...and, having seen it last night, I'm amazed it's managed to last as long as it has (it's been on since April, I think.) Much as I try to avoid it, I can't help but think that possibly it has been kept alive by every single person who fancied Michael Praed in Robin of Sherwood going along to watch him. Certainly I was not alone in having gone for that reason last night. :)
I suppose audience after audience could have been full of expectant literary élite types, fascinated by the truly entrancing story of Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald, hoping for a glittering musical that treated it with all the panache, all the fire, all the sincerity it deserved.
If so, I really feel for them. Because, my *god*, it's terrible. I quite honestly have never seen a show that bad outside of my local amateur dramatic society.
Entirely without bias I name Michael Praed as the best thing about it. He is gorgeous, yes, but he's also a very good actor, convincing both in the young heady enthusiasm and the later alcoholic bitterness of Scott, leaping around the stage like he's still 18 and singing with a glorious tenor voice that reached to the ceiling and beyond.
Helen Anker, as Zelda, isn't bad at all, but she is more a dancer than an actress, so while her dancing seems to come spontaneously from within herself (which is how it should be, particularly with Zelda), her lines seem...well, like lines. Which is even more obvious when she's opposite Mr Praed, who is extremely genuine about it all.
The dancing is good throughout, albeit reminiscent in many places of the aforementioned amateur dramatic society - I know it's a live show, and it's on a remarkably small stage so things do happen, but it somehow managed to look under-rehearsed and slightly shambolic, even when it wasn't meant to. The dancers are beautiful, though, and in 'Trouble', a very very sexy French 20s jazz sort of thing, the girls really outdo themselves.
But, oh god. Now I've mentioned the music. I can't help myself, now, I've got to rant.
Beautiful & Damned is a *musical*. This means that what it really needs to have are strong songs - things you leave the theatre singing, or just things that move you or take you in while you're there. Right?
The songs. In this musical. Are. Appalling.
They're more than appalling. They're awful, bland, insincere, inappropriate, soulless drivel. And in the interval, faintly despairing and honestly contemplating leaving despite the magnetic presence of Michael Praed, I thought to look in the programme to see who was responsible for the utter ghastliness of the songs.
The songs for this show are written by two men, working together to loose this dross upon the land. Looking at the programme, I discovered that they have what I believe the police would call 'previous form'.
The men in question are responsible for, respectively, 'Delilah', and...wait for it, wait for it...
...'I'd Like To Teach The World To Sing'.
And the thing is, the songs *sound* like they were written by these two men. Lyrics Westlife would turn down, for christ's sake. Don't believe me? Well, the one that particularly irritated me was one in which they rhyme "love" with "love" in one verse, but that doesn't seem to be in the lyrics section of the website, so I'll have to show them up some other way instead. Fortunately, that's easy. How about :
Zelda, deep in the night I hear your voice so clear
Softly singing the words of love I long to hear
Each day finds me alone in a silent world
A world without you, filling my life with your smile
Look what you’ve done to me
Zelda, you know by now I miss you every day
Nothing matters at all with you so far away
Every letter you write me, I learn by heart
It’s true, I read them over and over again...
Just think about the logistics of repeatedly singing the word 'Zelda', for a start. Yes, it does sound immeasurably false.
Or, there's always Scott's 'theme' of sorts :
Oh beautiful magnolia
You’re not as beautiful as she
Zelda, you’re dancing away with my heart
Now you’re a part of me...
The real crowning glory of dreadfulness, though, is the song that is - stay with me - sung at Scott's funeral. By his daughter, his mother in law, his ex-lover, his society sister in law, and the nanny. It's called 'Being A Woman', and, amazingly, the lyrics on the website bear almost no resemblance to the lyrics I heard last night. Basically, though, they all file past to tell Scott's daughter that love is really important and you have to find yourself a good man and do what he wants, even when it's really really hard. The chorus being "Being a woman...being a woman...being a woman in love with a man."
Zelda and Scott really must be spinning in their graves.
The other problem (yes! there's more!) with this show - and what made it quite so similar to those terrible old amateur dramatic shows - is that almost every character in it is American. But almost everyone in the cast is English (or Australian) - the only person whose accent was consistent was Michael Praed's. I'm not making this up to make him look good - everyone else sounded like they were doing bad impressions of Bill Clinton or Tammy Wynette. With the exception of the utterly gorgeous Jolyon James, who was an Australian portraying a Frenchman with an unconvincing accent, just for variety.
I would like to say lots more about what it was like and what it could have been like, but I know you're bored already, so I'll let you go.
In conclusion, if you're besotted with Michael Praed - and I do mean slightly more besotted than I am - then, yes, it's a peculiar sort of heaven, watching him writhing around on a bed with supposed society beauties, and comparing penis size with Ernest Hemingway (I wish I were joking).
But, christ. If you're not, please don't try to catch it before it folds. It's really, really, really, really bad.