Theatre: Marguerite

I wasn't planning on heading out to see some musical theatre on Friday night, but the prospect of a bargain basement ticket to see Marguerite was too good to pass up. Fortunately the power of web advertising which was playing a excerpts the show on the internet while randomly browsing theatre websites on Friday (as you do) prompted the hunt for cheap tickets... It didn't take long to find them...

The fact that the show is selling tickets for as little as £12.50 suggests that the economy is hurting the West End, the punters don't want to see a show updating the story of La Traviata or Camille to occupied France, or both... I suspect it is both.

This is a pity as there is a fabulous cast headed by Ruthie Henshaw and Julian Ovenden (pictured left) as the two lovers Marguerite and Armand. I was last distracted seeing Ovenden in Grand Hotel and here he gets to play a bit of jazz, run around in boxer shorts and get into a bad temper... I challenge anyone not to go "Phwwwwoaaar" at that... For Henshaw fans apart from her great range and fabulous outfits, you also get to see a bit of her nipple.

The production looks gorgeous as well. The only problem is that the material that everyone has to work with... It feels like it could do with another workshop. The show starts off well enough (not counting the dull opening number) but just as the story should be getting interesting it loses interest in the central characters and we are inflicted with choruses and marches. Marguerite and Armand start making mad passionate love after a bomb goes off in her front garden and blows out her French doors... And then its all downhill from there... There is so much doom and gloom from that point onwards as they sing in minor keys about the peril that lies ahead that I wondered why they ever bothered. I also pitied the cast that had to sing what seemed like scales and glissandos and sustain difficult vowels eight shows a week.

I lost count the number of times Marguerite gets slapped about, had her crotch grabbed or spat upon. Not to mention having the nipple shown. Maybe that's what they mean by a musical for grown ups. If the show is aiming to be a musical for grown ups, it was a pity they didn't think about going for a bit of subtlety. The whole German occupation and French collaboration felt like a history lesson spelled out and shoved down your throat. The creative team (including many who were responsible for that Les Mis show) seemed more interested in history lessons than providing an evening's entertainment. Even Les Misérables had comic relief amongs all that moaning about stolen bread... This show at two hours felt like a descent into depression and by the end I was just glad it was all over. A few small changes (maybe more songs by the three principals and a few less chorus reprisals of that awful song "Day By Day") could make this something a little better than it currently is.

Still for the price, and if you're a Henshaw / Ovenden fan it is still worth catching... Quickly... It may not last...

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