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by Elyse Sommer

Joseph and his Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat. . . The Safari Party. . .  Arsenic and Old Lace. . .  My Brillian Divorce. . . 

The Safari Party. Opening Hampstead's brand new theatre for normal business is
Joseph and his Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat (London)
s social comedy The Safari Party directed by Firth's mentor Alan Ayckbourn. The play, not a groundbreaker start to the magnificent building, is based on one of those travelling dinner parties, each course of which is due to take place in a different house, in rural Cheshire. The first two acts satirise the nouveaux riches couple with all their ghastly aspiration and pretension - as they say up there - more brass than class, meaning more money than taste. There are two farm lads looking for ways to earn some money and an antique dealer with a great line in distressing old tables, turning them into fake antiques with a spurious piece of folklore about them. The first two acts are a slow build to the funnier darker and more satisfying third act which exposes the tension between country people and the incoming and gullible social climbers. The last act is quieter, more honest and introspective and ultimately more satisfying. Running time is two hours ten minutes. Booking at the Hampstead Theatre, Swiss Cottage, NW3 (Box Office: 020 7722 9301) to 19th April 2003

Joseph and his Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat. Bill Kenwright has brought his touring production of Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice's musical into the New London Theatre. This is essentially the same Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice's musical I saw five years ago on tour, where all the songs are costumed in the style of the song, but plusher and more lavish. The French Apache about the food shortages in Canaan is played in berets and striped jumpers with Parisian lamposts, the highly stylised 1920s Potiphar's wife scene looks like Harrods Egyptian Room. The Elvis Pharoah's support are American footballers with jackal heads and enthusiastic cheerleaders. There are delightful, inflating sheep and cacti and Joseph has at least three Technicolor coats. I lost count. Ex boy band Boyzone singer, the diminutive and impish Stephen Gately stars as Joseph. It is all gloriously tacky and there as many encores as the most ardent fan could wish for, a few too many for me. I guarantee you will not be able to get the tunes out of your head. Tim Rice's witty lyrics stand the test of time but for my money the best Joseph I ever saw was just 45 minutes long at a girl's convent school in Hackney in 1974. Directed by Bill Kenwright and running two and a half hours, Joseph is booking at the New London Theatre (Box Office: 0870 890 0141) to 28th February 2004

Arsenic and Old Lace. The main attraction in this revival of Joseph Kesselring's staple comedy of amateur theatre about two elderly ladies from Brooklyn who are mass murderers is the appearance of Michael Richards -- Kramer of Seinfeld fame now suitably scary as the wayward nephew cum gangster Jonathan Brewster. Richards' lanky and malevolent presence is a treat. Paul Rider as Dr Einstein, the plastic surgeon from hell, gives a passable imitation of Peter Lorre from 1944 film. The two aunts are played beautifully by Thelma Holt as Abby and Marcia Warren as Martha but Stephen Tomkinson seems vaguely out of his depth as the lead Mortimer Brewster. Sadly Tomkinson is no Cary Grant. The whole evening is time travel theatre back to 1941/2 when this play ran for 1444 performances on Broadway and 1337 in London. I don't think it will reach those dizzy heights in 2003. Directed by Matthew Francis and running wo and a half hours with two intervals, Arsenic is booking at the Strand Theatre (Box Office: 0870 060 2335) to 10th May 2003.

My Brilliant Divorce. Dawn French, popular British comedienne takes a wry look at a woman undergoing the trauma of divorce. My Brilliant Divorce written by Geraldine Aron, premiered last year at the Druid Theatre in Galway, Ireland with American actor Gienne Headly. The comic narrative monologue is charmingly interpreted by French. From the characterful Mrs Mop, source of information on the other woman, who thinks a girl may have that "Anorak Nervosa" to the resumption of (blind) dating and meeting a miniature man in the Marriott Hotel, there is plenty to laugh at in the 85 minute show. Aron good-naturedly and without acrimony finds much of the ridiculous in her saga from her being dumped for a younger model to reinventing herself as a single woman and French is the perfect person to relate it. Lighting effects break up the 95-minute monologue so that it never slows. I really enjoyed it as did the audience many of whom, stood to applaud. The show is designed by Francis O'Conner, with lights by John Buswell, music by Paddy Cuneen and sound by Paul Arditty.The show continues at the Apollo Theatre (Box Office: 0870 890 1101) to May 17th

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6, 500 Comparative Phrases including 800 Shakespearean Metaphors by CurtainUp's editor.
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