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A CurtainUp London London Review
The Glorious Ones

by Sebastian King

If you’re good in bed, you’re good on stage – it’s that simple. — Columbina
The Glorious Ones
Cast in The Glorious Ones
(Photo: Mitzi de Margary)
Earlier this year, the Landor Theatre’s 2011 production of Ragtime picked up three Off West End ‘Offies’ Awards and a Best Musical Revival nomination. Now its director Robert McWhir hopes to work the same magic with his revival of The Glorious Ones, -a lesser known musical by Ragtime’s creators Stephen Flaherty and Lynn Ahrens.

Set in 16th Century Italy, The Glorious Ones tells the story of a commedia dell’arte troupe of ‘cranky maladjusted misfits.’ Led by the swaggering Flaminio Scala (Mike Christie), they travel around Italy – and eventually France – educating us in the ways of commedia, giving us lessons in lazzi (gags), performing their famous improvisations, and each playing their own stock character. As the action unfolds, the lines between actor and character blur, rivalries come to a head, romances become complicated, and when the writer Isabella Andreini (Anouska Eaton) joins the troupe, events take a turn for the tragic.

Although the size of the Landor’s stage makes staging options somewhat limited, McWhir and choreographer Robbie O’Reilly do a sterling job of bringing this pleasant little piece to life. Martin Thomas’s set is a fold out wooden platform, and Howard Hudson’s lighting takes full advantage of a gauze and a variety of hanging lanterns. An all-female band, led by MD Joanna Cichonska, play beautifully, and although the lack of amplified singers means that some words are occasionally lost, on the whole the sound balance is perfect, and gives an appropriate intimacy to a show that celebrates the connection between performer and audience.

As Flaminio Scala, Mike Christie – formerly of X Factor group G4 – has the requisite soaring voice, but lacks the acting chops essential to pull off this eccentric character role. Thankfully, the rest of the cast have charisma by the bucketful, delivering their roles with panache and charm. Peter Straker, recently seen in the Hackney Empire’s Cinderella, brings a Jamaican twist to the miser Pantalone, but is sadly underused and his character undeveloped. As Dottore, David Muscat (who stepped into the role only two days before opening) is hugely enjoyable, clearly relishing the innuendo his role requires. However, the star of the show is Katie Brennan as Columbina, whose comic vivacity in Act One is matched by emotional oomph in Act Two, with her haunting torch song ‘My Body Wasn’t Why.’

As something of a commedia aficionado myself, I questioned why Columbina was one of the inamoratas (female lovers) in Act One, rather than the usual maid, but I was relieved to have this question answered in Act Two, in an interesting twist to the plot. Also explored was the decline of commedia dell’arte, as scripted plays became more popular. However, the lasting message was that of the legacy of commedia, and we are reminded of the influence it has had on comedy to this day. The show may not break any boundaries — and certainly doesn’t have as many memorable tunes as Ragtime —- but it is a fitting tribute to this long-lost art form, and this production sees the Landor team once again rising to the occasion, producing yet another stylish and stylised musical revival.

For Simon Saltzman’s review in New York, more thoughts and the complete song list go here.

The Glorious Ones
Music by Stephen Flaherty
Book and lyrics by Lynn Ahrens
Directed by Robert McWhir

Starring: Mike Christie, Kate Brennan, Christopher Berry
With: Peter Straker, Jodie Beth Meyer, David Muscat, Peter Gerald, Anouska Eaton
Designed by Martin Thomas
Lighting: Howard Hudson
Musical Director: Joanna Cichonska
Sound Designer: Robert Donnelly-Jackson
Choreography: Robbie O’Reilly
Running time: Two hours including interval
Box Office:  020 7737 7276
Booking to 7th April 2012
Reviewed by Sebastian King based on 12th March performance at The Landor Theatre, 70 Landor Road, London, SW9 9PH (Tube: Clapham North)
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Musical Numbers
Act One
    Ballad of The Glorious Ones – Company
  • The Call - Floyd
  • It Moves - Floyd
  • Time to Go - Floyd
  • Lucky – Nellie and Miss Jane
  • Where a Man Belongs – Family and locals
  • Daybreak – Homer and Floyd
  • Ballad of The Glorious Ones (reprise) - Jewell
  • I Landed on Him – Skeets Miller
  • And She'd Have Blue Eyes - Floyd
  • Heart An' Hand - Miss Jane and Lee
  • Riddle Song – Homer and Floyd
Act Two
  • Is That Remarkable? – Reporters and company
  • Carnival – Floyd and company
  • Through the Mountain - Nellie
  • Git Comfortable - Homer
  • Ballad of The Glorious Ones (reprise) - Jewell
  • The Dream - Floyd, Nellie, Homer and company
  • How Glory Goes - Floyd
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©Copyright 2012, Elyse Sommer.
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