MUSICAL Anyone Can Whistle Covent Garden Festival
Tuesday 03 June 1997
Whenever someone digs up a forgotten show, supporters scream "neglected masterpiece!", but I fear this one is unlikely to see the light of day. The European premiere in Cheltenham in the mid-Eighties proved veteran director George Abbott's famous dictum that the three things you have to get right in the musical are "the book, the book, and the book". For once, Arthur Laurents, who wrote Gypsy, musical theatre's finest libretto, went badly wrong.
Billed as "wild", it's the story of a town which fakes a miracle to boost the mayor's popularity and the public purse, and satirises everything from local government corruption to defence spending to the insanity of the so-called sane. Sondheim's work, however, is thrillingly ambitious and often staggeringly inventive, mixing stock elements of musical comedy with organised anarchy in the shape of huge chorus numbers. Entire blocks of narrative are set to music and interspersed with torchy solos, sweet ballads and witty point numbers.
Two years ago, Steve Asher produced a concert version at Carnegie Hall with the cast of his (and everyone else's) dreams. By comparison, the Covent Garden Festival line-up was distinctly underpowered. Stephanie Beacham was a deliciously droll narrator but even her drop-dead delivery couldn't disguise limp direction. The young chorus worked hard but a little artistic discipline would have made them a whole lot better. The band too could have done with more rigorous conducting.
Linzi Hateley, no stranger to flops having had the misfortune to star in the misbegotten musical Carrie, gave Fay lots of belt voice but scored highest when working least hard singing the beautifully spun title song. It was left to a marvellously relaxed Simon Green to give the performance of the night as Hapgood. With the role sung well (a feat never previously accomplished), whole sections of the score leapt sharply into focus. Sadly, in the key role, game Jenny Logan was vocally miscast, but as mayoress Cora Hoover Hooper who would have been better? After all, 'Twas she who sang her way into the nation's hearts doing the sublime Shake 'n' Vac.
After giving gay film R-rating despite no sex or violencefilm
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Richard Dawkins on babies with Down Syndrome: 'Abort it and try again – it would be immoral to bring it into the world'
- 2 ALS ice bucket challenge co-founder Corey Griffin drowns, aged 27
- 3 Kajieme Powell: Missouri police release video footage of second man killed by officers
- 4 Paul Scholes: Manchester United need five experienced players who can turn round a desperate situation
- 5 James Foley 'beheading': Met police warn public watching murder video could be criminal offence
Laughs go global as Eddie Izzard and Dylan Moran bring international comedians to the Edinburgh Fringe
The Top Ten: Horrible buildings
JK Rowling writes new Harry Potter story on Pottermore: Introducing 'Singing Sorceress' Celestina Warbuck
Britain's ugliest buildings: Which monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?
Celebrity Big Brother 2014 line-up: Meet the contestants from Lauren Goodger to Kellie Maloney and Audley Harrison
Scottish independence: English people overwhelmingly want Scotland to stay in the UK
Isis threat: Cameron wants an alliance with Iran
Richard Dawkins on babies with Down Syndrome: 'Abort it and try again – it would be immoral to bring it into the world'
Crisis? What crisis? A visiting US doctor gives the NHS a rave review
Michael Brown shooting: Chaos erupts on the streets of Ferguson after autopsy shows teenager was shot six times – twice in the head
Scottish Independence Referendum: Salmond described as 'arrogant, ambitious and dishonest' by Scottish women