Tag Archives: Andrew Langtree

Groundhog Day at the Old Vic Theatre

16 Aug

I admit I was in doubt about Groundhog Day the moment the musical version was announced: Another film to stage production – as if we haven’t had enough of those already. Plus we are talking about Groundhog Day here. The film is a classic in my eyes and the main character Phil Connors – the man who has to live through the same day over and over again – has been defined by Bill Murray’s portrayal. However, I am happy to report my doubts vanished the moment the show started.

I’ve seen Andy Karl (Phil Connors) on stage before. He was my highlight in On the Twentieth Century on Broadway last year. So having him in London is a treat in itself. But seeing him in the West End doing such an incredible job playing what must be one of the hardest male leads in town right now is downright mind-blowing. Andy Karl is not trying to be Bill Murray. Andy Karl is Phil Connors – funny, a bit of a prick, arrogant, sometimes downright nasty but in the end someone who learns to use second chances to become a better person. I cannot fault his portrayal in any way. I do not say this often but he is 100% perfect in this role.

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It is not easy to shine next to a lead performer who basically commands the stage throughout the show. Carlyss Peer does well as Rita Hanson but sadly the character itself seems a bit underdeveloped in comparison to Phil Connors. And even though the show is all about repeating things I found myself being a bit bored by her singing the same song over and over. This is not Carlyss Peer’s fault at all but simply the way the character has been written.

The whole ensemble is working amazingly hard in this show and there is no weak link to report. I am not convinced by the act two opening number which – despite being sung beautifully by Georgina Hagen (Nancy) – seemed a bit pointless and out-of-place. Andrew Langtree as Ned Ryerson has a lovely song in act two which I really enjoyed even though I wish we had learned a bit more about the character himself. Eugene McCoy as camera man Larry is perfectly cast and provides some wonderfully dry humour. Stand outs in the ensemble for me are Kieran Jae (Fred) and Ste Clough (Jeff) – both great to watch in the ensemble scenes and their solo bits.

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A set that is simple but imaginative makes sure the narrative does not get pushed into the background. Some of the scene changes are beyond clever – I am still trying to figure out how they are done. I am not going to spoil it but if you watch the show and can tell me how the shower to bed scene change works – comment below (with a spoiler tag).

The music in the show drives the story forward with clever lyrics and nice melodies. I have not been humming the songs since but Tim Minchin has written a score that fits in perfectly with the tone of the show. It is not a score I would listen to at home but I really enjoyed the music while watching the show.

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All in all Groundhog Day is without a doubt one of the most exciting new musicals I have seen in the past years. It is like a breeze of fresh air in the world of musical theatre. I highly recommend you go see this show while you have the chance to catch it in the West End. Hopefully I will be able to watch Groundhog Day on Broadway next year – this is a transfer that just needs to happen.

Groundhog Day is running at the Old Vic Theatre until September 17th 2016. For more info and to book tickets go to http://www.oldvictheatre.com/whats-on/2016/groundhog-day/

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Ghost the musical at the Piccadilly Theatre – July 12th 2012 (matinee)

20 Jul

With Ghost closing in the West End in October I thought I should finally go and see the two current leads on stage together. The first time I watched the show after Caissie Levy and Richard Fleeshman had left Sam Edwards was on as Sam and I very much enjoyed his performance but didn’t think him and Siobhan Dillon had the best on stage chemistry. I put that down to him being the understudy and not getting the chance to perform with Siobhan a lot and it didn’t bother me that much.

So this time I managed to see a full cast (not sure about swings in the ensemble I admit as I’m not that familiar with the cast – I do know Louise Lawson and Darren Carnall were not on though).
First of all I’d like to say that I think Ghost is a great new musical. Yes, the score isn’t perfect and yes, the show doesn’t really add anything to the story of the film. However, personally I like the way this popular movie has been adapted for the stage. I think the choreography is interesting and I enjoy the big ballads in the show such as “With you”. Plus the effects are without a doubt rather stunning to look at even though I have figured them all out by now.
I adored the original leads Caissie Levy and Richard Fleeshman. They were stunning together (and still are in the Broadway production) plus Caissie has a voice to die for. So I certainly was slightly biased but I did my best to give the new leads a fair chance to “WOW” me.

Sadly that didn’t happen. Siobhan Dillon has a lovely voice even though her singing doesn’t amaze me the way Caissie’s does. However, her Molly is simply too tough for my liking. I’m not touched by her performance because for me she is radiating a “I’m a strong woman” aura rather than being a completely heartbroken “girl” who has lost the love of her life and doesn’t know how to move on. To be fair I do think she has improved a lot since the first time I saw her. Her acting in the final scene is lovely and yes, I did tear up when Molly said goodbye to Sam.
Mark Evans is certainly nice to look at and he has a wonderful and clear voice. But sadly I’m left cold by his portrayal of Sam. I find his acting rather wooden and his facial expressions are slightly over the top from time to time. He does ok in the funny scenes and his timing is good but he doesn’t manage to take me along on Sam’s emotional journey. 
But what bugs me the most is that I can’t believe in Mark and Siobhan as (on stage) lovers. They are lacking chemistry and just seem to act next to instead of with each other. Since Sam and Molly’s strong bond is one of the key themes of Ghost this lack of chemistry has a big impact. While perfect on the technical side the show is missing heart and soul.

Sharon D Clarke steals the show as Oda Mae Brown. Her portrayal is spot on and you can’t go wrong with such a voice. “I’m outta here” is a real show stopper and remains one of the highlights of the show for me.

Andrew Langtree has developed so much since the first time I saw him as Carl in 2011. I remember thinking that the whole character was simply too “panto” and one-dimensional. Carl is still a cliché bad guy but Andrew manages to deliver a performance that is a joy to watch. He doesn’t ridicule his character but he also doesn’t take Carl seriously beyond measure which is the perfect mix.

The ensemble does a great job even though I think they are not as slick as the original cast. But then those guys and girls went through the very first rehearsal progress for a brand new show together. That has to result in a strong bond that is visible on stage. And in the end this is just a tiny criticism. Special mention for Lisa Davina Philip who I found hilarious as Clara (and what a voice!!). As always nice to see Paul Ayres on stage, I certainly do have a soft spot for former Jersey Boys.

I still don’t see the point of “Ball of wax”. It’s painfully out-of-place and destroys the atmosphere right after Sam’s death. On the other hand I love the act one finale. “Suspend my disbelief” / “I had a life” is such a strong musical number and always leaves me with goosebumps on my arms.

Ghost remains a good show and if you haven’t seen it yet I recommend you go while it’s still around in the West End. For me the “problem” with the show lies with the new leads who simply don’t reach the pure awesomeness of Caissie Levy and Richard Fleeshman (just my opinion, of course). So at this point I think I’ll rather keep my memories of the “perfect Molly/Sam duo” and let this recent visit be my last. However, I might change my mind in case I get a chance to see Sam Edwards again.

Ghost is on at the Piccadilly Theatre until October 6th 2012. For more info and to book tickets go to: http://www.ghostthemusical.com/