Tag Archives: Hadley Fraser

The Lehman Trilogy

The Lehman Trilogy


Gillian Lynne Theatre

THE LEHMAN TRILOGY at the Gillian Lynne Theatre


The Lehman Trilogy

“Relevant, gripping, foreboding and ultimately touching.”


“The Lehman Trilogy”, spanning over 150 years, is ostensibly an epic drama; an intricate portrayal of a dynasty following fortune and misfortune. Yet it is so much more. The sum of its parts adds up to one of the most extraordinary theatrical experiences. On paper, it is hard to see why. It is nearly three and a half hours long and it charts, in considerable detail, the rocky road of global capitalism, focusing of course on the Lehman brothers. Much of the narrative is unseen, exposed only through the spoken word. But a lecture it most certainly isn’t. A lesson, yes! Stefano Massini’s three act play (adapted by Ben Power) is a fable, parable, an allegory. It is poetry. A magical music box of stagecraft, where style and emotion meet in perfect harmony. A strikingly evocative human tale. And above all, a masterclass in acting.

It all begins on September 11th, 1844. Henry Lehman (Nigel Lindsay), the son of a Jewish merchant, emigrates to America from Bavaria, settling in Alabama; followed by his two brothers – Emanuel (Michael Balogun) and Mayer (Hadley Fraser) – a few years later. We warm to them immediately as they triumph over adversity. We are lulled into the humanity and gentleness with which they fairly rapidly achieve wealth, forgetting momentarily that what follows is a harsh cross-examination of the American Dream. Initially relying on slavery, the Lehmans soon learn to reap profit from disaster (other peoples’). The portents are planted. Yet the family firm survives for a century and a half, weathering the crash of 1929, but finally being swept under by the financial crisis of 2008.

In three acts, Sam Mendes’ production does not flag for one second. And even in its most blatant moments of exposition we are still gripped. Highly stylised, the narrative comes full circle, framed within Es Devlin’s rotating glass and metal set – softened by the symbolism of towering and cascading cardboard boxes. Luke Halls’ mostly monochrome video projections provide a shifting, panoramic backdrop – at key moments bursting into flames of colour and breath-taking movement. Nick Powell’s music underscores throughout, played live by pianist Yshani Perinpanayagam. A cycle of musical phrases and variations, sublime and subliminal, responding to every moment like a lover’s breath. At times restless, playful; sometimes achingly abandoned. All bookended with the evocative Jewish lullaby, ‘Rozhinkes Mit Mandlen’.

But the essence of the piece shines through the finesse and virtuosity of the trio of actors. Lindsay opens as the pioneering spirit Henry, followed by Balogun’s Emanuel and Fraser’s Mayer. Each of them singularly extraordinary and collectively unforgettable. As the timeline stretches, they switch genders to portray multiple characters, while seamlessly shifting down through the generations, morphing into the brothers’ descendants with astonishing versatility. In true tragedian style, the ending is inevitable and as it approaches the pace becomes more frantic – folding in on itself, racing against itself and racing ahead of itself. The events depicted are complex and ethically dubious. “I didn’t try to win… I decided to win”. A mantra that epitomises the Lehman’s strategies that left nothing to chance. The real winner, however, in this saga is the audience.

“The Lehman Trilogy” is a multi-layered extravaganza. Relevant, gripping, foreboding and ultimately touching. Never has capitalism been dressed up in such an alluring metaphor. We are almost seduced. But we are definitely seduced by the quality of the performances. An unmissable triumph that reminds us of theatre’s raison d’être.



Reviewed on 8th February 2023

by Jonathan Evans

Photography by Mark Douet


Previously reviewed at this venue:


Cinderella | ★★★★★ | August 2021


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Review of Young Frankenstein – 4 Stars


Young Frankenstein

Garrick Theatre

Reviewed – 11th October 2017



“The multi-talented Fraser imbues the character with just the right amount of dizziness and spice”


“I know what critics will say when Young Frankenstein opens in London” Mel Brooks said in a recent interview. “They’ll say – well, it’s good. But it’s not as great as The Producers was…” The reviews were mixed when it first ran on Broadway a decade ago, but one gets the feeling that Brooks doesn’t really give a damn. Yes, he has reworked and trimmed some of it since then, though this is probably more with an eye on the London audience and its sensibilities, rather than for the press. Bringing his musical adaptation of his cult film to the London stage looks set to be another triumph, not just theatrically, but also as another example of proving his detractors wrong. His career has flourished on the basis of ignoring all advice.

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Some will say this show is outdated. But that’s the whole point. The original film was released in 1974 and was a spoof of the 1930s horror movies. To give it a contemporary feel would merely strip it of much of its character. Its charm lies in its bawdy double-entendres, and it is up to the audience to realise that the jokes are intended to fly in the face of all modern “…isms”.

The cast are clearly having the time of their life. Hadley Fraser excels as Frederick Frankenstein, Victor’s grandson – a New York Dean of Anatomy initially trying to disassociate himself from his heritage, until he learns he has inherited his grandfather’s castle in Transylvania. The multi-talented Fraser (wisely choosing to make the role his own instead of emulating Gene Wilder’s original) imbues the character with just the right amount of dizziness and spice. He relishes the opportunity to travel to Transylvania, not at all distressed at having to leave behind his prim fiancée Elizabeth, played by the sublimely voiced Diane Pilkington who has the wonderful task of belting out two of the show’s finer numbers Please Don’t Touch me and Deep Love. On his way Frederick meets his lust interest, the red-hot Inga (Summer Strallen, clearly in her element here), the loyal, hunchback servant Igor – Ross Noble in a commanding acting debut – and finally Lesley Joseph’s mysterious Frau Bülcher.

Mel Brooks, who also penned the music and the lyrics, is clearly a master of rhyme and his tongue-twisting verses are a pure joy; peppered with innuendo and gags. The highlight of the show, though, is Irving Berlin’s Puttin’ On The Ritz where Frederick and the Monster (the heart winning Shuler Hensley) recreate the absurdly hilarious scene from the film.

It is difficult not to see this as a labour of love for Brooks – a union between the two things he loves the most: film and musical theatre. Yet he effortlessly avoids the trap of self-indulgence, for it is abundantly clear that everyone will love his show. By his own admission, it is possible for the magic and glory of a musical to equal the power of the film. The insanely talented troupe of actors realise this ambition for him. Yes, the jokes are old, but the energy fizzes like lightning and this show is a much needed electric shock to the West End. A musical that cannot fail to put a smile on even the most hardened poker face.


Reviewed by Jonathan Evans

Photography by Manuel Harlan




is at The Garrick Theatre until 10th February 2018



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