Bernstein - On The Town

Châtelet, Paris, Tuesday December 30 2008

Conductor: Samuel Jean. Production: Jude Kelly. Choreography: Stephen Mear. Sets & costumes: Robert Jones. Lighting: Mark Henderson. Ozzie: Tim Howar. Chip: Adam Garcia. Gabey: Joshua Dallas. Ivy Smith: Sarah Soetart. Hildy Esterhazy: Caroline O’Connor. Claire de Loone: Lucy Schaufer. Madame Maude P. Dilly: Sheila Reid. Juge Pitkin W. Bridgework: Jonathan Best. Diana Dream/Dolores Dolores: Alison Jiear. Chorus of the Châtelet. Orchestre Pasdeloup.

Our last show of the 2007-2008 season was a musical: Bernstein's On The Town, in the English National Opera's Jude Kelly production. I hope I've got the cast and conductor right above, as bizarrely I couldn't find any information of the kind on the theatre's web site, nor could a friend with access to their press releases.

As we've all agreed I'm not the best-placed person to review musicals, I'll be brief. Stephen Mear's skeletal sets of rust-red struts and girders, blue packing cases assembled as and when required and an openwork taxi cab were efficient but, I thought, verged on ugly. New York could have been more literally present (rather than just vaguely evoked), while the reminders of war (battle noises as the curtain went up, headlines announcing sinkings and deaths in hundreds on the news-stand, etc) could have been less, as they were obvious and as such pretty superfluous. But the neatly-tailored period costumes were excellent, as was the lighting.

We had a better, more experienced cast than usual for a musical in Paris. All of the principals were strong, Broadway-level performers, but the women nevertheless, on the whole, outshone the men, who, however good, verged on the interchangeable (with the exception, of course, of Jonathan Best, whose voice was the most operatice of the evening). Indeed, as the conducting was, at the start at least, rather cautious, it was only once the excellent Caroline O'Connor had driven her tubular taxi on stage that things really started to warm up, and from then on it was the girls who carried the show.

In short, the best musical I've seen in Paris. But perhaps, for irrational, imaginary reasons, I only really find them wholly "right" in New York...


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