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Grand Hotel

Grand Hotel at Southwark Playhouse. Photo: Tristram Kenton Grand Hotel at Southwark Playhouse. Photo: Tristram Kenton

For someone who ranks the original 1989 Broadway production of Grand Hotel, directed and choreographed by Tommy Tune, as one of the all-time greatest of my life, this intense chamber staging had a lot to live up to. But Thom Southerland’s production, with its propulsive, all-enveloping sense of movement by choreographer Lee Proud keeping the action constantly fluid, full of changing shapes and lightning-fast shifts of mood, is in every way just as magnificent.

The large cast may be just sometimes be a little bit squeezed on the narrow strip of traverse stage that bisects the audience, but the jagged flurry of lives — in which “people come, people go, one life ends and another begins” in the foyer and bedrooms of a hotel in 1928 Berlin — is caught in a bold and startling parade of intersecting dramas being played out there under the stunningly lit gaze and haze of Derek Anderson’s lighting design.

The strongly delineated cast assembled here bring definition and clarity to each and every role, from chambermaids and bellboys that make up the dancing chorus of below-stairs workers to an addict doctor (David Delve) who casts a jaundiced eye over the procession of hotel guests who include an impoverished baron (Scott Garnham), a dying Jewish accountant (George Rae), a prima ballerina past her prime (Christine Grimandi) and her devoted female companion (Valerie Cutko), a typist with dreams of Hollywood (Victoria Serra) and the businessman who employs her (Jacob Chapman) but has other designs upon her services.

Each of their stories is brilliantly told in a succession of alternatively stirring and yearning songs, given new shimmering life in Simon Lee’s new orchestrations for a band of just seven players under musical director Michael Bradley.

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Absolutely unmissable fringe take on an ambitious Broadway musical