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Obi-Wan sings!

Obi-Wan sings!


Ewan McGregor in Guys and Dolls is just one of the West End boys--and girls--keeping the London theater scene hot this summer

Theater in London is always cheaper, more accessible, and--let's face it--better on average than anywhere else in the world. Oftentimes, it's also gayer, bless 'em. Writer-director-force of nature Rikki Beadle-Blair proves that with his latest show, Bashment, a look at the virulent homophobia in the world of dancehall reggae. Garnering positive reviews for its cast and characters, the show drew one common complaint: The ending was too optimistic and happy. (Doesn't Beadle-Blair know gay characters are always supposed to die tragically? Kingfisher Blue by Lin Coghlan is a recent entry about two lower-class mates in London trying to scrape by, with one of them deciding to pose for a man who offers 20 pounds a pop for nude photos. There's also a gay spin on Hedda Gabler and--touring the provinces--an all-male version of The Importance of Being Earnest.Of course the biggest news is the rave reviews for the new musical Billy Elliot, directed by Stephen Daldry and featuring music by Elton John. Look for The Advocate to add to the praise in an upcoming issue. (One sneak peek: Billy's best mate, Michael, has an act 1 showstopper about the joys of cross-dressing.Theater of Blood-- a remake of the old Vincent Price horror flick--has some silly fun with a bad Shakespearean actor (the amusing Jim Broadbent) slaughtering theater critics who gave him bad reviews. Bette Bourne milks every gag as a very fey critic who takes his two miniature poodles with him everywhere, but it's a bit of a letdown coming from the creators of the marvelous Shockheaded Peter.For sheer sexiness, the hottest playwright in town is legendary queer Spaniard Federico Garcia Lorca. There's an acclaimed revival of The House of Bernarda Alba at the National, and the Almeida is packing them in with Blood Wedding. But why exactly are young people lined up down the block hoping patiently for a spare ticket during the latter's sold-out run? Perhaps it has something to do with Gael Garcia Bernal as the passionate man who can't stay away from the bride-to-be.Seventy-year-old Eileen Atkins is damn sexy herself--intelligent, talented women always are. And she made headlines in the United Kingdom by claiming that actor Colin Farrell recently spent an evening pleading with her to sleep with him. Who knew Farrell was such a big fan of the theater? Maybe he caught his costar in the upcoming movie Ask the Dust in a solid revival of Harold Pinter's The Birthday Party. Atkins is wickedly droll as a desperate landlady of a run-down boarding house. And Henry Goodman--famously cut from Broadway's The Producers just as he got started--gives as good as he gets as a Jewish gangster. Only Paul Ritter in the morose role of Stanley keeps it from greatness.Anyone eagerly awaiting the U.S. premiere of Mary Poppins (probably in 2006) can at least take comfort in knowing the wait will be worth it. Producer Cameron Mackintosh has teamed with Disney to create a megahit that combines the charms of the classic film with the mildly dark undercurrents of the books and crafted an old-fashioned crowd-pleaser that ranks as the best family outing since The Lion King. And hopefully they'll bring over Laura Michelle Kelly, who is indeed practically perfect as a tart, winning Mary.Finally, Obi-Wan sings, as Ewan McGregor takes to the boards as Sky Masterson in a new revival of Guys and Dolls. (Don't wait by the stage door with Star Wars memorabilia--he'll politely decline to sign.) McGregor charms his way through the role and dances very well, especially in the act 1 comic highlight "Havana." And Jane Krakowski of Ally McBeal and Broadway's Nine is a nicely plaintive Adelaide. But Douglas Hodge (another actor, like McGregor, with a thin voice) keeps the proceedings too earthbound. Happily, no one can stop "Sit Down, You're Rockin' the Boat" from raising the roof. And McGregor can hold his head high--he's certainly a better singer than Marlon Brando was in the movie.

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Michael Giltz