Review – Gone With The Wind – The Musical! (Act 2) at the New London Theatre

Thursday 10 April 2008

Now, do you promise that you’ve ploughed your way through our account of Act 1? Then you may proceed.

Now we have to be honest. We didn’t actually make it back for the second act. The Whingers were part of the four-fifths our party who decided that – with more wisdom than the Confederated states showed – an early surrender would achieve the same outcome but with fewer casualties.

The Whingers and co were by no means alone. Indeed, there was a real blitz spirit among those survivors who stumbled out of the wreckage during the interval – grateful to be alive, although somewhat dazed by the experience. Yet they joked and bonded with complete strangers as they fought their way down to street level and into the evening air.

About a hundred people failed to return after the interval. How do we know?

Well, the Whingers left strict instructions to PaulInLondon (who, you will recall, owed Phil big time after being late yet again) to twitter the second act from his seat so that the Whingers could keep abreast of developments from the comfort of the Cross Keys pub round the corner where a copious quantity of reviving Merlot was consumed.

Twittering – in case you didn’t know – is the process of publishing short messages from your mobile phone (don’t worry – there was no-one else left in Paul’s vicinity to disturb) to anyone who is tracking your “tweets”).

This is, of course, possibly a landmark in theatre criticism – could it be the first time ever that a major West End show has been reviewed through the ultra-hip medium of micro-blogging? If you don’t understand any of that, don’t t worry – neither does Phil.

Anyway, here is a summary of Paul’s live Twittering (recorded the morning after). The most recent entries are at the top.

Paul\'s twitter account of Act 2 of Gone With The Wind

No doubt more details will emerge over time and pieces will be stitched together into a beautiful tapestry of indeterminate appeal. The Whingers are, for instance, already indebted to Mark Shenton for lifting the hooped skirts of Gone With The Wind – The Musical! to reveal this rather fascinating undergarment:

Yesterday […] I reported on the absence of a child actor, who was heard on tape only; but a source close to the production has told me that this was a practical issue on Saturday, since the child actors who are employed to be in the show have to leave the premises by 11pm under child labour laws, so since the show was over-running they had to resort to a voice-over for the child instead. (So there’s an incentive to cut it back from its current 4 hours plus running time, if nothing else).

Do keep us posted. Twitter if you can.

72 Responses to “Review – Gone With The Wind – The Musical! (Act 2) at the New London Theatre”

  1. J.A. Says:

    You missed a whole lot of nothing in the second act. The bits of scenery that had flopped down had been put back in place and covered with an old dust sheet. Mammy and co had a half decent song that the idiot Martin (of book, music and lyrics) tried to get us to clap-a-long to. Sir Trev found his seat rather uncomfortable so got up to stretch his legs. And Darius got a round on exit for his “Frankly my dear…”. Shambolic curtain call, very lukewarm applause.

    Was Sir Trev having a laugh when he got them to march on the spot in a triangle waving a flag. Surely he’s done that before somewhere.

    Oh and why food real but the drink pretend?

  2. J.A. Says:

    We were waiting for the Peter Pan El Musical sur title machine to arrive to help translate the Darius drone. Sadly they couldn’t get it up the escalator.

  3. Esther Says:

    Great review Whingers! I was very skeptical when this project was announced. I just wondered how you’d do it without making the black characters stereotypes. Personally, I’ve always felt that “Gone with the Wind ” should stay gone. Do we really need a musical about slavery from the perspective of the poor, suffering slaveowners?


  4. Some comments from across both parts…

    The big question of why Trevor Nunn took this on has to be money.

    Re: the songs, they weren’t cut down to the point of failing to come to fruition, as they were equally devoid of value at first preview. I’m also trying to figure out where Margaret Martin’s deep association with Scarlett’s status as a single mother comes from, unless Ms. Martin* was equally negligent and distanced from her own children.

    Napier is wasted on this show – there’s not enough happening to do anything interesting set wise because it’s always “at this home” or “in the saloon” and there’s nowhere for him to really flex the show’s bank account except for putting posters on the stall walls.

    As it is, I had what can only be a revelation today. Nunn and Napier think they’re doing the Americana version of Les Miz – hence the dull revolve, tepid lighting, and huddled masses bitching. My suspicion is that Martin is thinking she’s doing the new Ragtime – another show with narration, politics, and a visible colour divide. The difference, of course, is that Ragtime has a beautiful score that was fine tuned, explosive characters (proper Southerners bottle everything up), and Ahrens, Flaherty, and McNally knew to call it quits when pushing 3 hours.

    Meanwhile, a certain listing is warning patrons for Saturday’s matinee that the show will still be pushing 3:45, causing one to wonder what the hell they’re fixing at this point, and if matinee visitors will be the only ones to ever see the children onstage in more than one scene.

    *Technically she’s Dr. Martin, unrelated to those who make fine boots, though this Dr. Martin could certainly use a boot to the head.


  5. Bleh, it would help if I could spell and clarify.

    The question of why Nunn took it on has an answer: money

    And apparently the boots are Dr. Martens. Meh, same opinion holds.

  6. Blah Says:

    Thank you West End Whingers – Never in the field of human theatre going was so much owed by so many to so few.


  7. And I wasn’t that late was I? I always like to think I arrive at the theatre in the nick of time!


  8. Esther – “Do we really need a musical about slavery from the perspective of the poor, suffering slaveowners?”: There was talk for a while about Ron Hutchinson’s “Moonlight And Magnolias” (seen first in London at the Tricycle last autumn) moving to the West End; I fear its moment may have passed, but I hope not. It would be lovely to have a play about David O Selznick, Victor Fleming and Ben Hecht spending a frenzied, claustrophobic five-day marathon trying to hammer out a shooting script for Gone With The Wind running just a few streets from GWTW the musical. Anyway, Hutchinson uses comedy astutely to Trojan-horse in a lot of genuine thoughtfulness, such as a serious consideration of the race question. Hecht is incredulous that they are making a movie in which the pro-slavery camp is sympathetic, the Ku Klux Klan – “THAT Klan?” he asks, gaping – heroic, and the heroine herself strikes a black girl.


  9. @ all – thanks for your comments and kind messages of support

    @ Paul – yes you were

    @ Ian – that is a totally delicious idea. While enduring the mere 90 minutes of GWTWTM! there were moments when I *was* actually smiling – at the memory of M&M and how intelligent and funny and well-judged it was.

  10. webcowgirl Says:

    Wow, I’m so tempted to go just to experience the horror.

    Sadly, life is short, and I’m sure I’ll manage to find horror by accident all on my own – no need to stock up! But I’m sure my “Carrie: the Musical” still awaits … perhaps Marguerite will do?


  11. Webcowgirl: The difference is that shows such as “Carrie”, “In My Life”, and such are entertainingly bad. GWTW is just dull.

  12. Terry Wilson Says:

    I went along with my sister last night. Firstly I have to say if you are going to put on a show nearly 4 hours long then at least start it at 7pm so the audience has a cat in hell’s chance of catching their last tran home and not sleeping under a cardboard box with the local homeless. I enjoyed the production well enough but thought marketing it as a musical is completely pointless and to be frank a bit misleading. Absolutely no memorable songs in it. They could’ve dropped the music altogether to shorten it by a good half hour and made it a straighforward play. I must say I thought the two leads were pretty good and was almost convinced I was actually watching Vivien Leigh and Clark Gable. (Just my humble opinion as a paying punter of course- no hate mail please!). I hate it when shows close early and actors are put out of work but I am sad to say that I doubt this will remain in the West End for very long. Equally I do like to get what I paid for and on this ocassion, because of the music or lack of decent songs, although I honestly cannot say it’s totally pants as is the opinion of some others.

  13. Maria Lewis Says:

    I read all the above. How sad, I adored the original book,The movie memories kept me awake nights(I was 8 at the first viewing). Miracles are rarely performed so close to a Musical’s premier…., but are not beyond…….. possibility! Hope you can magic many. Lose an hour or lose it and cut the chat if you want a Hit Musical! Go Well

  14. Maureen mILES Says:

    A thorougly boring time was had by all at Gone With The Wind. Most of the cast had trouble hitting the notes and Darius Dannesh had trouble singing in tune at all! The productin is far too long and if one didn’t know the story – one would come away still not knowing!

  15. Mikey Says:

    I sort of agree with most of this except on the night I was there DD was the definite star, sounding like Vincent Price and looking dashing enough to sweep every lady off their hoops. The show last Tuesday was already 15 minutes shorter than previously and now (tomorrow) they are cancelling a performance in order to ‘condense’ it for future performances. Maybe this will mean more narration (oh dear) but at least the kids may be able to stay for their applause if the audience has the energy. Remember that shows are meant to improve during previews so if you do give a damn, don’t damn it yet.

  16. S. Worthen Says:

    I hope you’re not right: not that the musical sounds good, but I have a ticket for tonight! Will call to confirm before going.

    I see they’re now advertising it as a 2hr 30 min show – major cutting!

  17. Kate Says:

    I must say I agree with Mikey in that DD was the star of the night I went. Apart from this glimmer of mediocre talent, I wholeheartedly agree with the whingers.

    It says a lot when you keep throwing random negro spirituals and unnecessary songs into a musical because your strongest singers are the supporting cast. scarlett may have looked the part but a 16inch waist obviously didn’t agree with her diaphragmatic control – her strongest delivery was when she was lying down. i agree that cutting the songs and making it a play would be a step forward – if only to save the future audiences from the out-of-tune choruses and insanely loud orchestra. i hate to be negative but if i’m paying by the hour (which is what it ended up feeling like) I want a decent set, a few more costume changes, some awesome songs and a bit of passion. oh and a cast who can remember which country their accents are supposed to hail from.

  18. S.C. Says:

    The show is too long. The songs are not good. However Jill Paice is enchanting, too bad she has to stand on stage and attempt to be enchanting for over 4 hours!

  19. Claire Says:

    If you’re looking for a re-enactment on the film then this is your show. Unfortunately I found the actual performance more ‘theatre’ than ‘musical’ based and lack-lustre, and neither aspects shone.
    The narration was unfortunate and overused to make up for the lack of stage set and props.
    I got the impression there were some great vocal performances in the cast but these were given little time to flourish whilst the focus was to rush through the linear story as succinctly as possible.
    DD was captivating and well cast, Paice seemed slightly over dramatised – the theatre is small and more subtleness could be exploited.
    The best song was ‘Gone with the Wind’ although I agree with others regarding the lyrics.
    I left an hour early which is a shame as a lot of work and coordination had obviously gone into the production. This was not a sleight on the cast, but I needed to get a reasonable train home and I knew by the second half that the last hour would not unsteer the steady ship’s course.
    Please someone say they enjoyed it!

  20. LouiseC Says:

    Went on Monday April 14th. We did not last to the end but left around 10.55, having lost the will to live – song after song and no sign of an end! Darius speaking – what on earth was that accent? Jill’s hair falling out of her coiffure becoming very distracting. People giggling when Scarlett shot the soldier, and when Melanie had her baby. Some really good gospel stuff but the songs take the story precisely nowhere. A shame because I thought the first half wasn’t bad, although we were amused to see someone up in the flies waving a torch around. And the burning of Atlanta is a let-down. Cut the narration please! I love the film, I love the book – but this? Naah.


  21. Saw GWTW with my daughter at the matinee performance
    Wednesday 16th April and logged in a total 3hrs 35minutes.I rarely leave a theatre and suffer through to the end in respect and deference to the actors and my wallet-I have paid and therefore I will stay through to the bitter end come what may unless we are turfed out. on the afternnon we were there this almost happened when scenery got stuck towards the end
    of the show and the stge manager had to come on,not to dismiss us but to apologise and request us to hold on whilst the problem was solved by some 10 or so burly stage hands.

    I had not heard of any early feed back from any source and was hoping for at least a pleasing theatrical experience considering the input of masters of the musical such as Nunn
    [direction] Napier [sets] and Neophitou [costumes]when one considers their sterling contributions to legendary popular
    theatre over the past three decades from Les mis ,cats ,Phantom to name but a few.

    Instead I endured a very disappointing,even careless adaptation with an almost totally bland and forgetful score.
    Maybe the principle fault lies in entrusting the venture [and absolutely no offence meant] to a total novice in the genre.
    Could Mr Nunn not have spotted the obvious “shortcomings” here and brought in the help of a master “play doctor/composer” to sharpen things[the score] up at this end weeks ago?

    Simply put at the end of the day a musical fails or succeeds
    with the quality of the musical score and this one was neither tuneful or moving with the key exception of the black slaves
    servants gospel/spiritual toe tapper towards the end of Act 11 and perhaps the titile song as sung by Jane Paice at the end of Act 1

    Maybe this would have worked betteras a straightforward “epic” drama production without musical numbers as some contributors have suggested?

    The endless narration and almost pointless rushing around of the cast is sometimes unintentionally amusing and at worst tedious and sometimes muddies the narrative rather than
    explain or progrees it.[The wounded at Atlanta needs the urgent injection of 50 extras-maybe drama students who could do this gratis] or alternatively the “dummy enhancement” to the crowd ball sequence as in Phantom

    Danesh and Jane as the leads are brave and visually close to the film forebears in these iconic roles. However neither performance really gets you to your feet to applaud at the end anything approaching sensational west end musical performances,but this is not the fault of the actors but in my view the sum total of a flawed concept and production.

    Why flawed? In my humble opinion the whole concept is a poor mismash of styles we have seen before and now perhaps sadly dated.

    [1] The “Nicholas Nickelby” ensemble narration approach.This became tiresome in this production after an hour.

    [2] The bland set and almost comically weak burning of Atlanta
    achieved mainly by “ho hum” sound and light effects. This would have been the “money shot”scene but I found the sequence almost clumsy and a big letdown when one considers
    the great achievments in the past by this team.

    [3] Talking of the “wraparound” set that may be all very well if you are in the central top price seat.At the preview I was in a side [front circle] seat. These are £22.10 at present and will become £32.10 once the show opens. I was warned that there is a resrtictive view but when pressed I was informed that it was not too intrusive. What actually happens in this side front
    position is that once you have set down in your seat and unless you are 6′ 6” you line of vision of the stage will be obstructed
    by a picket fence which runs right round this part of the circle
    on both the right and left hand sides. Therefore most of the time I could not see almost half of the action on the central stage just the blanks of wood directly in front of my nose-
    totally infuriating-Mr Napier and Mr Nunn please seat in these seats for at least 2 hours and i m sure you will rip these fences out,unless health and safety will not let you!

    On entrying the theatre the cast are milling around nodding at the audience in a genteel southern manner which reminded me of the antics of the “cats” before the start of that particular show. If i knew what I would at the end of the show I think that I wold have been inclined to commisserate with them on what was coming and what they had to put themselves through.

    I wish them well but be warned and take a cushion and vacuum flaskand a lot of patience but Ragtime and even Parade ,this is not.

  22. Antonia Says:

    Sadly a VERY big disspointing production….was expecting it to be much better, instead it was all over the place and very CLUMSY… (A MESS) !!
    To be honest, after the 1st half i could not wait for the whole thing just to come to a end, it felt like i was in my seat for hours on end (well…3hours and 35mins to be exact), just counting down the minutes….
    OVERALL an absolutley FORGETTABLE production.
    the only highlight was the gospel scene towards the end!! and because of them, i give the show 3/10.
    oh and another highlight…was when the production ended!!!

  23. Mikey Says:

    It’s dangerous (and unfair) to judge a show by its previews. Having seen it twice now, I can report that within a week the show has improved greatly, better paced, slightly rearranged, a little shorter, and importantly much more involving. Last night there were cheers from the audience and I overheard “brilliant” as I left the theatre. At 3 hours 35 minutes it is shorter than the film but should really begin at 7.00 (which it does on Mondays) to have a reasonable finishing time. It should be ready for it’s official opening next week but no doubt the whingers (without a capital W) will use it as a tool for their cynicism. Medals all round for the heroic efforts of the cast in coping with all the material, making it flow, and surviving the attacks of those eager to sneer.


  24. @ Mikey: It’s quite unfair of you to say that the show has improved given that it’s only in preview. It might get worse.

  25. Katy, Rachel and Lisa Says:

    As huge fans of both the book and the film we went into this hoping that at the very least it wouldn’t be mediocre… it wasn’t, it was bad.

    The first half is unintentionally hilarious, two of us actually had to leave the theatre at one point to control our giggles following the call up of the troops song that reminded all of our party of “In the Navy”. A grown man at one point gets piggy backed across the stage and “dying soldiers” sausage roll in order to create a “mass” of dying men.

    Relationships were not explained at all despite the annoying and constant narration. Scartlett and Rhett, Scarlett and Melanie and Scarlett and Ashley in particular were seriously flawed.

    Having said all this, the actors did their best and the singing was strong – the music sadly, was just uninspired and instantly forgettable. The two leads were the best thing about the show, however, and did their very best and the costumes were really very good.

    In short we thoroughly enjoyed our night, but for all the wrong reasons… who knew Gone With the Wind was a comedy?!!

  26. Emily Says:

    I saw GWTW on tuesday…and was pleasantly suprised after reading these reviews. It was only about 3 hours long and the narration was not very annoying so i guess it has been reduced. The leads were very good, Darius was especially good and supassed expectations. Jill Paice was alright as Scarlett, but Scarlett’s character seemed quite warped (for example at the beginning she was no where near manipulative enough or ruthless and at the end she undergoes a change for the better which is so un-Scarlett!). It was a shame we didn’t see enough of Melanie as she is such a crucial character and the actress could have had more to work with. I didn’t mind the music so much and believe that if it was released and people bought it, it might gain popularity. All in all it was a very good show so don’t be put off by bad reviews if you are a fan of GWTW!!!

  27. Ellie Nunn Says:

    Trevor Nunn didn’t do it for the money
    In regards to the length he has sat at home desperatly trying not to cut anyones parts though he knows solos will have to go so people can leave to get their train etc. he’s worked unbelievably hard to try and to do justice to the novel which if you haven’t noticed is 1037 pages long, i can’t see the whingers doing a better job of cramming all that in, in under 3 hours. I don’t see how some people are shallow enough to think he would pour his soul into a play for the money. I should know how hard he’s worked since i’m his daughter…oh and great comment on how he only directed We Happy few as his wife wrote it…

  28. lin Says:

    hi we are so looking forward to going to see this we have saved up and are coming from the isle of wight , its a big treat for us , and i wont take the negitive comments to heart we will see for ourselves , we cant wait till the 29th , and wish every one in it who must work so very hard all the best of luck .

  29. Bruce Boogie Says:

    BRILLIANT SHOW

    I saw the Saturday 19th Matinee and loved almost every minute of it. It only lasted three and a half hours, and the time just raced past. My doubtful scene was the deathbed song – a few whispered words would have sufficed. I love the book and the film, I made a detour on a US holiday to visit Atlanta to see a very sorry exhibition in the public library about Margaret Mitchell. Cramming such a book onto the stage was very brave, I had my doubts but I thought that it worked. YES the songs will never be number one hits – they served to move the plot forward sometimes and at other times to entertain us with a song – the singing was very good. Would I go again – willingly, just give me a ticket!! If you enjoyed the film and the book – make it a hat trick and go and see the musical (the stage play with songs?!?!). I’m certain some critics will enjoy tearing it limb from limb – ignore them and enjoy the “Splendour of the South” Frankly my dear I don’t give a damn!! GONE WITH THE WIND was a pleasure to watch and hear. THANK YOU

  30. Chrissy B Says:

    I saw last Thursday’s performance … 3hr 35mins. If only they’d cut most of the music – it’s one thing listening to vaguely 19th century dialogue (I quite liked the narrative style myself), but then the cast go crashing into 20th/21st century lyrics in the songs. It just didn’t gel. Nor did any of teh songs really advance the plot. Having said that, though, the songs sung by the slaves were by far the best of a poor lot.
    One of my gripes about this show is that Scarlett and her clan are supposed to be flat broke, down on their luck and everything, no food – no nothing in fact – and yet she keeps on the same clothes and isn’t even made up to look ragged or even dirty. But I suppose any sort of realism left this show almost from the off – in fact from the moment the house spun round for the third, fourth, fifth …. time.
    If any of the production team read this website – for gawd sake cut another hour from the show. Your audience might just put up with tosh for 2 1/2 hours …. but not for 3 1/2 for too long.

  31. Ben Edwards Says:

    Did anyone see the extraordinary “review” (read “plug”) for GWTW in today’s Sunday Telegraph? It is highly unusual for a national paper to review a show before the opening night, and this wasn’t really a review as most of us would understand it. It was written by Jenny McCartney (not a theatre critic) and was a straighforward puff piece. The title “Frankly my dear this is worth a damn” (brilliantly orginal) conveys the flavour. Ms McCartney refers sniffily to a “bad mannered taxi dash from a significant minority even before the cast had taken their bows”, without mentioning that people are flooding out for the last hour – and a “significant minority” don’t make it past the interval. Why would the Sunday Telegraph give half a page to this rubbish? I can’t remember anything like it since the Evening Standard ran a series of thinly disguised puff pieces for Martin Guerre before and after the opening. I wonder if it would be possible to use the Freedom of Information Act to get a list of the show’s much-to-be-pitied backers.

  32. Phil (a west end whinger) Says:

    The Whingers would much prefer to come out of the theatre on a high (without having to sniff solvents out of an old crisp packet).
    What strikes them as odd is Trevor Nunn taking on the work of someone who has no previous theatre experience and even worse, has done the whole lot, book, lyrics and music. Not even the greats (Sondheim, Kender and Ebb etc.) can manage that.
    Regarding Ellie Nunn’s comments (see above) no one is denying Nunn has worked hard on it but he seems to have an impossible task. Even the most enjoyable recent shows (The Producers, Xanadu, Hairspray), were performed out of town before landing on Broadway. All played a season elsewhere, as is usual in the States, and if they don’t then at least get extended periods of previews to get it right. Lord of the Rings got six weeks of previews – though even that didn’t seem to help much.
    GWTW had barely over 2 weeks of previews to sort it out. It really didn’t look ready to even put before an audience at the point they viewed it (8 out of 10 in their group would probably have preferred Cats). What was the thinking that forced them to take such a huge chance (untried writer, short preview period) in what must be one of the most financially risky forms of entertainment there is?
    The Whingers would never attempt cramming 1037 pages into a stageable piece of theatre, which is why Phil is refusing to adapt Andrew’s (much longer) diary. When they finally start flogging their magnum opus around they will ensure that it runs a jaunty 90 minutes, quite long enough in their book.


  33. As usual, I do have to take issue with Phil.

    The US practice of out of town (i.e. not in New York) try-outs is even more disrespectful towards early audiences than the West End system of previews which – in my humble opinion – requires legislation, perhaps even a European Directive, to stop wasting innocent theatregoer’s time and money. If a show is to be developed in preview, it should be dirt cheap to reflect that.

    I was having an Edna Turnblad day yeserday – hampers of ironing to do – so switched on the TV as background noise and happened to catch The Making of Gone With The Wind on TCM.

    For a piece of shameless puff disguised as a documentary it was surprisingly revealing. GWTW has been in development (including workshops) for years and years and years and it was clear that many people (Nunn included – four years if I remember correctly) have put extraordinary amounts of work into this. I was quite affected by the devotion of the people involved in it.

    Given which, how did it come to be running at more than four hours when previews began?

    Well, I can’t recall the details, but for such an ambitious enterprise they seemed to have very little time rehearsing in the actual theatre and it seemed as though the orchestra and cast came together with just a few days to spare. Maybe that’s standard practice? We don’t know anything about anything.

    Phil is right about one thing: the Whingers wouldn’t attempt to cram 1037 pages into a musical and that is where things seem to have gone awry.

    For the record, we genuinely hope the show is sorted by the time it reaches the paying public (oops – too late) by the time it reaches the paying-slightly-more public. We hope it is an artistic and critical and commercial success because that is what a paying audience deserves.

  34. The Wisemans Says:

    I thought I had already left a reply, but obviously not. So here goes – saw GWTW on Friday 18th. We can’t comment on the length that night as we too bailed out at the intereval, barely able to hide our sniggering. As many have mentioned before, the music is bland, the staging pretty mediocre (I’ve seen better pyrotechnics at our local amdram than the truly pathetic burning of Atlanta) and oh, oh, OH, THE TERRIBLE, ENDLESS NARATION. We don’t need to be told what we can see on stage. The show looks cheap and it’s incredible dull. As a huge fan of book and film – and huge disappointment. We give it about 3-4 weeks top whack…..

    The Wisemans

  35. Simone Says:

    Thanks Whingers for saving me the money.

  36. Phil (a west end whinger) Says:

    And I have to take (slight) issue with Andrew.

    Or as Harry Hill would say, “FIGHT!!”

    I think it’s perfectly reasonable to inflict untried shows on the provinces and sort them out before bringing them into town, but do agree that the prices should reflect this.

    It doesn’t happen here as much as in the States, though the lovely people of Bristol were saddled with Mary Poppins for over a month before it blew into the Prince Edward. Years ago the same city were also privileged to have a run of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s infamous mega-flop Jeeves, which according to legend ran for well over 4 hours at it’s opening performances at the Bristol Hipppodrome.

    Most shows don’t get long in the theatre with the full orchestra, sets, costumes etc. before opening to preview audiences. Which seems completely bonkers but must be an economic decision. Why not stagger preview audience prices, starting with say £5 for the first couple then increasing to £10 and so on, so audiences are more aware they’re seeing an unfinished show? But then we’d all have less to Whinge about…

  37. Graham Says:

    At least you were all mentioned in the Observer on 20 April – http://arts.guardian.co.uk/theatre/news

    ‘…an irreverent website not known for being fair and balanced…’ indeed!

  38. sophistibitch Says:

    Just a comment on the U.S. system vs. the British system of previewing shows. We actually do preview shows on Broadway, even if they’ve already been produced at regional theaters. And, I want to say thank you to the British theatre for sending us your production of “Macbeth” with Patrick Stewart. Brilliant, scary and thrilling. Just the way it should be.

  39. Teresa Says:

    Well I thought it was good… so there. Darius was so like Rhett in the film in looks & mannerisms, especially leaning against the wall in the beginning, hair flattened down, cigar in mouth & with that smile he gives, it made me take an intake of breath. I heard whoops of delight when he performed a couple of times, (not from me I might add,….too shy). It was longer than usual shows, starting 7.30 & leaving 11.15 on Saturday 19th April, but if you enjoy it you don’t notice that. Wish they had played the Tara theme tune from the film. I did get emotional when Darius sang holding Bonnie in his arms after her fateful accident.

  40. Gary Owen Says:

    I know how the civil War ends, unfortunately! Go to Mamma Mia for a little escapism before Obama wins the presidency.


  41. Well it appears that the majorityof warnings about this piece by the whingers have been vindicated by the majority of the critics and the Evening Standard appears to be particularly
    scathing. The production is now at the mercy of the punters
    but whether it will prove the critics wrong and go on to be a triumph,to put it politely,remains to be seen.

    I remember seeing an earlier “stab” at a musical version of
    GWTW at Drury Lane called “Scarlett”. If I recall .the score may
    have been marginally better but the whole enterprise also failed.This was in the early 70’s and I think the show was particularly noted for the appearance of a [live] horse on stage
    which in the excitement of the moment relieved itself on the opening night in front of the great and good of the time.

    Furthermore I think that in this production a very young
    Bonnie Longford *played [and upstaged] everyone else in the tragic role of Bonnie ,Rhett & Scarlett’s flouncy and ringleted
    child. It is of this production that Noel Coward [in the first night audience] was quoted for having said something along the lines of “they shoiuld have cut the second Act and that child’s throat to save this show”.[*Please forgive me if I have the wrong child star of the time,no offence meant]

    This was all a long time ago and if anyone remembers these stories more accurately please correct me. In any event I think the point I am trying to make is that they should have left GWTW to rest where it rightfully belongs on the printed page and legendary film of 1939 [no remakes with Scarlett
    Johanssesn and George Clooney pleeeease].


  42. Well WEW, you ended up only saying what most of the critics said of press night…

    http://entertainment.timesonline.co.uk/tol/arts_and_entertainment/stage/theatre/article3801067.ece

    Hilarious reading the comments here though for what looks now likely to be the next Man in the Iron Mask…??

    Four years in the making and they still couldn’t get those hoop skirts right… Or the music, the book, the lyrics, the sets, the direction the acting right either… Go figure…

  43. joel Says:

    most of you must be Brits without 1 whit of American History, the wars on our soil, GWTW the novel etc. etc. You are far too stuffy for my tastes and am so looking forward to the Broadway version. Isn’t it great to play armchair quarterback but then you probably haven’t a clue as to the reference. TTFN

  44. Ben Edwards Says:

    I think I must be the last person left alive who saw the 1971 musical version of GWTW at Drury Lane, starring June Ritchie and Harve Presnell and produced by Harold Fielding. It wasn’t called Scarlett – that was the title of a novel sequel commissioned by the Margaret Mitchell estate. I thought it was pretty awful, but compared with the present offering it seems like My Fair Lady in retrospect.

    The only decent bit of the show was the burrning of Atlanta, when Scarlett and Rhett drove around the stage in a horse-drawn buggy with bits of burning buildings crashing around them. On the first night the horse experienced a very loose motion and covered the stage in shit, which was bad for the soldiers, looters, townspeople etc who were falling down dead in it. The audience reaction was so extreme that the show couldn’t continue. June Ritchie told me years later that she and Presnell went into a clinch, waiting for the laughter to die down. After what seemed like a long time, he whispered in her ear that if it didn’t stop in 30 seconds they would walk into the wings and the curtain would come down. At that point it stopped.

    There was a protest from animal rights activists about the horse being terrified by the special effects. Harold Fielding issued a statement saying that there were two horses, both trained by a leading trainer to be accustomed to the lights and the noise, so they weren’t a bit frightened. Unfortunately one of the horses had a heart attack and dropped dead onstage two weeks later.

    The strangest thing about the show, given that there were problems getting through the plot, was that it reverted to a fashion not seen since before the war of inclduing “speciality” numbers that did nothing to forward the plot. Bonnie Langford had two of these as Bonnie Blue Butler. They were so excruciating it was like watching Violet Elizabeth Bott on acid. (This wasn’t her fault – she was only a child and didn’t write the material.) The other Noel Coward story is that, as he was leaving the first night, he was asked what he thought of the show and said: “Nothing much wrong with it that couldn’t be cured by stuffing the child up the horse’s arse.”


  45. This page is getting so popular now even loonies are posting on it (see Joel’s comment).


  46. I am pleased [Bernard Edwards’s response] to see that there
    are at least two of us alive to recall the earlier stab at GWTW
    back in the 70’s and with Bonnie still hoofing around,bless her,
    3 of us.

  47. Christopher Beeching Says:

    I am glad that Ben Edwards has got most of his facts right about the 1972 the Drury Lane GWTW – however, the title ‘Scarlett’ was attached to the Japanese version that had opened the previous year – the show was then imported into the UK with the same director, the legendary Joe Layton [Barnum, Thoroughly Modern Millie etc etc]. [I played Brent Tarleton in the Drury Lane version of GWTW.]

    Charlie the horse did not drop dead on stage, he suffered the heart attack in his stall backstage after a matinée performance. It was a very sad occasion for the whole cast – we were extremely fond of old Charlie.

    It is true that the horses had both been very carefully trained to accustom them to the lights and the noise. They were actually ridden from their stables in, I believe, the City to Drury Lane – I used to pass them every evening whilst riding my bicycle into the theatre. When Charlie died, the other horse, a mare whose name I forget, made her appearance at the Palladium and then was ridden across to the Lane for the burning of Atlanta sequence!

    Bonnie was, and still is, the ultimate professional artiste. And there are plenty of us still around who were in that 11 month run of GWTW at Drury Lane. It was one of the last really large-cast shows in London.

    My best wishes to the new GWTW cast. – Hang in there!!

  48. Sean Says:

    No way is this in anyway a disaster of the magnitude of Man in the Iron Mask, nowhere near in fact. That show left me panting for breath, literally rolling in the side aisle of the Duchess Theatre, we all stayed for the second act to witness comic entertainment of extraordinary power, rarely seen anywhere, let alone on a West End stage.

    GWTW is a very tastefully staged show, the musicians are alive, the actors are talented and can sing and the set is decent (if sometimes underwhelming). I actually had a nice time; yes the music is nothing (literally totally forgettable, but not actually offensive), but the acting is good (yes Darius is broad, but this is the West End, we’re allowing broad performances in 3 and half hour epics, plus he is handsome), and the story is comprehensible (though it would help to know the film). I, as a great fan of the film, was actually quite moved by the end (and my heart is made of stone usually), and was pleased the hard work of the cast got a moderate standing ovation (of which I usually don’t approve), but then I’d had a pretty bad day the day before which might have affected my emotional state.

    Not a classic by any means, but not a car crash either. I also think that the narration must have been considerably cut since you guys saw it; it was not all that prominent when I saw it. There are cheesy tunes and some inopportune lines and stage business, but if this show had simply been written by different composer we might have a far better show on our hands.

  49. Steve Says:

    I can’t really get my head around a Whingers slating review based on a first preview night and walking out in the interval. MInd you perhasp given the name whingers its pretty much expected. It sort of makes your comments pointless. I recommend you go back and see the show – it is now just over 3hous in running time, or was on the 26th April.
    The set is great and the story fast moving, Obviously if you are not someone who fancies a period love story or cannot appreciate a Trevor Nunn musical that is deeper than your average juke box wash over, you may have to employ imagination at some points, this is made easy with the narration which flows as if being read from the actual novel as the actors perform, it works well – the show isnt a huge special effects effort like Lord of The Rings, but the set pulls the audience into the story well, The cast work hard and are excellent vocally and performance wise and the use of 30 to cover 100 parts works suprising well. I have never been to a show before that is so different to the many slating reviews it has received. I can only say – go see it now if you fancied it but the reviews put you off, or you will have cheated yourself out of a great evening.


  50. Sweet jesus the shills are out on this one – another board I frequent actually had a poster gush about Darius, how wrong the critics were, and even went so far as to link to the merchandise site that’s “Very cool if you’re looking for some new things for your collections!” and posted with a show catchphrase as their one-off login.

    Constant Vigilance!

  51. jen Says:

    link to a merchandise site, what board were you on out of interest? I have been looking online for recent reviews to see if the show has changed since I saw it, and havent seen that – have to say the merchandise is naff, and I doubt a Darius fan would want any as there is nothing with his picture on it – I did look, while waiting to go into the auditorium, but an apron isnt something I aspire to as a momento

  52. William Holman Says:

    My darling southern wife, Gloria, and I had already planned our two week stay in London when we read that GWTW had been made into an musical….of course we had to see it. Thru the miracle of the internet I ordered our tickets for the Wed. April 30 matinee, at an astronomical cost $ 150.00 USD per ticket. Absolutely the worst musical we have ever seen. The music ws insiped at best. The acting amatuerish. Rhett could hardly carry a tune, let alone sing. It should be gone with the wind asap. Thank goodness we did see the wonderful, wonderful “Hairspray”and the classic Les Miz for the second time…..Maybe they should have had Michael Ball play Scarlett….it would have made for a fun evening……Bill and Gloria Holman, Portlnd, Oregon USA…….Gloria is a native of the very Southern State of Arkansas…..


  53. Jen: The board from Stacey’s Musical Village (http://musicalvillage.proboards36.com and an excellent place for English speakers to discuss the continental musical scene) is where I encountered this brand of shill. A quick googling of their username showed a similar post on a Harry Potter board of all places.

    And William, you have my sympathies. Nobody coming over to London on holiday should have to lose an evening in this magical city on such an un-magical piece of dreck.

  54. jen Says:

    Rogue: did you ever get to see the show again, if I recall you saw a preview and reccommended people to wait, unless they are nerds.
    I thought the show a lot better than expected, obviously a lot has been cut since you saw it, There are songs gone too.
    I think people should go see for themselves, I did hear comments from people on leaving the theatre about reviews, and the show being much better than expected – mind you there was an older audience in.
    I do think it a shame if, as someone posted up a bit, people are purely put off by early reviews – especially the Whingers! heavens forbid, the WE would grind to a halt.
    I know I have gone to shows based on reviewers great writups – only to find the show is rot! so it was a joy to find it so much the other way round at GWTW.


  55. Jen: I have not gone back to see GWTW. Cash has been insanely tight lately (hence the overall lack of reviews in addition to laziness) so even seeing NEW things that aren’t comping – like Black & White Ball, which I’ve missed – has been put on hold, let alone paying to revisit shows. Given the near-unanimous comments from the first-round critics, most of my biggest problems with the show (the lame music and endless narration) are still there. I suspect that I’d find it *better* this time, but still not *great* and I need great to justify shelling out for something more than once (see: Hairspray, Elisabeth, Spring Awakening) With £30 on the line, I can instead gamble on Betwixt or Never Forget and still have enough cash left over to finally see Buddy.


  56. Oh, speak of the devil.

    GWTW is already listing for a tenner on Lastminute.com

    Almost, but not quite enough, to motivate a return out of my own pocket.

  57. SassyK Says:

    Just went to the matinee today with another big GWTW fan. Hadn’t read any reviews, but knew it would either be fab or totally cheezy. Unfortunately, tended more to the cheezy. Had good seats in the middle, so no problem with not being able to see past the set. Was shocked when reading the program to see so many double, triple and even quadruple roles. Definately had a hard time deciding where the narration and some of the singing was coming from. The negro songs were the only ones worth listening to and did nothing to advance the story. Danesh got better as the play went on and has a good voice. Paice was a very whiny Scarlett that I had a hard time even liking. Her and Worrall’s singing was so awful that by the end you didn’t want Scarlett to get Rhett back and didn’t care if Melanie died. The birthing scene, which is suppose to be quiet serious, drew laughter from the audience. The deathbed song by Melanie was almost drowned out by the tittering of the audience. She is dying and yet has “breath in her body” (to quote Mammy) for a solo? The part of Ashley has always been a wimpy character, but Baker-Duly made him a horny and less than honorable pervert who grabs Scarlett’s ass not once, but twice in the Christmas/Returning to war scene. Besides Paice (who is an American for goodness sake), Baker-Duly’s accent was by far the worst. The set didn’t bother me nearly as much as the costumes. Scarlett’s first two dresses look like bedsheets thrown over a hoop skirt. The curtain dress was decent, but by that point in the play, I was half-expecting for her to have the curtain rod through the dress like Carol Burnett did in her farce of the show. The plaid dress was pretty, but Scarlett wears it throughout her marriage to Frank and most of her marriage to Rhett. Isn’t she suppose to be wealthy by that point? I actually enjoyed the burning of Atlanta and thought that in such a small theater they did a decent job with the set. Go if you are a huge GWTW fan and have to see, read, and hear anything GWTW. Otherwise, spend your money elsewhere (half price tickets were 30pounds/$60 – thank God they were half price). By the way Scarlett doesn’t say Fiddle-dee-dee once (although they have a shirt that says it). Go figure!

  58. Wendy Says:

    I bought tickets ages ago for hubbies birthday, after reading these reviews we nearly never went, but luckily I went to see for myself on Sat eve 10th May, well I LOVED it, I think the reviews are a grave injustice to the hard working cast, Darius was great as Rhett and Sassyk put your hearing aid in, Scarlett said Fiddle-dee-dee at least twice!! I thought she sang wonderfully and I liked most of the music, the cd would be worth buying just for the gospel style version of on the wings of a dove!. Mammy was great, as were most of the cast, I thouroughly enjoyed the performance, and I am so glad I ignored the majority of people on here and went, I think you are putting people off going to this show, the comments are so harsh and unjust, it seems like you have a grudge against nunn or something and wish him failiure! It was not my usual taste in musicals, but I was so pleasantly surprised I had a great time, keep up the good work cast and don’t let people get you down you’re doing a grand job, thank you for a lovely evening.


  59. I actually enjoyed it! I thought the sets were great, as well as the costumes. I did think it was a bit long, and the actress that played Scarlett seemed a bit annoying. I’d go see it again sometime. Hope the music comes out on CD sometime soon!

  60. Hazel Reese Says:

    My husband and I went to see GWTW on 17th May and thought it was excellent. We never looked at our watches once! All of the cast acted and sang brilliantly and the musical was as gripping as the film – with the added cache of being performed live. At the end of the performance there were many people in the audience surreptiously wiping tears from their eyes which is always a good sign of enjoyment!
    Either the critics were wrong or the show has improved amazingly since their criticisms were made.

  61. Joy Says:

    Saw it on Saturday night. Overlong, dreary, restive audience (and certainly not a packed house). Burning of Tara or possibly Atlanta (very incoherent plot) laughable. Only genuine laugh of the evening was when Scarlett fired the gun. A real shame since it’s a terrific story and the actors were acting their socks off. Shame that none of the girls have yet been to hoop management school. We discussed leaving at half time on the grounds that it was hard not to laugh at the inevitability of the rhymes in the lyrics, but the strawberry icecream was terrific, so we cheered up and endured to the end.

  62. Lara Says:

    I really have to disagree with the negative criticism given to the show. I saw Gone with the Wind and Previews and again last night, and enjoyed it hugely on both occasions.

    In my opinion, Jill Paice is excellent as Scarlet, and Darius brilliant as Rhet.

    Yes the show is long. Well done. But so what? i was not bored at any point, and i think that people who leave early are illadvised to do so – why pay west end prices and not even give the show a chance?

    I would give the show 5 stars, and would not hesitiate to see ita again.


  63. Glad you enjoyed it, Lara. If you DO hesitate to see it again you will miss it as it’s closing on 14 June.

  64. wendy thorne Says:

    Andrew, you really enjoyed putting that comment didn’t you! It is because of unjustified comments like yours that people were put off of the show and it is now closing. I, like Lara and many others thoroughly enjoyed the show (see comments I posted earlier) it is such a shame your cruel comments have influence over people. I take it you are a talented expert, or you would not make such judgements, I bet truly talented stars like Darius & Jill, and Trevor Nunn just love talented whingers like you!

  65. Teresa Says:

    Oh dear, I cant beleive what I,ve just read….. CLOSING?…
    WHY? I feel like screaming at you stupid WHINGERS, it’s all your fault, over the top whingeing putting people off, my husband & I loved it & my sister & husband planned to go & see it for a birthday treat, PLEASE tell me you were joking or being plain nasty, it’s so wrong. Poor Darius & crew. You were all great & loads of us LOVED it.

  66. Steve Says:

    it is closing on 14th June, I suspect not eough advance tickets sold, although both times we went the theatre was nearly full. No one we spoke to had anything but praise for the show, plenty of Americans in the audience, although I suspect the currency and exchange problems at present put a dampner on expected tourist interest and prebookings of hotel packages.
    Darius and Jill were excellent, and considering they only got two weeks notice of the chows closure they seemed to have upped their game if that was possbible, Darius’ vocals were astounding, and the songs wonderful – what rubbish about the lyrics, they are great, although a line or two has been changed(notably the humpty dumpty one). It is no wonder the majority of reviews praised his performance, he is the perfect Rhett.
    No one could seeing this show now can understand why it is closing, Not one negative comment did I hear leaving the theatre.
    Shenton gleefully remarked he had blood on his hands recently. well, I hope this show gets to play in US, where I am sure the critics will give it a fair hearing. and the audience will not be swayed by spiteful reviews.

  67. Mary Says:

    We saw the show last night and loved it. Darius was fantastic as Rhett, Scarlett very good, loved some of the amazing ‘slave’ singers’ voices. Enjoyed the staging too – we never lost interest from beginning to end. It was my birthday treat, and an excellent one.

  68. Teresa Says:

    Is there any possibility that the show was recorded? I would love to have a DVD of it. How do you find out if it has or not, I want a keep sake.

  69. Ben Says:

    watched the show (not the preview) near the start of its (then-unanticipated) brief (heh) run. rhett was good – no doubt about that, and the black actors were wonderful vocally… but scarlett was vapid and the rest of the cast vigorous but directionless. I endured as much as I could – but found myself nodding off, when not stifling a smirk at various contrivances – much better described by the whingers. I almost stayed for the ices but decided to leave in the interval – the ONLY time I’d ever done such a thing for ANY performance with live actors… and happily was back in time to catch Kate Bush disporting herself in “Wuthering Heights”, which was far less laboured and more enjoyable.

  70. Teresa Says:

    I’ve just come across this site again, March 2010, saved on my ‘Favourites’for two years. I have noticed nobody has been able to answer about a DVD of the show GWTW. So thats that is it? no DVD. Boo Hoo! At least Darius has just won ‘Pop Star to Opera Star’. Good on him.


  71. […] night of the 1972 musical version of Gone With the Wind a horse apparently stopped the show when it opened its bowels on stage (scroll down to the comment by Ben […]


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