LONDON, England (AP) – The critics came, they saw, and frankly, my dear, most were unmoved by a new musical adaptation of “Gone With the Wind.”
Critics played on Rhett Butler’s famous exit line to Scarlett O’Hara:
“Frankly, it’s hard to give a damn about this Wind,” said the headline in Wednesday’s Daily Express about the show that opened Tuesday at the West End’s New London Theatre. The Times’ Benedict Nightingale was gentler. “I did give a damn,” he wrote. “But not as big a damn as I had hoped.”
Directed by Trevor Nunn, the show was written by Margaret Martin, who has never before had a play produced professionally. Many critics felt her attempt to condense Margaret Mitchell’s Civil War epic left a play in which too much happened too quickly.
Daily Telegraph reviewer Charles Spencer said “this soullessly efficient show merely feels like one damn thing after another.”
The show was cut down from a four-hour running time in previews, but many felt it was still too long.
“How do you cram a 1,000-page novel into three-and-a-half hours of stage time?” asked Michael Billington in The Guardian. “With great difficulty.”
Critics were impressed by some of the performers, particularly Jina Burrows as Prissy and Natasha Yvette Williams as Mammy. And Billington said Jill Paice “does an excellent job” with the feisty but often trying heroine Scarlett. He felt Darius Danesh’s Rhett had a “graceful virility,” although some felt he and Paice lacked sexual chemistry.
Nightingale said he found himself “hankering for Clark Gable and Vivien Leigh, who breezed and dazzled their way through the film.”
The music also failed to impress: “so-so,” said The Times’ Nightingale; “lackluster,” said the Telegraph’s Spencer.
A previous attempt to turn “Gone With the Wind” into a musical, “Scarlett,” opened in Tokyo in 1970 and came to London in 1972. But a planned Broadway run was canceled, and the show has not been staged in 30 years.
In the Evening Standard, Nicholas de Jongh advised that “connoisseurs of big, bad musicals must rush to catch ‘Gone With the Wind’ in case it’s quickly blown away on gales of ridicule.”
The show’s producers can take comfort, though, from the fact that Nunn’s production of “Les Miserables” was panned by critics when it opened in 1985. It is still running, and has been produced around the world.