1928. Berlin. At the Grand Hotel, guests and staff are suffering from an excess of hope and optimism. As the stock market booms, the city's decadent high life is in full swing. Where the music nevers stops... it is the music of power and poverty, ballrooms and boardrooms, scandal and romance.
Musical based on the novel by Vicki Baum. The 1931 play was adapted by Edward Knoblock. The 1992 / 2004 musical version had book adapted by Luther Davis with music and lyrics by Robert Wright and George Forrest, with additional music and lyrics by Maury Yeston.
The Confidante, Raffaela, the secretary and sometimes dresser to Elizaveta Grushinskaya - she clings to her dreams... and follows the star. The Baron, Baron Felix Von Gaigern, young, athletic, charming, broke – a man with everything but no money to pay for it. The Bookkeeper, Otto Kringelein, not old, but mortally ill - his very life is in the balance. The Businessman, General Director Preysing, the General Director of a large textile mill - he knows the price of everything and the value of nothing. The Secretary, Flaemmchen, a pretty young typist who has theatrical ambitions - dictation isn't all she'll take from men. The Ballerina, Elizaveta Grushinskaya, the still-beautiful, world-famous, about-to-retire Prima Ballerina – the only home she knows is the spotlight. The Doctor, Colonel-Doctor Otternschlag, a retired army doctor - everyone at the Grand Hotel is under his observation. And the revolving door swings and swings, and turns and turns and turns...
Grand Hotel Play - Original London West End Production 1931
Opened 3 Sepember 1931, Closed 9 January 1932 at the Adelphi Theatre
Directed by Raymond Massey. Due to the intricacies of accommodating the scenary needed for this production - which included raising the stage a couple of inches and adding a stage revolve - the first night was delayed three times. It was originally due to open on Monday 24 August 1931, then Thursday 27 August, then Friday 28 August, until, finally it was able to open on Thursday 3 September 1931. It enjoyed an 18 week run, and is therefore, excluding preview performances, the longest running stage version of Vicki Baum's novel on the London West End stage.
Original London West End Production 1992
Previewed 22 June 1992, Opened 6 July 1992, Closed 31 October 1992 at the Dominion Theatre
The original cast featured Liliane Montevecchi as 'Elizaveta Grushinskaya', Brent Barrett as 'Baron Felix Von Gaigern', Barry James as 'Otto Kringelein', Barry Foster as 'Colonel-Doctor Otternschlag', Debbie de Coudreaux as 'Raffaela', Lynnette Perry as 'Flaemmchen' and K C Wilson as 'General Director Preysing' with Pierre Dulaine as 'the Gigolo', Yvonne Marceau as 'the Countess', Eric Flynn as 'Rohna', Ben George as 'the Chauffeur', Denys Graham as 'Victor Witt', Bill Homewood as 'Zinnowitz', Kieran McIlroy as 'Erik Litauer', David Jackson as 'Jimmy 1' ,David Andrew White as 'Jimmy 2' and David Shaw Parker as 'Sandor' along with Kate Ashby as 'the Courtesan', Sharon Byatt as 'Tootsie', Jodie Jackson as 'Trude', Trevor Raymond as 'the Doorman', Derek Richards as 'the Detective', Jane Stoggles as 'Madame Peepee', Adam Caine, Nigel Francis, Mark Heenhan, Ashley Knight, Andrew Lawden, Bo Light and Kevin Power.
Directed and choreographed by Tommy Tune, co-directed by Bruce Lumpkin, co-choreographed by Niki Harris, sets by Tony Walton, costumes by Santo Loquasto, lighting by Jules Fisher and sound by Otts Munderloh.
When this production was first announced in early 1992, it was due to preview from 20 May 1992 and open on 2 June 1992 promoted as being 'direct from Broadway and international tour with full USA company' for a 'limited 10 week season only'. Shortly after it was announced the opening was delayed by two weeks with previews from 6 June 1992 and opening on 16 June 1992. It had been expected that the entire American touring company would transfer to London following the finish of the North American tour on 24 May 1992.
But, when the Broadway production closed early on 25 April 1992, the show's director Tommy Tune decided to pick the best from both casts for the London show. Unfortuntely American Equity refused to recognise this change in the cross-Atlantic theatrical exchange agreement and the entire West End production was put into jeopardy of never happening. A compromise was then reached allowing for eight performers from the Broadway / USA Tour, with the remainder of the company from British Equity. This further delayed the production's opening by three weeks with previews finally taking place from 22 June 1992 with an opening night on Monday 6 July 1992. The eight performers were: Liliane Montevecchi, Brent Barrett, Debbie de Coudreaux, Lynnette Perry, K C Wilson, Ben George and, as the two Jimmy's, David Jackson and David Andrew White. During the run the West End actors C Derricks-Carroll and Ken-Michael Stafford took over as the two Jimmy's.
The production was originally booking up to 28 November 1992, with hopes of extending beyond that with a cast change. But a fatal combination of high-running costs and low ticket sales meant that it closed a month earlier, on Saturday 31 October 1992 after a run of four months.
"Welcome to Grand Hotel, Berlin, where people come, people go, and the wave of life is overflowing. So intones the narrator, a cynical doctor and war veteran, as he shoots painkiller into his veins. Welcome to Grand Hotel, Dominion Theatre, Tottenham Court Road, where the lyrics seldom soar higher than two inches from the floor, the music never seems to stop even when you want it to do so, sentimental stories are to be found in every bedroom, and yet there is harmless fun to be enjoyed. Back in New York, the show won five Tony awards and a shelf of lesser bronzeware, and provoked talk of a revival of that half-dead species, the mainstream American musical. ... Robert Wright and George Forrest's songs can become bland and samey, and more jazz, more peppy dance-numbers would probably help. But at best the music has a brassy bustle, as well as a feel for the 1920s... When the cast is thrusting its way one by one into the foyer, or assembling en masse for a tea dance, or pitching into a collective Charleston, doubts disappear. The imagery is beguiling, the tone sure, the momentum hard to resist and, it almost seems, Grand Hotel as good a show as New York believes." The Times
"One virtue of the show, drawn from Vicki Baum's episodic novel, is that it interweaves a group of characters all reduced to desperation. We are in a sumptuous Berlin hostelry in 1928 and time, we learn, is running out for all the principals. A suave baron is on his uppers and reduced to thieving, an ageing ballerina confronts crow's feet and dwindling houses, a business tycoon faces bankruptcy and a book keeper death, while a pregnant typist fantasises hopelessly about Hollywood. It has the scented luxury of a high class soap... In a company show, with eight Broadway principals and British back-up, a number of individuals shine out. Liliane Montevecchi as the ballerina is like a fleshier Garbo with rather more sexual ardour, Lynette Perry as the star-struck typist is extremely nippy on her pins, Brent Barrett as the baron revives the lost art of smoking a cigarette with elegance and British-born Barry James as the baggy, rumpled book keeper makes something genuinely touching out of his belated hunger for life. But the real star of the evening is Tommy Tune who has taken what is basically a piece of period kitsch and given it a high professional gloss and a seamless choreographic style." The Guardian
"There is very little plot to speak of. Again it might be claimed that that is precisely the point. As the doctor/narrator says of the hotel 'guests come, guests go, new guests arrive.' True enough, but it is still pretty thin for a story line... Apart from that, how does one enjoy the music? The answer is not a great deal. Grand Hotel seems to me to lack the subtlety and sustained sweep of the best of Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber, by which I mean Evita and Phantom of the Opera, both of which have stories to go with them. There are, however, some fine performances. Liliane Montevecchi in the ballerina part once played by Garbo takes a while to warm up, but you can see the attraction of the role. In the one scene that is remotely dramatic, Lynnette Perry distinguishes herself as the secretary whose seduction by her boss threatens to get out of hand. Brent Barrett is an effective, poverty-stricken baron, seven months behind with his hotel bill. Many people will admire Barry James as the jewish book-keeper who ends a happy man, though for my part sentimentality is never far away from the whole show. The dancing, foxtrot, Charleston, ballet and waltz, is good." The Financial Times
Grand Hotel in London at the Dominion Theatre previewed from 22 June 1992, opened on 6 July 1992 and closed on 31 October 1992
London Revival (Donmar Warehouse) 2004
Previewed 19 November 2004, Opened 29 November 2004, Closed 12 February 2005 at the Donmar Warehouse
The cast featured Gillian Bevan as 'Raffaela', Helen Baker as 'Flaemmchen', Martyn Ellis as 'General Director Preysing', Daniel Evans as 'Otto Kringelein', Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio as 'Elizaveta Grushinskaya' ,Julian Ovenden as 'Baron Felix Von Gaigern' and Gary Raymond as 'Colonel-Doctor Otternschlag' with David Lucas as 'Erik Litauer', Sarah Annis as 'Madame Peepee', Hattie Bayton as 'Tootsie', David Birrell as 'Zinnowitz', John Conroy as 'Sandor', Elizabeth Cooper-Gee as 'Trude', Graham MacDuff as 'Josef Schilinger', Joseph Noble as 'Jimmy 1', Paul Hazel as 'Jimmy 2' and Sevan Stephan as 'Rohna'.
Directed by Michael Grandage, with choreography by Adam Cooper, designs by Christopher Oram, lighting by Hugh Vanstone and sound by Terry Jardine.
"Despite sudden rushes of plot, what we really have here are 17 characters in search of an author... It has to be said that director Michael Grandage had one brainwave. What if you were to strip away all the chandeliers and carpeting of the last productions and stage it with minimalism? The characters crash into disastrous and sudden changes to their personal and political and economic fortunes, without even one showstopper out of 19 numbers to kick-start their identities. All the same, Grandage has assembled a strong ensemble even though Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio has a little trouble lowering the ghost of Greta Garbo... Grand Hotel is in the end an exercise in style rather than socialism, panache rather than politics. Here, Berlin in the late 1920s is really just what is happening outside the swing doors. That's why Grand Hotel will never be Cabaret - also set in Berlin but a decade before - despite this great makeover." The Daily Express
"At first I felt panic at having to take in so many names. However, precise spotlighting helped to isolate the tableaux, and with a jaunty score, fluent dancing and a frenetic pace, it soon didn't matter that the characters were sketchy. 'Take the crooked path, boy,' the fat industrialist (Martyn Ellis) is told, 'take the crooked mile, on the straight and narrow people seldom smile.' This is an amoral tale. The handsome baron is a likeable thief. Even our heroine has an unfortunate secret. It only stops being a problem when she is honest about it. Grand Hotel has no bad language or nudity. It has catchy songs, souffle cameos, and some good singing, particularly from Julian Ovenden (belter of a tenor) as the baron, and Daniel Evans as the timid accountant who finally discovers the fun that life can offer. When a couple of characters are kind to each other, a narrator observes: 'That's a neatly done turn.' And so is Grand Hotel. Neatly done and fun." The Daily Mail
"Wall Street is crashing and Nazis are lurking in the background as glamorous Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio gives a dainty performance one star notch above the cameo as a fading middle-aged ballerina in Michael Grandage's mildly buoyant version of Grand Hotel... Daniel Evans as the terminally ill book-keeper looking for last-minute joy, Helen Baker as the pregnant typist with dreams of film fame and the brilliant Martyn Ellis as a businessman fast losing his grip convince you that just checking into a hotel, and losing all your money, and indeed your life, makes you want to sing. Mastrantonio's dancer, terrified as her fame, looks and talent fall away, played in the film version by Greta Garbo, is just one of more than a dozen hustling, bustling characters. She seems to glide on top of things rather than lose herself. With sturdy performances firing off all around her, with barons being shot and babies being born, the star and the star she plays are buried under all the plotting and sub-plotting and the Broadway need to end everything happily and the dramatic need for a mature hint of dark." The Sunday Telegraph
Grand Hotel in London at the Donmar Warehouse previewed from 19 November 2004, opened on 29 November 2004 and closed on 12 February 2005