Wednesday, 14 January 2015

Review: Tamsin Greig stars in Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown at the Playhouse Theatre

Ricardo Afonso (Taxi Driver) and Tamsin Greig (Pepa Marcos)

Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown 
Playhouse Theatre
Reviewed on Tuesday 13th January 2015

Tamsin Greig makes her musical theatre debut in Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown. Set on the streets of Madrid, Women on the Verge has spiced up the West End during the cold winter months. The show may be crazy, but it makes a refreshing change and offers a fun, carefree night at the theatre.

Following a group of friends who are attempting to juggle their lives whilst dealing with emotional turmoils and personal dramas, Women on the Verge is adapted from Pedro Almodóvar's famous 1988 film. With music and lyrics by David Yazbek and book by Jeffrey LaneWomen on the Verge premiered on Broadway in 2010 to a mixed response and closed early; however, director Bartlett Sher heavily reworked the show for its West End run. 

Cast of Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown

Overall the production is polished. Yazbek's score is mostly strong, beautifully creating a colourful and passionate vibe. From the moment the incomparable Ricardo Alfonso starts singing the opening number 'Madrid' we are transported to a different world... an utterly bonkers world. New numbers have been written for this production, but a couple of songs still fail to bring anything to the piece and are forgettable.

Greig is sensational as Pepa, her comic timing and delivery is masterful. She is at home on stage, bouncing off the audience perfectly. Quite simply Greig understands the humour and gets the light hearted tone spot on; on several occasions the smallest facial expression had me in hysterics. 

Greig had to undergo singing lessons for the role. Although she can hold a tune, sometimes her lack of singing experience shines through. I'm not too fussy when it comes to vocals - every single note doesn't have to be perfect - however, sometimes it seemed Greig was more concerned about what note she had to hit rather than what she was singing about. 

Tamsin Greig (Pepa Marcos)
Overall Greig is an absolute dream. What doesn't help is that several of the supporting cast also aren't the strongest of singers. If stronger singers had been cast in these roles perhaps Greig would be more vocally supported (and there certainly isn't a shortage of musical theatre performers who can sing and act).

Haydn Gwynne brings plenty of theatrical glamour as Lucia, owning her big number 'Invisible'. As well as Alfonso, who brightens up the stage with charm throughout, stand out performances come from Haydn Oakley as loveable Carlos and Willemijn Verkaik who, following her long association with Wicked, commands the stage in a completely different role as lawyer Paulina (it's just a shame we barely get to hear any of her exquisite vocals). The small ensemble work hard and display huge versatility whilst playing various roles throughout. 

I enjoyed Anthony Ward's efficient set design whilst Peter Mumford's lighting design compliments the piece nicely. Women on the Verge sits well in the Playhouse Theatre which is one of the West End's smallest houses. 

There is certainly a cinematic edge to Sher's production - the scenes are snappy and the piece keeps moving, although occasionally the structure feels too much like that of a movie. The overall atmosphere was hugely fun; most people seemed to be having a great night - it's joyous escapism. 

Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown is a guilty pleasure. Despite questioning moments of weak singing and clunky text, ultimately I loved the silly humour, crazy storyline and Spanish vibe. As long as you are in the right frame of mind, Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown is a bit of fluffy, harmless fun.

Reviewed by Andrew Tomlins (Editor)

Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown is currently booking at the Playhouse Theatre until Thursday 9th April 2015. Please visit for further information and tickets.

Photo Credit: Alastair Muir

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