Review by Paul Nelson
SCHWARTZ It All About at the Finborough Theatre is a rum do. It was billed as a revue but it happens to be an entirely new book musical which instead of having its own songs has culled some of the better known numbers from Stephen Schwartz musicals around which a book of sorts has been written.
What it's all about is love and sex that's what, and it centres on three couples and in a very juvenile way rather baldly presents scenes from their relationships with each other.
The story is culled from some nine Schwartz musicals, 28 musical numbers not linked together by anything but the odd word and the actions of the cast and their (sometimes) over hyped emotions.
It starts with the lovelorn Ben who is abandoned by a frustrated Frastrada. When she has left him the cast do the cheering up bit, but this is rapidly overtaken by trouble between the married couple Adam and Eve.
So that I do not frighten away the sceptical atheist, there is no mention of religion in the show; even the songs from Godspell and Children of Eden are sung way out of their original contexts.
There follows a jolly drunken binge, the men with bottles of beer and the women acting like tarts of prey, which turns imperceptibly into a cocktail party with party games. This is a very entertaining section of the show, with Catherine and Ben mainly entertaining the party in a truth or dare section. The men don bowler hats and in a well-choreographed nod to Bob Fosse present a worthy routine which the audience loved.
By now the show is noticeably in gear after a shaky start. Lack of dialogue meant that it took a few numbers to get it going, but from this point, it rolls.
Meanwhile Eve declaring her lovelorn condition attracts Dominique and they eventually wind up in the sack and Adam's discovery of them in flagrante delicto serves to close the first act, which so far has been a bleak view of love lives with all the angst, anger, and misunderstandings that go with them. A bit like the book of a Sondheim musical really.
The play continues in the same mood with Adam's recriminations and the final break up of he and Eve's marriage (Eve's turn to carry the suitcase).
Frastrada comforts her but she, meanwhile, isn't getting on too well with Ben, who is moaning because he has no girl.
However, all this gloom and doom changes miraculously when Dominique tells Ben a few facts about how to live with carefree style. Is Ben coming to his senses and going to get himself a girl, why yes! It's going to be Catherine.
Dominique and Frastrada mutually fall for each other, Adam forgives Eve and the play ends on an exuberant note with a fairytale ending, and not before time.
This is an interesting evening and that is not damning it with faint praise. Obviously a lot of thought has gone into it and director John Cusworth has introduced many very funny pieces of theatrical business which saves the evening from being a run-through of, let's face it, a canon of not too popular songs. He incidentally, along with Mark Powell, devised the show.
However, the main part of the event is watching and listening to crumbling love affairs which is ultimately depressing, the happy end it seems, comes too late.
The cast are uniformly in excellent voice, though for me the numbers are pitched just that little bit too high which on occasion causes the girls to shriek and the men to strain.
Outstanding among them are Carys Gray, whose song about being a waitress from Working is a standout revue number. Equally outstanding is the delightful David Shannon who has the plum part of the charming seducer and the friend. His knockout number Proud Lady, sung while bedding Eve is a gem. Mark Powell also attacks his role with gusto which, in a temperature approaching ninety degrees was sweat drenching. The Finborough must do something about this with another summer on its way.
The evening, largely, is one to highly recommend.
The Stephen Schwartz output is quite huge with numerous musicals that have never been seen over here, or without much success, excluding Godspell and Pippin. That John Cusworth and his MD Simon Sharp have made them seem more attractive than they are says a lot for the amount of care that has gone into this production.
Schwartz It All About, a musical comedy devised by Mark Powell and John
Cusworth with music and lyrics by Stephen Schwartz. Directed by John Cusworth,
Choreography by Vicki Coote, Musical Director Simon Sharp, Lighting by Heather
Thornley. WITH Mark Powell (Adam), John Cusworth (Ben), Carys Gray (Catherine),
David Shannon (Dominique), Juliette Caton (Eve), Alana Phillips (Frastrada).
Presented by End Products at the Finborough Theatre, 118 Finborough Road,
London SW10. 020 7373 3842.
RELATED LINKS: Click here for the Finborough website...
Click here for the official Stephen Scwartz website...