I saw the musical Grand Hotel in the early 1990s when it did a short run at the Dominion Theatre. I admit didn’t come away with any lasting memories. I recalled that it was about the staff and guests at The Grand Hotel in Germany but that was about all, therefore I wasn’t too fussed about seeing it again at it’s new run at the Southwark Playhouse where it now runs until the 5th September.
Grand Hotel | Review
As the publicity for the show gathered pace and photos and teasers were released my curiosity was piqued so I braved the tube strike chaos on Wednesday evening and headed over to Southwark.
I was completely caught by surprise and I was bewitched by this scintillating musical produced by Danielle Tarento. This was certainly not the mediocre production I remember from all those years ago.
Grand Hotel is set in the most expensive hotel in Europe between the wars, it opens with an introduction to the guests and their reasons for being at the Grand Hotel and as the story progresses the guests intermingle and we learn more about them. It is not a political piece although the setting is relevant, it is more a study of people’s lives and what makes them act as they do.
The characters are very diverse, the Doctor who also serves as a Narrator who injured in the Great War is quite bitter and stoic, the penniless Baron Felix Von Gaigen, a famous ballerina Elizaveta with her devoted companion Raffaela, the terminally ill Jew who wants to be accepted into Grand Society before he dies, the unscrupulous business man and the typist he hires who bites of more than she can chew. As their stories intertwine, each character touches the other’s lives and the audience begins to understand them and the world of Berlin in the 1920s.
The music and lyrics are written by George Forrest and Robert Wright with additional material by Maury Yeston, I was delighted by the music, with all the close harmonies it has a certain Sondheim feel to it, some of the songs ‘Girl in the Mirror’ and ‘We’ll take a glass together’ were joyous whereas other songs gripped the heartstrings.
There were so many standout characters, but for me Italian Musical Theatre Star Christine Grimandi who is making her UK debut topped the billed. Her portrayal of aging ballerina Elizaveta Grushinskaya was brilliant capturing perfectly the desperate insecurities of a once famous and beautiful woman struggling with age and failing abilities. Grimaldi gives a remarkable performance.
The grandeur of the hotel was simply portrayed using an ornate tiled floor and a huge chandelier. The performance area being long and thin posed some problems when trying to catch all of the complex lyrics if you were not central. It is however provide the space for some inventive choreography by Lee Proud.
I really enjoyed Grand Hotel, Director Thom Southerland has definitely breathed life into a show that previous I found dull. The grandness of the hotel is more suited to the intimacy of a smaller venue to make the characters shine though.