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Grand Hotel review at Donmar Warehouse London

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To try to create the glamour and excess of this musical based around Berlin’s Grand Hotel in 1928 is a tall order when the space in question is one as intimate as the Donmar. However, director Michael Grandage and designer Christopher Oram do this distinctive show justice, drawing the audience in so close that it is almost impossible not to experience the guests’ feelings of passion, hope and despair.

That this is by no means typical musical theatre fare is obvious from the early image of retired army doctor Otternschlag (an impressive Gary Raymond) injecting himself with morphine, the only way he is able to chase away the ghosts of war. He is our wry guide as we observe a string of characters desperate to bypass the traps laid down by poverty, illness and fear in order to have just one stab at living life to the full.

Daniel Evans plays dying bookkeeper Otto Kringelein with such a genuine sincerity that it is quite believable Helen Baker’s would-be movie star Flaemmchen would join him to begin a new chapter in both their lives. Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio has the presence if not quite the elegance of fading ballerina Elizaveta Grusinskaya but her rendition of Bonjour Amor is a definite highlight. But the real standout performance comes from Julian Ovenden as the charming, penniless Baron, overwhelmed by his passion for Elizaveta. His voice literally soars during the enchanting Love Can’t Happen, backed by an excellent band led by Jae Alexander.

One regret is that some of the original music has been cut and there is no room for anything like the kind of choreography from Tommy Tune that made the original production such a treat. Adam Cooper’s musical staging can be deft but on other occasions potential showstopping situations lack choreography. The lively number We’ll Take a Glass Together is an example of what might have have been.

Production Information

Donmar Warehouse, London, November 19-February 12

Author
Luther Davis, based on a novel by Vicki Baum
Composer/lyricist
Robert Wright and George Forrest, with additional songs by Maury Yeston
Producer
Donmar Warehouse
Director
Michael Grandage
Cast includes
Helen Baker, Gillian Bevan, Martyn Ellis, Daniel Evans, Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio, Julian Ovenden, Gary Raymond
Running time
1hr 45mins

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