Playbill Theatre Tour: And in Summary . . .

News   Playbill Theatre Tour: And in Summary . . .
 
Just as the members of the Playbill London Preview Tour were getting used to walking to the left, just as we figured out how to make change in pence, just as we had begun authoritatively to pepper our conversations with "loov" and "right" and "oi" -- the time came to leave the West End, which one popular tourist map labels "Theatreland." Like Peter Pan and Mary Poppins, we were about to fly away over the rooftops of London.

Just as the members of the Playbill London Preview Tour were getting used to walking to the left, just as we figured out how to make change in pence, just as we had begun authoritatively to pepper our conversations with "loov" and "right" and "oi" -- the time came to leave the West End, which one popular tourist map labels "Theatreland." Like Peter Pan and Mary Poppins, we were about to fly away over the rooftops of London.

Some saw just the four shows that were scheduled as part of the trip, and which we all saw as a group. But several guests saw as many as nine shows, by spending free evenings and matinee days (staggered from Tuesday to Saturday in London) in theatres.

Generally, here were the favorites. Sixteen of the 23 travelers took part in the survey. One person chose Blood Brothers as their favorite show and Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? as their least favorite; while two chose VW as favorite and BB as least.

Favorite:
Art, 7
Blood Brothers, 3
Virginia Woolf, 3
Martin Guerre, 1
By Jeeves, 1
Old Wicked Songs, 1
Phantom of the Opera, 1

Least Favorite
Blood Brothers, 3
Virginia Woolf, 3
Laughter on the 23rd Floor, 2
Martin Guerre, 2
When We Are Married, 1
Woman in Black, 1
Art,1
Talking Heads, 1
The Compleat Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged), 1
No least favorite, 1 Here are guests' reviews of some of the shows they saw on their own:

BY JEEVES
Barbara Meyer of New Jersey:
I thoroughly enjoyed this show -- no helicopters, no chandeliers; just lots of thoroughly silly stuff that was a fun change after the heavier dramas that I've been seeing back home. Who cares if it is the theatrical equivalent of junk food? Even the finest gourmands must enjoy a pack of Ding-Dongs every now and then.
It's not the type of fare one usually associates with Andrew Lloyd Webber productions, but I found this mixture of banjo strumming and British farce very entertaining.

Janet Allgair of New Jersey:
They might have some trouble in the States with this, unless there are a lot of Wodehouse fans. I'm not one of those who are knowledgeable about Andrew Lloyd Webber, but I thought the score was perfect. I also liked the [minimalist staging]. You had to use your mind to see the scenery.

George Allgair of New Jersey:
I liked it maybe not as much. I liked the music, though. The first 15-20 minutes were kind of slow. It was light, not too challenging.

A DOLL'S HOUSE
James Simon of New York:
Thumbs up. Not great, but good. It was a bit slow in the beginning, until Krogstad shows up. The more you realize how much trouble she [Nora, Janet McTeer] is in, the more interesting she gets.
The ensemble is wonderful. McTeer is a good Nora. When she has conflict with Torvald at the end, she's captivating. It was just a very good production of Ibsen. The whole cast sounded a bit Irish.
The final confrontation is totally captivating. They play it moment by moment. Those last 10 minutes, you just can't take your eyes off them. You could hear a pin drop. It's fun to be part of that and to know the whole audience is captivated [along] with you. It was a perfectly good production. I'd recommend it.

LAUGHTER ON THE 23rd FLOOR
William Coakley of New Jersey:
Gene Wilder must have had an off day. He did not emote. He walked through it. His cohorts were constantly upstaging him. The whole play was really flat. The play really didn't bring it [the threat of McCarthyism] out, except in the scene where he [Wilder] punches the wall.

Sandra Caliguiri of New Jersey:
I was disappointed with it.

THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA
Sharon Ciano of New York:
The sets and the actors in all three main roles were incredible. When Raoul and Christine sing "All I Ask of You." I felt moved. I liked to boat [grotto] scene. I don't think they should have shown the chandelier going up at the beginning. The part when the chandelier dropped -- you knew how it was going to come down. It should have fell faster, it would have been more believable.
Before Phantom, Les Miz was my favorite show. But now that I've seen Phantom, it's a tie between the two of them. They're both incredible.

THE WOMAN IN BLACK
Barbara Meyer of Kentucky:
Even though the way the story was set up in the beginning seemed a bit confusing, the play, especially the second act, provided some genuinely scary moments.

Sharon Ciano of New York:
The first act was kind of slow, and it was hard to understand what was going on.

James Simon of New York:
It annoyed . . . me [so much], I left at intermission.

OLD WICKED SONGS
James Simon of New York:
I thought it was simply superb. Everything you could ask for in a play. There were wonderful moments of comedy and drama, and a wonderful performance by Bob Hoskins as the Viennese instructor.
His young American counterpart, who is making his West End debut, is very much Bob Hoskins' equal. The play had a very moving second act, though the last scene seemed forced. The playwright was just looking for some way to wrap up the play. It could have been a little smoother.
It is wonderful to see Hoskins perform. The role could very easily have gone over the top, like Zoe Caldwell in Master Class. It made me wish I'd seen it in New York. A simply wonderful evening in the theatre.

STARLIGHT EXPRESS
Barbara Meyer of Kentucky:
Totally different from anything else I've ever seen, but lots of fun. Applause [Playbill On-Line's ticket agent] got us terrific seats that put us literally in the middle of all the action -- our hair was blown by skaters whizzing by close enough to touch. I'm glad that we saw one of the supporting performers wipe-out at the end of the show; otherwise I'd have been ducking every time they came by.
Raises interesting possibilities of other, less obvious, shows that could be staged on roller skates. How about an all-skating Virginia Woolf? The actors might enjoy the challenge of rolling around without spilling those drinks all over the place.

BOUBLIL & SCHONBERG TRILOGY
During the week, Sharon Ciano of New York took the chance to see all three Boublil & Schonberg musicals: Les Miserables, Miss Saigon and Martin Guerre. She said, "They were all fantastic but Les Miserables is definitely the best of the three; it has the best music. This was my fourth time seeing it. I never saw Miss Saigon in New York, but the London version was sensational. Les Miz in New York was better. In London, [because the sets are not automated] they have stagehands putting the sets on and off the stage [for Les Miz]. I listened to the cast album of Martin Guerre, and I'd definitely see it again. All in all, I recommend seeing all three of the Boublil & Schonberg musicals."
Best Songs:
In Les Miz: "A Little Fall of Rain"
In Miss Saigon: "Sun and Moon"
In Martin Guerre: "Tell Me To Go"

We hope you've enjoyed reading about Playbill On-Line's Preview Tour to London's West End. Playbill is planning more exciting London theatre tours in spring, summer and fall of 1997. We get the toughest tickets for the newest productions, and post guests' reviews online. For inquiries, call Beverly Markman or Roberta Cohen at (800) 554-7513.

-- By Robert Viagas

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