A great romantic Musical with mooving music by Michel Legrand and a good cast: a special hats off to Carly Bawden for her very mooving performance in the main role of Genevieve: the music is very well played as well: a great time - stanis3004
27 Apr 11
I saw that fateful production 31 years ago and remembered how awful it was. I couldn't believe such a dire show was being revived and am not surprised this production has met a similar demise. - Diana Lyne
04 Apr 11
Am surprised it is limping on until May to be honest. I expected so much from this after seeing Brief Encounter but this was all style and no substance. Felt like the production team were given free rein and no one was there to say no to some of the more outlandish ideas. A wasted opportunity. - T James
02 Apr 11
I read today that this woeful piece of rubbish is closing early! GOOD! Ever since I saw it in Leicester I have watched the theatre sites for early closing notices. I feel for the cast and crew but this was one of the worst pieces of theatre I have ever seen. The 2 reviews below mine said it all perfectly.
Please do NOT see this before it closes, stay away and save your money! - Derby guy
02 Apr 11
Completely disagree with coveneys review. This is a woeful west end show, the fact that people are paying fifty nine pounds for tickets is a shame and a waste of money. The first fifteen minutes are in fact the best thing about this whole venture. Meow meow is amazing and I would much rather watch two hours of her then the dull, unmagical and dragging peice of theatre that follows. Its clear that kneehigh have been given a lot of money and instead of creating their normal magical charm have had to deal with this dross. Save your money. - Man
27 Mar 11
There is simply too much goodwill from reviewers being extended to this production in the press. Decent coverage and feedback from Leicester trial run would have seen this launch postponed. The problem does not rest with the attractive set or the cast but with a terminally dull score, bizarre theatrical devices and misguided direction. The story needs to engage at an emotional level at some point to work - and it simply doesn't. - Quiffster
26 Mar 11
The producers, co-producers and associate producers of this show – and there’s 12 of them – deserve to lose every penny they are about to lose because they didn’t do their job. What upsets me so much about this is that it is a shocking waste of talent and seems to me to be both predictable and preventable and it will tarnish the reputation of Kneehigh and their director, Emma Rice. One week after opening to mediocre reviews, the theatre was less than a quarter full and, in the first half at least, the show fell flat on its face.
To the producers, I’d say this:
1. The Gielgud Theatre is too big for this show. Not only is it a lot of seats to sell, but if you don’t sell them there is no atmosphere. The cast will have to work very hard, they probably won’t succeed and the word-of-mouth that has given Kneehigh their success so far won’t be there – or will work in reverse.
2. Kneehigh and Emma Rice are hugely talented, but they are musical novices. They know how to fill a 250-seat studio theatre for six weeks with delightful small-scale shows at £25 a seat from a strong fan base; that’s less than 1.5 weeks at this 900-seat theatre where you’re charging twice as much. Their biggest West End show was not a musical, it was in a much smaller theatre and it benefitted from being the first of this type. Where’s the experience with musicals coming from?
3. The director is clearly smitten with the film (as you and the composer are clearly smitten with her). This is a show not a film and even though she’s got a track record in adapting films, it’s still a very different challenge to anything she’s done before. To allow her to double up as adapter and choreographer is criminal; there will be no healthy creative tension, no questioning, no challenge. If nothing else, you should have hired a musicals choreographer (or promoted your very experienced assistant choreographer).
If I’d been the producer, this is what I’d have said to Emma Rice during the Leicester try-out / London previews:
1. However inventive you are, you will never succeed with a big musical where the book, lyrics and score don’t work. This isn’t a musical theatre score.; it’s two songs, sung dialogue and some incidental music – it’s monotonous and repetitive and it won’t carry a full evening sung-through show. In opera, they’d say ‘all recitative, no arias’. Turn it into a play with music (you know how to do that) by replacing some of the singing with dialogue.
2. Nothing happens in the first half. By the interval, the audience (those that are still there ) will be so disappointed you will have to work very hard to get them back. Cut the first part by half and dump the interval and you just might get away with it.
The show’s already dead, which is sad as I really do think it could have worked. There are some great ideas (as always with Kneehigh). The ‘Maitresse’ is a great idea; her opening turns are fun if a little long and her French song is the best musical moment of the show. The sailor chorus, with their scene changing signs and bells, are a great idea. Lez Brotherston’s design is fine (oops, I’m not supposed to mention him in a blog….). The performances are fine.
This is the third Kneehigh show in as many months to disappoint. If I were Emma Rice, I’d take a sabbatical to rejuvenate my creative juices and let the phone ring out; she may damage her career forever if she doesn’t. This may all sound very arrogant – but I suspect I’ve seen a lot more musicals than Emma Rice and invested in nine of them, so I consider it helpful and constructive – and free! - Gareth James
25 Mar 11
aha, the Voyce of Reason how the devil are you ... dead right, it's a dinde of the most enormous proportions which might explain the 750 empty seats at second press night this evening John Holt - JohnnyFox
23 Mar 11
Gielgud 16, 19 & press 22.3.2011, three viewings, that’s overstaying my welcome, time to get out of here. In the meantime, as I wait for my taxi to Cherbourg: Audiences that pay homage to Jacques Demy’s 1964 masterpiece may be disappointed although some aficionados have complimented this conversion. I love both and despite flaws, somewhere in your heart, you too may identify with the sentiments on offer. Unfortunately this is yet another show that uses signage (albeit comically, my pet hate) instead of performance, set, lighting, sound, and audience intelligence. The film’s captions are unnecessary since the plot is simple and chronological; all the time and date stamps should be removed or replaced with pertinent text. Thankfully there’s no crude video screen. The diva compere Maitresse by the infamous Meow Meow (aka Melissa Madden Gray from down under) gets close to taking over the show, nicely of course. The ensemble needs to match her confidence, performance and stature; don’t be intimidated. The slinky-jazz dance interludes by sailors are fine but should be perfectly synchronised. The legitimacy of Maitresse’s part is questionable but means justify the end and she does have an important task taken from the film. The post interval warm-up by Maitresse would do better focussing on les grands sentiments de vie. Later she sings the beautiful Legrand-Varda song ‘Sans Toi’ that’s not in Demy’s film but a clever choice from wife Varda’s ‘Cléo de 5 à 7’. I’ve a hunch Meow Meow has the ability to crank up her solo performance of ‘Sans Toi’ [perhaps with a touch of orchestration, but why Madeleine as witness?] which would be an extra ditty for audiences to take home, essential if the show is to run into black brollies. Hopefully this gem will live long enough to sort out les majorations de qualité. A tissue or two required, either to laugh or cry. After seeing a series of poor endings in WE shows it’s pleasing to see Les Parapluies concluded with such power and brevity; be ready. Just brilliant: best wishes to you all at Kneehigh. - Stevie
23 Mar 11
I didn't see the film, but really enjoyed the musical. At first, I found it a bit odd but as I got into the story I found it very enjoyable and completely unique compared to the rest of the West End. Meow Meow is a stunning performer. - Soliloquy
23 Mar 11
I have no doubt whatsoever that if you have seen the film on which it is based, you will love this show. If, like me, you have not, you won’t.
Although the production values are wonderful, the cast almost always excellent, the direction superb, the choreography nimble and entertaining, and there are one or two set pieces straight of the RSC style guide, they can’t make up for the fact that the material with which they are working is tedious beyond belief.
The plot, what there is of it (SPOILER ALERT: Young girl gets knocked up by Mechanic. She marries money, he marries the help) just isn’t enough to fill a whole evening in the theatre. You could easily trim 20 minutes from the running time, and not notice – and boy, does it need it.
However, the real problem is Michel Legrand’s music which whitters on in the background only rarely breaking into a melody – and let’s be honest here, there’s only one big tune and it’s done to death – and worse still Sheldon Harnick’s translation which sings like it was done by one of those computer translation programs. I know Mr Harnick wrote one of the all time greatest musicals (Fiddler on the Roof) and we can only bow before him for his genius, but boy, has he also produced some duds (Rex anyone?). His libretto for this is, sadly, far nearer the latter than the former.
Also, from a practical production point of view, you will, like me, probably be unable to read many of the signs that the cast bring on telling you the year, location, passage of time etc. Wonderful idea, but not good if it can’t be read by people further away than Row Q.
My partner liked this show. However, when pressed, he said he wouldn’t recommend it, and wouldn’t go again. I can only concur. Which probably doesn't bode well for its future.
- Richard Voyce
19 Mar 11
Another well organised and comparatively good value event by Whatsonstage - I was very keen to see this show for two reasons - love the film and Kneehigh Company
The performances were of a good standard and Meow Meow was brilliant and I must confess I had a tear or two in my eye at the end, but this was due more to the story line than its interpretation. There were some inventive moments, but these didn't compare with "Brief Encounter" - I think I would have enjoyed it more as a fringe production.
I would like this show to suceed - the performers deserve it to. - Jean Anderson
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