Wednesday, 18 February 2015

'The Grand Tour' Finborough Theatre ***

It's always satisfying when the Fringe circuit supports the staging of small-scale musicals; specifically when the musical is receiving its European premiere. The Finborough Theatre's production of Jerry Herman, Michael Stewart and Mark Bramble’s 1979 musical, ‘The Grand Tour’ was one that enables you to see how a musical about the Nazi revolution can inform an audience, in addition to this, the performances were agreeable, over the duration of the show.

‘The Grand Tour’ is set in France 1940 during the rise of the Nazi regime, where worried Polish citizen Jacobowsky is fleeing for his life, but when he is introduced to the pretentious Colonel Stjerbinsky, he recognises that he too is escaping from the Nazi’s, due to the fact that he will be forced into transferring his services to the Nazi party, which she does not want to do. At the beginning, the connection between them is quite uptight as they come from opposite class systems, and when Jacobowsy is acquainted with the Colonel's fiancĂ©e, Marianne (Zoe Doano) is besotted by her appearance. Nonetheless, on their journey hiding from SS Captain (Blair Robertson) we see the blossoming friendship of the three of them, as they go on a quest to escape the dictatorial powers of the Nazi's. To remain undetected from the captain, they cordially ask a travelling circus act, led by Madame Manzini (Lauren Dougal) to imitate specific circus acts such as a ‘Barnum’ inspired high-wire performance, she politely agrees. The captain is soon hot on the heels, and cruelly assassinates those who conspire against the Nazi party system.  Unfortunately, when Jacobowsky realises that his new friend's papers are in his possession, he strives to return them, he then becomes involved in a Jewish wedding ceremony, which needs to be undertaken as the Nazi forces are advancing enormously. When he is reunited with Stjerbinsky and Marianne, there seems to be a clearly established bond which conveys the progression of friendships on different class systems. Stewart and Brambles narrative is of suitable standard, in terms of how we observe how freedom of expression should be respected, but some of Herman’s music and lyrics; such as musical numbers, “Do It For Poland”, “You I Like” and “I’ll be There Tomorrow” did not exactly make one remember them easily.

One found the performances by the company of ‘The Grand Tour’ were immensely pleasing to watch, and sung superbly too. Alistair Brookshaw as delightful as the central protagonist, Jacobowsky; particularly when he sacrifices his decision to travel to United Kingdom, so that is newly found friends can quickly get on board a boat without arousing suspicion from border controls. Nic Kyle is gracious as Colonel Stjerbinsky; mainly when he becomes jealous by Marianne's affections towards Jacobowsky, and makes it clear that he is displeased by this, and commands that they must stop doing so as it's upsetting him.

Tom Sutherland's direction along with Cressida Carr’s choreography is appealing here as they have worked with the Finborough’s space to magnify the trials and tribulations of living in a Nazi dominated Europe, and how people have to discharge themselves from their home nations to countries of slight neutrality to wondrous effect. Phil Lindley’s set design and Sophia Simensky’s costume designs are conventional as a limitations of Fringe budgets for the scenic art and construction lacked finesse slightly, and it was somewhat discombobulating as to where one was Overall, one found the experience of ‘The Grand Tour’ to be an enjoyable one, despite the lack of memorable tunesm and disappointing design. Would recommend it if that's what you're looking for.

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