Some theatre news from the last week

New interview series from the NT, Julius Caesar and Sunset Boulevard reappearing digitally and Hushabye Mountain coming to the Hope Mill

© Louise Haywood-Schiefer

The National Theatre announced a new interview series Life in Stages, profiling some of the biggest names in British theatre. The series, which will be free to watch, will launch on the National Theatre’s YouTube channel on Thursday 22 April at 7pm BST with each new episode added at the same time every Thursday.  

The first episode boasts Olivia Colman and Director and Joint Chief Executive of the National Theatre Rufus Norris. The second episode on Thursday 29 April will feature Romeo & Juliet co-stars Josh O’Connor and Jessie Buckley. On Thursday 6 May the third episode puts Adrian Lester and Meera Syal together. Details of further episodes from this series will be announced later this month.  Continue reading “Some theatre news from the last week”

Review: West End Musical Drive In, Episode 2

Featuring the many queens of SIX, Episode 2 of the West End Musical Drive In is a powerful collection of musical theatre performances

“I remember that night I just might”

The first instalment of the West End Musical Drive In impressed me with its raw urgency, a timely reminder of the power of 100% live vocals and the breadth of musical theatre talent that we have in this country. So it is great that the folks behind West End Musical Brunch are continuing to release more of the drive-in concerts that they hosted last summer.

This week’s episode brings together 11 of the performers from various casts of the musical Six and with such a greater number of singers, the programming is certainly eclectic and ultimately does feel a little bit scattershot in its choices, lacking a little of the thematic unity that marked out last week’s showcase. Continue reading “Review: West End Musical Drive In, Episode 2”

Review: Sunset Boulevard in Concert, Curve Leicester at home

As a piece of digital theatre, Curve Leicester’s Sunset Boulevard in Concert plays excitingly with the possibilities of this developing form 

“There’s nothing else – just us and these cameras”

Damned if do, damned if you don’t. Curve Leicester boldly took steps in the autumn to reimagine their auditorium in order to be able to mount a post-Lockdown #1 season of socially-distanced concert performances of previous hits. The ongoing mismanagement of the pandemic and the dance of the tiers put paid to those plans, even as technical rehearsals had already started but in a move that would please Norma Desmond herself, Sunset Boulevard in Concert has still found its way to the spotlight.

Nikolai Foster’s reconception of his initial adaptation of his original production sees him lean heavily into Sunset Boulevard’s cinematic origins, taking full advantage of the lack of audience to ditch the traditional notions of semi-staged concerts and create an inventive fusion of theatre and film. And with those restraints fully loosed, this production unfurls across every inch of the auditorium – Norma first appears from the back of the circle, Joe’s rooms are tucked into the fly tower, the ensemble watch impassively from the empty seats in an almost Brechtian manner of observation. Continue reading “Review: Sunset Boulevard in Concert, Curve Leicester at home”

Review: The Theatre Channel – Episode Three

Exploring the world of rock musicals, Episode 3 of The Theatre Channel features Alex Gaumond, Shan Ako, John Owen-Jones, Francesca Jackson, Aisha Jawando and Rob Houchen

Je cherche le soleil
Au milieu de ma nuit

First, a confession. The idea of a rock musical generally leaves me cold so the announcement of the theme of the third episode of The Theatre Channel being just that wasn’t one that filled me with too much joy. But the quality of Episode 1 and Episode 2, plus the calibre of talent they’ve been attracting, meant that I was happy to at least give it a whirl.

And if it didn’t make a convert out of me (there’s enough fans of Rent out there already…), there’s plenty to be impressed with. The highlight of the half-hour show for me was the chance to hear the Québécois Alex Gaumond singing ‘Le Monde est Stone’ from Starmania in its original French, the desperation of this soaring ballad transcending any linguistic barrier (though subtitles are provided). Continue reading “Review: The Theatre Channel – Episode Three”

Album Review: Joel Harper-Jackson – So What Happens Now? / Makerman – Grove Hill / Rob Houchen

An album review of Joel Harper-Jackson’s So What Happens Now? and inspired by Marry Me A Little last night, I explore Makerman and Rob Houchen

“I don’t care if it hurts
I wanna have control”

Released just as the second lockdown kicked in, Joel Harper-Hackson’s debut album has ended up with a painfully apposite title – So What Happens Now?. I first spotted Harper-Jackson a few years as a standout in a middling new musical and have enjoyed following his career since then, not least in the Hope Mill’s gorgeous production of Little Women. Interestingly, this album largely eschews the world of musical theatre for the world of popular music, albeit reimagined through the wonderfully moody arrangements of Greg Morton.

Piano, guitar and cello thus come to the fore to underscore mournful takes on ‘Jolene’ and ‘The Man That Got Away’, the quavering vocal at the beginning of ‘Another Suitcade in Another Hall’ really refocuses the song’s emotion, and the shivering sparseness of ‘Wicked Game’ hits harder than usual, especially once the dramatic stakes are raised. Unexpectedly effective though is the duet on ‘Tragedy’ with Jodie Steele which utterly reinterprets the rueful acceptance of the song in a way which makes complete sense. ‘Creep’ with Lauren Byrne is pretty damn good too. If ever there was an album to cry-listen to whilst looking through a rainy November window and eating a packet of biscuits, this is that album and this is that moment. Highly recommended. Continue reading “Album Review: Joel Harper-Jackson – So What Happens Now? / Makerman – Grove Hill / Rob Houchen”

News: live theatre returns to Leicester

Curve has today announced plans to reopen to the public. The theatre, which was forced suddenly to close its doors to the public on 16 March, will open again this autumn for spectacularly re-imagined, socially distanced concert performances of acclaimed Made at Curve productions, using the building’s unique theatre design.

The Color Purple in Concert 23rd November – 5th December, with T’Shan Williams and Danielle Fiamanya, who won The Stage Debut Award for Best Supporting Actress in a Musical for her role as ‘Nettie’.
Sunset Boulevard in Concert – 14th December – 3rd January,
Ria Jones and Danny Mac will return to star.
Memoirs Of An Asian Football Casual 25th January – 6th February.

By raising the walls between its theatre spaces, Curve will reopen as a 533-seat socially-distanced auditorium, with audiences enjoying live performances from all four sides of the stage, fully realising the ambition of architect Rafael Viñoly’s original design. A triple-revolve, donated by Sir Cameron Mackintosh, will help to transform the space to create an epic experience for audience members. Continue reading “News: live theatre returns to Leicester”

Album Review: Amanda Holden – Songs From My Heart

Britain’s Got Talent judge Amanda Holden releases her debut album Songs From My Heart, full of musical theatre treats and Sheridan Smith

“You pulled me in and together we’re lost in a dream”

I’ve never actually seen an episode of Britain’s Got Talent so the rise of Amanda Holden to “undoubtedly one of Britain’s best loved entertainers” is one that has largely passed me by. That’s not to denigrate a career that has impressively straddled many media though and with the release of her debut album Songs From My Heart, it is clear that she hasn’t finished adding strings to her bow.

The album sees her delve mainly into the world of musical theatre (I did see her in Shrek the Musical back in 2011) and it is an endeavour in which she acquits herself well. Holden has a lovely clear voice but more impressively, an interpretative style that is blessedly free of unnecessary riffs and that pervasive need that many have to make the material ‘their own’. Continue reading “Album Review: Amanda Holden – Songs From My Heart”

Review: The Theatre Channel – Episode One

Featuring the likes of Jenna Russell, Matt Henry and Carrie Hope Fletcher, Episode 1 of The Theatre Channel is a roaring success

“Believe me, my admiration for you hasn’t died”

As big question marks remain over if and when theatre doors will start opening again, the move to online delivery of musical theatre  has taken an interesting turn with the arrival of The Theatre Channel. It is officially described as a web series but it is basically a musical theatre version of classic Top of the Pops online, ie heaven!

Set on location in (and on top of) The Theatre Café, the first episode was a slick half hour of cracking entertainment that really gladdened the heart. Director Bill Deamer offers a slice of real variety across its six numbers but also maintains a high level of quality, right down to the witty timing of the snippets of choreography he introduces via the inhouse ensemble. Continue reading “Review: The Theatre Channel – Episode One”

Album Review: The Songsmiths – Tenors of the West End

Vocal group The Songsmiths’ Tenors of the West End offers up some fascinating harmonies on some classic pop tunes

“Everybody needs a little time away…from each other”

Simon Gordon, Benjamin Purkiss and Patrick Sullivan can boast 30 years experience in the West End and beyond and all spent some time in Obsidian as part of Bat Out Of Hell, so their teaming up together to form vocal group The Songsmiths makes sense. Their album Tenors of the West End, now available to download, draws on a wider range than Shaftesbury Avenue though – the mention of Chicago more likely to refer to soft-rock than Kander & Ebb.

This focus on pop-rock staples over musical theatre yields some fascinating results. There are no real surprises in terms of song choices but there’s no denying the exhilaration of hearing Fleetwood Mac’s ‘Go Your Own Way’ receive such a full-bodied treatment as this, so too with their meatier rendition of A-Ha’s classic ‘Take On Me’. The arrangement of ‘Hallelujah’ wisely keeps it out of mawkishness and some interesting harmonies emerge out of ‘Somebody To Love’. Continue reading “Album Review: The Songsmiths – Tenors of the West End”