Theatre review: Do I Hear a Waltz? at the Park Theatre

Rebecca Seale, Rebecca Moon, Matthew Kellett, Bruce Graham, Victoria Ward

Rebecca Seale, Rebecca Moon, Matthew Kellett, Bruce Graham, Victoria Ward - Credit: Archant

With a book by Arthur Laurents adapted from his play ‘Time of the Cuckoo’ and the film ‘Summertime’, music by Richard Rodgers and lyrics by the master lyricist Stephen Sondheim, it should have been a great piece of musical theatre being the first and only time these musical geniuses actually worked together – but somehow the elements just didn’t jell.

John Savournin has brought this curiosity in to our lives and it is a privilege to see one of the least regarded pieces of work in Broadway history for the first time being well received by the Park.

It is a simple romance about a lonely New York spinster who visits a Venetian Pensione for the holiday of a lifetime, falls in love with a married Italian antique dealer, gets drunk, breaks up with him and goes back to the USA. Although Hepburn made a success of the film version, the story is over simple and without very much emotional depth. There is a lack of charisma between the romantic leads mainly due to the fact that Philip Lee’s rich operatic baritone does not work with Rebecca Beale’s light soprano.

There is a problem with the acoustic of the newly built Park Theatre that makes Sondheim’s lyrics difficult to hear even though many of the cast are from the Charles Court Opera Company and are used to using words to great effect in their Gilbert and Sullivan productions. The wonderful Rose Strobel has no such problem and gives a powerful comedy performance as Fiora, proprietor of the Venetian Pensione in which the play is set. The same can be said of Victoria Ward and Bruce Graham as two of the American visitors who are a delight every time they appear. Also Caroline Gregory and Will Haswell make an enchanting young couple newly in love.

Some of the songs are lovely and the lyrics by Stephen Sondheim have a nice edge to them. There is much to enjoy in this production but one can see the flaws a little too clearly.

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Worth seeing for its unique curiosity value – a real collector’s item.


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