Wednesday, 4 July, 2001

This show, loosely based on the comic opera by Gilbert & Sullivan, which has been reworked by John Doyle, is a lacklustre affair that is only mildly entertaining.

This show is produced by the Watermill Theatre, in Newbury Berkshire where it had a sold out six week season earlier this year, and then went on to play at the Covent Garden Festival. Producer Bill Kenwright, decided it was worth staging in the West End and so brought the production to Shaftsbury Avenue. Unfortunately I believe it is more suited to a fringe venue, or possible a small auditorium like the Donmar Warehouse, where the intimacy of the space would work well for this lightweight show.

The thin plot goes like this: Don Christo, the head of a Venetian Mafia family has died. His only heir is his son. However, he sent his baby son away 25 years ago and he has not been seen since. The Godmother sends her mob family to find him. She believes he is staying at The Gondola Restaurant in Little Venice, London. Also, The Chicago Family, The Cacciattoros, are also keen to find the heir, because their daughter was secretly married to him when they were both 6 months old! To complicate matters they discover two newly married men, either one of which could be the heir, and thus they all have to go to Venice so The Godmother can identify the right one.

The jazzy band music with orchestration by Sarah Travis is monotonous, although there are couple of good arrangements, but nothing special. The ensemble of eight perform all the characters and all the music. It is a little strange watching them playing their parts while carrying instruments, which they do most of the time. I found this a distraction at first, but I soon became used to it.

The cast perform with lots of energy and smiles that radiate a goody goody feeling. Karen Mann plays three parts, but only when she plays the Godmother is she convincing. She is a little too over the top when playing her other two characters, Fenella the cleaner, and Donatella Cacciatorro. However, she is a mean trumpet player! The rest of the company perform competently, but there is no one outstanding.

Lasting just over 1 hour and 45 minutes with an interval, there is nothing to particularly dislike about the show, but then there is nothing to get excited about either.

(Darren Dalglish)

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