Page last updated at 13:08 GMT, Wednesday, 23 April 2008 14:08 UK

Stars upbeat about Wind musical

By Neil Smith
Entertainment reporter, BBC News

A new musical version of Gone with the Wind starring former Pop Idol contestant Darius Danesh has left the critics unimpressed.

Darius Danesh in Gone with the Wind
Danesh plays the role immortalised on screen by Clark Gable

"Director Trevor Nunn has delivered a long-winded show with rushed scenes, dull music and banal lyrics," said Ray Bennett of the Hollywood Reporter.

The Guardian's critic Michael Billington, meanwhile, said there was "something extravagantly pointless about the whole enterprise."

Speaking after Tuesday's first night performance, however, the celebrity guests were happy to sing the show's praises.

"I think it will run for a year, possibly two," was the confident prediction of Duncan James, formerly of boy band Blue.

"Darius really commanded the stage and I loved the way they used the space."

"They did a brilliant job," said veteran actress Joan Collins, adding she had had "a thoroughly enjoyable evening".

Her sentiments were echoed by I'm a Celebrity... winner Christopher Biggins, who said he had been "moved to tears" by the end.

McFly singer Tom Fletcher was also impressed. "Darius was a real surprise," he told the BBC News website.

Dashing

"I've never seen him on stage before and I thought he suited the role perfectly."

Adapted from Margaret Mitchell's epic novel about the American Civil War, the musical sees Danesh play the dashing Rhett Butler to Jill Paice's impetuous Scarlett O'Hara.

Susannah Fellows and Jill Paice in Gone with the Wind
Paice (r) was last seen in the West End in The Woman in White

First published in 1936, the book was famously filmed three years later with Clark Gable and Vivien Leigh in the lead roles.

Adapted for the stage by US writer Margaret Martin, a specialist in maternal, child and family health, the show clocks in at three hours and 40 minutes.

That was at least half an hour too long for some of the first night audience - among them former Pop Idol judge Nicki Chapman.

"I know they've cut it down but I still think it could be trimmed," she told the BBC News website.

Biggins, meanwhile, said he "would have loved it to have been two-and-a-half hours."

"It's difficult to adapt a classic for the stage and I did think the first act dragged," agreed James, who also had reservations about the show's songs.

Swagger

"There was nothing very memorable in the score," admitted the singer, who appeared last year in West End musical Chicago.

Fans of the film version will be pleased to hear the musical replicates most of its key scenes and dialogue.

Joan Collins
Joan Collins was among the audience at Tuesday's press night

The latter includes Butler's legendary "Frankly, my dear, I don't give a damn" - a line Collins said Danesh delivered "brilliantly".

Some theatregoers, however, may be unsettled to hear the black slave characters refer to themselves as "darkies".

Fire regulations, meanwhile, mean the burning of Atlanta has to be symbolically represented by a single flaming flag that is speedily extinguished.

Danesh has Gable's swagger, and his moustache. His above-average height also means he literally towers over his co-stars.

American theatre star Paice does well too to make a character so indelibly associated with another actress at least partially her own.

It remains to be seen, though, whether the musical will prove enough of a draw to prove the critics wrong.

Gone with the Wind continues at the New London Theatre.


SEE ALSO
Ovation for Darius's Rhett Butler
23 Apr 08 |  Entertainment
Darius stars as new Rhett Butler
04 Feb 08 |  Entertainment
Gone With The Wind set for stage
04 Jun 07 |  Entertainment

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