As the name suggests this beautiful musical gives us a brief glimpse in to the lives of the guests and staff of the Grand Hotel, in late 1920’s Berlin to be precise. In the vein of Neil Simons ‘California Suite’ we find ourselves entangled in separate and intertwining tales of love, greed and class difference.
The clever staging is facilitated by the flexibility of the Southwark Playhouse. The ‘stage’ runs the full length of the space with the audience seated either side like a catwalk fashion show, but the catwalk is in fact the lobby of the hotel, and the simple dressing is effective at communicating the elegance of the establishment and is complimented by well crafted costumes.
This staging allows wonderful things to happen. During some big numbers with the whole ensemble on stage you will find little vignettes unfolding right in front of you, something as simple as the hotel manager forbidding a maid to sneeze gave us a wonderful realism. I felt sorry for my fellow audience members seated at the opposite end who were missing these little gems, only to feel instantly jealous that I was missing what was happening at their side of the hotel lobby.
This elongated lobby also allowed for some stunning choreography which perfectly captured the hustle and bustle of the busy hotel, drawing you in to feel part of the rushing madness. The whole cast really were superb here with each movement perfectly timed and executed, the whole scenario like a fluid jigsaw puzzle.
Scott Garnham in the role of Baron Felix Von Gaigern gave a confident delivery that filled the theatre both in dialogue and song, particularly during ‘Love Can’t Happen’ when I found unexpected goosebumps at the tenderly beautiful performance. (And apparently he had a cold! I certainly didn’t notice)
George Rae in the role of Otto was simply delightful, he played his role perfectly and provided comic relief and some very touching moments to the proceedings.
Victoria Serra was also a pleasure to watch as she brought the naivety of the fame hungry typist to life through a dazzling array of song and dance numbers.
From Christine Grimaldi as the fading ballerina to Jonathan Stewart’s father-to-be – too scared to leave his post to be at the birth, the cast all deserve credit as they each immersed themselves completely in their respective roles.
David Delve should be given particular mention, having joined the company just days before opening – he gave no hint that he was a last minute addition.
I have been lucky enough to see two previous Danielle Tarento productions at Southwark Playhouse, ‘Gods and Monsters’ and ‘Dogfight’. Though both excellent, the latter holds a special place in my heart and I was delighted to see Samuel J Weir (Fector in Dogfight) in this production. Weir has the talent to take on a bigger role and I hope he finds it in his next casting, where I will make sure I’m in the front row.
As a musical, the score will have your feet tapping throughout with ‘Fire and Ice’ and ‘We’ll Take a Glass Together’ particularly memorable. Climaxing with ‘Grand Ending’ which visually is quite disturbing but portrays the contempt each set of characters holds for the other. Indeed, Director Thom Southerland has taken what could be a quite complex tapestry of tales and woven them into a visually stunning masterpiece.
My advice would be to check in to the ‘Grand Hotel’ as soon as possible.