Thursday, July 28, 2011
THE GRAND HOTEL at Mercury Summerstock
GRAND HOTEL, whose 1989 production had a healthy run on Broadway, is the kind of show that seems dated and tired, even with an enthusiastic production.
Based on the 1929 Vicki Baum novel and play, Menschen im Hotel (people in a hotel), and the 1932 MGM feature film, the musical focuses on events taking place over the course of a weekend in an elegant 1928 Berlin hotel.
The story line centers on an overlapping view of various hotel guests. Included are an ill Jewish bookkeeper who is originally the victim of anti-Semitism, but finally is given a room; a temperamental past-her-prime ballerina who becomes involved in a cougar-cub relationship with a destitute Baron who is in deep debt and is being threatened with death; a lying businessman; and a typist who dreams of a career in Hollywood.
The book/music and lyrics are by Luther David, Robert Wright and George Forrest, with additional music and lyrics by Maury Yeston. Never heard of them? Well, you probably haven’t heard of most of the music from the show either. Titles include: Fire and Ice, Villa on a Hill, I Want to Go to Hollywood, Love Can’t Happen, and You Bring New Light. Not exactly stuff that populates your I-pod.
The Mercury cast puts out full effort. Pierre-Jacques Brault’s direction is creative and much of the singing is on key. Brault’s choreography well fits the music and is nicely done, especially considering the tiny stage space he has to work with. Keeping the entire cast on stage so they flow in and out of scenes was a nice touch. The problem is a script and the score. They just don’t go any place, don’t light up the stage, lack being memorable.
Brian Marshall is a combination Groucho Marx and Charlie Chaplin as Otto Kringelein, the ill put-upon Jewish bookkeeper. (Michael Jeter won several awards for the role the original Broadway production.) Marshall has some fine moments, especially in At the Grand Hotel.
Nate Huntley does an acceptable job of acting the role of Baron Von Gaigern, but has difficulty with the higher register singing.
Amiee Collier (Raffaela), Holly Feiler (Elizaveta Grushinskaya) , Emily Grodzik (Flemmchen) all create consistent characterizations. Collier’s What She Needs and Grodzik’s I Want to Go to Hollywood were show highlights. Jonathan Ramos does a nice vocal singing You Bring New Light.
The show runs without intermission.
CAPSULE JUDGEMENT: Mercury’s production is an acceptable evening of theatre, but GRAND HOTEL is one of those musicals that makes you wonder