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Can Can! The New Offenbach Musical | Review

Kasey Claybourn (Colette), Emily Barnett-Salter (Yvette) and PK Taylor (La Goulue) by Scott Rylander.
Kasey Claybourn (Colette), Emily Barnett-Salter (Yvette) and PK Taylor (La Goulue) by Scott Rylander.

Transport yourself to Paris in the naughty 90s (the 1890s that is) and savour a rich blend of acting, music, singing and above all dancing. The multi-talented Phil Willmott Company bring together a who’s who of the Parisian fin de siècle and La Belle Époque (from the artist Toulouse Lautrec brilliantly portrayed by Jordan Nesbitt, to Jacques Offenbach (Sam Woods), the comedienne La Goulue (PK Taylor), and Pujol the Fartiste, Mark Garfield has a wonderful comic catchphrase “Blow Wind and crack your cheeks” and routine to match). Using as a framing device an adaptation of Sir Arthur Wing Pinero’s romantic comedy “Trelawny of the Wells” (1898) in which a London theatre troupe battles against the tyrannical patriarchy of an Aristocratic family. In this version the Paris based Orpheus Theatre Troupe a bohemian avant-garde set are pitted against the famous Bontoux banking family famously parodied in Emile Zola’s novel Money (1891). In a thrilling and hugely enjoyable show, I got a real sense of the excitement, experimentation and eroticism of Paris in the naughty 90s. The commitment, energy and zest to entertain evident from everyone involved in Can-Can make this show a real joy. Highly recommended.

In under two hours, the show features no less than 19 different musical numbers. The quality of the chosen composers is tip top. To name a few – Johann Strauss 11, Franz Lehar, Charles K. Harris, Sigmund Romberg, Harry von Tilzer, Victor Herbert, Lionel Monckton, Rudolf Friml, Jerome Kern and of course Jacques Offenbach. Each song has been freely adapted with lyrics by Phil Willmott. They are all well-constructed, witty and poignant and crucially each number moves the plot along to the next dramatic dilemma.

The show is well-balanced between individual, paired and group numbers. So far example A Bird in a Gilded Cage is an exquisite solo piece beautifully delivered by Colette (Kasey Claybourn), Margot and Jacques’ Tango is an outstanding dance routine in which Grace Manley is superb. Kathy Peacock and Damjan Mrackovich as the lead romantic couple around which Can-Can pivots, Jane Avril and Christain Bontoux, are excellent throughout. They are both a triple threat, that is to say, they can seemingly effortlessly act, sing and dance. The ballet they perform in the penultimate number Operetta Land is a real treat. The finale is, of course, the famous Can-Can. Written by Offenbach as an overture to his Operetta Orpheus in the Underworld (or as The Can-Can girls put it Orpheus in his Underwear) its high kicking skirt-lifting chorus girls have become justly famous as a landmark in show business. This production has all the excitement and energy one expects from the leggy high-kicking girls. As if that were not enough we get to enjoy the male dancers, star jump and kick Cossack style. It’s a powerful high energy end to a wonderful evening.

4 stars

Review by John O’Brien

A fun and frivolous new musical featuring the larger than life performers of the Moulin Rouge who scandalised Paris in the 1890s. The newly arranged score features a treasure trove of gorgeous operetta melodies by Offenbach, Lehár and others culminating in the famous Can-Can itself.

Setting: France, 1890s

CAST AND CREATIVES
CAST: Kathy Peacock, Sam Woods, Richard Harfst, PK Taylor, Mark Garfield, James Alexander-Chew, Emily Barnett-Salter, Kasey Claybourn, Sarah Kacey, Grace Manley, Corinna Marlowe, Lauren Wood, Callum Mills, Jordan Nesbitt, Phil Willmott, Damjan Mrackovich, Connor Philipson.

CREATIVES
Director – Phil Setren
Based on a staging by Phil Willmott
Choreographer – Adam Haigh
Musical Arrangements and Sound Design – Richard Baker
Musical Director – Rosa Lennox
Assistant Director – Tolley Angell
Casting Director – Adam Braham
Set Design – Justin Williams & Jonny Rust
Lighting Design – Matthew Swithinbank
Costume Design – Penn O’Gara
Stage Manager – Toby Burbidge
Assistant Stage Manager – Kate Francis

CAN-CAN!
THE NEW OFFENBACH MUSICAL
LOOSELY BASED ON A PLOT BY Sir Arthur Wing Pinero
FREELY ADAPTED, WITH LYRICS BY Phil Willmott
MUSIC BY Jacques Offenbach and his contemporaries
DATES: 6th February – 9th March 2019
http://www.uniontheatre.biz/

Author

  • John OBrien

    JOHN O’BRIEN born in London in 1960 is a born and bred Londoner. His mother was an illiterate Irish traveller. His early years were spent in Ladbroke Grove. He was born at number 40 Lancaster Road. In 1967 the family was rehoused in Hackney. He attended Brooke House School for Boys in Clapton, - as did Lord Sugar. He became head boy and was the first person in his family to make it to university, gaining a place at Goldsmiths College in 1978. He took a degree in Sociology and a PGCE . From 1982 until 1993 he taught at schools in Hackney and Richmond. In 1984-85 he attended Bristol University where he gained a Diploma in Social Administration. From 1985 until 1989 he studied part-time in the evenings for a degree in English Literature at Birkbeck College. He stayed on at Birkbeck from 1990-1992 to study for an MA in Modern English Literature. He left teaching in 1993 and has worked as a tutor, researcher, writer and tour guide. He leads bespoke guided tours on London’s history, art , architecture and culture. He has attended numerous courses at Oxford University - Exeter College, Rewley House & Kellogg College. In London, he attends courses at Gresham College, The National Gallery, The British Museum, The Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art, The British Academy and The Royal Society. Read the latest London theatre reviews by all reviewers.

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