The Theatreguide.London Review
Landor Theatre Spring 2012
Following their beautiful production of Lynn Ahrens' and Stephen Flaherty's Ragtime last year, this ambitious above-a-pub theatre has been exploring the rest of the Ahrens-Flaherty catalogue, first with Lucky Stiff a month ago and now with this 2007 musical.
Like Lucky Stiff, The Glorious Ones is very much an Off-Broadway or fringe product, small in scale, modest in scope and, frankly, B-level work.
Of course the B-level work of talented creators can be more interesting than other people's best efforts, but in this case I'm afraid that the major attraction is the chance to hear fleeting echoes of Ragtime, particularly in Flaherty's music.
Set in 17th-century Italy, the musical follows a commedia dell'arte troupe, the paper-thin plot built on the ways their offstage personalities reflect their stylised onstage roles and on younger members of the company pushing them from their traditional improvise-around-stock-situations mode toward scripted plays.
Along the way we get some entertaining bits of commedia-style farce and some backstage romance, all with a slightly self-satirising preciousness that suggests 1950s-era small-is-beautiful fringe musicals like The Fantasticks.
The two dozen songs, some of them barely a verse or chorus long, range in sound from the inevitable (to any American theatre composer of the past fifty years) influence of Sondheim to fleeting echoes – a couple of bars here, a chord there – of Ragtime. 'The Comedy of Love' is probably the best, though 'I Was Here' has some dramatic power.
The whole thing is so fragile and so twee that it would take a director with a surer hand with whimsy than Robert McWhir and a cast with more individual magnetism to keep it from disappearing before our eyes.
Only Kate Brennan as the inevitable earthy-whore-turned-actress brings any real life to her character, and she is also the only one who can consistently project enough for her singing always to be heard over the not-very-loud musicians in a playing space not much larger than your living room.
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Review - The Glorious Ones - Landor Theatre 2012