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”

News: Scott Alan pretty much takes over Crazy Coqs with his friends

Celebrating 2 months since re-opening, Soho’s hottest cabaret space present their September & October season of live shows, which features a whole lotta Scott Alan!

7th Oct, 9.15pm:
Scott Alan and Stuart Matthew Price: New Dads

8th Oct, 7pm:
“The Past, The Present, The Future” Part I

Jo Eaton-Kent, Daniele Alan-Carter, Kayleigh Atherton, Bella Bowen, Jessica Brady, Natalie Hollingworth, Megan Jobling, Alyssa Leclair, Christopher Noade, Aoife O‘Dea, Camille Rieu, India Rose, Tanya Truman and Ella Young Continue reading “News: Scott Alan pretty much takes over Crazy Coqs with his friends”

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”

August theatre round-up

I might have taken a break from reviewing for the last couple of months, but I didn’t stop going to the theatre. Here’s some brief thoughts on most of what I saw in August.

Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, aka the Sheridan Smith show
Queen of the Mist, aka the surprisingly affecting one
Appropriate, aka all hail Monica Dolan
Waitress, aka ZZZZZZZOMGGGGG STUNT CASTING oh wait, Joe Suggs hasn’t started yet
The Doctor, aka all hail Juliet Stevenson
A Very Expensive Poison, aka it was a preview so I shouldn’t say anything
Blues in the Night, aka all hail Broadway-bound Sharon D Clarke (and Debbie Kurup, and Clive Rowe too)
The Night of the Iguana, aka justice for Skyler Continue reading “August theatre round-up”

Review: Waitress, Adelphi Theatre

Fresh from Broadway, hit musical Waitress proves funnier and lighter than you might expect at the Adelphi Theatre

“Let’s see the next amazing thing baking does now”

True story, I didn’t love Waitress when I first saw it in my Broadway Blitz of 2016. But as it sometimes the way, upon listening to the cast recording again and then again, I fell for the show that way, and so was delighted with news of its UK premiere at the Adelphi Theatre.

To think of it as a big Broadway show is to misinterpret what it is trying to do though. Jessie Nelson (book) and Sara Bareilles’ (music and lyrics) adaptation of Adrienne Shelly’s 2007 indie flick is a subtler thing than much West End fare, an intimate story of pies, pregnancy and just how much we’ll put up with. Continue reading “Review: Waitress, Adelphi Theatre”

Not-a-re-review: Jesus Christ Superstar, Open Air Theatre

Hadn’t planned to revisit Jesus Christ Superstar but stepped at the last minute for an ailing friend…
And whilst it remains impressive, it also remains elusive, caught between gig and theatre…

 

 Meaning there wasn’t much to discover anew on second viewing (my review from last year).
Still worth a shot if you’ve not seen it though.

All photos © Johan Persson

Continue reading “Not-a-re-review: Jesus Christ Superstar, Open Air Theatre”

Review: Jesus Christ Superstar, Open Air Theatre

“Could you ask as much from any other man?”

Andrew Lloyd Webber sure doesn’t make it easy – for his support of new musical theatre in taking over the St James Theatre to making a transatlantic dash to the House of Lords to vote in support of tax credit cuts for the working poor, it’s hard to know where to stand. His status in the British theatrical establishment remains largely unchallenged though and it is to the 46-year-old Jesus Christ Superstar that the Open Air Theatre in Regents Park have turned for their big summer musical, directed this year by Timothy Sheader. 

And how do you play a 70s rock opera for today? You bring onboard shit-hot creatives like Tom Scutt and Drew McOnie to reinvent it for 2016. Scutt’s design choices make a virtue of the timeless iron structure that edges the stage. The company arrive in luxury sportswear, its loose silhouettes and muted earth tones akin to a Kanye West fashion show with which McOnie’s contemporary choreography meshes perfectly. Later scenes feature the glitter-covered muscularity of something like a late night Brighton Pride, a smattering of Xerxes from the film 300 and all out Sink the Pink excess during the whipping sequence. Continue reading “Review: Jesus Christ Superstar, Open Air Theatre”

Review: Billy Elliot the Musical, Victoria Palace Theatre

“What does it feel like when you’re dancing?”

I got to revisit Billy Elliot the Musical as part of its 10th birthday celebrations this year and huge amounts of fun it was too – more than I was expecting actually since having seen the show before. But despite having run for a decade now, the production feels as fresh and exciting as ever, undoubtedly still “one of the best shows in town”. The full review can be read on Official Theatre here.   

Running time: 3 hours (with interval)
Booking until 17th December 2016, for now

DVD Review: Billy Elliot Live

“When the stars look down and know our history”

And what history there is to behold – a run in the West End which has stretched for nearly a decade now, a company that ranges from ages 6 to 84 (surely a record!), a live broadcast to cinemas worldwide which was the first event cinema release to top the UK box office and which contained a finale that brought together 25 young men who have all played the role of Billy. That recording of Billy Elliot the Musical has now been released on DVD so that the theatrical experience can now be recreated in the comfort of your own home and allows to see the detail that you may have missed from your seat in the Victoria Palace Theatre.

That’s the crucial bit really. For all those that worry that filmed recordings are going to replace live theatre, there does seem to be a missing of this salient point that not everyone sees the show from prime seats in the centre stalls. The magic of the theatrical experience can and is tempered by uncomfortable seats and unfortunate viewing lines – so a DVD offering close-ups and other unique shots offers a much-welcomed addition to that experience – and as reasonable a deal as £105 is for a family ticket (the starting price I should add), £15 or so enables a necessary widening of access to a show, which captivate a new audience so much they decide to book tickets – this isn’t a zero-sum game. Continue reading “DVD Review: Billy Elliot Live”

Review: The IDolls, Matcham Room at the Hippodrome Casino

“Drama and talent and sex – combined”

Since they were cast together as the divas in the musical of Priscilla Queen of the Desert, Portia Emare, Emma Lindars and Charlotte Riby have harnessed their considerable talents to form The IDolls, a musical trio who’ve built up quite a reputation for themselves with their powerhouse vocals. Their repertoire may have been born out of a mutual love for soul music but their set tonight at the Matcham Room in London’s Hippodrome casino went way further to embrace their musical theatre beginnings as well as 70s disco, Motown, self-penned tunes and contemporary pop.   

So given their natural strength and the unique selling point of the gorgeous blend that they come up with, the first half of their gig felt slightly unbalanced. After a thrilling opening that featured Sister Act’s sparkling ‘Fabulous Baby’ and an epic soul/Motown medley including a fierce rendition of ‘I Heard It Through the Grapevine’, the eclectic mix that followed felt a little too, well eclectic. Giving each of the IDolls a solo spot to showcase their individual voices is an integral part of the evening, but allowing the same for each of the guest performers alongside a duet with them felt a little excessive, the interval arrived with the feeling that the group numbers were just something of a special treat rather than their raison d’être. Continue reading “Review: The IDolls, Matcham Room at the Hippodrome Casino”