Review: Carousel, Open Air Theatre

Despite some careful thinking and some glorious singing, the Open Air Theatre’s reimagined Carousel can’t stop this problematic musical from being, well, problematic

“Walk on through the wind
Walk on through the rain”

There’s a glorious moment early in the second half of the Open Air Theatre’s production of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Carousel when all its constituent concepts and parts coalesce together in perfect harmony. Joanna Riding delivering the haunting strains of ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’ as the sparseness of Tom Scutt’s design reveals its haunting potential, cleverly contextualising Drew McOnie’s lyrical choreography with the bold brass of Tom Deering’s new orchestrations recasting this classic score with real vibrancy.   

Around it though, the rest of this notoriously tricky musical doesn’t quite stick the landing in the same way, despite the work that director Timothy Sheader and his company have put in to try and address its intrinsic issues. A soft relocation to somewhere in’t’north allows the cast to use a range of British accents but it is a certain truth that no British person has ever said the word clambake, particularly as often as it is said in this show. It may seem like a small point but it is an incongruency that rings out every single time someone says it. Continue reading “Review: Carousel, Open Air Theatre”

Review: The Theatre Channel – Episode Seven Rodgers and Hammerstein

With powerful performances from Michael Xavier, Josefina Gabrielle and more, plus a sneak peek at the forthcoming Carousel, Episode Seven of The Theatre Channel is a marvellous showcase for Rodgers and Hammerstein

“Bachelor dandies, drinkers of brandies
What do I know of those”

Episode Seven of The Theatre Channel is presented in a co-production with Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre, as it focus on the songs of Rodgers and Hammerstein allows us get a taster of their forthcoming production of Carousel. And not only that, there’s illustrative contributions throughout from Ted Chapin, former president of The Rodgers and Hammerstein Society, lending a real weight to an already entertaining episode.

For the most part, stagings are fairly straight-forward, taking advantage of the lush greenery of Regent’s Park. And when the songs are this good, there’s not much need to that much more. Josefina Gabrielle oozes class as she sashays through Allegro’s ‘The Gentleman is a Dope’ and new graduates Tavio Wright and Ethlinn Rose put the bandstand to good use in a gorgeous ‘Sixteen Going On Seventeen’, complete with ecstatic dance break. Continue reading “Review: The Theatre Channel – Episode Seven Rodgers and Hammerstein”

News: West End musical castings confirmed

The thought of outdoors theatre was fine earlier this week, not so much right now! For the brave, Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre have confirmed full casting for Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Carousel, which plays 31 July – 25 September. Joining the already announced Carly Bawden (Julie Jordan), Declan Bennett (Billy Bigelow), John Pfumojena (Enoch Snow), Joanna Riding (Nettie Fowler) and Natasha May Thomas (Louise Bigelow) are Brendan Charleson (Mr Bascombe), Jo Eaton-Kent (Mrs Mullin), Sam Mackay (Jigger Craigin), Ediz Mahmut (Young Enoch) and Christina Modestou (Carrie Pipperidge).

The ensemble includes: Chanelle AnthonyCraig ArmstrongWilliam AtkinsonShay BarclaySarah BenbelaidMadeline CharlemagneFreya FieldSebastian GoffinAmie HibbertTim HodgesLukas Hunt, Tessa KadlerLindsay McAllisterMatthew McKennaJack MitchellCharlotte RibyLisa Ritchie and Daisy West. Continue reading “News: West End musical castings confirmed”

News: musicals update for May 2021

In a co-production with The Old Vic, Emma Rice (Romantics AnonymousWise Children) and the Wise Children Company bring Percy and Eleonore Adlon’s iconic 1987 film Bagdad Cafe to The Old Vic stage with their signature playful, visual and emotional style. After a long year apart, we invite you to join us for a joyful celebration of togetherness, hope and friendship. 

The cast for Bagdad Cafe has now been revealed and includes Nandi BhebheLe Gateau ChocolatBettrys JonesPatrycja KujawskaNadine LeeSandra MarvinKandaka MooreRenell ShawGareth Snook and Ewan Wardrop. Watch at the theatre: 17 Jul–21 Aug 2021 or watch from home: 25–28 Aug 2021.

Continue reading “News: musicals update for May 2021”

Review: Romantics Anonymous, Bristol Old Vic

Gorgeous chocolate-based musical Romantics Anonymous works another coup de foudre as it briefly returns to the Bristol Old Vic before a US tour

“What if we try and take a chance?
Whit if we simply shift our stance?
I’ll admit that just the thought of change terrifies me too.
But what if we try something new?”

In this remounting, Romantics Anonymous proves that rare thing – a show that can survive losing Joanna Riding from its cast. It’s a good couple of years since this musical adaptation of the French-Belgian film Les Émotifs Anonymes took the Sam Wanamaker Playhouse by storm and in the meantime, it has reached an almost mythic status among its devotees calling for a revival. This might not be what they had in mind but it’ll certainly do for now.

Wise Children and Plush Theatricals are taking the show on the road in the US, so this short opening stop at the Bristol Old Vic feels like a bit of a treat. For its new outing, Romantics Anonymous has been spruced up a bit – composer Michael Kooman and lyricist Christopher Dimond have added a couple of new songs and director and book writer Emma Rice has rejigged here and there too, whilst necessarily recasting some of her ensemble. Continue reading “Review: Romantics Anonymous, Bristol Old Vic”

The finalists of The Offies 2020

Offies Awards - Off West End Theatre Awards

The finalists for the 2020 Offies (for performances in 2019) have been announced and congratulations to all 89 mentioned below. A tip of the hat too to the 400+ nominees who you can find here.

DESIGN

Design: Costume
Adrian Gee, Amour, Charing Cross Theatre
Emily Bestow, 42nd Street, Upstairs at the Gatehouse
Hannah Wolfe , Great Expectations, National Youth
Theatre, Southwark Playhouse

Design: Set
Diego Pitarch, Night of the Living Dead – Live!,
Pleasance
Justin Williams, Whistle Down the Wind, Union
Theatre
Lee Newby, The View UpStairs, Soho Theatre
Rachael Ryan, Thrill Me, Hope Theatre

Design: Sound
Benjamin Grant, The War of the Worlds, New Diorama
Lex Kosanke, Hunger, Arcola
Matt Eaton, All’s Well That Ends Well, Guildford Bard,
Jermyn Street Theatre
Xana, Blood Knot, Orange Tree

Design: Lighting
Christopher Nairne, Preludes, Southwark Playhouse
Clancy Flynn, An Act of God, Vaults
Jessica Hung Han Yun, Equus, English Touring Theatre,
Theatre Royal Stratford East
Nic Farman, Night of the Living Dead – Live!, Pleasance

Design: Video
Andrzej Goulding, The Unreturning, Theatre Royal
Stratford East
Ben Bull, Baby Reindeer, Bush Theatre
Douglas Baker, Moby Dick, Jack Studio Theatre Continue reading “The finalists of The Offies 2020”

20 shows to look forward to in 2020

I look ahead to some of the 2020 shows exciting me most with an emphasis away from the West End, looking mostly instead at the London fringe and across the UK 

Sure, there’s all sorts of big ticket shows coming to London in 2020 (with big ticket prices too to go with their big names), like Sunday in the Park with George with Jake Gyllenhaal, Sister Act with Whoopi Goldberg, A Doll’s House with Jessica Chastain. But there’s so much more to discover if you venture away from Shaftesbury Avenue…

1 The Glass Menagerie, Odéon–Théâtre de l’Europe at the Barbican
Not that I want to be predictable at all but Isabelle Huppert! Acting in French! Right in front of you! I understand that van Hove-fatigue might be setting in for people but only a FOOL would pass up the chance to see one of our greatest living actors. A FOOL! 

2 The Glass Menagerie, Royal Exchange
And if you wanted to do a direct compare and contrast, Atri Banerjee’s revival for the Royal Exchange will be worth checking out too for an alternative perspective. 

3 The Wicker Husband, Watermill
Even before Benjamin Button tore my heart apart, I was excited for the arrival of this new musical by Rhys Jennings and Darren Clark but now, the bar has been raised even higher. And the gorgeous intimacy of the Watermill feels like a perfect fit.


4 Children of Nora, Internationaal Theater Amsterdam
Me: “I don’t need any more Ibsen in my life”
Also me: Robert Icke revisiting the world of A Doll’s House through the eyes of the next generation? Yes please.

5 Romantics Anonymous, Bristol Old Vic
I don’t think I thought this delicious Koomin and Dimond musical would ever actually return, so this short run in the UK ahead of a US tour feels like a real blessing. Now where did I put my badge?
Continue reading “20 shows to look forward to in 2020”

Review: Ghost Quartet, Boulevard Theatre

London’s newest (and one of the swankiest) theatre opens with the weird but wonderful Ghost Quartet

“I will become the next big thing”

I remain unconvinced that London needs any new theatrical venues but the Boulevard Theatre, building on its impressive historical legacy, has at least made its case by striking out on a different note with a programme that embraces Soho’s late-night nature as much as London’s theatre ecology at large. And as such, it is a hugely impressive venue with high quality bars, menus and seating to dream of.

And its opening salvo, Dave Malloy’s Ghost Quartet, is a pleasingly quirky thing. London recently had the pleasure of his Preludes and though this is less sonically arresting, it is no less inventive. A song cycle of sorts, it pulls together stories of love and loss from past and present, fact and fiction, and meshes them with a true pick’n’mix of musical styles that range from haunted folk to hushed hymnals. Continue reading “Review: Ghost Quartet, Boulevard Theatre”

Not-a-review: Sylvia, Old Vic

I’m opting not to review Sylvia but rather to haul the Old Vic over the coals for a bit of a shambolic handling of the situation

“Time’s up, there’ll be no more waiting”

Hindsight is a great thing but the team at the Old Vic will have to look back at how they handled the difficult genesis of Sylvia and take some severe lessons. Some things were unquestionably out of their control, like the disruption of cast illness, but others were not. The apparent development of the show from a dance-led piece to a full-blown musical did not happen overnight and so to cite that as an excuse for the piece not being ready, to reclassify the production as a work-in-progress midway through the run is disingenuous to say the least, especially when people are still being charged £45 to see it.

It is a piece that is bounding with potential, clicking into a theatre landscape in London which feels unusually switched on at the moment (Misty and Emilia to name but two kicks up its backside), but we do still feel like we’re in rough draft territory here, hence my decision not to review. (It has provoked some strange reactions in the press though – four stars from Billers? Time Out showing their ass about colour-blind casting?) The music by Josh Cohen and DJ Walde and the book by Kate Prince and Priya Parmar both need substantial refinement from its baggy three hours plus, but you can see the work being put in, and which will continue to be put in until Sylvia re-emerges (next year apparently) better equipped to smash that patriarchy.

 

Re-review: Romantics Anonymous, Sam Wanamaker

“Je suis émotif

I’m a big fan of chocolate and an even bigger fan of Romantics Anonymous so naturally I had to head back to the Sam Wanamaker Playhouse for second helpings (and with somewhat less calories than your usual festive chocolate offerings!). Not too much more to add to my original review and I’d recommend booking in before it closes next week but there’s not a ticket to be had! Returns queue…?

Running time: 2 hours 20 minutes (with interval)
Booking until 6th January