“THE FIX” Theatreworld Internet Magazine

Donmar Warehouse

Book & Lyrics by John Dempsey Music by Dana P. Rowe

Review by Graham Powner

Rehearsal pic of Phil and David

A minor miracle is taking place at the Donmar Warehouse theatre - the REAL MUSICAL is back !

Having being brainwashed (for the last fifteen years at least) that “big is best” and “you don’t need words, we’ll sing the dialogue!” we have a pair of budding ‘Musical’ composers showing their metal in the world premiere of “THE FIX”.

This is a musical play as it should be, with style, form and content - with no breaks for huge set piece scenic effects, so sung dialogue (which we can’t understand!). John Dempsey’s book and lyrics are so completely welded together that we do not even notice when the dialogue ends and the ‘singing’ begins - that is the perfect musical play. As for Dana P. Rowe’s absolutely wonderful score - well - I can only say it is sheer genius - a wonderful melting-pot of all kinds and styles of music from country and western, through rock ‘n’ roll to ‘Broadway show-stopper’ numbers.

The show concerns politics - and though set in America, it could be anywhere in the World - since we are confronted with the “fixing” of politics and politicians. The premise being that there is nothing that can’t be “fixed” !

On the death of Senator Reed (who would have gone on to become President) - Violet Reed - matriarch of the “Reed Political Dynasty” (could it just be a coincidence that J.F.K.’s mother’s name was ‘Rose’?!) - husband of the dead senator and mother to Calvin - declares ....... “If I can’t be the Presidents wife, I can still be the Presidents mother!! Thus, with the help of the dead senator’s crippled brother - (who did the ‘fixing’ to get him into the senate, the two ‘predators’ decree that is will be Cal (who is a young ‘dropout’ and certainly not in the least bit interested it politics!) who will be the eventual new inhabitant of The White House.

From then on we witness just how easy it is to ‘fix’ it for him to climb the political ladder from City Council to Senator - and so what if there is stuff like, sex and drugs, and scandal, along the way - with the help of the ‘Mob’ - these peccadilloes can also be ‘fixed’!

JOHN BARROWMAN (as the unfortunate Cal) has a voice like pure gold and displays acting ability far and above what we have seen from him in previous shows - his ‘soliloquy’ in the second act - “Child’s Play” - is sung with such depth of feeling and consummate skill. He puts such verve and energy into his role that one is almost breathless just watching his performance!

KATHRYN EVANS is simply magnificent as Violet, his mother - she is the ‘witch-mother’ to end all ‘witch-mothers’ - there are no lengths she won’t go to, and no depths to which she wouldn’t sink to, to get her son where she wants him - in the White House. Her voice, as ripe and rich as her performance comes to a climax with her wonderfully ‘revealing’ number “Spin” in the second act - where she removes the war-paint and wig and we see her for what she really is!

PHILIP QUAST, however, as the stammering crippled Uncle Grahame - the actual ‘fixer’ - gives the performance of his career - he is simply amazing. His voice is commanding and powerful and the way he manages to contort his legs (yet even do a soft-shoe shuffle on crutches with his ‘dead’ brother (DAVID FIRTH) is worth the price of a ticket alone. The number is a wonderful parody of a vaudeville act of the 1920’s and explains the beginnings and rise of the Reed Dynasty. KRYSTEN CUMMINGS, as the junkie mistresss of Cal is totally convincing and has a powerful, vibrant, spine-tingling voice.

Rehearsal pic of Company

There is a ‘Greek’ Chorus filling in the rest of the characters - each and every one of them putting their hearts and souls and then some into their performances - and magnificently smoothly carrying the plot forward. They have a fantastic song (“Simple Words”) which is a kind of evangelical, revivalist song as they (as reporters) get ‘carried away’ by Cal’s first political speech - just proving that you CAN fool some of the people some of the time! This is just another example of Dempsey & Rowe’s fabulous score - which is a wonderful mix of pastiche, parody and beautiful songs - yes, there is some sung dialogue - but it is used simply as a ‘bridge’ into a number or song - which is a perfect musical.

The design and lighting (Rob Howell and Howard Harrison respectively) is truly amazing - and how they manage to achieve the clever effects (especially with the use of Neon !) is a feast for the eye - no big set pieces but brilliantly clever and imaginative creativity from both of them. I still cannot believe they achieved such stunning effects in such a small performing space!

Last and most definitely not least the absolutely superb direction by SAM MENDES (fast becoming the ‘wunderkind’ of staging brilliant musicals WITHOUT the big ‘blockbuster’ West End budgets - leaves me bereft of words. Everything about this musical play was perfect - and of course, this is all down to his genius as a director. This paragraph doesn’t really seem to say enough - but then sheer perfection speaks for itself!!

“THE FIX” is an amazing WORK OF ART and I (as a connoisseur of ‘real’ musical plays) cannot give it any higher marks than ten out of ten !!! KILL FOR A TICKET AND GO AND SEE FOR YOURSELF.

We would like to thank Graham Powner Editor of Theatreworld Internet Magazine for giving us kind permission to publish this review..



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