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”

Album Reviews: Sleeping Beauty the Musical / 9 to 5 the Musical / Girlfriends

This trio of musical theatre album reviews features Sleeping Beauty the Musical, 9 to 5 the Musical – West End Cast Recording and Girlfriends (London Musical Theatre Orchestra)

“When life seems uphill, remember you’re still ascending”

A bit of googling about Joel Harper-Jackson (what, you don’t do it too…?) came up with this studio cast recording of Sleeping Beauty the Musical. A musical adaptation of the fairytale with book and lyrics by Ian Curran and music by Simon Hanson and Peter Vint, it is a rather amiable treatment of the story and a perfectly serviceable set of tunes. Truth be told, this isn’t a score to really set the world alight but then not everything has to, especially when allied to as classic a tale as this. Harper-Jackson and Maria Coyne both impress as the central couple of Prince Perrault and Princess Aurora whose growing relationship is the cornerstone of the show and ultimately quite affecting here. Continue reading “Album Reviews: Sleeping Beauty the Musical / 9 to 5 the Musical / Girlfriends”

Review: 9 to 5 The Musical, Savoy Theatre

As 9 to 5 The Musical announces its closing dates and forthcoming cast changes, I go along because I can’t resist Bonnie Langford

“Respected and high class,
I don’t have to kiss ass
For the first time since I’ve been employed”

The pictures above should give you an indication as to who the real star of 9 to 5 The Musical is, no matter how red the trunks (or surprisingly long the legs) of David Hasselhoff. I first saw this cinematic adaptation in 2012 on its UK tour and loved Bonnie Langford’s performance so much it ranked in that year’s best. So her return to the show in its West End debut last year was great to behold (even if it didn’t quite tempt me along to see it again).

It’s a curious one, Patricia Resnick’s adaptation of her own film sprinkles the story with the rhinestone glitter of Dolly Parton’s songbook, far beyond the iconic title track and is possessed of a huge spirit of fun. But the tale itself, of the struggle for women’s equality in the workplace, demands a little more gravity than it ultimately gets here. How seriously are we meant to take sexual harassment when it is accompanied by the Colgate smile and eye twinkle of the Hoff. Continue reading “Review: 9 to 5 The Musical, Savoy Theatre”

2020 What’s On Stage Award nominations

The nominations for the 20th Annual WhatsOnStage Awards have been announced and I have a thought or two #justiceforAnneHathaway

As a publicly nominated affair, the What’s On Stage Awards always throw up an interesting set of nominations, as fanbases engage alongside theatregoers to produce an idiosyncratic reflection on the year. This year though, the nominees for the nine creative categories (Choreography, Costume Design, Direction, Graphic Design, Lighting Design, Musical Direction, Set Design, Sound Design and Video Design) have been decided by an independent panel of industry experts appointed, which has resulted in some pleasing inclusions for the likes of Equus and Small Island

Acting-wise, the focus does land a little heavily on the more famous names (plus ça change) and that Supporting Actress in a Musical category is super-crowded (the Dear Evan Hansen mothers would have been a shoo-in for me there). My only real point of issue comes with the categorisation for the & Juliet players – are you really going to nominate Oliver Tompsett as a lead and then put Cassidy Janson in the supporting category? Did you not see the show, or get any of its message at all?!

Voting for the winners is open now and closes on 27th January 2020, with the winners being revealed at a ceremony on 1st March 2020.

Best Actor in a Play, sponsored by Edwardian Hotels

Tom Hiddleston – Betrayal – Harold Pinter Theatre
Andrew Scott – Present Laughter – The Old Vic
Matt Smith – Lungs – The Old Vic
Wendell Pierce – Death of a Salesman – Young Vic / Piccadilly Theatre
Laurie Kynaston – The Son – Kiln Theatre / Duke of York’s Theatre

Best Actress in a Play, sponsored by Tonic Theatre

Claire Foy – Lungs – The Old Vic
Zawe Ashton – Betrayal – Harold Pinter Theatre
Hayley Atwell – Rosmersholm – Duke of York’s Theatre
Sharon D Clarke – Death of a Salesman – Young Vic / Piccadilly Theatre
Juliet Stevenson – The Doctor – Almeida Theatre Continue reading “2020 What’s On Stage Award nominations”

Album Reviews: Kristen Chenoweth – For The Girls / Idina Menzel – Christmas: A Season of Love

A pair of album reviews for the OG Wicked stars – Kristen Chenoweth’s For The Girls and Idina Menzel’s Christmas: A Season of Love

“You know the Queen of hearts is always your best bet”

No matter how they’ve diverged now, the careers of Kristen Chenoweth and Idina Menzel will forever be connected by Wicked and so you wonder whether their respective 2016 albums being released at the same time was ‘just’ a coincidence. And those ties just won’t quit as late 2019 sees them both dropping records, albeit with a month or two inbetween this time.

Chenoweth’s album is For The Girls, a concept album of sorts, produce by Steve Tyrell and Jon Allen, focusing on tracks either written or performed by female artists. She might not exactly reinvent the wheel with her covers, but there’s something impressive about the way in which she draws the connecting line between the country pop of her upbringing – ‘Desperado’, ‘Crazy’ – to the standards for which she’s now famed – a glorious ‘The Man That Got Away’, ‘The Way We Were’. As diverse a collection it gets, it always coheres effectively.  Continue reading “Album Reviews: Kristen Chenoweth – For The Girls / Idina Menzel – Christmas: A Season of Love”

Album Reviews: Ramin Karimloo – From Now On / Josh Piterman – Josh Piterman

A pair of album reviews from Phantoms past and present – Ramin Karimloo’s latest From Now On and new leading man Josh Piterman’s Josh Piterman

“Will I ever be more than I’ve always been?”

Ramin Karimloo’s recording career has always been an interesting one to track, as he oscillates between the musical theatre in which he has made quite the name and the musical influences that clearly lie closest to his heart. His latest full-length album From Now On encapsulates this perfectly right from the off, using his patented Broadgrass style to illuminate The Greatest Showman’s ‘From Now On’ to glorious effect.

The tracklisting sees him dabble in musicals old and new – he makes a good case for King George in an uplifting ‘You’ll Be Back’ from Hamilton and Dear Evan Hansen’s ‘Waving Through a Window’ builds the already fever-pitch anticipation for its London opening. And they’re matched by a straightforward canter through Rent’s ‘What You Own’ and Hedwig’s achingly good ‘Wicked Little Town’ which balance his interpretative skill with his unmatched vocal strength. Continue reading “Album Reviews: Ramin Karimloo – From Now On / Josh Piterman – Josh Piterman”

Review: 9 to 5, Upstairs at the Gatehouse

“I might just make it work”

As frothy as 9 to 5 the Musical may seem, it shouldn’t be underestimated as a piece of theatre that puts three women front and centre in its narrative – it can feel like these sadly remain as few and far between in the 1980 of the original film as it does in the 2017 of the UK fringe premiere of its musical adaptation. And reflecting that, director Joseph Hodges and casting director Harry Blumenau have really done the business in selecting a terrific trio to lead their show.

Pippa Winslow’s Violet leads from the front with a wonderfully wry wit and poised determination, Amanda Coutts’ Judy blossoms in self-confidence throughout to nail her 11 o’clock number, and Louise Olley’s Doralee is an utterly radiant stage presence, delivering the kind of direct eye contact that could leave a boy questioning his sexual preferences. And together, these three secretaries at Consolidated Industries tackle workplace misogyny in their own inimitable way. Continue reading “Review: 9 to 5, Upstairs at the Gatehouse”

Album Review: 9 to 5 (2009 Original Broadway Cast Recording)

“You got dreams he’ll never take away”

Upstairs at the Gatehouse will soon be hosting the London fringe premiere of 9 to 5 and with a neat serendipity, Megan Hilty is coming over to the UK for a short run of shows at the Hippodrome in September, Hilty having played Doralee – the role made famous by Dolly Parton – in the 2009 Broadway production. Plus, Alison Janney was in the cast too, so how could you not want to fill your life with her would-be future-Dameness via the Original Broadway Cast Recording.

An adaptation of the film by Patricia Resnick from her own screenplay, Dolly Parton’s score combined original songs with a smattering of tracks from her extensive back catalogue. But where, say, Cyndi Lauper managed to adapt her song-writing to the world of musical theatre in Kinky Boots whilst maintaining much of her character, Parton loses a little something in her journey. The songs here are perfectly serviceable but ultimately quite bland, especially shorn of any visuals. Continue reading “Album Review: 9 to 5 (2009 Original Broadway Cast Recording)”

Album Reviews: Simon Bailey – Looking Up / Louise Dearman – It’s Time / Bonnie Langford – Now

Album reviews – Simon Bailey – Looking Up, Louise Dearman – It’s Time and Bonnie Langford – Now

“You don’t have to stay forever
I will understand”

Simon Bailey’s debut solo album Looking Up sees the actor stretch his singer-songwriter wings as well as picking personal choices from both the worlds of musical theatre and popular music. He reveals a rockier edge to his taste than would normally be my wheelhouse, but his intense reading of Evanescence’s ‘My Immortal’ is good enough to cross genres. A duet on Once’s ‘Falling Slowly’ with the talented Sabrina Aloueche is a highlight for me, and there’s nice work on Jason Robert Brown’s ‘I’d Give It All For You’ with Katie Hall. Continue reading “Album Reviews: Simon Bailey – Looking Up / Louise Dearman – It’s Time / Bonnie Langford – Now”