With a flourish, a whirl and the ring of the reception bell, the Grand Hotel has duly opened for business at the Southwark Playhouse, taking a well earned place in the Tarento / Southerland stock pile. Checking in has never been so jubilant and what a triumphant stay it is.
Could this be the ultimate version and timely classic so many have been waiting for?
Based on the 1929 Vicki Baum novel, Grand Hotel, by Davis, Forrest, Wright and Yeston, gives an insight into a colourful collection of cohorts intertwining over daily events at the infamous abode. Having had a succession of musical successes in theatrical history, from its record breaking original Broadway run to it’s Olivier award winning revival at the Donmar, could this be the ultimate version and timely classic so many have been waiting for?
Director Thom Southerland’s most capable talents have crafted this gripping chamber piece, stepping off where Tommy Tune’s original left us, with delightful finesse, yet managing to add an intriguing level of murkiness, which incredibly, sits quiet comfortably to the undercurrent of the resplendent façade of the Grand Hotel, Berlin. Married together with the forever-exuberant choreography of Lee Proud, compelling orchestrations from Simon Lee, tentative musical direction by Michael Bradley and simplistic designs of Lee Newby a sheer elegance protrudes every inch of this traverse style performance, seamlessly weaving and skilfully overlapping the bustling, overcrowded action of such an establishment, resting perfectly as we delve into the lives of each provocative resident or crumpled employee.
The 17-strong cast breathe joyous life into the wonderful array of characters that grace the hectic lobby and numerous locations of the glistening grand. Truly an ensemble piece with every flick, belt and twirl of precision adding to the action that so swiftly carries us along. I was very taken by Christine Grimandi as faded ballerina Grushinskaya, beautifully swaying from fallen star to longing love child with brilliant burst’s of demanding diva, including a perfect hint of Norma Desmond stature that would make any Sunset fanatic squeal with gay abandon. As the driven Flaemmchen, Victoria Serra gives the typical wannabe starlet, who falls foul to life’s cruel eventualities, a moving presence, successfully articulating the emotion of a role that could so easily be clichéd. The showstopper came in the form of Scott Garnham as Baron Felix von Gaigern. Garnham's voice, as well as his dashingly handsome looks, are pure delight, his talents border on ridiculousness as he effortlessly swaggers through frivolity, deception, desperation and great passion that all encompass the Baron’s enigmatic character. Leaving us heady after the soulful and soaring Love Can’t Happen and Roses At The Station.
Once again the magnetic force of Tarento and Southerland have delivered another feast for the musical hounds that crave such a thrilling banquet of tasty delights. Combining the musical beauties of Yeston seems to be a continuously winning formula and after the recent international success of Titanic there begs the question, what’s next?... Nine? (*winks)