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A CurtainUp London London Review
Grand Hotel

Flaemmchen: " Trude, I think I may be pregnant."
Trude: "Who isn't!"
Grand Hotel
Scott Garnham as the baron (Photo: Avid Ron)
Producer Danielle Tarento has the knack of fashioning great musicals out of the tiny space that is Southwark Playhouse. This is no surprise when we remember she was the joint founder of the Chocolate Factory and and involved in its first two years of operation when their production of Sunday in the Park With George made it all the way to Broadway. Her close-up production of Titanic at Southwark two years ago was also so admired that we hear that it too is headed for New York.

Grand Hotel couldn't be more of a contrast with its venue. Set in Berlin between the wars, this hotel is the domain of the very rich whereas Southwark figures in Booth's 1889 map of London as the home of the vicious semi-criminal classes or the very poor in chronic want. However such are current London property values that Southwark is on the rise and residents are discovering their local playhouse has an exciting programme.

Grand Hotel opens with the polarisation of the staff and the guests. The choreography is so elegant, rich and exciting as the guests stop and turn getting every ounce of attention. Two women sit at a small table and the women, chairs and table are all raised aloft for "Table with A View" and of course all eyes are on them.

We meet some of the guests; the aging Russian ballet dancer, Madame Grushinskaya (Christine Grimandi) and her devoted companion, the statuesque Raffaela (Valerie Cutko). There is the impoverished Baron Felix von Gaigern (Scott Garnham) who is being hounded by threatening debt collectors. Colonel-Doctor Otternschlag (David Delve) wears a leg brace and is a victim of the First World War now dispensing misery.

Poor and Jewish and dying from consumption, Otto Kriglein (George Rae) is at first turned away as, even as early as 1928, anti-semitism is prevalent. Fortunately the baron uses his influence and a room is found for the Jewish writer who wants to die in the luxurious surroundings and near the famous people of the Grand Hotel.

The pacey direction keeps the play lively and two black bell hops, the two Jimmies (Durone Stokes and Jammy Kasongo) thrilling dance with boaters. Flaemmchen (Victoria Serra) in a diverting red dress tells of her Hollywood ambition while waiting to carry out secretarial duties for a businessman Hermann Preysing (Jacob Chapman).

The stories are engrossing; the love story between the baron and the ballerina has us, and her, questioning his real motives. The Charleston dance is thrilling, and in a startling finale we see the anger of the staff, marching against the guests and we remember that this is Germany on the brink of fascist rule.

This production is near genius with great singing and choreography. The exception, the night I saw, was Valerie Cutko whose odd, quivering delivery conveyed more emotion than tune. Scott Garnham's baron and Christine Grimadi's Elizaveta are finely sung and acted and Victoria Serra's Flaemmchen is also outstanding. On press night, not even a London-wide tube strike could leave a seat empty.

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Grand Hotel
Book by Luther Davis
Music and Lyrics by Robert Wright and George Forrest
Additional Music and Lyrics by Maury Yeston
Directed by Thom Southerland

Starring : Valerie Cutkio, Scott Garnham, Christine Grimandi, Victoria Serra, George Rae
With: Jacob Chapman, David Delve, Charles Haggerty, Rhiannon Howys, Paul Iveson, Jammy Kasongo, Ceili O'Connor, Jonathan Stewart, Durone Stokes, Samuel J Weir, Leah West
Band: Will Payne, Harrison White, Alexander Bean, Alice Offley
Choreographer: Lee Proud
Musical Director: Michael Bradley
Set and Costume Designer: Lee Newby
Musical Supervisor and Adapted Orchestrations: Simon Lee
Lighting: Derek Anderson
Sound Designer: Andrew Johnson
Running time: Two hours without an interval
Box Office: 020 7407 0234
Booking to 5th September 2015
Reviewed by Lizzie Loveridge based on 4th August 2015 performance at the Southwark Playhouse, 77-85 Newington Causeway, London SE1 6BD (Tube: The Borough or Elephant and Castle)

Musical Numbers
  • The Grand Parade
  • Table with A View/At The Grand Hotel
  • Maybe My Baby
  • Fire and Ice
  • Twenty -Two Years/Villa On A Hill
  • Girl In The Mirror
  • Everybody's Doing It
  • The Crooked Path
  • Who Couldn't Dance With You
  • Music Is On
  • Love Can't Happen
  • What You Need
  • Bonjour Amour
  • The Grand Charleston
  • We'll Take A Glass Together
  • I Waltz Alone
  • Roses At The Station
  • How Can I Tell Her
  • Grand Ending
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