19 Feb

The new Offenbach musical
music by Offenbach and some of his conemporaries
arranged by Richard Baker
Loosely based ona plot by Pinero
Adapted, with Lyrics by Phil Willmott
at the Union Theatre

La Belle Epoque – probably one of the most exciting eras running f rom the mid 18 seventies ulntil the first world War. The time of Art Nouveau, Alfonse Muchas and Toulouse Lautrec. Of Folies Bergere and MOulin Rouge. Matisse, Rousseau, and the innovative poems of Rimbaud.
The Eiffel Tower, the demi monde, Mistinguette, La Goulue, Yvette Guilbert singer of rude songs and the heroine of Phil Wilmott’s musical Jane Avril dancer.
This is not the show by Cole Porter in the fifties nor the film starring Frank Sinatra and Shirley MacLaine. The story is vaguely based on the work of Arthur Wing Pinero, and is about Show Business versus the World of finance
Wilmott himself plays Monsieur Bontoux, a rich banker with a handsome son Damjan Mrackovich who has his sights on Show Biz.. mainly because of his passion for Jane Avril (Kathy Peacock)- a famous dancer of the Can-can and the muse of the Toulouse Lautrec, who makes an appearance played by Jordan Nesbitt.
The show opens with a highly energetic Can-Can which seems to promise much for the rest of the show. Sadly the energy fizzles out after the dancers have left the stage and play other roles , like maids and dressers. Avril sings prettily .- a song about theatre life to the tune of the Merry Widow Waltz by Franz Lehar. Wilmott also uses music by Strauss. There were so many other wonderful composers of the time Debussy, Boulanger, Massenet, Saint Saens, Ravel so I thought sometimes he was a little unadventurous with his choices. ‘After the Ball’ and ‘Bird in a Gilded Cage’ – a little obvious and not at all sure about Tico Tico.The story is not an exciting one, one can only appreciate he delightful costumes and the wonderful ingenious movable pros Arch,
The second Act was infintely more fun than the first with a few Music Hall turns. La Goulue does Monckton’s Moonstruck with four boy dancers and Yvette Guilbert (Emily Barnett-Salter) sings a traditional rude music hall song called Tiddly Pom – (not the famous Tiddly om Pom sung by Marie Lloyd ) Then we have a spesh act which amused others in the audience rather than me.
There is a totally magic finale which is what will sell this show. It is the famous Can-Can from Offenbach’s Orpheus in the Underworld.
This is a Dancer’s show and I suppose that is inevitable with this title.
But there is too long a gap betrween he opening and the finale. some of the singing is not all that hot and the dialogue needs a bit of a kick up the proverbial. It is a show that doesn’t seem to know what it is supposed to be doing.
However I am convinced that eventually it will find its feet. I hope for its future. It’s a good idea – needs a better plot.

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