Can a fine cast of talented performers and top-notch direction and choreography overcome a somewhat mediocre musical theater piece? Thankfully, the answer is yes! Grand Hotel, currently playing as a part of the Mainstage Series by the University of Cincinnati College - Conservatory of Music (CCM), is flawed in its creation and writing, but is still thrilling theater due to its wonderful cast and professional presentation.
Grand Hotel takes us to Berlin in 1928, as a guest at the finest hotel in all of Europe. Here, we meet the latest lodgers as they parade before us: a handsome baron with large debts, a businessman with wavering ethics, a beautiful young typist who longs to become a Hollywood starlet, a dying bookkeeper who longs to live the good life once before he dies, an aging ballerina on her farewell tour, and her loyal and devoted companion. These characters, along with other guests and the hotel staff, are introduced individually in a lengthy opening sequence and then begin to interact and impact on the lives of each other. By the end of the evening, some have found happiness and the will to go on with life, while others have met with disappointment, or worse.
The musical debuted on Broadway in 1989 under the inspired direction and choreography of Tommy Tune. The show started out with a score by Robert Wright and George Forrest and a book by Luther Davis. However, by the time the show opened, Maury Yeston had been brought in to write additional songs for the troubled piece. The story at times seems too busy, especially during the beginning scenes. Furthermore, with six (or more) plot lines existing and developing concurrently, the story seems somewhat scattered and unfocused. Many of the songs are fine, including Yeston's "I Want To Go To Hollywood" and "Love Can't Happen", and the Wright/Forrest tunes "Maybe My Baby Loves Me" and "Let's Take A Glass Together". However, likely due to the divided creation of the score, it is somewhat uneven as a whole.
On Broadway, Grand Hotel was a flawed musical that was saved by Mr. Tune's imaginative and captivating work. Luckily for CCM, they have brought in Paul Daigneault as Guest Director for this production. Mr. Daigneault was involved with the original Grand Hotel and has become an expert on the show, having staged in on several occasions. He has recreated much of what made the Broadway incarnation of the musical a success. His staging is entertaining and fluid and assists in covering up the flaws in the show as written. Diane Lala serves as choreographer and likewise recreates some of Tune's work with great effectiveness. The costumes by Dean Mogle are attractive and appropriate and the simple, yet useful, set design by Paul Shortt deserves praise also. Roger Grodsky leads a fine orchestra as Musical Director and Conductor.
The other huge asset that Grand Hotel has in its favor is its performers. CCM is one of the top musical theater programs in the nation. Some of the most talented young people enter the program and then receive professional instruction by members of the fine faculty. Therefore, the cast is uniformly wonderful as usual. In lead roles, Tyler Maynard, Erin Ortman, Mary Cuchetti, Angela Gaylor, and Erik Nelson are impressive singers, dancers, and actors. As the Baron, Jason Patrick Sands receives special mention for his fine performance. The entire company does wonderfully with this difficult and complex piece.
A "stay" at Grand Hotel could easily turn out to be less than
satisfactory, but due to the fine service provided by the CCM staff and
students and Guest Director Daigneault, any "guest" is sure to be
entertained and pampered. The musical continues through March 4, 2001.
Contact the box office at (513) 556-4183 for additional information.
-- Scott Cain