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Nervy Madonna has a stage hit

First night
Madonna leaves the theatre after her first performance  

LONDON, England -- Madonna made her London stage debut to reports in Tuesday's British press of a shaky start -- although all agreed she has a hit on her hands.

The 43-year-old singer was appearing in a preview performance of "Up For Grabs" at Wyndhams Theatre -- one of the biggest stars ever to play in London's West End.

It was also her first stage performance for 13 years -- the last in 1988 in David Mamet's "Speed-The-Plow" on Broadway -- and some adoring fans had travelled from the U.S. to queue for tickets.

"A trembling start" said The Daily Mail, describing the superstar diva, never previously known for her shyness, as "decidedly nervous."

"Fans said she had cut a nervous figure who appeared to fluff a few lines," wrote The Guardian.

"The material's fine but fans not so sure about Madonna," was The Times' headline.

"Neither her acting nor her stage presence in 'Up for Grabs' is particularly inspired," wrote the paper's arts reporter, Dalya Alberge.

Jittery it might have been but for Monday night's performance there was a long queue down London's Charing Cross Road of both theatregoers and others hoping to catch any returned tickets.

These were being offered by touts and on the Internet to the end of the play's run on July 13 at between 200 and 500 ($300 - $730).

The preview attracted immense media attention, although the press were not allowed into the theatre.

Security was tight as the doors opened and staff ushered those with tickets inside the auditorium, which holds just under 700.

Reports had suggested Madonna was apprehensive about meeting her audience, with matinees cancelled, the stage heightened, minders in the wings and the first preview three days behind schedule.

But an hour before curtain up there was a morale boosting visit from director husband Guy Ritchie who popped in by the stage door, leaving shortly afterwards with son Rocco.

After the show fans pointed to the pop idol's edginess though most said she improved in the second half once she had got over her nerves.

Malva Green, 41, told the UK's Press Association she thought the actress "put on a convincing performance."

"She was nervous to start with but got a lot better," she said. Mark Collins, 28, said he did not think she had the strongest performance in the show.

"But when she got into it she was really good," he added.

Tony Renardi, from Brooklyn, New York, said the play would probably be well received while it had Madonna in it, but he was not sure it could be sustained with a lesser star. His wife Barbara Diamond said: "She got a lot better in the second half, but the play itself I didn't much care for."

In the play Madonna plays Simone, an ambitious art dealer willing to go to any lengths to sell a painting, including a willingness to sleep with those useful to her of both sexes.

The cast of seven also includes Michael Lerner and Tom Irwin, and the play is directed by Laurence Boswell.

Some British tabloids focused less on Madonna's nerves than on the play's lesbian kiss. The Sun's headline was "Who's that girl kissing Madonna" followed by "Pop queen in lesbian scene."

"She has not lost her ability to shock," noted the Daily Mail.

All agreed though that her superstar status would ensure the play's success.

The Daily Telegraph said that after four curtain calls, Madonna had "nothing to fear" and said that the queen of pop had "grabbed a hit."


• 'Mature' Madonna wows London
July 05, 2001

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