Saturday, 4 January 2014

'Stephen Ward' Aldwych Theatre ***

The master of London's West End musical theatre, Lord Andrew Lloyd Webber has made a welcome to return with his latest offering 'Stephen Ward'. For me it's a show that leaves me quite confused as to whether I really like it or whether I found it a really boring production. The musical takes its back story from the controversial 1963 scandal of Stephen Ward and the Profumo Affair which for me, is a slightly strange subject matter for a musical. The narrative begins at The Chamber of Horrors in Blackpool where Stephen Ward is one of the mannequins and is amongst such villainous figures such as Adolf Hitler and many more. From this we are taken on a journey of how the idea of this man was earning money from prostitution which caused a nationwide controversy.  The plotline is clearly thought of with care and attention but what disappoints me about the adaption is the dull and dreary nature that the musical numbers present and whilst observing the reactions from the audience it seems that they didn't appreciate them much either. The score just lacks the spectacle you'd expect from a musical from the legendary Lord Andrew Lloyd Webber especially his hit musicals 'Joseph and his Amazinf Technicolour Dreamcoat', 'The Phantom of the Opera', 'Cats' and 'Starlight Express' and you know the rest. The performances by the company however will have a good standard of finish. Alexander Hanson's portayal of the central protagonist Stephen Ward was wonderful as it captures the actual person with such tenacity and shows the man's fight for justice in a situation that caused a huge uproar in the early 1960's. Charlotte Spencer's Christine Keeler is acceptable as she performs one of Stephen's conquests quite well and fresh from the Royal Central School of Speech and Drama Charlotte Blackledge's Mandy Rice-Davies is brilliant. So well done to her for her West End debut. I found Richard Eyre's direction for 'Stephen Ward' to be vastly satisfactory and this upsets me slightly from a man who was in charge of the National Theatre from 1988-1997. This shows choreography by Stephen Mear was far too poor and is not up to the standard you would like to see from a West End performance. On the other hand, Rob Howell's design for both the set and costumes well wonderfully and unbelievably thought of with the highest calibre and this annoys me when the score, direction and choreography is of a meagre standard. This production is definitely not for a variety of audiences so be aware when booking tickets for this.

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