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Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Musical Review: By Jeeves

Now, I can say that I am a fan of Andrew Lloyd Webber's musicals, The Phantom of the Opera in particular, however I had mixed feelings about By Jeeves, which is Webber's musical interpretation of P.G. Wodehouse's "Jeeves and Wooster" character cast. Essentially this musical, like the books and stories that spawned it, is like an exhibit of dinosaur bones, greatly entertaining to look at, but also preserving the fossilised values of pre-World War II British society.

Bertie Wooster gets into a jam, he has used another man's name in court when he was arrested, and the man he has impersonated impersonates Wooster. That is the basic plot that is the start of many, many further "jams". But what makes this interesting is the lack of the spectacular, crowd pulling scenery, the premise of this filmed production I saw of it on the Ovation channel, was that what you see is a stage revue of Bertie Wooster playing the banjo, yet his banjo has been stolen, so Jeeves encourages him to entertain the audience (which you can see, the camera is used to portray you, the viewer, as one of the audience in one of the most clever production tricks I have ever seen) with "reminiscing" about the muddle he has gotten himself into before coming to perform on stage. As Jeeves says, the props rely on imagination, and many are representational. And therein lies the fun, with Jeeves and Wooster "breaking the fourth wall" in a sense whenever Wooster cannot bear the various messes he has gotten into.

I'm not an expert on Wodehouse's characters, but I know enough to figure out that from what was depicted in this production, the style and humor of the characters were accurate to Wodehousian literary standards.

Yes, it does drag on a fair bit. This is partly why I have mixed feelings about it. But all the same, I feel it is one of Webber's best, despite it being a theatrical failure at the box office as I have read that this musical was.

Wodehouse fans will be happy with this, and it serves as a good primer for the Jeeves and Wooster newcomers. I give this 8 out of 10 "Jam Jars" for its efforts.

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