Musical theatre fans spread the word throughout the kingdom that a brand new version of the musical comedy by Tim Rice and Stephen Oliver is to be staged at the Union Theatre from 21 June – 15 July 2017. Heralds have been trumpeting the news this afternoon that the musical has been re-worked with book is by Tim Rice and Tom Williams, and additional music by Mathew Pritchard. Blondel is the tale of an ambitious minstrel in the court of King Richard the Lionheart and follows his trials and tribulations as he seeks to save his King and write the perfect love song to dedicate to his beloved Fiona. Tim Rice said today: “I’m delighted Blondel is returning to the stage. It was one of the most enjoyable projects of my career, and I’ve always felt Stephen Oliver’s wonderful music deserved a larger audience than it reached back in 1983 … Read more
While this is a deserved revival of an intriguing show, the core material remains in some respects unsatisfactory, and the scale of the show is not a great fit with the location. If this sounds churlish, then that is only because in musical theatre – as in opera – for the whole to succeed to best advantage the list of parts that need to be in great shape is a long and exacting one.
The key is truthfulness: the men play the female roles as truthfully as they can, in the context of the show, and by doing so, unlock different energies and synergies. Just as audiences roared at Mark Rylance’s Olivia in Twelfth Night, not because he was a man playing a woman, but because his so doing simply provided a different palette of choices, so too, in Regan’s productions, they roar at the antics as the men bring fresh perspective to some of Gilbert and Sullivan’s most loved and enduring characters and situations.
With direction from Michael Burgen, musical direction from Bryan Hodgson, and choreography by Matt Kazan, this version of Loserville sparkles with enthusiastic effervescence, combining familiar comic stereotypes with excellent ensemble singing and dancing, and giving some excellent performers a chance to shine, all the while emphasising the inherent gifts provided by book, score and lyrics.
Regan’s sure and steady direction brings the piece to life with charm and warmth. From the moment the three siblings rescue three new-born kittens from drowning right through to the exploration of the burnt-out barn and the discovery of the stranger’s gift, the story unfolds from the viewpoint of a youngster. As the central siblings, Cathy, Nan and Charles, Grace Osborn, Imelda Warren-Green and Alex James Ellison are each splendidly natural, full of charm, and the banter and bickering to and fro of growing up.
Victoria Sierra as Jenny Cavilleri and David Albury as Oliver Barratt IV, as the young student couple share the warmth and passion of youth, determined to make their place in the world, despite family misgivings. There is real chemistry in their performances, allowing the audience to buy into their relationship.