TV Review: Big Night of Musicals by the National Lottery

Filmed in Manchester last week, concert extravaganza Big Night of Musicals by the National Lottery really does showcase a large slice of current musical theatre offerings well

From the moment host Jason Manford dons his glittery gold jacket and launches into a Chicago medley via a segue into ‘There’s No Business Like Show Business’, it’s clear where we’re sitting with Big Night of Musicals by the National Lottery. And that that is squarely crowd-pleasing glitz and glamour shouldn’t be surprising, given that it is getting the Saturday night primetime treatment on BBC1.

For once though, it is good to see that eyes are on some of the breadth of the West End and the touring circuit. So that means there’s no place for the usually ubitiquous Les Mis, Wicked and Phantom, but rather current shows like Back to the Future (Cedric Neal and cast ripping through the entertaining ‘Gotta Start Somewhere’), The Drifters Girl and Get Up, Stand Up! The Bob Marley Musical getting their moment to shine. Continue reading “TV Review: Big Night of Musicals by the National Lottery”

#AdventwithClowns Day 10 – Dear Evan Hansen (2021)

A film version of musical hit Dear Evan Hansen with original Broadway star Ben Platt at the helm proves to be a huge mis-step

“Can we try to have an optimistic outlook, huh?

Oh dear, it really wasn’t meant to be like this. Ben Platt has been intimately involved with Dear Evan Hansen since the start, taking part in every reading of the show through its eventual Tony-winning run on Broadway. So in some ways he’s the perfect guy to star in this cinematic adaptation, which just happens to be produced by his father, among others. But Platt is now in his late 20s, pushing at the limits to play a high-schooler, something director Stephen Chbosky acknowledges a little too blatantly with an almost Frankenstein-like treatment of prosthetics, make-up and filters that make him look like an android.

The other major problem is that this is a full-on adaptation of the musical, snatching us away from the suspension of disbelief of the stage to the harsh realities of a US high school drama. And without the fantastical flights of fancy that accompany the show’s theatrical journey – the transportative magic of Pasek and Paul’s soaring score, the ingenuity of David Korins’ digital-inspired set design  – we’re left examining Steven Levenson’s reworking of his own book with much greater scrutiny and I’m really not sure that its use of suicide and mental health hold muster in this IRL context. Continue reading “#AdventwithClowns Day 10 – Dear Evan Hansen (2021)”

Review: Lee Mead at the London Palladium

Celebrating his 40th birthday in quite some style and with quite the guest list, Lee Mead at the London Palladium made for a great night

“I’ll make you so sure about it”

I spent my 40th birthday eating as many Michelin-starred meals as I could hoodwink people into treating me to but being a much more genial sort, Lee Mead celebrated his by making a long-awaited return to live performance. Lee Mead at the London Palladium was his first concert in 18 months and in some ways, it was almost worth the wait.

With time on his hands, he has been able to come up with a beautifully balanced setlist with MD Adam Dennis. One which pays tribute to the shows that have made his career thus far, one reflects songs that have inspired him but above all, one which demonstrates love. Love for music, love for his friends and family, love for the act of performing to which he is so clearly accustomed. Continue reading “Review: Lee Mead at the London Palladium”

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”

Review: The Show Must Go On, Palace Theatre/online

Featuring 18 West End musicals, The Show Must Go On is a concert to remember, featuring a whole host of theatrical talent both on and off the stage

“Just like Dolly Levi, we are back where we belong”

Showcasing 18 West End musicals that are reopening soon or in some cases, have already reopened, The Show Must Go On is a celebratory concert, gathering together so much on- and off-stage theatrical talent in aid of Acting for Others and Fleabag Support Fund.

With Bonnie Langford and Trevor Dion Nicholas hosting and gamely working their way through a multitude of rapid-fire show descriptions, the real MVPs of the night were the orchestra, under Stuart Morley’s direction, and the choir, made up of recent graduates, who enthusiastically put their voices to any number of harmonised accompaniments. Continue reading “Review: The Show Must Go On, Palace Theatre/online”

Review: West End Musical Drive In, Episode 4

The West End Musical Drive In‘s fourth instalment sees cast members from Aladdin getting us to honk our horns

“Miss rona hasn’t stopped us from gathering here, in a car park, to celebrate musical theatre”

The latest digital visit to the West End Musical Drive In sees us catch a concert featuring three performers connected through their performances in productions of Aladdin. Matt Croke, Trevor Dion Nicholas and Hiba Elchikhe gather here for one of the more fun concerts in this series, with duets aplenty but a slight issue with the format does begin to arise.

Within the first 20 minutes, we’ve already heard two songs that have been performed in previous shows in this series (see reviews of episode 1, episode 2 and episode 3). It’s not the end of the world by any means, and arguably this version of ‘As Long As You’re Mine’ is a stonker, but it is perhaps something to be considered by the creators as these gratefully-received online options are explored. Continue reading “Review: West End Musical Drive In, Episode 4”

Review: West End Musical Drive In, Episode 1

This capture of last summer’s West End Musical Drive In delivers much of the thrill of live performance, with Shan Ako and Layton Williams in particularly fine form

“Honk your horns”

Last summer saw the team behind the West End Musical Brunch pivot within the constrictions of social distancing to create the West End Musical Drive In concert series. And with great consideration for those of us who don’t drive, the shows were filmed and five of them are now being streamed on a weekly basis via Stream.Theatre.

Layton Williams is the headliner for this show and it is is not hard to see why. Supported by an ensemble from the forthcoming tour of Everyone’s Talking About Jamie, he struts with outrageous levels of charisma and fashion-forward thinking through numbers from that show, Kinky Boots, Rent and much more besides. Continue reading “Review: West End Musical Drive In, Episode 1”

Review: Together Again

Featuring the marvellous Sophie Isaacs, Jodie Steele and T’Shan Williams, Together Again might Thespie’s best Reunited gig yet

“Good times we’ll share again”

For whatever reason, the musical adaptation of Heathers held no attraction for me so I never actually got around to going to see it. The quality and appeal of its cast was never in doubt though, so I was interested to what the title trio of Sophie Isaacs, Jodie Steele and T’Shan Williams would get up to in Together Again, their concert for Thespie’s Reunited series.

There’s an easy informality about this trio, who clearly get on like a house on fire, that elevates this concert to the best kind of cabaret. Full of chat, in-jokes and genuine admiration inbetween songs, the three of them conjure up the type of atmosphere that fully engages you and keeps you hanging off every note they sing. Continue reading “Review: Together Again”

News: #CheerUpCharlie & West End Friends release ‘You Will Be Found’

You Will Be Found by #CheerUpCharlie & West End Friends, a fundraising charity single in aid of youth charity The Diana Award, has been released today by Auburn Jam Music to tie in with the start of National Anti-Bullying Week, which runs from 16th-20th November. 

The star-studded single is led by ten-year-old Charlie Kristensen from Wokingham, whose experience of being bullied started the viral #CheerUpCharlie campaign. Charlie is joined on the song by numerous stage and screen stars including Wendi Peters, Layton Williams and Michael Xavier, with Iain Armitage, Michael Ball, Rufus Hound, and Faye Tozer amongst many famous faces reading their supportive messages on the song’s video. Continue reading “News: #CheerUpCharlie & West End Friends release ‘You Will Be Found’”

News: You Will Be Found by #CheerUpCharlie & West End Friends to be released on 15th November

Auburn Jam Music are delighted to be releasing ‘You Will Be Found’ by #CheerUpCharlie & West End Friends, a fundraising charity single in aid of youth charity The Diana Award, on Sunday 15 November to tie in with the start of National Anti-Bullying Week (16-20 November).  

The star-studded single is led by ten-year-old Charlie Kristensen from Wokingham, whose experience of being bullied started the viral #CheerUpCharlie campaign. Charlie is joined on the song by numerous stage and screen stars including Wendi Peters, Layton Williams and Michael Xavier, with Iain Armitage, Michael Ball, Rufus Hound, and Faye Tozer amongst many famous faces reading their supportive messages on the song’s video. The single is available to pre-save now on iTunes, Deezer, Spotify and Tidal at https://ditto.fm/you-will-be-found. Continue reading “News: You Will Be Found by #CheerUpCharlie & West End Friends to be released on 15th November”