Review of Valentino (Cosmos 2011)
Starring Performances: A+
Supporting Cast Performances: A
Overall Grade: A
Allegedly based on the life of silent screen heartthrob Rudolph Valentino, the story covers his career from arrival in New York as a poor teenaged immigrant, to his early death as a major screen star in Hollywood. Such a long haul is bound to be a series of pick-&-choose, quickly shuffled scenes amounting to a bit of a whirlwind tour, but that is understood and on the whole the story hung together. What I did miss were MORE scenes of the films and filming itself, i.e., Rudy actually acting, onscreen or on the set, in his very famous roles like The Sheik, etc. These scenes were far too few and much too short! There was so much more they could have done with the cinema angle, as it is so intrinsically Glam! Production number of "Blood & Sand" closing the first half was excellent, just the sort of thing one wanted more of. Rudy's death at the end was particularly sensitively handled in what I call an "ambush" ending, when the emotion is pulled out of you so fast it's like falling off a cliff. Whole audience weeping before they know it. Bravo!
No more spoilers here!
Acting on the whole was excellent and made up for the small-scale staging. Ozora as Rudy was superb. Frankly I came to see what she could do after having been wowed by her as Bogey as Rick in "Casablanca." As Rudy she could not have been more different, a real stretch for an actress and enormously impressive. Went from naive immigrant teenager to disillusioned adult with a very old soul. She could not have been better. Nono was much better than her outing in "Casablanca:" excellent character, restrained and very moving. Misato as George did a wonderful job and was a great foil for Rudy: let us see more of this woman! In a relatively small part, Yumi as the gangster boss was a real knock-out. She must have larger parts in future. Only Nanami felt miscast and out-of-place. She is a good type, but relatively inexperienced, one feels, and too tall for Ozora. The rest of the cast was top class as usual.
The staging could have been better overall. Many chorus women were wearing dresses from the 1910s and 1930s. Authenticity is something we have come to expect from Takarazuka and costumes are one of the big reasons we go! No excuse for this. (Nanami's wig was particularly bad, one could see it was acrylic from Row 19.) More impressive costumes would also have compensated for the overly simple sets. Granted, it is a small theatre and staging has to be low-key, the sets one-pattern. But the pattern could have been somehow more flexible or better dressed: seeing the same basic set of windows thru the entire show did get on one's nerves. Great sets were the nighttime New York skyline from the nightclub, and the first scene's shipboard dawn arrival in new York, with the Statue of Liberty in the background. New York on the whole was very well done, much more could have been done with Hollywood. Palm trees? The Hollywood sign on the hill?...
Nonetheless the wonderful performances made up for all faults. I would definitely recommend this performance to anyone, particularly Takarazuka "beginners" who might be overwhelmed by the feathers. Because of the small scale, we could enjoy a really intimate performance style with wonderful ensemble acting from the principles. In the smaller hall one was so much closer to the people onstage, and the acting was finely attuned to this. I would see it again. Highly recommended.