Posts Tagged ‘musical’

Bel-Ami White Bear 17 July

July 17, 2011


I had a friend once who advised me not to earn my living as a gigolo in Paris.  I took his advice.  He, on the other hand, got a job in corporate finance and married a Frenchwoman. ..He would have fitted in well in this musical adaptation of the novel by Guy de Maupassant.

The story of Bel-Ami is of an ambitious young lad from the provinces who rises to the top in the murky world of journalism through being of service to women.   I thought it worked well as a musical, and the music (by Joe Evans, who also played the keyboards) was a lot better than I expected; I also liked the way the other instrumental parts were played by members of the cast.

The cast were uniformly strong, though they hadn’t yet necessarily all quite mastered their lines.  Gary Tushaw had true naughty boy charm as Bel-Ami, while for me the best performance came from Penelope Dudley as the conflicted older woman Madame Walther who betrays her husband’s secrets to Bel-Ami and ends up pimping her daughter to him in an attempt to keep him.

The production was both imaginative and lucid, though given the constraints of the form the love intrigues came through more clearly than the political ones.  There was a nice elegant set that easily suggested a bar, the interior of rich people’s homes, and several other locales as well.

I’m not sure that the production quite decided on its approach to the story–a gay acceptance of “Fortune’s a whore, and so are we” would have been the natural thing in a musical, but there were traces of moralising.  The singing was of variable quality–in particular, there was a song that came round twice about SOMETHING being a bitch that poisoned the moonlight, but WHAT it was I still don’t know.  If you don’t trust yourself to say ‘Sharl’ in place of ‘Charles’, then say ‘Charles’–‘Sharlz’ is the worst of both worlds.

Englishwomen (even regrettably Englishwomen who work as actresses) tend to have an ineradicable well-scrubbed wholesome quality that only becomes more pronounced the more kit they take off, so having the female characters adopting basques and luscious kimono-style dressing-gowns as their indoor wear didn’t really do it for me in suggesting how corrupt and sinful they were.

But enough of these reservations!  This is a highly enjoyable show, and well worth seeing.

Update 25 July  Two commentators below who have been more recently say the show is rotten and well worth avoiding.