Musical: The model of an English burlesque
Writer and broadcaster Edward Seckerson is Chief Classical Music and Opera Critic for The Independent. He wrote and presented the long-running BBC Radio 3 series Stage & Screen, in which he interviewed many of the most prominent writers and stars of musical theatre. He appears regularly on BBC Radio 3 and 4. On television, he has commentated a number of times at the Cardiff Singer of the World competition. He has published books on Mahler and the conductor Michael Tilson Thomas, and has been on Gramophone Magazine's review panel for many years. Edward presented the 2007 series of the Radio 4 music quiz Counterpoint. He has interviewed everyone from Leonard Bernstein to Liza Minelli; from Paul McCartney to Pavarotti: from Julie Andrews to Jessye Norman.
Thursday 11 February 1999
NATIONAL YOUTH MUSIC THEATRE
THE KISSING-DANCE or She Stoops to Conquer. That's an "or", note, not an "either or". Charles Hart and Howard Goodall are insistent that Oliver Goldsmith is still very much the driving force of their "burlesque musical comedy" for the National Youth Music Theatre. The play's the thing. But then, so is the musical.
Hart, in particular, enjoys much sport with Goldsmith, nudging the text with his smart and rapacious lyrics, manipulating this comedy of ill manners so that its late-18th-century spirit is possessed of a late-20th- century tone. It's all in the word play. Goldsmith would, I fancy, have applauded Hart's dexterity and been more than happy to have him put words into his mouth. Hart and Goodall's "song strategy" is on the button: sometimes, their musical interjections take the form of quasi-recitatives - tantalising tasters, promise as yet unfulfilled; but mostly they are fully fledged "numbers", illuminating key intrigues and forwarding plot with Goldsmithian panache. There's a particularly fine example when Marlow and Hastings stop at the Fur and Feathers to ask directions to Nonesuch House. Tony Lumpkin's incomprehensible rewriting of the Ordnance Survey puts the spin on the entire evening. As Lumpkin later reminds us: "It's been up and down like a harlot's gown". That's Hart. Could Goldsmith have done better?
Then there's Goodall's music, its Englishness inbred in a way that has nothing to do with pastiche and can be defined only by its own very sweet, quirky, very distinctive character. The title number is a case in point - a shadowy little idyll of a tune, insidiously memorable. Goodall's love of polyphony (the English choral tradition) makes for some smashing ensembles, while his instrumentation cleverly hints at period and local colour, a piano accordion pointing up the inheritance of street music, a solo trumpet lending both melancholy and a blast of the tally-ho's to his racy Act 1 finale, the "hunt" for Lady Hardcastle's jewels.
There's a future for this piece, no question, but for now we have NYMT and the vision of directors Russell Labey and Jeremy James Taylor to thank for its first outing. If you're talent-spotting, you don't have to look far. On Tuesday night, initial nervousness made for inhibition and a sense of the house being underplayed. For a while the show was under starter's orders. But not for long. Ian Virgo's engaging Tony Lumpkin was banking on a photo-finish from the off; Akiya Henry's Constance took a feverish turn on the virginal; Alexander Hassell amusingly caught Marlow's breakdown of co-ordination when confronted with girls "of his own station"; Michael Jibson was affecting as Hastings; and Simon Thomas, as his servant Stingo, upstaged even his funny hat. Funny, too, was Jess Brooks' Mrs Hardcastle, while Neil Clench's glowering Dick Hardcastle was always going to fall victim to some Stoppardian name-play. "Small, Dick?" Naturally.
The best TV shows and films coming to the servicetv
Watch the new House of Cards series three trailerTV
Oscars 2015It was the first time Barney has compered the Academy Awards
Oscars 2015 From Meryl Streep whooping Patricia Arquette's equality speech to Chris Pine in tears
Oscars 2015 Mexican filmmaker uses speech to urge 'respect' for immigrants
TV ReviewThe intrigue deepens as we delve further but don't expect any answers just yet
Razzies 2015 Golden Raspberry Awards 'honours' Cameron Diaz and Kirk Cameron
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Raif Badawi, the Saudi Arabian blogger sentenced to 1,000 lashes, may now face death penalty
- 2 PornHub turns masturbation into energy in bid to save the planet
- 3 Dakota Johnson's 'It's only Isis' Saturday Night Live sketch sparks controversy
- 4 Robert Mugabe eats a zoo for 'obscene' 91st birthday party
- 5 A teacher speaks out: 'I'm effectively being forced out of a career that I wanted to love'
Broadchurch series 3: David Tennant and Olivia Colman to return for third season, ITV confirms
Downton Abbey Christmas special 2014, review: Love is everywhere, actually
EastEnders may bring transgender character to Albert Square to challenge 'traditional' viewers
Spectre: Director Sam Mendes teases clips from upcoming James Bond movie
Indian Summers recommissioned: Channel 4 confirm a second series of British Empire drama
New theory could prove how life began and disprove God
This is what it's like to be dead, according to a guy who died for a bit
'Jihadi John': CAGE representative storms off Sky News accusing Kay Burley of Islamophobia
Ukip would cut billions from Scottish budget to fund English tax cuts
End of the licence fee: BBC to back radical overhaul of how Corporation is funded
Russia's roadmap for annexing eastern Ukraine 'leaked from Vladimir Putin's office'