pixie lott

The New Alexandra Theatre

***

AS breakfasts go this falls quite a few beans short of a full English, or full American in this case, and a reworking of the menu would not go amiss before a planned visit to the West End.

It stars Pixie Lott making her acting debut, a young lady who it appears can turn her hand to anything and make a more than decent fist of it. If you didn’t know you would think she was a seasoned pro.

The spectre of Audrey Hepburn hangs over anyone taking on the role of Holly Golightly but Lott puts her own stamp on the good time girl. She is capricious, seductive and oh-so sexy. She has all thePixie Lott makings and potential of a fine actress one day but she and the rest of a strong cast have their work cut out to rescue what is a stodgy, dull breakfast.

To be fair it starts with one unusual disadvantage in that there has yet to be a stage adaptation of Truman Capote’s novella which has set the world alight –  there has not even been a spark. This version adapted by Richard Greenberg had its debut on Broadway with Game of Thrones star Emilia Clarke as Holly. It managed just 38 performances.

Pixie Lott as Holly singing one of the three numbers in the show

Even that was better than the first attempt in 1966, a musical adaptation starring huge TV stars of the time, Mary Tyler Moore from The Dick Van Dyke Show and Dr Kildare himself, Richard Chamberlain. It closed after four previews without ever having officially opened.

Then a further difficulty which seemed to concern many in the audience from comments I heard around me, was that this version goes back to the original, darker 1958 novella with its desolate ending, rather than the much loved romantic comedy film of 1961 starring George Peppard and Hepburn, in her sunglasses and little black dress.

That is a light, witty, romantic comedy which ends all soft focus on an everyone set to live happily ever after romantic kiss. This ends . . . well that would be telling.

So anyone expecting to see the film version with its Henri Mancini score is in for a culture shock.  There are only three songs, two nothing to do with the film, and, of course, Moon River which goes hand in hand with any version. They were all sung nicely by Lott, highlights in fact, but they did seem to be sort of squeezed in with no telling dramatic purpose.

Not that a play based on the book is a bad idea. It is set in 1944 and later in 1957 rather then the 1960s of the film and Capote’s book is a modern classic, a study of a young woman, aged 19, trying to find herself in a big city, flighty, naïve, out for a good time and out of her depth madly treading water. Narrated by a struggling writer it has wit as well asjoe and fred its moments of despair. All the elements are there for an interesting drama.

This Curve Leicester production is not a million miles away but perhaps Capote’s gem needs a good polish.

Victor McGuire as Joe and Matt Barber as Fred

Unless there are rights issues some judicious pruning would go a long way – it is too long and some passages are, quite frankly dull. People leaving at the interval, as a number around me did, is not an ideal audience reaction. Matthew Wright’s clever and interesting New York apartment building set makes scene changes a dream, with elements rising or falling, sliding in or out so fast that actors walk seamlessly from one scene to the next.

But there are times when the instant set changes belie the speed of the action. There is nothing wrong with a gentle pace, after all this is not a tense fast moving thriller, but at times it lumbers along at the speed of a sluggish glacier; it’s too wordy, at times confusing and, in truth, some scenes are just plain boring, while the whole thing is not helped by too much dialogue vanishing in the New York accents.

There are positives though. Director Nikolai Foster manages to fuse two scenes together nicely several times, notably in the opening when the barman Joe Bell, an excellent performance by Victor McGuire (Bread, Goodnight Sweetheart) is explaining to Fred, played in 1940’s Hollywood writer’s style by Matt Barber (Downton) about a picture he has seen of a wood carving from Africa which looks like the now departed Holly.

The scene of Yunioshi, a photographer in Fred’s building, played by Andrew Joshi, showing Joe the picture runs alongside, opening up a sort of time warp with Joe seamlessly moving between the two different events at different times at either end of his bar. A clever touch.

Naomi Cranston does a good job as Mag, Holly’s best friend and fellow socialite while Charlie de Melo has suitable Latin charm as Jose, the would be Brazillian diplomat and companion of first Mags and then Holly.

Tim Francis is a fun loving Rusty Trawler whose main appeal to women appears to be money and then we have Hollywood agent O J Berman, played by Sevan Stephan, who has a soft spot for Holly who he sees as a potential star and finally, Holly’s somewhat mature husband, the horse vet from Texas, played by Robert Calvert.

And deserving a mention too is Bob the cat from A1 Animals. He seemed less then enamoured at his starring role as Holly’s moggie but played his part with restraint – by Fred or Holly usually. Hats off to A1 though. Anyone who can get a cat to do anything, let alone on cue, has to be approaching Doctor Dolittle status.

There is time to work things out with another nine venues to visit before reaching the West End in June but in its present form it is in danger of continuing the unenviable record of stage adaptations of breakfasts that are over well before lunch. To 23-04-16

Roger Clarke

04-16 

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