knew I'd seen from somewhere before...A quick flick through the programme confirmed my suspicions - he used to be in that gawd-awful Sky One tv show, 'Dream Team'! Noooo! Not that I ever used to watch it you understand, it was always on before The Simpsons! But phew, those days are over for him, and he has a lovely voice, so hopefully he'll be living in the theatres from now on. And then there was Oliver Darley as *shudder* Sir Percival Glyde. Oh no qualms with him, he was suitably smug and double crossing, but omigawd, I think I was about ready to murder if I heard his name sung in that oh so annoying way one more time. I think I was gripping the edge of the box each time, nails digging in. Why did they say it like that? Sorry, didn't quite catch that name, you'd better sing it another 50 times!

Can you tell yet that I wasn't particularly fond of the show? Put it this way, the highlight of the evening was when 'ERROR' came up on the projected walls, the images disappearing completely, and the onstage members looking slightly confused, having to pretend there was a shop here, a door there...I'm a great fan of the lyricist David Zippel (he wrote City of Angels, love those lyrics!), but in this show, they came across as a bit, well jumbled. Plus I'm not sure how others feel, but it seemed to me there were about 3 songs in the entire show, repeated every other track, with lots of sing-talking inbetween. "Leeeeet's go uppp theeese stairs!" "Riiight awayyy!" and so on, which was beginning to grate after 5 minutes. And I like there to be sets, I like sets, dammit! Please don't let this be the way ahead for theatre (unless they plan on displaying ERROR on the walls, in which case I'll be entertained). And I feel the only used the turning floor cos, heck, it's there, better do something with it. Which makes me mourn the loss of Les Miserables even more! Ok, so it's only down the street, but this place was THE Les Mis building. "Where should we meet up in central London? I know, outside Les Mis!" Everyone knew where it was. Now it's squashed tight down Shaftsbury Avenue, which isn't a problem, but being in the Palace Theatre made it unique.

At which point I'll end this! I would like to see the show again, at the same cheap price, mind. A second viewing is always required I think. Not sure how the audience felt that night though, the applause dwindled to near inaudible levels by the end, rather sad really. Will grab the cast recording at some point, when it's, urm, cheaper. I do hate to be harsh, as I'm sure lots of time and effort (and money!) went into making the show, but sadly, this just wasn't my cup of coffee.
5TH NOVEMBER 2004

Cat Nip, all its characters & the artwork Trudi Castle;
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