Review – Marguerite – The Musical! at the Theatre Royal Haymarket

Sunday 11 May 2008

It’s not every day you get a chance to see the kazongas of the person who won the Theatregoers’ Award for the Most Popular Musical Actress in The Last 21 Years (or one of her kazongas, anyway).

But that was the surprising position the West End Whingers found themselves in at a preview of the new musical Marguerite ( – The Musical!).

Phil is now beginning to doubt what he saw.

Not Ruthie Henshall’s tits, those were clearly visible and even Andrew’s peepers remained open enough to confirm that he got a more than generous eyeful from row C of the stalls (stage right, if you’re interested). And since you ask, yes, the Whingers can confirm they are as pleasant a pair of gongas as the Whingers have ever witnessed. Not that they are by any means experts in the field of fun bags, you understand.

No, what Phil is doubting, having witnessed five theatrical honkers in a row, is the reliability of his palette. Has it become so jaded that Marguerite wasn’t perhaps quite the humdinger he first thought?

Yes, strange as it may seem, both Whingers emerged from the Saturday matinee pleasantly surprised and – for the first time in many, many weeks – not tearing their blue rinses out. Marguerite may not be a corker, but we certainly weren’t throwing tomatoes.

Marguerite is the new Michel Legrand musical with book and lyrics by the Les Miz team of Alain Boublil, Claude-Michel Schonberg (plus director Jonathan Kent) and lyricist Herbert Kretzmer.

Yes, that’s the same Kretzmer who wrote the iconic Peter Sellers/Sophia Loren hit “Goodness, Gracious Me” – an expression which dropped out of the Whingers’ mouths when they copped a sight of Henshell’s snuggle pups – but we’ll come back to those later.

Marguerite (Ruthie Henshall) is the French mistress of a high-ranking German officer in Nazi-occupied Paris. She is very popular because she can get petrol coupons and nylons and so forth. But at her fortieth birthday party she meets musician Armand (Julian Ovenden) who falls hopelessly in love with her. The musical charts their secret affair and the ensuing brouhaha.

It is sort of based on Alexandre Dumas’ La Dame aux camélias and one of the shocking elements of the affair is that Armand is half Marguerite’s age (for the record, we reckon Henshall is 41 and Ovenden 32).

As a show it boasts the double-whammy of the highly talented Henshall and the absurdly good looking (and talented) Ovenden.

Both sing superbly and full marks to Paul Groothuis‘s sound design for keeping it all audible. Henshall’s voice seems to have reached a new maturity and she’s better than ever. Ovenden even plays the piano and very impressively too. Is there any talent that man hasn’t got? He can probably play the bongos too or even pick out a tune on the coconuts. Both act their parts extremely well, dragging these audience headlong into the story. Most engaging.

The show also has some very welcome spectacle. There’s a terribly impressive explosion in the first act party scene when a warhead (from a Howitzer or Zeppelin perhaps? Sadly not) drops nearby (it even gets it’s own credit in the horribly over-priced £6 programme, well done Effective Touch Ltd.) The window explodes sending shards of sugar glass shooting into the stalls.

The sets are stylish and sumptuous and move around impressively. The front stage drop has a blinking image (blink and you’ll miss it) of Henshall iconically photographed to resemble one of Garbo’s.

The end of the first act is a bit of a wobbler and probably needs some tweaking but really, it’s very impressive and as it’s all over in a little over 2 hours and tightly told.

High praise indeed.

So are the Whingers going to lose their reputations as the London theatrical blogosphere’s premier pair of knockers?

No, not quite. There’s a “but”, and it’s a very big “but” (as opposed to a nicely rounded pair of moo-moos).

The sleeves on Marguerite’s lover’s dress jacket were too long.

Oh, no, hang on, that wasn’t it (although it did bother Andrew greatly): This is a musical after all, so what was the music like? Well, whilst not exactly unpleasant it’s not great, in fact it’s pretty, well, not bland exactly, but pompous and humourless in the modern (i.e. since Cats) style of aspiring-to-art musicals. It’s all terribly grand and meaningful and lacks the haunting tunes you might expect from the man who gave the world “Windmills Of Your Mind”.

And whilst the lyrics didn’t give the Whingers the pip like, say, Gone With The Wind – The Musical! , they’re serviceable, but no more.

However, this musical will probably go down very well with people who like that sort of thing.

It also provided lots to think about:

  • How many of Marguerite’s wigs do they get through in a week?
  • Ditto Marguerite’s final act garment.
  • Can Ovenden’s understudy play the piano that well?

And there is even a headscarf in it. How could we not like it?

12 Responses to “Review – Marguerite – The Musical! at the Theatre Royal Haymarket”

  1. Webcowgirl Says:

    I have clapped my hands over my eyes like the proverbial monkey as of the line “Yes, strange as it may seem, both Whingers emerged from the Saturday matinee pleasantly surprised” and will now just buy tickets as planned (for June 13th) and hope for the best!


  2. We forgot to mention that you can get day seats for £20 on the day from the theatre. There is some confusion as to where these are, but ours were in row C.

  3. Arthur Says:

    I’m glad you spotted the Exploding Window credit in the programme – surely one of the best credits ever.

    Also, I’d say the main problem with the music is that it’s all of a type… by which I mean there’s really only one tune just endlessly recycled in overlapping variations and at different tempos. Still, the whole thing is really very good considering that it actually can justifiably call itself a *new* musical.

  4. Phil (a west end whinger) Says:

    They sell day seats from 10am – expect a queue. Initially the Whingers were offered row R, but the man behind the counter agreed to sell the row C seats for £20 for some reason (the front row was already full).
    The Whingers like to keep you abreast of such matters.

  5. Mark I Says:

    Mmmm … puppies!


  6. It’s the more covert boob gags that got me; I mean, I thought you’d missed a chance with “tune on the coconuts”, then realised that there were several more that just had to be deliberate but I’d passed over lightly first time.


  7. Just look at Phil’s writing going over Ian Shuttleworth’s head. Or more probably between his feet.


  8. I couldn’t stop a pig in a passage…

  9. daveonthego Says:

    I counted 12 references to breasty dumplings. Do I win a prize

  10. westendwhinger Says:

    22 actually, 23 if you count kazongas twice- there should have been another but Andrew changed hooha to brouhaha, missing the point (or points) entirely. But then he knows very little about earmuffs.

  11. webcowgirl Says:

    I have held off reading your review until today, since I wanted my own experience to have a bit of an element of surprise to it (and I’m afraid to say that though I did have a peep at the first paragraph or two when the review was fresh, I’d somehow managed to forget about the hooters). I’m impressed that we found the same things to praise – great set design, hot male lead – and the same ultimate opinion: not very interesting music, fine for people who like that sort of thing, but at least it didn’t suck. Ah, damning with faint praise! Oh well, time to buy some Chalk Garden tickets so I can have something fun to look forward to. (Speaking of which – any plans to see West Side Story at Sadler’s Wells?)


  12. Hello there..

    Do you know how i could get in touch with Alain Boubil and /or Claude Michel Shonenburg please?

    I am an independent artist of sorts crossig over the visual with the musical fields.. I fell in love with the song “When Will Someone Hear” from the musical “Martin Guerre ” and did my own version of it.

    the lyrics are the same but the music is my original , including the tune which i changed completely

    please feel free to check it out… it is IN TWO PARTS.. MAKE SURE TO WATCH BOTH PARTS AND FEEL FREE TO LEAVE YOUR COMMENTS , and let me know how i can make contact with the original writers.

    Thank you in advance.
    .
    PART 1

    PART 2


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