Paradise Found, Menier Chocolate Factory, London


This new musical stinks to high heaven

Poor old Mandy Patinkin. America's highest-pitched tenor picked a stinker for his British musical debut when, some 20 years ago, he starred in the Chichester premiere of Born Again, a badly misconceived version of Ionesco's Rhinoceros.

Lightning, it seems, has failed to strike twice, for he now returns in a brand new show which far surpasses that earlier piece in comprehensive stinker-dom. Why? Has it been his lifelong ambition – and we're talking here about his tessitura rather than his testosterone – to play a eunuch?

The creative team on Paradise Found are showbiz royalty. It's co-directed at the Menier by Hal (Cabaret, epoch-making Sondheim premieres) Prince and Susan (The Producers, Crazy for You) Stroman, with a book by Olivier Award-winning dramatist Richard Nelson. But they seem to have taken leave of their collective senses. From that point of view, perhaps Paradise Found should be renamed "Marbles Lost", rather than the other alternative that keeps springing to mind: "Purgatory Endured".

The show is loosely adapted from the 1939 novel The Tale of the 1002nd Night, by the Austrian-Jewish author Joseph Roth. Written during his enforced exile in Paris, it combines his characteristic feel for displaced lives in the turmoil of social change with a more conservative nostalgia for the departed world of the Hapsburgs, as it tells the story of the comic visit to Vienna of the girl-hungry Shah of Persia and its ultimately desolate fall-out.

But Paradise Found can't muster enough cultural curiosity to have a point of view about Vienna or anything else. Everyone's a funny foreigner here in a show that for three-quarters of its course is like some unholy collision between "Carry on up the Danube" and Kismet, before a gear change into dippy despair, followed by a blatantly gimcrack happy ending.

Kismet, you'll recall, relied for its score on "borrowings" from Borodin. Paradise Found sustains itself on the waltzes and theatre works of Johann Strauss, unattractively orchestrated here by Jonathan Tunick. You could call it a glorified juke-box musical, if it weren't for the original and largely woeful lyrics by Ellen Fitzhugh.

Patinkin bleats and whinnies at the top of his vertiginous register and beyond. Adopting a cloying expression of sweet, ingenuous wonder and scurrying artlessly about the stage, this hands-on habitué of a harem back home is nonetheless the wide-eyed gooseberry at the sexual hanky-panky in Vienna and the nervy co-conspirator in a plot whereby the Shah, having undiplomatically got the hots for the Empress, is tricked into congress with a regally disguised whore (Mizzi). Shuler Hensley is good as the Baron who is reduced to exile and ruin by this escapade, as we see in the coda that fast-forwards to 15 years later. To survive, the Baron is forced to tread the boards as a pretend-eunuch in a hack re-run of the story. But as the tale was a travesty the first time round, the depth of his self-hating degradation hits you with less than due force.

Between them, Prince and Stroman boast so many awards that their shelves must be severely congested. The one consolation they can take from the failure of this flagrant Broadway-tryout here in cheaper Britain is that it won't leave them with any storage problems in their display cabinets.

To 26 June (020 7907 7060)

Suggested Topics
Arts and Entertainment

Will Poulter will play the shape-shifting monsterfilm
Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment
Paul Hollywood

'Whether he left is almost immaterial'TV
Arts and Entertainment

game of thrones reviewWarning: spoilers

Arts and Entertainment
The original Star Wars trio of Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher and Mark Hamill

George Osborne confirms Star Wars 8 will film at Pinewood Studios in time for 4 May


Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

    Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

    Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
    Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

    Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

    Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
    China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

    China's influence on fashion

    At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
    Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

    The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

    Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
    Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

    Rainbow shades

    It's all bright on the night
    'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

    Bread from heaven

    Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
    Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

    How 'the Axe' helped Labour

    UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
    Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

    The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

    A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
    Welcome to the world of Megagames

    Welcome to the world of Megagames

    300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
    'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

    Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

    Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
    Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

    Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

    The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
    Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

    Vince Cable exclusive interview

    Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
    Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

    Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

    Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
    Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

    It's time for my close-up

    Meet the man who films great whites for a living
    Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

    Homeless people keep mobile phones

    A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before