Friday, 8 November 2019

REVIEW: Reputation at the Other Palace


Alick Glass and his daughter Suzanne have written and composed this new musical , Reputation about plagiarism in Hollywood and set it on the long road from the page through workshops to its first public performance at The Other Palace and it feels harsh in their presence to judge what still looks like work in progress on a good idea.

In the small studio space and with a cast of ten they presented a concert version of the piece with a handful of props and some pretty costumes. It was hard to get a sense of the period - 1935 to 1937- aside from the references to the then movie stars and an Atlantic crossing of six days, it could have been set in any period. It is a simple story of a small-time crook who rips off New writer's scripts as his own for a Hollywood and stumbles across one that can get nominated for an Oscar. Written by a young American in Paris, The Page is her passion and she set out to prove her case. In the course of two hours there is very little character development, an absence of sub plots and a critical character, her father, never actually appears on stage. There is no jeopardy in the plot and the outcome is always obvious from the start. The obvious feminist and #MeToo implications are underplayed.

Of course, at this stage it's as much about the music they have composed, here played by the Musical Director Warren Hills and double bassist Jordan Brown. They warm up the audience before each act with some delightful jazz piano and none of the new tunes quite match up to this. There are hints of familiar tunes which catch the ear and occasionally they set your toe tapping but generally the score is pleasant and light without being memorable. Did I recognise familiar refrains from other shows such as?

“On a liner” hinted at the 1966 song “Bring me sunshine”

“Paranoia” hinted at “You have got it coming” from Chicago

“Don’t mess with Freddy” had look of the Rat Pack.

“He has grown on me” reminded me of chorus of “No business-like Show business”

And 

“Just look at the facts” had the feel of Rex Harrison in My Fair Lady as sung by Cory Peterson as the Judge.

Are these hinted references parodies, tributes or plagiarism or simply imagined?

The villain, Freddy Larceny lifts the show when he is centre stage and the experience and stage presence of Jeremy Secomb shines through. He sells his songs extremely well but also narrates the story and you wish he was used more. Why for example do we not see the scene when Freddy first meets Michele in a New York Hotel?

Another show highlight was the opening number of Act 2 in “Laydeez” with the appearance of show choreographer Tamsyn Salter as the deportment teacher which injects some much-needed comedy into the scenes. She may be a bit Miss Hannigan from Annie, but her character could have been developed more in the dormitory, classroom and college scenes. 

Maddy Banks is the naive author of The Page, Michelle Grant and Lauren Ingram her best friend Mary and they are supported by fellow students Charlie Dennis, Ashleigh Cavanagh and Eleanor Tollan. Priscille Grace plays French actress/singer Jacqueline. The love interest is Archie played by Ed Wade. They move and sing well together on the small stage.

Cases of plagiarism are judged on the facts we are told although this case which progresses from draft script in 1935 to Oscar winner in 1937 seems to progress very quickly. No doubt it will take much longer to develop Reputation from page to the Olivier’s, but they showed enough to encourage them to keep trying to move it forward.

Review by Nick Wayne 

Rating: ★★★

Seat: Stalls, Row A | Price of Ticket: £18.50
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