The Whingers love collective nouns.
A peep of chickens. A pitying of doves. A musty of beavers. A flagellation of ferrets. A scolding of seamstresses. A sneer of butlers. An inebriation of whingers. A shrivel of critics. Particularly the last one.
The Whingers have coined one or two of their own: it cans only a matter of time before “a Fram of theatrical disasters” passes into everyday usage.
But what is the collective noun for understudies? (Put your thinking cap on Ian Shuttleworth) An indisposition of understudies? A disappointment of understudies? A groan of understudies? A Tennant of understudies? A McCutcheon of understudies?*
By a bizarre quirk of fate, as they hovered outside beforehand Phil turned to Andrew and mused, “You know, I wouldn’t be at all bothered if Lesley Garrett wasn’t appearing. In fact I’d be quite pleased.”
Be careful what you wish for. For as they descended the many flights of stairs down into the bowels of the Savoy Theatre there in front of them was the (usually) dreaded sign which announced that not only was La Garrett “indisposed” ** but so too were a flurry of other names.
The Whingers weren’t exactly doing a Kate Winslet over Ms Garrett’s no-show. Indeed, it was with an added skip in their steps that the Whingers descended the final hundred or so flights into what must surely be the only auditorium in the West End to be directly heated by the earth’s core.
To be quite honest, Andrew was at Carousel under sufferance. While appreciating some of the songs, he has always found the show to be unnecessarily drawn out. Phil has a particular soft spot for the show as it usually leaves him more dewy eyed than discovering a National Theatre running time.
He also claims some affinity with it as he taught at the New England (Carousel is set in Maine) summer camp, Camp Wigwam which was also attended by a youthful Richard Rodgers who (according to Camp Wigwam lore) wrote his first song there.
While the opening fairground scene to the strains of the classic Carousel Waltz may not quite have matched the National Theatre production’s version, it did boast some very effective projected designs by William Dudley and lots of general fairground busyness which proved promising enough (even if there appeared to be no customers on the digital Big Wheel). Heck, there was even a juggling stilt walker played by the wonderfully named Zeph (A netherthriving of jugglers since you didn’t ask).
But then the audience of listeners (Oliver! audiences should please take note that their collective noun is thicket of idiots ) is thrust into an awfully long scene establishing the love story between carousel barker and general ne’er-do-well Billy Bigelow (Jeremiah James) and mill worker Julie Jordan (Alexandra Silber) in parallel with that between her friend Carrie Pipperidge (Lauren Hood) and solid, will-do-well, Enoch Snow (Alan Vicary – excellent).
There’s an awful lot of chat and songs to get through and forty minutes into the show there is still no sign of Nettie Fowler (the character normally played by Garrett) so if you’re intending to see Carousel on the strength of her above-the-title name, be warned: you don’t get much Garrett for your money. Phil timed it as about 10 minutes in the first (and extremely long 90 minute first act).
Anyhoo, our Nettie (Kathryn Akin right), finally appeared to deliver the wonderful “June is Bustin’ Out All Over” and a very fine job she did too.
But with lyrics like:
June is bustin’ out all over
The feelin’ is gettin’ so intense,
That the young Virginia creepers
Hev been huggin’ the bejeepers
Outa all the mornin’ glories on the fence!
how could she go wrong?
Well, the lyrics are news to Andrew who couldn’t quite make out the words to most of the songs but this may have been a problem caused by sitting in the front row of the stalls on top of the orchestra rather than the sound design.
By the time they emerged some 3 hours later (“2 hours 40 plus interval” according to the programme – the start of a worrying trend?) it felt as if June might indeed be bustin’ out all over outside.
But despite this the Whingers still managed to squeeze in a swift glass of wine after the show and discuss the many understudies.
Incidentally the collective noun for barmen is a promise of barmen. Well, promises are good, but they don’t pay bills or pour drinks.
* Several sites humorously suggest a shortage of dwarfs (though probably not, now that the panto season has finished), and this site suggests that the collective noun for understudies should be a contingent of understudies. Appropriate enough, but not terribly exciting. The Whingers are sure you can do better.
** Despite having been (according to the staff at the theatre) taken “ridiculously ill on Saturday night”, the Whingers are relieved to report that Lesley Garrett made a speedy recovery and appeared lively – if a little nasal – on the following afternoon’s live The Alan Titchmarsh Show, perkily plugging the show and her new album. Speaking of her cold, she promised she would be back on tonight having missed “only two performances” and about the wonderful “opportunity to explore the dramatic extremes”.
They don’t make them like never-miss-a-show Ethel Merman any more.
*** Delightful too that the director of this production should be Lindsay Posner to whom the Whingers owe a very particular debt. For it was Mr Posner’s production of Fool For Love at the Apollo Theatre which tipped them over the edge and prompted them to begin blogging. How proud he must be.