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Opening Night - The Review

1 Star
Opening NIght

A “good” musical has a number of key components; a compelling story, some form of decent music, original staging that immerses us further into the story and, finally, good acting. Opening Night, now playing at the Gielgud Theatre, has none of these.

                  To give this short summary of the story, I have had to look up the official plot, as only the barest of bare bones were conveyed to me in the performance. It tells the story of ageing actress Myrtle and her unfortunate psychiatric deterioration, irritating diva-esque behaviour, and bland love life. While in the previews of show within a show, The Second Woman, she meets a young fan who is unfortunately killed outside of the theatre. Having witnessed this accident, she further descends into the depths of grief, leading to almost psychotic breakdown. She acts opposite her ex-partner, falls in love with her director, and ignores her current partner, all while battling the writer of the play, her own demons, time and ultimately, the ghost of the dead fan.

                  While the bare bones of this story could have made an extremely compelling musical, none of the elements came together to adequately convey the plot to the audience. Sheridan Smith’s Myrtle was portrayed as a wholly unlikeable, histrionic and shallow, ageing actress. There was no depth to her character, made even more artificial by an appalling American accent. At no point in the show did I ever want Myrtle to succeed, nor know why she was battling varying demons, I just knew she was there. All other characters were eminently forgettable. The only light at the end of the darkness that is this show was Amy Lennox’s portrayal of betrayed wife Dorothy. This show packs an astonishing cast, with Hadley Fraser, Nicola Hughes, and Shira Haas. I couldn’t tell you anything about their characters and at no point did I care about them. Their acting was as good as it could be given such poor source material.

Opening NIght

                  Ivo Van Hove, is both book author and director of this show. He is a phenomenal director boasting stellar credits such as last season’s absolute smash A Little Life which should sweep the Olivier’s this year. His adaptation of John Cassavete’s film is absolutely shocking, there is so much assumed that is never told to the audience that ultimately nobody knows what is happening – including the actors, especially the omnipresent ensemble who looked utterly confused. This is certainly one Ivo should remove from his otherwise impressive CV.

                  Story and acting done, now begrudgingly onto the music. While not all musicals have strong music, some are pretty much plays with songs, Opening Night’s music made me want to grab a pair of earplugs. Over the past few years we have had some extremely popular musicals written by popstars, best examples are Sara Bareilles’ Waitress and Cyndi Lauper’s Kinky Boots. Rufus Wainwright’s original style is not made for a musical, the orchestration sounded like a school class of children playing their instruments in unison, with no discernible melody. No single song added to the plot, nor do I remember any standing out. Despite his Grammy nominations and previous Operas, Rufus should stick to what he knows… that certainly is not musicals.

Opening NIght

                  Finally, the staging… if you saw Jamie Lloyd’s revival of Sunset Boulevard, it had a number of onstage cameras and a large screen that gave the audience interesting and novel windows into the character’s life. Now imagine a high school attempt at copying it. The incessant onstage cameras and humungous screen that loomed over the stage, showing a pseudo-documentary of a show within a show, was entirely distracting and purposeless. The scene with Sheridan Smith starting outside in an alley and drunkenly flopping onto the stage was an empty and futile attempt at copying Sunset’s viral outdoor scene. The most embarrassing moment was when the camera pans to the audience in the second half, and you realise that the once full auditorium, is now more than half empty. The audience would rather waste their money than spend longer watching this car crash of a show. On my row, the 8 patrons to my left and 4 on my right left. Lighting was nigh on non-existent, with all actors and musicians on stage throughout the performance, with no follow spotlight on any actor so I couldn’t tell who was talking nor singing.

                  Call me a martyr, but I suffered through almost the longest two and a half hours of my theatre career watching this abysmal show so that you don’t have to. Normally I try and find some positives, as I understand the collaborative nature when creating a brand-new musical. With Opening Night, I just can’t find any. It should have been binned in the workshop or off west end phase. Hopefully it won’t last much longer past its own opening night. It’s wasting prime theatre space. I won’t bother putting up ticket information, so you don’t have to suffer.

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