WORTH A LOOK?: ****
WHERE: Southwark Playhouse
WHEN: 25/5/18, press night 29/5, runs to 23/6/18
RUN TIME: 2 hours and 20 minutes (with interval)
Liza Minnelli and Chita Rivera starred in the original Broadway production of this Kander and Ebb (Chicago and Cabaret) musical and we wonder whether they had as much fun with it as Caroline O’Connor and Gemma Sutton do here.
- Read on for reasons including how this 1st preview deserved its standing ovation
Rivera won a Tony for her portrayal as Anna, the owner of the titular rollerskating rink, who is about to have it bulldozed until estranged daughter Angel returns and questions the plan.
The Broadway critics were unkind about The Rink (the book was by Terrence McNally) in the 80s but this production makes much of its studio space and limited budget.
Time has been kind to the mother-daughter relationship at the heart of this piece and the chemistry between O’Connor (a two-time Olivier Award nominee fresh from the Broadway production of Anastasia) and Sutton (who we last saw in Gypsy at the Savoy) is electric.
The highlight of this show for us is Act Two opener The Apple Doesn’t Fall (see below) during which mother and daughter get stoned and roller-skate with both genuine warmth and to hilarious effect. Did Anna mistakenly call Angel ‘Martha’ during this 1st preview? It was very funny.
The supporting cast is especially strong and the best received number was the show’s title track where the male members use their roller-skates to tap dance as the tempo gets faster and faster into a giddy blur.
You’d think Minnelli and Rivera (see above) would be an impossible act to follow but the mother-daughter banter here is whipcrack smart and O’Connor shines as bright when she is dancing as when she is singing up a storm.
The score is not Kander and Ebb’s best work but is both memorable and moving. It feels a bit Follies on a budget which is perhaps not a bad thing given how critically lauded and extravagant the National’s recent performance of that has been.
Michael Lin and Elander Moore are names to watch from the supporting cast but it is O’Connor who gives this her utmost and is well rewarded by a 1st preview standing ovation we can see becoming a regular occurrence.
Get your skates on if you want a ticket because The Rink has a limited run in this studio venue and goodwill for this fine production is picking up speed.