THEATRE / Why, when it comes to musicals, the critics may not have the last word

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The Independent Culture
LES MISERABLES

Opened 8 Oct 1985; still running.

'It is less depressing that the RSC is presenting this witless and synthetic entertainment in the hope of making some money (why not?) than that they appear to believe it is . . . an exciting development of their best work. It is a parody of it.' Michael Ratcliffe, Observer.

'What . . . we have here is a lurid Victorian melodrama, produced with Victorian lavishness.' Francis King, Sunday Telegraph.

'We have the musical of the year, if not the half-decade, here and it is at the Barbican. Not since Sondheim's Sweeney Todd has there been a score which soared out from the pit with the blazing theatricality of Les Miserables . . .' Sheridan Morley, Punch.

BERNADETTE

Opened 21 Jun 1990; closed 14 Jul 1990.

'Bernadette is a well-crafted musical, which deftly weaves the legend of Lourdes with a novel sub-plot about thwarted passion. The score is always tuneful yet infinitely varied, and the rich script combines the wit of Wilde with the narrative skills of Sir Walter Scott.' Jim Hiley, Listener.

'The only miraculous thing about Bernadette is that it is even worse than I expected . . . Successful musicals are a combination of pizzazz, charm and sex appeal. For these the Hugheses substitute crassness, antiseptic coyness, and a bunch of village maidens in headscarves, long skirts and long underwear.' Rhoda Koenig, Punch.

CHILDREN OF EDEN

Opened 8 Jan 1991; closed 6 Apr.

'Children of Eden is excellently staged . . . and it doesn't rest on spectacular scenery . . . The best aspect of the production is its visual effects, some of them achieved with piercing simplicity.' Alastair Macaulay, Financial Times.

'The producers of Children of Eden have begat a stinker.' Clive Hirshhorn, Sunday Express.

MOBY DICK

Opened 17 Mar 1992; closed 4 Jul 1992.

'The other week . . . Cameron Mackintosh admitted that he lived in constant expectation of waking up one morning and discovering that his taste had gone out of fashion. With the arrival of the pounds 1.2 million Moby Dick . . . that dread day might just have arrived. ' Charles Spencer, Telegraph.

'Perhaps I am getting soft in the head, but I quite enjoyed Moby Dick . . . It has a mixture of archness, irreverence, energy and sheer cheek that wins you over.' John Peter, Sunday Times.

GRAND HOTEL

Opened 6 Jul 1992; closes end Oct.

'Who will not be seduced by it? Whose vital organs fail to be stirred, moved and touched? Something is here for most hearts and minds, for gushing romantics and leathery cynics alike. And I write with the after-show memory of several lumps in the throat and even the odd pricking of my faltering tear ducts.' Nicholas de Jongh, Evening Standard.

'Tommy Tune makes his British directorial debut with a masterpiece.' Irving Wardle, Independent on Sunday.

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