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Joan Collins Trumps Placido Domingo, 3D Vampire in London

Joan Collins plays clips from her old movies and TV shows during her show,
Joan Collins plays clips from her old movies and TV shows during her show, "One Night With Joan," often to comic effect. Photographer: Fadil Berisha/Kevin Wilson PR via Bloomberg

April 17 (Bloomberg) -- Joan Collins is 79, and still treading the boards. Placido Domingo is 72, and singing a title role at the Royal Opera. It’s all go for funky septuagenarians in London.

In her quirky and amusing one-woman show “One Night With Joan,’’ the devastatingly well-preserved Collins gives her audiences exactly what they want -- glamour, glitz and gossip.

How does she keep so jolly? A clue is that she’s delighted to trip on metaphorical banana skins.

“I wanted to be a serious actress,” she says in a grand voice, while an old B-movie clip shows a huge wobbly ant trying to eat her.

She doesn’t feel the need to re-invent the theatrical wheel, heaven be thanked. It’s a standard memoir show, full of well-told tales, with a fun Q&A session at the end.

Looking terrific in skin-tight spangled black pants, she sits on a baronial chair in front of a cinema screen. Dropping names like confetti, she pumps out anecdotes about her rise to fame in 1950s Hollywood, her marriages, highs and lows.

The lows are the most amusing parts of the show, of course. Bette Davis gets jealous and kicks her right across the set of “The Virgin Queen.” Peter Sellers dresses as a Nazi when he comes to visit her in her predominantly Jewish neighborhood.

She screens clips from “Dynasty,” showing performances hammier than a meat platter and shoulder pads wider than door frames. She tells us about her rival Linda Evans, who displayed a powerful right hook in a fight scene even after the director had yelled “cut.”

Even that she laughs off. It seems having a sense of humor is the best guarantee of a happy old age. That, and as Collins puts it, “lots of good cash.” Rating: ****.

Domingo’s Nabucco

Domingo is singing the baritone title role in Verdi’s “Nabucco.” He sounds wonderful, and makes the higher notes of the role shimmer like bronze. Since the characterization is non-existent in Daniele Abbado’s dull gray production, and the chorus stand in rows like mannequins, it’s just as well. A Royal Opera low point, even with Domingo’s presence. Rating: **.

Sinking Feeling

An even lower point is reached is Michel van der Aa’s 3D film opera “Sunken Garden,” presented by English National Opera. It tells of a documentary maker searching for some missing people. He finds them trapped in an occult garden presided over by a soul-sucking vampire.

The garden is represented by 3D film imagery, which means that the “forward’’ parts of the virtual set seem to fade out any time someone walks behind them.

Maybe expectations were too high for this year’s winner of the $100,000 Grawemeyer Award. There are much more interesting pieces on his website, which show a promise he doesn’t fulfill here.

The not-too-atonal music plods along without emotional highs and lows, and the hokum-filled narrative proceeds in clunky gobs of exposition and back-story.

The singers all sound great, and work hard to bring the characters to life under Van der Aa’s own unhelpful direction. Rating: *.

“One Night With Joan Collins” is in repertoire at the Leicester Square Theatre, and on a U.K. tour, until April 28. Information: http://www.joancollins.net/OneNightWithJohn.html

“Nabucco” in in repertoire at the Royal Opera until April 26. Information: http://www.roh.org.uk or +44-20-7304-4000.

“Sunken Garden” is at the Barbican until April 20. Information: http://www.eno.org

What the Stars Mean:
*****      Excellent
****       Very good
***        Average
**         Mediocre
*          Poor
(No stars) Worthless

Muse highlights include Scott Reyburn on the art market; Ryan Sutton on New York dining; Craig Seligman and Greg Evans on film; and Jeremy Gerard on New York theater.

(Warwick Thompson is a critic for Muse, the arts and leisure section of Bloomberg News. The opinions expressed are his own.)

To contact the writer on this story: Warwick Thompson, in London, at warwicktho@aol.com or https://twitter.com/ThompsonWarwick.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Manuela Hoelterhoff at mhoelterhoff@bloomberg.net.

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