Monday, 3 August 2015

The Grand Hotel, Southwark Playhouse

A FADING prima ballerina who is being forced to dance again, a fatally ill Jewish bookkeeper who wants to spend his final days living in luxury, a young, handsome, but destitute Baron, a cynical doctor suffering from First World War wounds, an honest businessman going bad as he faces financial ruin and a typist dreaming of Hollywood stardom.
These are just some of the eccentric and sometimes dubious guests to be found at the Grand Hotel in Berlin.
Over the course of a weekend in 1928, their extraordinary lives interweave with each other and the hotel’s hard-working staff.
This glorious tale is being brought to life at the Southwark Playhouse by producer Danielle Tarento and director Thom Southerland for a six-week run from today.
Written by Luther Davis and with music and lyrics by George Forrest and Robert Wright, Grand Hotel premiered on Broadway in 1989 and won five of its 12 Tony Award nominations.
This new London production of the show features a 17-strong international cast amongst which is Italian actress and singer Christine Grimandi who makes her eagerly awaited UK stage debut as fading prima ballerina Elizaveta Grushinskaya.
It is a role she's looking forward to playing not least because she knows a bit about what it's like to be a dancer.
"I started as a ballerina when I was a child," she says in her faultless English. "I started when I was about five years old and by the time I was nine I was on tour meeting people like Pavarotti.
"However over the years I realised that although I loved ballet it wasn't what I wanted as a career. I loved singing, dancing and acting and so I decided to focus on musical theatre."
The move proved to be a positive one as her career has blossomed and she has performed all over the world with roles in musicals such as Cats, West Side Story and The Sound Of Music to name but three.
However a chance to take to the London stage has eluded her - until now.
"I'm really excited about being in London," she says. "It's great to be here and I like South London very much.
"I have brought my daughter who is 11 years old and who has never been to London before.
"In between rehearsals we've done a lot of exploring - mostly walking through the city which has been fantastic. It's a very nice place to walk around and we've seen all the bridges, the London Eye and along the South Bank.
"I live near Wimbledon so we've done all the parks there too. It's lovely."
But it wasn't just London that was the draw. The "fantastic characters and beautiful music" within the show also provided a pull for Christine.
"The Grand Hotel is a rather special place where people come in and spend their money and time," she says.
"It's a bit of a bubble really with the really rich rubbing shoulders with the hotel workers who are anything but.
"My role is that of ballerina Elizaveta Grushinskaya. She is at the end of her career but is being pushed to get back on stage and do one more performance, something that she's not happy about.
"We see her as she comes to Berlin from a very bad night in Amsterdam. She's mad as it was a disaster and she doesn't want to go on stage anymore but her agents want her to as they want more money.
"She's falling apart and is almost broken, not least because she's fallen in love with a young man. We see what happens to her over the weekend - her hopes and dreams.
"It's very sad really but she always keeps an open mind because you never know what might happen in life."
It's a philosophy Christine adopts in her own life and says it has served her well.
"Life is for living," she says firmly. "I am very open minded and try and make the most of situations that present themselves.
"I have performed all over the world and go where the work takes me but you always get something special from every single country.
"It's the first time I've performed on the London stage and so I'm excited and thrilled but a bit scared at the same time. It's quite challenging and I feel like a little mouse in a trap thinking about it but it's such a rich and fabulous show to be in."
And while it may be set in 1928 Christine says it's a very contemporary story.
"It is set in a very specific moment between the two world wars but it could have been set in the present," she says.
"In that time there was a lot of change and uncertainty in countries across Europe - much as there is today - people are wondering what is going to happen but they still have lives to lead.
"But actually it's not really that it's set in 1928 that is important, but that the emotions and situations that happen in the story are ones that everyone and anyone can relate to.
"It's full of emotion and every single character has something special and something to tell the audience.
"I really believe everyone who comes to see the show will be able to find a relationship or connection with one or maybe two of the characters - whether it be sickness, money worries, having children or being at the end of a career.
"People can relate to this as they are real life situations, feelings and emotions so there is plenty of humour and sadness and I'm sure audiences are going to love it."

The Grand Hotel is on at the Southwark Playhouse, Newington Causeway from tonight until Saturday, September 5. Tickets cost £22. Visit or call the box office on 020 7407 0234.

No comments:

Post a Comment