Saturday, 5 September 2015

A Farewell to 'Grand Hotel'

'Grand Hotel's run at Southwark Playhouse ends tonigh but I managed to squeeze in a final viewing last night and I'm very pleased I did. I hoped the Baron would finally win through and present his roses to Grushinskaya at the station - could he make it at last? Would last night be the night it happened?

They would kiss and board the train to Vienna in a first class carriage, Grushinskaya clutching the roses to her breast and the Baron watching her every movement as she settles for the journey. Raffaela would fuss around her mistress and be pleased for her, look on lovingly and silently swear vengeance if the Baron mistreats her.

Kringelein would still go to Paris and take Flaemmchen with him to celebrate new life for as long as he can, before daring to go to America as shadows lengthen over Europe. Preysing would leave the hotel in shame and live a life as a bankrupt, Erik would be promoted to manager and the Two Jimmys would become international jazz stars. O yes, everything would be different if the Baron made it to the station.

Sadly, he didn't make it and the rose petals fell.

The Baron's theme is 'dangerous games and a carefree existence' and that's the problem he faces, his innate nobility and confidence that there's a solution to everything - except a bullet. He brings joy to his ballerina lover, he gets Kringelein a room at the hotel, he protects Flaemmschen - he's a nice person who happens to steal for a living until he's faced with real love and friendship. He puts Gushinskay's necklace back and returns Otto's pocket book. And, of course, saves Fleammchen.

There are some lovely characters in this musical, mostly flawed, but that makes them even more attractive. And they were brought to life by a great cast and it was love;y to be able to see them grow into their roles in the short six weeks run of the musical.

The Baron (Baron Felix Von Gaigern) was gallantly played by Scott Garnham (who's shaved off his beard)
Elizaveta Grushinskaya was played by Christine Grimandi
Flaemmchen was coquettishly played by Victoria Serra
Otto Kringelein was played by George Rae
Raffaela the loyal was played by Valerie Cutko
Erik was played by Jonathan Stewart
The Doctor was played by David Delve
Preysing was played by Jacob Chapman
The Manager was played by James Gant
The Two Jimmys were energetically played by Jammy Kasongo and Durone Stokes
Other roles and dancing were Charles Hagerty, Rhiannon Howys, Paul Iveson, Ceili O'Connor, Samuel J Weir and Leah West

Thank you everyone for some great performances that made me smile and made my eyes moist.

There are, of course, others to thank who made this wonderful show possible:

Thom Southerland directed
Lee Proud choreographed
Michael Bradley directed and led the wonderful music
Lee Newby designed the set and costumes
Derek Anderson designed the excellent lighting

... and lots of others. I wonder which one of you came up with the idea of the rose petals at the end? Thank you, it was a memorable experience!

If the show was on for a longer run - or transferred to the West End - then I'd definitely go back and see it again. I saw the Donmar produection twice 10 years ago and more recently went back to see 'Hair' and 'The Harder They Come' multiple times. I'm like that. When I find something I like then I like to go back and experience it again, ususally seeing something new in it each time. Good shows do that, they take you to a deeper level. You find more joy.

Some memorable moments from last night was when Scott's voice cracked at the start of his long final note in 'Love Can't Happen' (and it's a looooong note to sustain) but he powered through it and kept it going and when he buried his head into Christine's neck at the end for the final embrace and  she subtley patted his head as if to say 'you done good, don't worry'. That says so much about her and about them. Victoria was also on top form as Flaemmchen and I really warmed to George as Kringelein, particularly in the final scenes with his joy at Flaemmchen's pregnancy and Erik's new born son. Very touching moments. I hated seeing Flaemmchen on the ground in the final scene looking forward to the Holocaust - I hadn't noticed that before. And then the chandeleir fell.

I hoped the Baron would make it last night and take his roses (for passion) to his beloved. But he didn't. And the rose petals fell.

I think I'll remember this production for a long time...

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