Grand Hotel. Southwark Playhouse. Review by Julia Pascal.



Vicki Baum’s 1929 novel Menschen im Hotel was the source of the 1932 Academy Award winning MGM movie Grand Hotel starring John Barrymore, Joan Crawford and Greta Garbo.  Baum dramatised her book for the stage and the play was produced in Berlin and London.  The musical version was staged in the US in 1989 with book by Luther David, music and lyrics by George Forrest and Robert Wright.  In this production there are additional lyrics and music by Maury Yeston.

Set in a Berlin hotel, just before The Third Reich, the guests are an ageing ballerina, a penniless baron, a dying Jew and a typist who dreams of a Hollywood career.  Everyone is desperate and the stakes are high.  Thom Southerland’s stylish production, on a traverse stage, is fast moving and theatrical.

However much goes to waste as the voices are blanketed by an over-produced musical arrangement of seven musicians, pumping out this homogeneous sound track.  Even the dialogue is drowned out by this monotonous score.  It seems bizarre to put actors in neck mikes in a small fringe theatre especially as this company has dynamic voices.  A sparser musical aesthetic would have made the production more poignant.  Lee Proud’s choreography is strong and the ensemble of seventeen performers is top notch.

Ends 5 September.

Julia Pascal © 2015.