Review: The Theatre Channel – Episode Six: Showstoppers

Danny Mac, Kerry Ellis and Layton Williams star in The Theatre Channel – Episode Six: Showstoppers, with added Antonio Banderas

“Let’s go on with the show”

The beauty of so many theatrical things going digital is that it is now harder to properly miss out on something. Episode Six of The Theatre Channel, subtitled Showstoppers, aired last month but I let it slip me by – fortunately it is available on demand so in advance of dipping into its newest Rodgers and Hammerstein tribute, I gave it a shot.

And I’m glad I did, as it very much indulged my inner theatrical nerd by stretching its definition of showstopper way beyond the Phantom and Les Mis classics you might have expected them to plump for. Instead, we get hits from the likes of The Last Five Years, Sideshow, If/Then and Annie Get Your Gun, proving that wonders well beyond the West End hits. Continue reading “Review: The Theatre Channel – Episode Six: Showstoppers”

Review: West End Musical Celebration, Palace Theatre

Ben Forster, Alice Fearn, Sophie Evans, Layton Williams, Rachel John, Trevor Dion Nicholas and Shanay Holmes join forces for a West End Musical Celebration at the Palace Theatre

“There’s a party to start in a new part of town”

Brought to you by the producers of West End Musical Drive In and West End Musical Brunch, West End Musical Celebration sees the collaborative, communal, concert spirit finally brought into a bona fide West End space in Palace Theatre.

It doesn’t reinvent the wheel but nor does it pretend or need to. Pulling together a top tier company including Alice Fearn, Layton Williams, Rachel John and Trevor Dion Nicholas and giving them some of the best showstoppers around, you can hardly go wrong. Continue reading “Review: West End Musical Celebration, Palace Theatre”

Album Review: Heather Headley – Broadway My Way

Crikey, how I loved Heather Headley’s Broadway My Way, one of the best showtunes albums of recent years 

“I know that everything I need is in here”

I was unreasonably peeved at Heather Headley for a little while, taking her casting in the West End debut of The Bodyguard as a slight on UK talent, for which I was rewarded her not appearing when I saw the show! But on seeing this clip of her smashing ‘Memory’ out of the park, I realised I’d played myself in not trying to see the show again to witness her talent live.

The next best thing is her 2018 album Broadway My Way, which I’ve belatedly got round to listening to. And once again more fool me, as it is probably one of the best musical theatre albums I’ve had the privilege of hearing. A collection of songs both old and new, it is an absolute masterclass in reinterpreting material to make it so closely fit a voice as to suggest it was written just for it. Continue reading “Album Review: Heather Headley – Broadway My Way”

Album Review: Noel Sullivan – Here I Go Again (2014)

“Don’t be afraid, to let them show”

Noel Sullivan will forever be a member of Hear’say first and foremost to me, the product of one of first of this generation of Saturday night music talent show – Popstars – but since then, a career in musical theatre has beckoned and it is on that, rather than his pop star life, that his debut album Here I Go Again concentrates. At a swift 9 tracks, he runs the gamut of his theatrical CV (What A Feeling, Grease, Rock of Ages, Flashdance, Priscilla…) but also throws in a couple of singer-songwriter moments lest we forget his versatility.

It’s nice to see Sullivan maintain strong links with his cast-mates from various shows as he’s a generous duet partner who really shines when sparking off someone else. A funky scratched-up take on ‘You’re The One That I Want’ with Lauren Samuels is sultry indeed, a powerful rendition of ‘Here And Now’ features the glorious Victoria Hamilton-Barritt in fine form, and Cyndi Lauper’s evergreen ‘True Colors’ twinkle once more with the added participation here of Richard Grieve and Graham Weaver. Continue reading “Album Review: Noel Sullivan – Here I Go Again (2014)”

Album Review: Ben Forster – Acoustic Covers (2012)

“I lost my head
And thought of all the stupid things I said”

Winner of ITV’s Superstar and now well-established West End leading man, current Phantom Ben Forster has released two solo albums of acoustic covers called, well, Acoustic Covers. The first sees him singing just with a solo guitar (Joe Watkin) to accompany him and whilst it is clearly a deeply personal collection of songs for him, there’s a slight lack of variety over the 11 tracks which makes it a slightly less than essential record.

There are some lovely moments – the vocalisations that accompany Coldplay’s ‘Trouble’, the building power in the vocal of Jacko’s ‘She’s Out Of My Life’, and the sweet guitar playing that lifts the likes of ‘Cannonball’ and the incomparable Tracy Chapman’s ‘Fast Car’. And when Forster is just singing ‘em straight, really connecting with the songwriting, you can see all the musicality that has got him this far in his career. Continue reading “Album Review: Ben Forster – Acoustic Covers (2012)”

Re-review: Kinky Boots, Adelphi Theatre

“I am freedom, I’m constriction
A potpourri of contradiction”

A cheeky trip back to Kinky Boots (my third time) – here’s my review from last time. I’ll just say Matt Henry continues to be fiercely amazing, the wholesome David Hunter is perfectly (re)cast as ol’ Charlie boy, and Elena Skye manages the not-inconsiderable feat of stepping into Amy Lennox’s shoes as the hilarious Lauren. It’s still a lovely, lovely show and I’m really pleased that it appears to still be doing really well. Now put the nose on the Charlie!

The Curtain Up Show Album of the Year 2016 nominees

Best UK Cast Recording
American Psycho – Original London Cast Recording
Close To You: Bacharach Reimagined – Original London Cast Recording
Funny Girl – Original London Cast Recording
Half A Sixpence – 2016 London Cast Recording
Kinky Boots – Original West End Cast Recording
Mrs Henderson Presents – Original London Cast Recording

Best American Cast Recording
Allegiance – Original Broadway Cast Recording
The Color Purple – New Broadway Cast Recording
Fiddler On The Roof – 2016 Broadway Cast Recording
Lazarus – Original Cast Recording
On Your Feet! – Original Broadway Cast Recording
Waitress – Original Broadway Cast Recording

Best Solo Album / Non Cast Recording
Cheyenne Jackson – Renaissance
Lin-Manuel Miranda – The Hamilton Mixtape
Idina Menzel – idina.
Kristin Chenoweth – The Art of Elegance
Nadim Naaman – Sides
Samantha Barks – Samantha Barks

Album Review: Louise Dearman – Here Comes The Sun (The Wicked Edition)

 “I don’t think you unworthy 
I need a moment to deliberate”

Louise Dearman’s second album saw her pivot away from the world of musical theatre to a collection of her favourite songs off the radio, ranging from The Beatles to Sara Bareilles but tending towards a slightly darker, more dramatic side of pop, even pop/rock as a Skunk Anansie cover also makes it onto the tracklisting. It’s a well put-together collection that clearly delivers what Dearman wants to do in broadening her musical identity, it could however stand to incorporate just a little more variation.

Here Comes The Sun is heavy on the vividly orchestral – Alanis Morissette’s ‘Uninvited’ and Randy Crawford’s ‘One Day I’ll Fly Away’ soar on swoops of strings, Bareilles’ Gravity and Dee C Lee’s See The Day, more recently covered by Girls Aloud, comes in slightly less melodramatically, and uniting them all is the mightily bright voice of Dearman, clear as a bell whether the forceful anger of ‘Squander’, the Skunk Anansie track, the epic in miniature that is Alison Moyet’s ‘This House’ or the gentle gorgeousness of Bareilles’ ‘Gravity’. Across all the songs, Dearman’s talent for telling stories through music also comes across powerfully. Continue reading “Album Review: Louise Dearman – Here Comes The Sun (The Wicked Edition)”

Album Review: Billy Porter – Billy’s Back On Broadway

 “The towering feeling just to know somehow you are near”

Billy Porter’s career may have received a fillip from winning the Tony Award for Best Actor in a Musical for his turn as Lola in Kinky Boots (a pattern interestingly repeated by Matt Henry at the Oliviers this year) but he is a performer who has certainly paid his dues. From his 1994 debut in Grease, he’s carved out as a path as an almost old-school multi-disciplinary entertainer – appearing on film and TV as well as on stage, writing plays and music…boy’s been keeping busy.

Billy’s Back On Broadway marks his third album and proves an interesting blend of everything that makes up Billy. The songlist is pure Broadway as the title suggests but the approach from Porter and producer Rob Mounsey is much more varied, bringing in elements both of the jazz and the more contemporary R&B he loves. Combined with idiosyncratic takes on some of these classics, it makes for an always interesting collection. Continue reading “Album Review: Billy Porter – Billy’s Back On Broadway”

Album Review: Kinky Boots (Original Broadway Cast Recording 2013)

“Charlie from Northampton, meet Simon from Clapton”

There is something undoubtedly ironic about a show set in Northampton opening on Broadway before it took its bow on the West End but such it was for Kinky Boots, birthed on the Great White Way with a book by Harvey Fierstein and a Tony-winning score from Cyndi Lauper. And it was that cast that got to release their album first, unleashing Lauper’s joyous songs onto the public.

Unfortunately, they also unleashed some atrocious accents onto us as well. They may have passed a more forgiving (or unaware) US public but to British ears, there’s no hiding from how awkward it sounds at so many points across the disc. Especially now that we have a West End recording available, I’d struggle to recommend this version for any real reason. Continue reading “Album Review: Kinky Boots (Original Broadway Cast Recording 2013)”