Monday, August 13, 2007

Meet the Clarke brothers

Rodney (left) and Andrew Clarke are centre stage in Carmen Jones at the RFH, which I finally got to see on Saturday. As it happens, these sensational siblings are familiar faces from Glyndebourne - and finally they have their chance to shine in central London.

Rodney, a massively tall and very striking baritone, is perfection as Husky Miller (the character formerly known as Escamillo) and Andrew, a high, romantic tenor brimful with charm, plays Joe (Don J) as a repressed mama's boy whose emotions are wrenched out of him in fits of startling violence. He sings the flower song like a dream (and that goes for the original too, which I know because I accompanied him in it in a charity concert a few years ago!). With the gorgeous Tsakane Valentine Maswanganyi, born in Soweto and now a south Londoner, as slinky as a cat as superbitch Carmen and a charismatic supporting cast, it's a terrific night out.

I admit, though, to being an old stick-in-the-mud and preferring the original Bizet. Maybe it was something to do with the production - set in Cuba, yet forgetting that Cubans don't have deep south American accents (or, in some cases, perfect English choir school enunciation!), and that you can't actually take a train ("clickety clack, clickety clack," says the quintet) from Havana to Chicago because there's sea in the way. Suspension of disbelief was difficult. Besides, I don't see why Andrew and Rodney and the rest of these superb singers should have had to depend on an all-black show to have the opportunity to make their mark in such a big way. Sherry Boone as Cindy Lou is the best Micaela I've heard in years.

If I ran a record company I'd give the Clarke brothers a contract prontissimo.

PS - the Southbank website for Carmen Jones features an article of mine to introduce the musical in the context of other adaptations of Carmen. Gorgeous pic of Rodney, too.