Wednesday, September 15, 2010

'Passion' Lost at the Donmar Warehouse - The Review

Oh what to say. Okay I’ve seen the version of 'Passion' taped for PBS of the original 1994 Broadway production. Even though the musical is performed in one act, I felt it long and most of the music unmemorable.

After seeing the Donmar Warehouse staging, I was left cold again. When I walked into the Donmar’s intimate space, the evening felt promising with a set resembling the rustic look of a Tuscan villa with frescoes and walls that extend into the stalls seating.

Scarlett Strallen and David Thaxton
The story is about Captain Georgio Bachet (David Thaxton), a military hero, who is transferred to a strange and remote Italian outpost. Far away from his beloved Clara (Scarlett Strallen), he encounters Fosca (Elena Roger), the cousin of his commanding officer, and her influence has shattering and inconceivable consequences.

I think there is no fault to two of the leads, Thaxton and Strallen. You can feel their passion from their first scenes and when they are separated as they communicate through letters. With Fosca, the make-up artist does have a challenge. How unattractive should this sickly woman be that it is difficult to look at her? More could have been done than the pale complexion Roger sports on stage. All three are strong in voice but Roger left me unsurprised at her lackluster portrayal. The hurdle I find in this production and in the PBS version is seeing that jump where Georgio truly falls under the spell of Fosca despite her looks. Also I find Fosca to be so manipulative and to an extent rather selfish and almost evil that it becomes difficult to generate any sympathy for her.

Elena Roger and David Thaxton
Of higher recommendation is the chorus of men who play the officers and play all other roles in the musical including the female roles (note: they remain in their military costumes throughout). Their ensemble numbers bring the production to life.

The staging feels very fluid on the small Donmar Warehouse stage with the actors moving the props in and out of the auditorium. However unlike recent transfers of Donmar productions, it would be a challenge to find an audience that can sustain a commercial run. ‘Passion’ will likely remain a curiosity rather than a favorite musical.

Scarlett Strallen
Elena Roger
David Thaxton, Elena Roger (photos used for illustration purposes only)

  • Where:  Donmar Warehouse (Tube: Covent Garden)
  • When:  Mon-Sat 7:30pm; Wed & Sat 2:30
  • Running Time:  1 hr 40 min
  • Ticket Prices:  £15 - £32.50
  • Opening:  Sep 21, 2010 (Previews from Sep 10, 2010)
  • Closing:  Nov 27, 2010
  • Book online:
  • Book by phone:  0844 871 7624
  • Cast Recording: Unavailable.  The 1997 London Cast is available on CD.

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