Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: San Francisco/North Bay

The Roar of the Greasepaint—The Smell of the Crowd
Landmark Musical Theatre
Review by Richard Connema | Season Schedule

Also see Eddie's review of The Mushroom Cure and Richard's review of Dog Sees God

Scott Ayres and Julian O'Byrne
Photo by Matthew O'Bryne
Landmark Musical Theatre is presenting Leslie Bricusse and Anthony Newley's The Roar of the Greasepaint—The Smell of the Crowd. I first saw this musical in 1964 at the Theatre Royal in Nottingham, England, with Norman Wisdom as Cocky. David Merrick brought the English musical over to the States and put Anthony Newley in as Cocky and Cyril Ritchard as Sir at the Shubert Theatre where I saw it in 1965.

This musical has some beautiful melodic songs, such as "A Wonderful Day Like Today," "The Joker," and "Who Can I Turn To?" The no-story plot scrutinizes the difference between the upper-classes and lower-classes of British society in the 1960s. The characters are lower-class Cocky (Julian O'Byrne) and upper-class Sir (Scott Ayres). The working-class victim is being forced to play the game of life against the upper-class tormenter Sir.

Roar of the Greasepaint comments on thoughtful issues like class inequalities, religion and discrimination (sound familiar?). Everything in this music hall style production transpires in two hours with one intermission.

Director Jon Rosen has assembled a gifted cast of singer/actors headed by first time professional performer Julian O'Byrne. The young man just out of the Marin School of Arts at Novato High School knocks the acting part out of the park. He is nimble, amusing and delightful. He has what I call a "metallic voice," something like Bobby Van who was popular in MGM films in the 1960s. He needs to project his voice more but has the potential to be a great actor. He has a pulsating voice singing "The Joker."

Veteran actor Scott Ayres has a strong voice with good projection and is pitch perfect in "A Wonderful Day Like Today" and "Look at That Face." His performance is outstanding. Singing the show-stopping "Feeling Good" with terrific vocal chops is Juanita Harris as The Stranger. The teenage girls who surround the upper-class gentleman are Dian Sitip Meechai, Amanda Nguyen, Heather Steffen, and they are fun to watch and harmoniously energizing.

Director Jonathan F. Rosen and musical director Brian Allan Hobbs have taken this allegorical musical, put it on their intimate stage, and made it fun to watch.

The Roar of the Greasepaint—The Smell of the Crowd runs through May 27, 2017, at the Exit Theatre, 156 Eddy Street, San Francisco. Call for tickets at

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