Regional Reviews: Washington, D.C.
It is one of the most exclusive spots in Europe. With sumptuous surroundings and five-star service, the Grand Hotel is a place where one can mix with the social elite and enjoy the luxuries of life. Unfortunately, money and opulence is not enough hide the unattractiveness that lies beneath the surface. The same holds true for the Signature Theatre's production of the same name. Although ambitious, this production never completely manages to mask its inadequacies.
The Signature Theatre is renowned for its excellent creative team, and their handiwork is certainly in evidence. Through his expert direction, Signature's artistic director, Eric Schaeffer does manage to bring out the show's strengths despite a score that is at times underwhelming and a book that is often weak.
Originally adapted as a musical in 1989, Grand Hotel focuses on a handful of hotel guests, highlighting their ambitions, joys, and sorrows. All of these people have very different stories. Among them are the young girl with dreams of stardom, the sophisticated Baron who has lived beyond his means, the famous dancer who is past her prime, and the dying man who only wants to experience life. These characters eventually intermingle and their lives change. The transition of these main characters seems almost too predictable, thus becoming less interesting. Regrettably, less attention was paid to some of the supporting characters, several of whom seemed much more appealing.
Fortunately, there are a number of standouts in this ensemble piece. Michael Sharp's portrayal of Otto Kringelein is wonderfully endearing and his performance provides some of the best moments in the show. Signature alum, Steven Cupo, is also excellent as the dour Colonel Doctor Otternschlag. Deanna Harris, another Signature veteran, is vivacious as the star struck Flaemmchen. Additionally, Will Gartshore (right) is a charming Baron Felix Von Gaigern.
Special mention should be made of Karma Camp's choreography and Chris Lee's lighting design. Both convey the emotional transitions that so dominated this piece.
Lucky is the play that has Eric Schaeffer at the helm. As in the past, the Signature Theatre fails to disappoint in terms of production values. Even so, there remains an air of mediocrity. Unfortunately, the Grand Hotel falls short of its five-star reputation.
Photo: Carol Prat