REVIEW: The Theatre Channel – Rodgers and Hammerstein

Brian Butler July 3, 2021

Adam Blanshay Productions go from strength to strength with their streamed insights into musical theatre. This time, in collaboration with Playbill, the Theatre Cafe and Regents Park Open Air Theatre , they give us a tribute to the great Rodgers and Hammerstein.

And wow what a selection of songs we get, recorded in and around the marvellous open air auditorium in the leafy  centre of London.

But the icing on the cake is the interleaving of chat with Ted Chapin, newly retired President of the Rodgers and Hammerstein Organisation, who gives terrific insight into the history  of their shows and writing techniques.

Kicking off with a medley from the R and H compilation show A Great Night For Singing by the resident Theatre Cafe 5, we hear from Chapin  about the re-invention of these timeless songs for a new generation – so How Do You Solve A Problem Like Maria ?  Can now be sung by a man about the trouble he is having with his girlfriend.

Caroline Sheen gives us a nervous Whistle A Happy Tune as she apparently waits for an audition – it’s a clever notion. Of the Flower Drum Song Chapin says it was “ contemporary, daring and cast with as many Asian/Americans as they could find”.  Love Look Away is a haunting ballad sung by a woman who turns a love triangle into a quadrangle in the show. Here Amara Okereke give us a beautiful , tender , melancholic ironic soaring voice.

Allegro was the couple’s first flop. An Everyman story , it had singing chorus, a Greek chorus and a dancing chorus, but the audiences didn’t get it. Here Josefina Gabrielle gives us the bitter The Gentleman Is A Dope, as a vampish, bitingly funny diva – it’s terrifically  done.

Daniel Koek has a grand operatic tone for This Nearly Was Mine and Ethlinn Rose and Tavio Wright are delightfully ingenue in 16 Going On 17 as they superbly dance on grass and then on a rain-swept bandstand.

Chapin gives an interesting analysis of The Sound Of Music – he says: “ it’s about a broken family; a lack of love interest, at least initially; a dangerous world that is approaching.”  On Carousel’s You’ll Never Walk Alone, he tells us it’s not an anthem song, not a song of victory; it’s an acknowledgement that things might turn out ok but the going will be tough .

The super-talented Michael Xavier combines the song with Climb Every Mountain, ending onstage with the cafe 5 and playing to an empty auditorium as if to reflect what we and performers have been living through this last year or more.

The second half of the programme is devoted to the creative team behind this summer’s  staging  of Carousel at Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre.It’s a radical re-imagining of the show, moved to modern times and to seaside Britain, complete with new orchestrations and choreography.

Director Timothy Sheader reminds us that the original is  set in a working-class community and he has kept that spirit by using a colliery style brass band, along with a rhythm section. Choreographer Drew McOnie says being outdoors under the stars allows a new magical interpretation: ” Expect the unexpected, and imagine it’s a brand new musical”, he tells us.

MD Tom Deering has transposed the soprano voice to a mezzo to move it nearer the actors’ speaking voices. There’s no fear of upsetting the royalty holders – the production has the full blessing of the Rodgers and Hammerstein Orgaisation

It runs at the park  from 31 July to 25 September – hopefully with full occupancy ! for tickets

Watch the Theatre Channel at the