Sunday, December 20, 2015

Broadway Theater Review: King Charles III

Tim Pigott-Smith, Photo: Joan Marcus
The Next Royal Coronation Isn’t in Line With What You’d Expect
By Lauren Yarger
Royal watchers, beware!

One of the latest transfers to Broadway from London’s West End is all about William and Kate, Prince Harry and other members of England’s royal family, but don’t be deceived. King Charles III is a rather dark drama about what happens when Prince Charles prepares to take over as King following the death of his mother, Queen Elizabeth II.

In the midst of a flurry of new show openings on Broadway, I didn’t do my homework on this show before arriving at the Music Box Theatre, where Set and Costume Designer Tom Scutt has done a nifty job of blending stone palace walls and platforms on stage with the theater’s actual columns and crystal light fixtures. Theatergoers feel as though they really are enjoying a royal audience.

The artwork for the show, depicting Prince Charles with his mouth taped shut, along with the subtitle “A Future History Play” made me think I was attending a comedy. After all, when a staging about the death of a queen who is still sitting on the throne wins the Olivier for Best New Play, it can only be a parody, right?

Wrong, I immediately found out. This two-hour and 30-minute play by Mike Bartlett is quite serious, and presented in blank verse to give it a modern Shakespeare feel (as all tragedies about kings should be). It jolts away any expectations that humor is the playwright’s intention.

Tim Pigott-Smith (TV’s “The Jewel in the Crown”) reprises his role as troubled Prince – now King—Charles, who has no idea how to reign because his mother has ruled for so long that he never really got a chance to see what he could accomplish before being an old man himself.  And no one really wants him to be king any way, it seems. Camilla (Margot Leicester) is more than willing to take her place on the throne beside her husband, but she’s not exactly popular either.  And there’s an annoying ghost of Charles’ first wife, Diana (Sally Scott), who keeps showing up to complicate matters (very Shakespearian).

The king’s first meeting with Prime Minister Evans (Adam James) doesn’t go so well. Charles is reluctant to sign a bill that would restrict freedom of the press. The King, really doesn’t get a say, Evans tells him. He is just supposed to sign whatever the government passes…. Charles disagrees and comes up with a surprising solution that triggers an unprecedented crisis for the monarchy.

Prince Harry (Richard Goulding) is of little help – he gets pushed further away from the throne every time his brother has a child, so he turns his attentions to parties and having fun. His latest love interest is Jess (Tafline Steen), an anti-establishment artist type who definitely doesn’t fit in at Buckingham Palace. Harry wants to renounce any claim to the throne and live life as a commoner with her.

Meanwhile, Prince William (Oliver Chris) does have a vested interest in the legacy his father leaves him as the next monarch, so he steps up to be a mediator between Charles and his subjects who are in revolt. Will is manipulated into further action by his wife Kate (Lydia Wilson), whose stunning good looks and charming ways with the press mask the fact that this commoner-turned-Royal might just be the most ambitious of all of the House of Windsor characters.

Enhancing the interesting production is Director Rupert Goold’s punctilious casting of solid actors who look very much like the real-life people they are portraying. In addition, musical composition by Jocelyn Pook helps set the mood.

While the story held my interest, I couldn’t shake the feeling that all of this was somewhat disrespectful to the queen and her family.

King Charles III reigns at the Music Box Theatre,  239 West 45th St., NYC through Jan. 31. Performances are Tuesday and Thursday at 7 pm; Wednesday and Saturday at 2 and 8 pm; Friday at 8 pm; Sunday at 3 pm. Tickets are $37 - $149kingcharlesiiibroadway.com

Cast:
Tim Pigott-Smith….  King Charles III
Anthony Calf…. Mr. Stevens
Oliver Chris…. William
Richard Goulding…. Harry
Nyasha Hatendi…. Spencer, Nick, Sir Gordon
Adam James…. Mr. Evans
Margot Leicester…. Camilla
Miles Richardson…. James Reiss
Tom Robertson…. Cootsey, Speaker of the House of Commons, Sir Michael
Sally Scott…. Sarah, ghost, TV Producer
Tafline Steen…. Jess
Lydia Wilson…. Kate
Peter Bradbury, Lucas Hall, Rachel Spencer Hewitt, Gordana Rashovich and Harry Smith…. Ensemble.




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Our reviews are professional reviews written without a religious bias. At the end of them, you can find a listing of language, content or theological issues that Christians might want to know about when deciding which shows to see.

** Mature indicates that the show has posted an advisory because of content. Usually this means I would recommend no one under the age of 16 attend.

Theater Critic Lauren Yarger

Theater Critic Lauren Yarger

My Bio

Lauren Yarger has written, directed and produced numerous shows and special events for both secular and Christian audiences. She co-wrote a Christian musical version of “A Christmas Carol” which played to sold-out audiences of over 3,000 in Vermont and was awarded the 2000 Vermont Bessie (theater and film awards) for “People’s Choice for Theatre.” She also has written two other dinner theaters, sketches for church services and devotions for Christian artists.

Yarger trained for three years in the Broadway League’s Producer Development Program, completed the Commercial Theater Institute's Producing Three-Day Training and produced a one-woman musical about Mary Magdalene that toured nationally and closed with an off-Broadway run.

She was a Fellow at the National Critics Institute at the O'Neill Theater Center in Waterford, CT. She writes reviews of Broadway and off-Broadway theater (the only ones you can find in the US with an added Christian perspective) at http://reflectionsinthelight.blogspot.com/.

She is editor of The Connecticut Arts Connection (http://ctarts.blogspot.com), an award-winning website featuring theater and arts news for the state. She is a contributing editor for BroadwayWorld.com and is a theater reviewer for the Manchester Journal-Inquirer. She previously served as Connecticut theater editor for CurtainUp.com and as Connecticut and New York reviewer for American Theater Web.

Yarger is a book reviewer for Publishers Weekly and freelances for other sites. She is a member of the National Book Critics Circle.

She is a freelance writer and playwright and member of The Drama Desk, The Outer Critics Circle, The American Theater Critics Association and The League of Professional Theatre Women. She served as a judge for the SDX Awards presented by the Society of Professional Journalists. She also is a member of the Connecticut Critics Circle and the CT Press Club.

A former newspaper editor and graduate of the University of Missouri’s School of Journalism, Yarger also worked in arts management for the Bushnell Center for the Performing Arts, the Hartford Symphony Orchestra and served for nine years as the Executive Director of Masterwork Productions, Inc. She lives with her husband in West Granby, CT. They have two adult children.

Copyright

All material is copyright 2008- 2017 by Lauren Yarger. Reviews and articles may not be reprinted without permission. Contact reflectionsinthelight@gmail.com

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Key to Content Notes:

God's name taken in vain -- means God or Jesus is used in dialogue without speaking directly to or about them.

Language -- means some curse words are used. "Minor" usually means the words are not too strong or that it only occurs once or twice throughout the show.

Strong Language -- means some of the more heavy duty curse words are used.

Nudity -- means a man or woman's backside, a man's lower front or a woman's front are revealed.

Scantily clad -- means actors' private areas are technically covered, but I can see a lot of them.

Sexual Language -- means the dialogue contains sexually explicit language but there's no action.

Sexual Activity -- means a man and woman are performing sexual acts.

Adultery -- Means a married man or woman is involved sexually with someone besides their spouse. If this is depicted with sexual acts on stage, the list would include "sexual activity" as well.

Sex Outside of Marriage -- means a man and woman are involved sexually without being married. If this is depicted sexually on stage, the list would include "sexual activity" as well.

Homosexuality -- means this is in the show, but not physically depicted.

Homosexual activity -- means two persons of the same sex are embracing/kissing. If they do more than that, the list would include "sexual activity" as well.

Cross Dresser -- Means someone is dressing as the opposite sex. If they do more than that on stage the listing would include the corresponding "sexual activity" and/or "homosexual activity" as well.

Cross Gender -- A man is playing a female part or a woman is playing a man's part.

Suggestive Dancing -- means dancing contains sexually suggestive moves.

Derogatory (category added Fall 2012) Language or circumstances where women are referred to or treated in a negative and demeaning manner.

Other content matters such as torture, suicide or rape will be noted, with details revealed only as necessary in the review itself.

The term "throughout" added to any of the above means it happens many times throughout the show.

Reviewing Policy

I receive free seats to Broadway and Off-Broadway shows made available to all voting members of the Outer Critics Circle and The Drama Desk, the two professional critics organizations with journalists covering NY theater. Journalistically, I provide an unbiased review and am under no obligation to make positive statements. Sometimes shows do not make tickets available to reviewers. If these are shows my readers want to know about (I review all Broadway shows and pertinent Off-Broadway shows), I will purchase a ticket. If a personal friend is involved in a production, I'll let you know, but it won't influence a review. If I feel there is a conflict, I won't review their portion of the production.

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