If you have yet to book a summer holiday this year, perhaps a visit to the Grand Hotel might be in order. Based on the 1932 motion picture, set in an elegant hotel in 1928 Berlin, we witness an interweaving of storylines from a variety of characters, including an old prima ballerina to a baron. Thom Southerland’s production truly adds spectacle to the intimate space at the Southwark Playhouse.
With the narrow traverse staging the venue has with no room for a scenic backdrop, it is a challenge to see how we as an audience are transported to thriving 1920s Berlin. Yet it is Lee Proud’s exquisite choreography that brings the hotel to life. With an array of flips and lively sequences, the entire ensemble are well synchronized and bring a dynamic energy to the production. Symmetrical with large gestures, it never goes beyond the line of becoming over-the-top which is always a danger on such a condensed stage.
Particular performances to mention come from the leading tenors. Scott Garnham as Baron Felix von Gaigern, or just the Baron, is a triumph vocally. A very solid top range with a strong chest voice on the higher notes, this supports his emotionally intense performance nicely. George Rae as Otto Kringelein also provides some comic relief with a brilliantly animated performance and consistently energetic physically throughout. For a UK debut, despite being an experience European performer, Christine Grimandi also has an engaging presence on stage, with her vocal vibrato adding to the grandeur of Simon Lee’s fine musical arrangements. I only wish Victoria Serra as Flaemmchen was stronger vocally and fully encapsulated herself by oozing more feistiness in her role as a rising Hollywood superstar.
Having said this, Southerland’s Grand Hotel is a fine take on this glamorous musical. His dark vision leaves you engaged throughout, and he succeeds in bringing this glamorous production to a limited space. This truly is a getaway with your money well spent.
Reviewed by Barry O’Reilly
Photo: Tristram Kenton
Grand Hotel is playing at the Southwark Playhouse until 5 September 2015. Click here to book tickets