Wednesday, 30 May 2018

REVIEW: The Rink at the Southwark Playhouse

The Rink is one of the most famous flops on Broadway, with box office draws Liza Minnelli and Chita Rivera you’d think it would run for years but the critics hit hard and it closed after only 204 performances. It didn’t last very long in London either, running only a month. It seems this show doesn’t have much success in large theatres. It isn’t a very commercial show, so I can completely see why but after seeing this revival at the Southwark Playhouse I can tell you with confidence that this piece is musical theatre at its finest. 

Anna is stuck with the left overs of what was once was a thriving Roller Skating Rink, her daughter and husband have left her and she decides to sell the building and move to Florida. On the day she is getting out her daughter comes back, and the audience are taken on a journey to look back at their past to see how we ended up where we are at the beginning. 

Terrence McNally (Book), John Kander (Music) and Fred Edd (Lyrics) have created an intelligent musical and the story telling devises used are filmic but transfer to the stage wonderfully. With Adam Lensons direction we’ve got an intelligent and heart-warming piece that is story telling at its best. 

Fabian Aloise has choregraphed this production and receives the biggest applause of the night after the skating number. All much deserved as this is a flawlessly put together production that has clearly been a labour of love from all. 

Caroline O’Connor is THE first lady of musical theatre. After having previously understudied the role of Angel in the original London production she returns to the show as Anna and gives the performance of a life time. This role could have easily been written for O’Connor and she plays it with a blunt humour but at her core she’s trying to fill an empty void that we learn is deeper than we first expected. 

Angel is played by Gemma Sutton who is also proving to the world that she is a true leading lady, she plays it with such ease and is so watchable on stage. Her voice comes from nowhere and had me in amazement the entire way through the show. She holds her own against O’Connor’s strong headed Anna but the most important thing about these ladies is their chemistry. Its electric and this story thrives on it. 

They’re backed up by a strong ensemble who double up as Nuns, thugs, high school studs and sunbathing grannies. An incredibly talented group of performers and I’ve not heard applause like it in a venue like this (especially on press night) after their big number.

A mention must be given to Stewart Clarke who gives a fantastic performance
as Dino, adding the grit to the story in a truthful and non-cliché way. Award worthy acting, for sure. 

Everything about this production is what I want in a musical; Interesting stories, intelligent scores, thoughtful direction, exciting choreography, impeccable performances and most importantly, heart. This production has so much of it and if you miss this show, you’re making a big mistake. This is the hottest ticket not only in London, but in the country. If you miss this, you’re missing one of the best shows of 2018. 

Review by Mark Swale

Rating: ★★★★★

Seat: D10 | Price of Ticket: £25
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