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First night - 16.09.04
The Woman In White
The story follows three women in their dealings with a dastardly villain and his comic accomplice
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Vocal fireworks and a brooding, soaring score: Mark Shenton is impressed by Andrew Lloyd Webber's new musical...

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The Woman In White is at the Palace Theatre, Shaftesbury Avenue W1
Tickets £15 -
£50
Booking to 5 March 2005
Box office: 0870 895 5579

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The Woman In White (Palace Theatre)
Andrew Lloyd Webber has done it again: our most consistently prolific contemporary theatrical composer has come up trumps with an alternately brooding and soaring new score for The Woman in White.

" The main mystery that preoccupied me was why the producers have gone to the expense of hiring Michael Crawford and then buried him unrecognisably in a fat suit..."

It replaces Les Miserables at the Palace Theatre, and like that show, is directed by Trevor Nunn.

Intriguingly, it shares other things in common with Les Mis: the books they are based on were written just a year apart, in 1860 and 1861 respectively.

Both productions also feature a revolve that puts the stage into constant circular motion; and there are some similarly sinister, darkly drawn characters that propel a fight between good and evil, albeit in a much more domestic, Anglicised setting.

nuance and vivacity

Here the story follows three women in their dealings with the dastardly Sir Pervical Glyde and his comic villain accomplice Count Fosco, the latter complete with a menagerie of birds (one of whom unhappily escaped its cage on press night) and rats.

Critics have been asked not to reveal the source of the mystery at the heart of the piece, but the main mystery that preoccupied me was why the producers have gone to the expense of hiring Michael Crawford to play Fosco and then buried him unrecognisably in a fat suit.

They could have had Christopher Biggins and saved on the transformation effects.

But there's more nuance and vivacity to the trilogy of women, whom Maria Friedman and American actresses Jill Paice (as her half sister who marries Glyde) and Angela Christian (in the title role) beautifully embody.

Friedman provides the absolute heartbeat (and blazing vocal fireworks) of the piece, and together with the fine musical tapestry of Lloyd Webber's score, makes this journey ultimately well worth travelling.

Agree or disagree with our review? Add your comments below...

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