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”

Review: Monday Night at the Apollo

As the West End begins to return, new concert series Monday Night at the Apollo reminds us of just some of its talent

“Just waiting there till you came home to me”

On the face of it, you would expect Monday Night at the Apollo to be all about celebrating the world of musical theatre. But though the roll-call is full of stagey sorts, the breadth of the source material they’re drawing from is so broad that we’re more or less past the interval before we actually hit any MT classics.

We’re treated to the likes of Aimie Atkinson’s growling through ‘Rolling in the Deep’, Cedric Neal imbuing Billy Joel with real soul on ‘Just The Way You Are’, Cassidy Janson showcasing the lushness of her lower register in ‘Get Here’ and Julian Ovenden crooning dreamily through Tom Waits and Dolly Parton. Continue reading “Review: Monday Night at the Apollo”

News: a whole load of UK musical tour casting announcements

Priscilla Queen of the Desert will restart its tour at the Everyman Theatre, Cheltenham on 23rd June. Miles Western will take on the role of Bernadette, with Nick Hayes as Adam/Felicia and Edwin Ray playing Tick/Mitzi. They are joined by Daniel Fletcher (Bob), Rebecca Lisewski (Marion), Kevin Yates (Miss Understanding), Gracie Lai (Cynthia) and Ronan Burns (Frank). The Divas will be played by Claudia KariukiRosie Glossop and Aiesha Pease, and the cast is completed by Emma Katie Adcock, Jak Allen Anderson, Allie Daniel, Martin Harding, Clarice Julianda, Jemima Loddy, Nathan Ryles, Tom Scanlon and Jermaine Woods. Continue reading “News: a whole load of UK musical tour casting announcements”

Graduates at Cadogan Hall concert #1

The first concert in the Graduates at Cadogan Hall offers a fantastic online showcase for 13 fresh musical theatre graduates

COVID-19 hasn’t been a great time for many people but it has been particularly cruel on those who would have graduated during this time, robbing them of those rites of passage but also for theatre grads, the more valuable opportunity to showcase their talents. Graduates at Cadogan Hall is the brainchild of Ameena Hamid Productions and The Grad Fest, offering an online showcase for 40 2020 and 2021 graduates, who got to sing at Cadogan Hall with the brilliant Sam Young accompanying them, whilst also supporting the Acting for Others charity.

The programme is divided into three separate hour-long concerts and this first one has a whole raft of special guests, introduced as it is by Grace Mouat and sprinkled with gorgeous messages of support from those who know exactly what the struggles are, from the fabulous Anika Noni Rose, Alexia McIntosh, Gary Wilmot and Juliet Stevenson too. And since the concert is about celebrating all of these performers, I’ve opted to do things a little differently with this posts, giving everyone their moment to shine. So click on an image, read little mini reviews of their performances and get connected with them on socials to get their careers kickstarted in this different way. Continue reading “Graduates at Cadogan Hall concert #1”

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”

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: 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”

Christmas album reviews: If The Fates Allow: A Hadestown Holiday Album / Leslie Odom Jr – The Christmas Album / Michael Ball & Alfie Boe – Together at Christmas

A trio of festive album reviews with If The Fates Allow: A Hadestown Holiday Album, Leslie Odom Jr – The Christmas Album and Michael Ball & Alfie Boe – Together at Christmas

“Oh, my love, we live in troubled days”

No word of a lie, since starting to play Christmas music last week, I’ve listened to If The Fates Allow: A Hadestown Holiday Album everyday, it truly is that joyous. It’s a brilliant twist on the Christmas album that takes a slightly left-field approach to its festive track selection and then thoroughly imbues it all with the irrepressible spirit and way down musicality of Ana├»s Mitchell’s soul-raising Hadestown. Led by the gorgeous voices of Yvette Gonzalez-Nacer, Kay Trinidad and Jewelle Blackman, aka The Fates, and featuring the rest of the cast of the show’s Broadway production, the album features original songs from Mitchell, Gonzalez-Nacer and the show’s MD Liam Robinson alongside festive staples and some Marvin Gaye, Leonard Cohen and Sara Bareilles for good measure.

What really makes If The Fates Allow… sing is the way in which the sound of Hadestown is folded into the record – never mind the Ghost of Christmas Past, this collection is haunted by the spirits of Christmas Ancients. Musical motifs from the show shimmer beautifully in unexpected places and it is just spine-tinglingly effective; so too the iconic brass sounds that pepper ‘Thank God It’s Christmas’, an ingenious way of reinterpreting familiar songs through an inimitable musical identity. A cynic might demur at such an exercise in brand extension but they would just be wrong. Just listen to Patrick Page’s profundo on Cohen’s profound ‘Come Healing’ with its harmonious backing, or the ragtime-influenced take on ‘Sleigh Ride’, or the hushed splendour and lyrical incisiveness of Mitchell original ‘Song of the Magi’. Surely destined to become a perennial festive favourite whether you’re way down underground or livin’ it up on top. Continue reading “Christmas album reviews: If The Fates Allow: A Hadestown Holiday Album / Leslie Odom Jr – The Christmas Album / Michael Ball & Alfie Boe – Together at Christmas”

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 Review: Lucie Jones Live at the Adelphi

Covid-19 may have cut her time in Waitress short but Lucie Jones Live at the Adelphi is a great reminder of the leading lady she is and will surely continue to be

“We’re after the same rainbow’s end”

Back in February, Lucie Jones took a break from performing in Waitress as the show’s composer Sara Bareilles took over the lead role of Jenna for a limited run. The musical had already set a closing date for the summer but who could have predicted that Jones, and co-star David Hunter, would never get to do the show again.

The only small benefit is that far from sitting on her laurels in the break, Jones made her solo West End concert debut by nipping back to the Adelphi on one of its nights off/ And that concert was recorded for posterity, now being released digitally on the usual platforms and physically here, where an exclusive bonus disc is available. Continue reading “Album Review: Lucie Jones Live at the Adelphi”