Applause, a London School of Musical Theatre production at the Bridewell Theatre London.
After completing a one-year diploma at the London School of Musical Theatre, 19 students gave it their best in a production of Charles Strouse and Lee Adams’ Applause. They brought the classic 1970 Broadway show to life and their exuberance deserved our appreciation. Indeed LSMT’s principal Adrian Jeckells chose wisely in producing this under-rated gem for his students.
Based on the 1950 movie All About Eve (which in turn was inspired by Mary Orr’s short story The Wisdom of Eve), the piece is a two-hander in many ways; the diva-like demanding Margo (once the perfect vehicle for Lauren Bacall) and the homely but conspiring Eve, who wants to usurp her stage-legend boss. The assortment of flunkeys, advisors and admirers provides some deliciously comical and tragic drama to Betty Comden and Adolph Green’s edgy script.
Eve, at first sweet and then nasty, was played convincingly by Rebecca Withers who managed to melt and then cut us deep. A few more heart-stopping moments came from the of ice–in–the-veins producer, played by Robert McNeilly, and the honeyed vocal tones of Margo’s long suffering director (Richard Dawes).
Margo was forcefully portrayed by the hypnotic Roxanne Douro. In this demanding role, she was rarely offstage, and proved the part a great vehicle for any actress looking to showcase her range. Apart from impress us with her voice and presence, Douro was compelling enough to be able to invite us into Margo’s troubled mind, rather than repel us with her endless neurotic fears.
Over projection might have been an issue in such an intimate venue, it is often one of those problems that can appear obvious but difficult to measure. Director Graham Hubbard was therefore wise to rein in too much over-expression from the cast while keeping the energy levels high.
The set, ingeniously designed by Martin Thomas, placed the Bridewell audience in the perfect position to witness all the backstage action, with downstage suggesting an audience in the blurry distance. A device, also used in A Chorus Line, which has the desired effect of bringing that world of illusion, elation and stretched nerves to life. Perhaps it’s a world these enthusiastic students are ready now to embrace.