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.
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?