News: 4 West End shows announce their casts

As a comedian, impressionist, game show host, reality TV star, soap, screen and stage actor, Les Dennis returns to the West End in the multi-award-winning smash hit musical Hairspray the Musical as Wilbur Turnblad having previously performed the role on tour. He stars alongside Michael Ball, who returns to his legendary, Olivier Awardwinning role of Edna Turnblad. Lizzie Bea will star in the iconic role of Tracy Turnblad. Acclaimed West End star Marisha Wallace will take the role of Motormouth. Rita Simons (Eastenders’ Roxy Mitchell) and Jonny Amies (Granchester on ITV; Sex Education on Netflix/Eleven Film) will also join the cast as Velma Von Tussle and Link Larkin respectively.

The full company includes Georgia Anderson, Kimani Arthur, Dermot Canavan, Lori Haley Fox, Mari McGinlay, Ashley Samuels, Michael Vinsen and Imogen Bailey, Pearce Barron, Jordan Benjamin, Joel Cooper, Luke George, Christopher Gopaul, Bradley Judge, Winny Herbert, Lily Laight, Madeleine Lawton, Holly Liburd, Will Luckett, Mireia Mambo, Kody Mortimer, Robyn Rose, Tinovimbanashe Sibanda, Amy West and Natalie Woods. Continue reading “News: 4 West End shows announce their casts”

Review: Chess, London Coliseum

Nobody’s on nobody’s side – an all-star cast can’t save this game of Chess from itself, for me at least

“From square one I’ll be watching all sixty-four”

It’s taken over 30 years for Chess to return to the West End (though it was seen at the Union in 2013) and though it has a huge amount of resource thrown at it in Laurence Connor’s production for English National Opera, it doesn’t necessarily feel worth the wait. An 80’s mega-musical through and through with an intermittently cracking score from ABBA’s Benny Andersson and Björn Ulvaeus, Richard Nelson’s book hasn’t aged particularly well and bears the hallmarks of the  substantial tinkering it has had at every opportunity.

It’s not too hard to see why it has needed the tinkering. The mix of Cold War politics told through the prism of rival US and Soviet chess Grandmasters, love triangles and power ballads is a tricky one to get right and part of the problem seems to be just how seriously to take it all. On the one hand, the chess matches are backgrounded with montages of the real-life tensions of the 80s; on the other, scenes that take us through the various locations of the tournaments are a cringeworthy riot of cultural stereotyping that revel in their utter kitsch. Continue reading “Review: Chess, London Coliseum”

Album Review: The Bodyguard – The Musical (World Premiere Cast Recording)

“Tell me what does it mean?” 

One of the more surprising recent returnees to the West End was The Bodyguard – The Musical – having played out about a year and a half at the Adelphi and then launching a subsequent UK tour, our appetite seemed sated. But where there’s an empty theatre, there’s a commercial hit to be planted therein and it arrived back in the capital at the Dominion, with Beverley Knight heading up the cast and it’s a cracker.

But as the production set out on its UK tour, that was the point at which First Night Records decided to release the world premiere cast recording of the show, meaning that it was X-Factor star Alexandra Burke who got to lay her vocals on this score of classic Whitney Houston songs and be recorded for posterity. Now I can’t lie, I enjoyed the show with Burke, with the help of a couple of bottles of wine it’s an ideal bit of Friday fun but on disc, it’s not quite the same story. Continue reading “Album Review: The Bodyguard – The Musical (World Premiere Cast Recording)”

Re-review: The Bodyguard, Adelphi Theatre

“I don’t really need to look very much further”

As The Bodyguard is soon to close in the West End with a UK tour scheduled for early next year, it seemed as good a choice as any for a Friday night out with the girls and a few bottles of wine. I saw the show when it first opened and recognised it exactly for what it is, uncomplicated blockbuster fun, and so I was happy to revisit. One of the sadder things about the continuation of the run though has been the move to star casting – I didn’t see Beverley Knight so I can’t comment on her performance but the current incumbent of the Rachel Marron role, immortalised by Whitney at the cinema, is X-Factor winner Alexandra Burke, a singer with no theatre experience.

Did it matter? It’s hard to tell in the end – she has the requisite booming voice to deliver the selections from Whitney’s back catalogue that are scattered through the show, although she really cannot resist the misguided inclination to throw in extra licks, riffs and wobbles into every single number, as if to prove a point that no-one is making. And her acting is neither here nor there, falling back on a lot of gesticulation to say what’s she saying and against a male lead part that asks nothing of Tristan Gemmill but to look craggy and an understudy on for sister Nicki (her singing voice strong but whose spoken accent was truly transatlantic, as Welsh as it was American), fitting right in.

Continue reading “Re-review: The Bodyguard, Adelphi Theatre”