Monday, 16 February 2009

Saturday Night - Jermyn Street Theatre

Saturday Night by Stephen Sondheim
Book: Julius J Epstein
Director: Tom Littler
Reviewer: John Roberts

As the song in this revival and also UK premier of the updated production of Sondheim's first venture into musical theatre goes, "What can you do on a Saturday night..?" It could have been go to the Jermyn Street Theatre to see this production, but unfortunately it doesn't have the wow factor to make me jump up and down and tell everybody about it.

It's 1920s New York, and a group of friends from Brooklyn dream and aspire to be like the smart and sophisticated Wall Street bankers, and it is with these dreams that the shows protagonist Gene who plays the game more than anyone, starts to find himself in trouble with the new broad and the Law.

The problem with producing a show in such an intimate venue is that you can't get away with making mistakes and you can let your actors have a subtlety and nuance that you don't normally have the opportunity to give in a 700 seat proscenium arch theatre...This just doesn't happen, the cast all do a reasonable Job but the show is carried on the back of David Ricardo-Pearce, straddling the stage with a real panache and energy every time he is on stage.

Other notable performances are given by Charlie Cameron who in all honesty steals the show every time she appears with her bright eyed presence and huge smile and Joanna Hickman who provides the show with its only strong female character.

Tom Littler deals well with some hard challenges in directing and staging a 2 hour musical in the tiny and intimate venue of the Jermyn Street Theatre, jumping on the recent bandwagon of Actor Musician productions he has found this formula as a justifiable way of staging the show, but unfortunately one feels that real compromises have been made in relation to the quality of the acting/singing ability because of this.

The New York skyline set by Will Reynolds gave this production a slightly cheap looking feel and at times proves more of a hinderence to the cast than a help, other personal grates were the constant slips of accents, if you are going to do an accent on stage then please don't go wondering to other countries or even your native tongue, if you are from New York stay in New York.

Primavera's production unfortunately just doesn't stand up to recent productions in other fringe venues, such as Racky Plews' recent production of 'Into The Woods' at Upstairs at the Gatehouse or Nunn's exquisite production of 'A Little Night Music' currently in a sell out run at the Menier Chocolate Factory which is a shame as one can't help but welcome Primavera's mission of bringing lesser known productions to the masses.

If you have nothing better to do on a Saturday night then why not pop along, you wont leave feeling you have been ripped off but likewise you wont leave thinking you had just seen the latest smash hit either.

Photos: Robert Workman
Saturday Night runs at the Jermyn Street Theatre until 14th March 2009
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