The 2012 London Production of the Musical Sweet Smell of Success

LONDON, U.K. – Marvin Hamlisch’s fiery Broadway noir musical finally makes its London premiere in a production that flaunts a smart and edgy razzle-dazzle cut with murky violence.

(Marvin Hamlisch won the 2013 What’s On Stage Awards – U.K. for Best Original Music)

David Bamber plays JJ Hunsecker (a role originated by Burt Lancaster in the 1957 film of the same name), a pitiless gossip columnist with New York in the palm of his heavily greased hands. Hunsecker is an information broker, and, in a ’50s America doused with McCarthy-era paranoia, information is the deadliest weapon in town.

Musical – Sweet Smell of Success – London, U.K.

Adrian Der Gregorian plays hapless press man Sidney, sucked into the heart of Hunsecker’s operations by escalating ambition and complicity. The cast is first-rate, particularly Bamber as the godfather of gossip with a wincingly creepy obsession with his young sister Susan (a superb Caroline Keiff).

Musical: Sweet Smell of Success – London

It’s this undercurrent of darkness that really sets Sweet Smell of Success aside. Inconclusive and underplayed though it may be, there is something fundamentally rotten about Hunsecker that runs deeper than a simple lust for power.

The band is cooking and Hamlisch’s music tumbles forward on a relentless beat, backed by Nathan M Wright’s pinpoint choreography. Craig Carnelia’s incisive lyrics are a perfect fit, as cool and as dynamic as Hamlisch’s jazz-inflected score. Mehmet Ergen’s production is a bold and booming musical storm that feels fit to burst right out of the Arcola and onto the West End. Source:  Time Out says By Stewart Pringle Posted: Thu Nov 15 2012

Musical: Sweet Smell of Success – London

Although it was famously a flop on Broadway in Nick Hytner’s 2002 production, this show, based on the 1957 movie, has got a hell of a lot going for it, including a fabulous jazzy score from Marvin Hamlisch and some killer lines. There’s a terrific (if overloud) band, some choreography that kicks up a storm in a small space, and a cast who offer some lovely performances: Caroline Keiff and Stuart Matthew Price are very fine as the lovers, I enjoyed Celia Graham’s Marilyn Monroe-style turn as Rita, and David Bamber quietly embraces the darkness of JJ (which some say stands for “jugular jugular”). Source: The Guardian, U.K.

JJ Hunsecker is the closest thing New York has to God. He’s the man with the poisoned pen. His daily gossip column delivers venom and rightwing propaganda to millions in early 1950s America. No wonder the cardinal gives him the run of St Patrick’s Cathedral after dark. But there is a dark side to the ruthless Hunsecker, a man who counts J Edgar Hoover among his pals. His achilles heel is his beautiful, young half-sister Susan, whom he wants to protect from the attentions of unsuitable men. But maybe it’s Hunsecker she needs protecting from: the fact that he got her Lassie’s pawprint may not be entirely damning, but there’s the creepy suggestion that he likes to tuck her up in bed at night. So when Susan falls in love with a talented but unsuccessful musician, Dallas, she needs help and finds it in the form of press rep Sidney Falcone (Adrian der Gregorian). But can a man with ambitions be trusted?

Hamlisch’s score is an accomplished pastiche of the period’s jazz, tending towards denser and more blaring compositions. –The Financial Times – Source: The Financial Times, U.K.

More Reviews:

Musical: Sweet Smell of Success – London

A BOLD AND BOOMING MUSICAL STORM THAT FEELS FIT TO BURST RIGHT OUT OF ARCOLA AND ON THE WEST END

“A production that flaunts a smart and edgy razzle-dazzle cut with murky violence…the cast is first-rate, particularly [David] Bamber as the godfather of gossip…[and] a superb Caroline Keiff. The band is cooking and Hamlisch’s music tumble forward on a relentless beat, backed by Nathan M Wright’s pinpoint choreography. Craig Carnelia’s incisive lyrics are a perfect fit, as cool and dynamic as Hamlisch’s jazz-inflected score. Mehmet Ergen’s production is a bold and booming musical storm that feels fit to burst right out of Arcola and on the West End.”Time Out ★★★★

A COMPELLING EVENING, BRILLIANTLY STAGED

“This is a compelling evening, brilliantly staged by the Arcola Artistic director Mehmet Ergen…the jazzy pulse of the score and the frenetic, knotty pace of the plot are snappily and stylishly serve by a bustling company of 16. Watch out too for Celia Graham, sensational as (Sidney’s) girlfriend Rita… The costumes are pure Mad Men but it’s madness – and badness – of men who weigh human worth in column inches alone that’s the show’s hypnotic central attraction.” Telegraph ★★★★

Musical- Sweet Smell of Success – London, U.K.

BOLD AND JAZZY

“Stuart Matthew Price is masterful…similarly excellent is Celia Graham… Wonderfully mopping up a handful of minor scene-setting roles is Russell Morton… Hamlisch’s melodies are bold and jazzy and Bob Broad’s direction of his pitch-perfect 7-piece band is a beautiful evocation of time and place.” The Public Reviews

BRILLIANT PRODUCTION

“An unsavourily-plotted antidote to Guys and Dolls…Mehmet Ergen directs a cracking, energetic production with outstanding choreography… Bamber heads a superb company… Mark Bailey’ monochrome design is coolly detailed and makes good use of the double-height space… Highlight of the night is definitely the ensemble choreography by Australian Nathan M Wright…there’s an inventiveness and intensity of both design and execution here that really pushes the envelope. Hamlisch’s score is clever and rich…Craig Carnelia’s lyrics are pin-sharp. Brilliant production.” One Stop Arts

A JOYOUS MUSICAL

“The engaging and fine-voiced Adrian de Gregorian…Bamber’s acting credentials particularly shine…Above all this is a joyous musical, its dark moments lifted by lovely singing of super tunes by the late Marvin Hamlisch, matched by witty and clever lyrics that enhance the space between musical numbers…the small ensemble is a joy…there is a star turn from Monroe-esque Celia Graham…Director Mehmet Ergen and his team capture perfectly the burgeoning cult of celebrity and paparazzi.” British Theatre Guide

SOME OF THE BEST SINGING I’VE HEARD IN THEATRE ALL YEAR

“A brilliantly realised condemnation of unregulated power and misplaced ambition…Marvin Hamlisch’s music and Craig Carnelia’s sophisticated, witty and heartrending lyrics are done full justice by some of the best singing I’ve heard in theatre all year…every word matters, as every note is hit. There is also a showstopping song and killer punchline from Celia Graham. It’s ridiculous that it has taken ten years for this work to cross the Atlantic – music, lyrics, singing, dancing, costumes and (above all) the Shakespearean sweep of its storyline make for a tremendously stimulating night. It’s hard-edged stuff – but it’s pin-sharp too.” Broadwayworld ★★★★

BEST MUSICAL ON THE FRINGE

“Every now and again a real stunner comes along and, for now, the title of best musical on the fringe has to go to Sweet Smell of Success. This is a smart musical for grown-ups…you don’t often get plots this strong in a musical and it should reach out to those the genre doesn’t normally appeal to. Ergen’s production takes advantage of all this: the sound is impressively big, with clear delivery, clever staging and adventurous choreography by Nathan M Wright…Caroline Keiff is wonderful…and she has great chemistry with Stuart Matthew Price’s Dallas. It is the latter who will really win you over with a scrupulous performance and some stupendous singing that should not be missed.” The London Magazine

SENSATIONALLY SUCCESSFUL

“The British premiere at the Arcola manages the paradoxical feat of now being sensationally successful in its queasily exhilarating portrait of the steamy underworld of celebrity journalism in 1950’s America…. Susan [portrayed by] the radiantly voiced Caroline Keiff and her secret boyfriend Dallas [portrayed by] Stuart Matthew Price, one of our very best singers…skilful designer Mark Bailey creates stunning new vistas…Nathan M. Wright’s choreography also works wonders in this small space to give the show propulsive movement…the result is another stunning fringe rediscovery of a seriously underrated Broadway show that comes into gleaming focus.” The Stage

SLICK, POLISHED UK PREMIERE

“Mehmet Ergen offers this Tony Award-nominated piece a slick, polished UK premiere, the stand-out aspect of which is the sparkling ensemble choreography.” The Evening Standard

A REAL TREAT

“I saw the 2002 Broadway premiere starring John Lithgow (directed by Nicholas Hytner), loved it, and have wanted to see the show again ever since. Mehmet Ergen’s production does not disappoint, creating a steamy noir atmosphere with the help of a savvy band (musical direction by Bob Broad), snappy and inventive choreography by Nathan M. Wright and great black and white design by Mark Bailey…[Hamlisch’s score] absolutely bristles (with sharp lyrics by Craig Carnelia)…der Gregorian and Keiff seem to me genuinely exciting new musical theatre names, and the chorus sings and sidles up a storm…a fringe blast-off. A real treat.” Whatsonstage.com ★★★★

A FABULOUS JAZZY SCORE

“…a fabulous jazzy score from Marvin Hamlisch and some killer lines. There’s a terrific band, some choreography that kicks up a storm in a small space, and a cast who offer some lovely performances: Caroline Keiff and Stuart Matthew Price are very fine as the lovers, I enjoyed Celia Graham’s Marilyn Monroe-style turn as Rita, and David Bamber quietly embraces the darkness of JJ.” The Guardian

PREVIEW AUDIENCES ALSO LOVED SWEET SMELL OF SUCCESS

I thought the musical was amazing – great music, dancing and a good story. I would go again and will recommend to my friends. Joanna Moncrieff ★★★★★

This is not a fringe musical,not even a great fringe musical but a a full copper bottomed Broadway/West End show. The cast were sublime, David Bamber playing against his usual type as JJ Gives a deliciously slimy performance and the two other male leads , both Mountview graduates with beautiful but completely contrasting voices,Adrian de Gregorian and Stuart Matthew Price, also stood out in this great cast. If it were possible to give 6 stars I would!!!….and all this at only the second preview!! Chris Kyd ★★★★★

The music, the staging and the talent on stage was all inspirational. My friend & I were blown away. Such a timely and energetic production. All involved deserve real recognition.. Maggie Sawkins

Musical – Sweet Smell of Success – London, U.K.

Sweet Smell of Success is presented by arrangement with Samuel French Ltd.

Directed by Mehmet Ergen

Musical Direction Bob Broad

Design Mark Bailey

Choreography Nathan M. Wright

Lighting Designer David Howe

Orchestration Tom Kelly

Sound Design Ed Borgnis

Costume Supervisor Lisa Aitken

Production Manager Ben Crawford

Dialect Coach Marj McDaid

Assistant Director Natalie Katsou

Assistant Director Marieke Audsley

Assistant Stage Mgr Georgia Pavelkova

Assistant Stage Mgr Dario Polmonari

Assistant Choreographer Claira Vaughan

Production Assistant Oya Bacak

Casting Ri McDaid-Wren

Cast

• David Bamber

• Michael Chadwick

• Brenan Davies

• Morgan Deare

• Adrian der Gregorian

• Zoe Doano

• Claire Doyle

• Celia Graham

• Claudia Kariuki

• Caroline Keiff

• Rebecca Louis

• Russell Morton

• Stuart Matthew Price

• Aaron Shirley

• Nikola Trifunovic

• Tosh Wanogho-Mau

 

Sources: Financial Times, The Guardian UK, Time Out Says

Source: Team Marvin Hamlisch / The Music of Marvin Hamlisch


 

3 comments

  1. TOP-NOTCH AND FIRST-RATE

    “The ensemble cast is top-notch in the sharp-shooting choreographed numbers …and their singing and orchestration first-rate. It has great music, and searing story-line and sub-plot, with a strange bitter-sweet quality that remains long after the final curtain call” Extra Extra