BLONDEL – Union Theatre

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Union Theatre, London – until 15 July 2017

“I’m a fool…just a fool.”

There’s something admirable in the Union Theatre’s admirable determination to work its way through the dustier, neglected end of the musical theatre canon to see if anything comes up roses. I liked what they did with Anyone Can Whistle, less so with Moby Dick, and now its the turn of the lesser-known Tim Rice musical Blondel (the first he wrote after his Andrew Lloyd Webber collaborations) to get the revival treatment.

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Sometimes though, when polishing a pebble in the hope that it turns into a diamond in the rough, it remains a pebble. Sasha Regan‘s high-spirited, fun-loving production has a wonderfully playful energy about it, and the cast are clearly having a whale of a time, but it isn’t too hard to see why the show has rather languished in obscurity. Daftness can only take you so far (believe me, I know!) and Blondel (over-)runs at 2 hours 30 minutes.

Set at the time of the Third Crusade (1189, keep up) where the titular troubadour finds himself on an unlikely rescue mission across Europe for his beloved king Richard the Lionheart, Blondel’s plan is to sing his biggest song outside every castle in Europe so that Dicky can sing back to him and thus reveal where he is. Like I said, it is silly and mostly fun – there’s just way too many songs stuffed into the score which drags things out unnecessarily.

It’s also nowhere near as funny as it seems to think it is, making Regan’s direction veer a little too close to panto at times. Is this a bad thing? It’s hard to tell as there’s a ton of good performances here lapping up the broadness (Michael Burgen, James Thackeray), vocal strength too (Neil Moors), and real musical talent in the form of the harmonising quartet of monks (David Fearn, Ryan Hall, Oliver Marshall and Calum Melville). Enjoyable but not essential.

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Ian Foster
Since 2003, Ian Foster has been writing reviews of plays, sometimes with a critical element, on his blog Ought to Be Clowns, which has been listed as one of the UK's Top Ten Theatre Blogs by Lastminute.com, Vuelio and Superbreak. He averages more than 350+ shows a year. He says: "Call me a reviewer, a critic or a blogger, and you will apparently put someone or other's nose out of joint! So take it or leave it, essentially this is my theatrical diary, recording everything I go to see at the theatre in London and beyond, and venturing a little into the worlds of music and film/TV where theatrical connections can be made."
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Ian Foster on FacebookIan Foster on RssIan Foster on Twitter
Ian Foster
Since 2003, Ian Foster has been writing reviews of plays, sometimes with a critical element, on his blog Ought to Be Clowns, which has been listed as one of the UK's Top Ten Theatre Blogs by Lastminute.com, Vuelio and Superbreak. He averages more than 350+ shows a year. He says: "Call me a reviewer, a critic or a blogger, and you will apparently put someone or other's nose out of joint! So take it or leave it, essentially this is my theatrical diary, recording everything I go to see at the theatre in London and beyond, and venturing a little into the worlds of music and film/TV where theatrical connections can be made."

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