Consistently Infrequent

January 16, 2012

Strictly Gershwin (London Coliseum, London, January 2012)

Filed under: Theatre — Tony Breyal @ 12:31 pm

Premise

The English National Ballet presents two hours showcasing some of Gershwin’s most famous and iconic musical compositions being performed with a live orchestra and a variety of choreographed interpretive dances.

Gershwin

An American composer and pianist, the works of George Gershwin are widely known and respected. Among his most popular tunes are Rhapsody in Blue (1924) and An American in Paris (1928). He wrote music for a number of Broadway musicals (such as Funny Girl and Crazy For You), Operas (Blue Monday, and Porgy and Bess),  films (e.g. Shall We Dance ) and stand-alone pieces (e.g. Preludes For Piano).

Theatre

This was my second time inside the London coliseum and I still think it’s among the most beautiful of auditoriums I’ve been in. I was sat in the stalls, row G, seat 8. Even though the seat is on the side it still affords a fantastic view of the stage with only the very extreme right being out of sight (which for this production was a non-issue). At 5′ 11” legroom was decent enough. The rake is good such that the people in front didn’t obstruct my view. The seats between rows are slightly staggered which also aids an obstructed view.

Audience

I was unfortunate enough to experience some annoying behaviour from a small minority of the audience members sat around me. A couple in the row in front of me and to the right whispered to one another throughout the show and blocked the view of the people directly behind them whenever they kissed or one rested their head on the shoulder of the other. The father of the family sat next to me would make sarcastic and loud comments about the performance to his wife sat a couple seats away from him which was very distracting. Finally there was a couple of elderly ladies sat behind me at the end of the row who also made comments (mostly complimentary) to one another about the performance but didn’t even attempt to whisper and instead spoke at a normal conversational volume.

I stayed quiet for as long as I possible could, doing my best to ignore this rude and inconsiderate behaviour, and just when I thought I could take no more, I said absolutely nothing. I just quietly sat there and did my best to enjoy the performance which is what I think the rest of the well behaved audience around me opted for (though a few brave souls did shush the offending parties on several occasions and others gave them the evil eye).

An entertaining thread documenting some of the experiences theatregoers have had with badly behaved audiences can be found in the following thread from whatsonstage.com’s discussion forum: https://www.whatsonstage.com/board/index.php?/topic/2984-badly-behaved-audiences/

Verdict

Having obtained a couple of cheap tickets I thought it would be an interesting experience to attend this type of show where an orchestra plays some popular compositions of a well known composer whilst a company of dancers interpret it live on stage. The closest thing I have to compare this with would be the multitude of dance shows on TV such as “So You Think You Can Dance” and “Strictly Come Dancing”. I’m a bit of a fan of SYTYCD and love how it incorporates a wide variety of different dancing and musical genres to keep the entertainment factor high. This is effectively what Strictly Gershwin does and I must say is very successful at accomplishing.

I must confess that I am not very knowledgeable about the art forms I witnessed at the London Coliseum but will say that I was both highly impressed with the dancers and blown away by orchestra. Words seem to fail me as I don’t have the vocabulary to do justice to the performance.

The dancers were flawless to my untrained eyes. They performed a variety of choreographed set pieces from several appropriate genres (ballet, ballroom and tap dance were the three easiest styles for me to pick out). The way the ballerina’s almost floated across the stage by standing on the tips of their toes and then in quick succession alternating each foot hitting the ground and the other in the air was seriously impressive (and slightly amusing).

The conductor of the orchestra had a bit of fun too doing his own little funny dances to amuse the audience between sets. The orchestra itself was, to my untrained ears, flawless and the singers pitch perfect.

Overall, I had a great time at Strictly Gershwin, much better than I had anticipated and will certainly be less hesitant to attend these types of performances in the future!

Footnote

I used this post http://wpbtips.wordpress.com/2011/06/29/inserting-grooveshark-audio-players/ to figure out how to embed the grooveshark flash content above into a wordpress.com blog post.

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