It isn't the worst thing I've seen in a while (Pity the Sinner wins that award) but is an extraordinary failure considering the calibre of everybody involved. The second half is worth staying for as it has the odd flash of brilliance which gives some idea of what this show could have been. - addicted to theatre
29 Jun 10
The mystery is why so many people with previously exemplary reputations chose to become involved with this dreadful show - surely someone must have realised how bad it is before they all crossed the Atlantic. Paradise Found features the worst opening scene I have ever seen and doesn't really recover. Adding to the weirdness is an eccentric sound engineer. In the first half everyone was too loud for such a small venue; the response was to turn off some of the microhones for the second half, but not all of them. The only advantage was it was even more difficult to hear the dreadful lyrics. The cast is made up exclusively of Americans, most with strong Broadway experience and they deserve credit for turning in mostly excellent performances even though they must know they are saddled with a train wreck of a show. Sadly this may be the only opportunity to see Mandy patinkin in a musical in London. It's such a shame it's in this travesty. - David Baxter
20 Jun 10
Why isn't there a 'no stars' option? When you go and see an already panned show, you often come out thinking ‘well, it wasn’t that bad’. Not so in this case; you come out at the interval thinking ‘get me out of here’, go home and down a large glass of red. There are many mysteries associated with this show:
Had the Menier’s David Brabani read the book or heard the music before he risked tarnishing the Menier brand?
Has the man who directed the original productions of Cabaret, Sweeney Todd, A Little Night Music, Company, Pacific Overtures, Candide, Evita and Phantom of the Opera lost the plot?
Has the woman responsible for the wonderful choreography of The Producers and the NT’s Oklahoma had a temporary or permanent loss of taste and style?
Did all those experienced and lauded Broadway actors, including a man called Mandy, just come for the daytime sightseeing?
Have they got something on the man who has had 10 plays produced by the RSC (not that I ever really understood their obsession with him)? Was he blackmailed?
We may never know…..
Rumour has it the American producers opened it here because the Tony Award laden venue is now such a draw on Broadway, that putting ‘Direct from The Menier Chocolate Factory, London’ puts bums (or should we say butts) on seats. The cast and production team have even more Tony’s than the Menier, so they should know better. No-one can breathe life into a shit show with a bad book and dreadfully twee music. Yes, it’s as bad as the reviews…… - Gareth James
19 Jun 10
Not the best musical I have seen but found it fun and all the cast worked hard--nice tale and great voices--loved Kate Baldwin, so all in all a pleasant evening entertainment and actually after seeing the awful show Fantastiks, this Paradise Found is like vintage Lloyd-Webber!!!! - Joe Spiteri
16 Jun 10
This is hardly a great musical but I found there was alot here to enjoy: it looks and sounds absolutely sumptuous, and it is a privilege to watch a cast of this calibre (Patinkin, Shuler Hensley, Judy Kaye, Nancy Opel are all magnificent, while Kate Baldwin is a gorgeous new star)and it is a tribute to their sheer professionalism and star quality that they are able to rise above the mediocrity of the material. I enjoyed this and, while I wouldn't rush back, it's way better than some of the slightly hysterical reactions on this noticeboard would suggest! - ajh
14 Jun 10
Saw it on Saturday afternoon and quite enjoyed it, very American burlesque and as such a bit of fun. - Taljaard
07 Jun 10
I have seen some awful shows in my time but this is the first time I can remember leaving at the interval. It was crude,vulgar and witless and surely there should be an age limit, there were some quite young children in the audience. We are big supporters of the Chocolate Factory but even they must have a dud sometime - Richard Sandler
06 Jun 10
I was really looking forward to seeing this show. On paper it should have been one of the best shows the Chocolate Factory has produced (all star names on and off stage). Unfortunately I was very disappointed. The cast all did their best with it, but I still left at the interval. The costumes looked cheap and as though they were made for toys, the songs all sounded the same and had terrible lyrics and the plot was just ridiculous. Such a shame as the cast were all excellent. I've wanted to see Kate Baldwin do something good since I saw a production of 1776 in Washington years ago and now she appears in London, but in this mess. I hope she comes back again soon to perform her cabaret show... - Steve
03 Jun 10
Total pants - Peter Harlock
01 Jun 10
We are Menier afficionados - have loved all their previous musicals from tick tick Boom onwards. But this is a terrible turkey. I do rather wish, for poiteness sake, that I had not said so, loudly, at the end of Act 1 - only to find Hal Prince sitting behind me. Oops.
It's ill-conceived and embarrassing. Certainly not something you would want to watch with your kids (or your mother) the schoolboy lewdness is excruciating and overall it is a serious waste of fine talent and the Meunier's reputation. As one person sitting next to me remarked "transfer to Broadway? - this won't even cross the river!" - Sara Nathan
01 Jun 10
I am not sure I even watched the same show! It was very funny, breathtakingly well sung, looked sumptuous (given the size limitations at the Menier) and the audience on Saturday night gave it a great reception. Do wonder if some people have just had unachievably high expectations, given the talent involved? I went expecting nothing (after the scathing reviews) and had a fantastic surprise! - Ed
31 May 10
Vindictiveness springs to mind as the reason for the ridiculously low ratings this production seems to have engendered from critics and punters alike. So far this week I have had the misfortune to see three shows, no names mentioned, which I could have easily rated below this show and yet the crits and public have gone overboard about to condemn it? Sure the story line of Paradise Found is flimsy and some of the characters are painted with too broad a brush, but it has something. Mandy Patinkin is unusually restrained, no doubt the hand of Mr Prince there, and better for it too. He gives a touchingly sensitive performance as the Shah's eunuch. It does have a whiff of Panto about it to a British audience which is no doubt why Mr Prince and Ms Stroman failed to spot the allusion as Americans just don't have a history of Panto with which to compare and is a glaringly big mistake in choosing London for the premiere. To be cynical though I suspect the main reason they chose London was for the Menier Chocolate Factory's huge reputation on Broadway. It has had such a run of success lately with transfers to NYC of Sunday in the Park, A Little Night Music and currently La Cage aux Folles that why shouldn't they want to hang on to it's coat tails and have some of that magic rub off on them too. But one thing I am sure of is this is not a one star show and another is it would fair much better in NYC than in stodgy old London Town. By the way the staging is sensational and the costumes are great too. No doubt when you have the likes of Mr Prince on board money's no object!? - rds
29 May 10
I guess even the great Menier Theatre can score a boo boo ! - from an audience point of view
28 May 10
Mandy should never have left Crimminal Minds,at least he was the shit in that. - Reba
27 May 10
A new high in lows - ChrisV
27 May 10
Absolutely bloody awful. The worst night I've spent in a professional theatre for a veyr long time. Utterly embarrassing and not even so bad it's good. - misskatty
27 May 10
To paraphrase the above extremely wordy review: PARADISE FOUND is a crock of shit. - NotTheWestEndWhingers
26 May 10
There is an array of all-American talent squished onto the Menier Chocolate Factory stage that is both formidable and incomprehensible. From Mandy Patinkin, arguably the finest Sondheim interpreter of his generation, to Broadway back-catalogistas like Judy Kaye and John McMartin, this is the stuff of dreams for many producersI won’t hazard a guess at the total number of awards between them, but it must be over fif. +++
Such a pity, then, that they have been assembled, in the no less luminous hands of Evita-to-Phantom director Hal Prince and prima choreographa assoluta Susan Stroman in a complete barrowload of tripe. +++
It is impossible to fathom what passed through whose mind when it was first suggested that the Shah of Persia’s visit to Vienna in 1873 would make a viable subject for a musical, that modern lyrics could be welded to genuine Strauss tunes without irony, or that it was a good idea to convince Jewish actor Mandy Patinkin to shave his head and play a fey Muslim eunuch. +++
It’s called ‘Paradise Found’ but the only reference to Milton I can find is that you’d have to be blind to see the good in it. +++
Whilst Nasser al-Din Shah Qajar was a fascinating and cultured monarch – a painter, a poet and photographer who held sovereign power for almost 50 years, outstripped only by Queen Victoria whose reign ran parallel to his own. He was the first ruler to visit Europe and the first to publish his diaries – but in the Richard Nelson script, he’s a randy one-dimensional buffoon played half a degree above Baron Hardup and in a series of cheap lurex kaftans by five times Tony nominee John McMartin who looks understandably bewildered throughout.
The gist of the plot is that the Shah becomes infatuated by the Empress of Austria, and demands his servants procure her sexual favours. To spare the court’s blushes, a prostitute masquerades as the Empress and receives from the Shah a massive pearl necklace. Two, if you count the one she can wear in the street.
There’s a duet about masturbation set to the music of a Strauss mazurka.
So far it’s Kismet crossed with The Merry Widow and a side order of Indecent Proposal.
In the second half those of us who returned to the airless auditorium were rewarded with a further descent into farce as first there’s a prison scene where the prostitute is reunited with her favourite client, a cardboard Baron played with more conviction than the production deserves by the explosive bass-baritone talent of Shuler Hensley. Hensley is most noted in the UK for his outstanding portrayal of Jud Fry in the National’s Oklahoma! where he briefly but powerfully diverted the audience’s attention from its seat-wetting adoration of Hugh Jackman, and subsequently in a string of Broadway hits including playing the Monster in Young Frankenstein.
She’s been in prison, he in alcoholic penury, but they come together as actors in a coarse vaudeville which summarises the plot all over again only to oom-pah-pah music, after which the authors clearly got bored with the plotting and tie up all loose ends in a single scene's worth of provincial pantomime. Three Strauss strains are briefly reprised – even though we’re all now back in Persia - and we stagger out to the bar to try to make sense of it all. +++
longer version/more reviews at www.johnnyfoxlondon.blogspot.com the website called A KICK IN THE STALLS
Apart from airfares and accommodation for the cast, it’s not an inexpensive production – costumes, set and lighting are way above the Menier’s usual budgets: the programme refers to a number of producer type individuals as ‘Enhancement for this production has been provided by …’. Presumably ‘Enhancers’ are Angels who haven’t a hope in hell of seeing their money back.
Maybe it’s a tax loss, maybe it’s just an aberration on the part of otherwise competent and talented individuals, but this has the feel of a work-in-progress, perhaps a tryout where the European setting will be more familiar to audiences, prior to an opening on Broadway. If so, it will need the kind of eighteen month long re-write that kept Sister Act so firmly out of town, or closed Imagine This in its second month.
Either way, the presence of so many fine actors and singers is a bait to lure audiences to a production which fails to deliver either as musical comedy or a genuine operetta.
Go on then, they should call it The Strauss-Trap.
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