Thursday, April 26, 2007
New York, New York
I was standing by the bar in the Coliseum (gin-less for a change but waiting for my mother who’d nipped outside for a quick interval cigarette), when an elderly man in a grey suit, who was also waiting for someone, started talking to me. “£75, my ticket cost,” he informed me.
I made a kind of noise that began as a popular expletive but was hastily amended to something a little milder. It sounded a little like: “fosh, really?”
He nodded, with the stunned look of a man who was still coming to terms with this fact, but then he shrugged and smiled warmly, “But whatever makes her happy.” He waved his hand in the vague direction of ladies’ toilets where I’m guessing his wife was. And I smiled too because his sentiment seemed genuine and because I was glad my tickets had not set me back anywhere near £75. It had been an enjoyable evening so far, but it wasn’t £75 worth of enjoyable. In fact, I was under the impression that the most you’d ever pay for a ticket in the West End was a still-scandalously high £55, but I guess the Coliseum operates slightly differently.
Anyway, I was there to see the ENO’s production of Leonard Bernstein’s On The Town, which was back in London after a sell-out run in 2005. As I said I was with my mother who - though she had claimed to be far too busy to come to Menopause The Musical with me - suddenly had a free evening when the show on offer involved three strapping young men in sailors’ garb.
The plot, such as it is, involves the three aforementioned sailors, who have 24 hour shore leave in New York. One of them spots a poster of a pretty girl on the subway and resolves to find her before the day is through. The musical is set in 1944 and therefore this is not considered weird or stalker-ish behaviour but as something sweet and romantic. Much running about follows and, oh, you’ve seen the film, you know the rest.
Though staged by an opera company, surprisingly there weren’t that many standout vocal performances, bar a fabulously resonant turn from Andrew Shore, as a cuckolded judge, and a great performance from Caroline O'Connor as the man-hungry and magnificently named Hildy Esterhazy, who managed to exude brassy New York charm even when driving around the stage in a strange taxi contraption seemingly made from Meccano.
The stage is stuffed with people, all gamely dancing away, which went some way to compensates for the rather spare sets, and I did enjoy hearing the score performed by a full orchestra. But even with all the care that had clearly been lavished on it, it wasn’t possible to disguise the fact that the plot was thinner than (insert lame but topical size zero related pun here) and that the three sailor chappies remained unforgivably interchangeable throughout.