News: musicals coming to the screen soon

In The Heights

Due to arrive on 25th June, Jon M Chu’s film of In The Heights, based on Lin-Manuel Miranda and Quiara Alegría Hudes’s vibrant musical, tells the story of a Hispanic-American community threatened by gentrification. The film stars, among others, Anthony Ramos, Leslie Grace, Dascha Polanco, Stephanie Beatriz, Corey Hawkins, Melissa Barrera and Lin-Manuel Miranda predictably makes an appearance, though as Piragüero not Usnavi. Continue reading “News: musicals coming to the screen soon”

Review: West End Musical Drive In, Episode 5

Episode 5 of the West End Musical Drive In adopts a loose Hallowe’en theme with Lucie Jones, Jon Robyns and Kelly Agbowu

“Boris isn’t due on for another half an hour so we’re alright”

Saving the best for last might sound like something of a cliche but it is hard not to feel that way with this fifth and final instalment from the West End Musical Drive In (see reviews of episode 1episode 2, episode 3 and episode 4) which was their actual last show from the summer. Headlining the company is Lucie Jones and she really does reconfirm her absolute star quality.

The Hallowe’en theme sees some of the more interesting song choices of the show. Jones visiting Beetlejuice and The Addams Family, and Kelly Agbowu nailing Ursula’s iconic ‘Poor Unfortunate Soul’ and Elphaba’s ‘No Good Deed’. And a raucous rendition of ‘The Time Warp’ is lots of fun even if its with a recorded version of the track. Continue reading “Review: West End Musical Drive In, Episode 5”

Album reviews: Marie Oppert – Enchantée / Kim David Smith Live at Joe’s Pub / Siobhan Dillon – One Voice

Reviews of a trio of excellent albums: Marie Oppert – Enchantée, Kim David Smith Live at Joe’s Pub and Siobhan Dillon – One Voice, all recommended

I do love me a soprano and discovering a new one feels like as good a way to spend lockdown as any. Marie Oppert is a French singer and actress whose debut, at age 17, came in a major concert version of a little-known show called Les Parapluies de Cherbourg… From those Michel Legrand-sanctioned days, she has established a notable career and now releases her first solo album EnchantéeBack by the luscious sound of the Orchestre National de Lille and conductor Nicholas Skilbeck, this collection sees Oppert explore a bilingual songbook that stretches from the boulevards of Paris to Broadway.

The result is something rather glorious. The sumptuous treatment of the likes of ‘The Light in the Piazza’ and ‘I Could Have Danced All Night’ are near ecstatic, ‘Children Will Listen’ in French brings a new dynamism to a familiar piece, and characterful duets with Melissa Orrico and Natalie Dessay, whom she charmingly terms her “two Franco-American ‘fairy godmothers”, both impress. The irrepressible energy of 1938 track ‘Y’a d’la joie’ is an absolute standout and an interpretation of Billy Elliott’s ‘Electricity’ has no right to be as effective as it is here. Sod’s law though, Oppert is playing in London next month but bloody Covid restrictions means I can only go by buying a table for two. Continue reading “Album reviews: Marie Oppert – Enchantée / Kim David Smith Live at Joe’s Pub / Siobhan Dillon – One Voice”

Album reviews – Anthony Ramos – The Good & The Bad / Aimie Atkinson – Step Inside Love / Jenna Lee-James – On The Edge

A diverse trio of album reviews, featuring Anthony Ramos – The Good & The Bad, Aimie Atkinson – Step Inside Love and Jenna Lee-James – On The Edge

With credits that include the original Broadway cast of Hamilton, the most recent remake of A Star Is Born and Usnavi in the forthcoming screen adaptation of In The Heights, Anthony Ramos can officially be described as hot stuff. And of course he’s had time to write and release his debut album The Good & The Bad too, which emerges as a genre-hopping delight that draws on the melting pot of influences that is New York as much as it does his Puerto Rican heritage. A biographical concept album of sorts, Ramos’ tales of growing flow effortlessly whether through the r’n’b pop of stand-out ‘Mind Over Matter. the hip-hop-inspired storytelling of the title track or the gorgeously smooth balladry of ‘Isabella’ and ‘Figure It Out’. Continue reading “Album reviews – Anthony Ramos – The Good & The Bad / Aimie Atkinson – Step Inside Love / Jenna Lee-James – On The Edge”

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: Rent, St James Theatre

I’m not one to deny anyone their fandom and Lord know Rent has some of the most devoted of the lot. But for whatever reason, the show has left me cold every time I’ve seen it, increasingly so in its determination to defend artistic excess.

I was bought a ticket as a Christmas present so I was able to go and test my feelings once again but no change, no matter how good Layton Williams’ performance was. So for once, I’m just going to leave it here.

Running time: 2 hours 40 minutes (with interval)
Booking until 28th January, then touring as below

Album Review: John Owen-Jones – Unmasked (2012)

“You are going where I long to be”

I have really enjoyed John Owen-Jones’ recorded output – his self-titled debut and 2015’s Rise both impressing with their forays into new musical theatre writing and interesting arrangements. It’s taken me a little while to get around to his 2012 album Unmasked and I have to say it does feel like a little bit of a relative disappointment for me, not so much in terms of its quality but rather in its lack of adventurousness.

Three Andrew Lloyd Webber songs, a bit of Sondheim, West Side Story’s ‘Somewhere’, Les Mis’ ‘Bring Him Home’ again (it’s appeared in one form or another on all his solo albums), there’s little to really pique the interest above and beyond what one might expect from a musical theatre star who has delivered successfully in many of these key roles. Along with standards like ‘Nature Boy’ and ‘Hallelujah’, the template thus appears quite fixed. Continue reading “Album Review: John Owen-Jones – Unmasked (2012)”

EP Review: Ramin Karimloo – Within the Six Square Inch

“They used to tell me I was building a dream”

I’ve been working my way backwards through Ramin Karimloo’s back catalogue and so now I am at his 2004 self-released EP Within the Six Square Inch, where one can see interesting hints of how his career would develop and the relationships he has nurtured. The tension between musician and musical theatre star is also in evidence with a song selection that is far from intuitive and might help explain why it is so hard to track down the disc now.

The 8 tracks span a range of musicals from the better known (West Side Story) to the more obscure (The Last Session), a couple of Billy Joel covers and a folk standard. It gives an indication of the diversity of Karimloo’s musical background and the kind of recording artist he wanted to be but it makes for a curious mixture and the sequencing of the tracks doesn’t always help. But there are definite highlights in amongst the collection which make it worth tracking down. Continue reading “EP Review: Ramin Karimloo – Within the Six Square Inch”

Review: Divas Unsung, Leicester Square Theatre

“You sure put on a show”

One of the joys of cabaret concerts is the sheer range and diversity of material that they can pick from to best reflect the personalities and voices of performers, or to suit an overarching theme for their programme. Divas Unsung managed to work both these aspects into their Sunday evening gig at the Leicester Square Theatre, shining a light on some lesser known comedy numbers, empowerment anthems and showstoppers from musical theatre shows that have mostly slipped under the radar in the West End or on Broadway.

Of course, aficionados of the genre may score higher recognition points than your regular punter and the active fringe musical scene means some are less obscure than they might have been: Stephen Schwartz’s The Baker’s Wife, Jonathan Larson’s tick…tick…BOOM! and Kander and Ebb’s Kiss of the Spiderwoman have all been seen in London relatively recently, though one would hard-pressed to find noted flops like Elton John and Bernie Taupin’s Lestat or Michael Gore’s Carrie anywhere. Continue reading “Review: Divas Unsung, Leicester Square Theatre”