Review: Bad Girls the Musical, Union Theatre

“You won’t get that out a book on prison procedure
When those suits get caught on the hook, that’s when they need ya”

Bad Girls ran for eight years on ITV, covering the whole gamut of women’s prison storylines from the sublime to the senseless, and now the women of HMP Larkhall live on in Bad Girls the Musical, written by original creators Maureen Chadwick and Ann McManus with music and lyrics by Kath Gotts. Taking many of the characters and fashioning its own story from a range of plotlines across the lifetime of the show, Will Keith’s production for the Union makes for an effective translation from screen to stage.

Perhaps naturally, given the size of the 17-strong company and the number of introductions that thus need to be made (even for those familiar with the TV show), the main thrust of the story takes a little time to come into focus. The corrupt practices of prison officer Jim Fenner, fond of doling out privileges in return for sexual favours, eventually crystallises the motives of the diverse cast of inmates but there’s also the slow burning relationship between lifer Nikki and reformist governor Helen that adds to a book which may seem slight but is ultimately dramatically satisfying.  Continue reading “Review: Bad Girls the Musical, Union Theatre”

Album Review: Desperately Seeking Susan (London Cast)

“One way or another I’m gonna lose ya”

There’s something perverse about wanting to have been there for shows that have been deemed a flop, to see if it really was that bad (in Too Close To The Sun’s case, it really was, and worse) or more often than not, just discover that they’re not really working that well (c.f. any number of big title musicals of recent years). Arriving late 2007, Desperately Seeking Susan came at a time when I still only saw a couple of shows a month and so I didn’t get witness its full glory before it closed a scant month after opening.

Much like double denim, its twin hit of 80s classics was a lot to take: an adaptation of the 1985 film starring Rosanna Arquette and Madonna with a soundtrack of Blondie songs bolted on for good measure. By all accounts it was a troubled mixture, as evidenced by its early closure but listening to the soundtrack, there is at least the bonus of not having to figure out how the book (by Peter Michael Marino) fits in. What’s left is the jukebox selection of Debbie Harry’s band’s finest tracks (plus a few others), performed by a well-meaning cast. Continue reading “Album Review: Desperately Seeking Susan (London Cast)”

Re-review: Return to the Forbidden Planet, Palace Theatre Manchester

“Live long and prosper-o”

There’s no doubting that I do get spoiled around my birthday and so part of a weekend trip home saw eight of us head over to the Palace Theatre in Manchester to see Return to the Forbidden Planet, on a night which saw the end of their tour. I’ve already seen this production (review here) but the show is just one of those evergreen delights for me that I could just watch over and over, even if it isn’t the most perfect piece of theatre (that first half remains too long).

It was entertaining to catch their final show of this run too, there’s always a special air to these performances and you could definitely see the cast having fun, both with us and each other – we were made to reverse polarity for perhaps a little longer than was strictly necessary and it was nice to see all the ensemble members get their chance to shine in the extended finale. I don’t know what the future will hold for the Forbidden Planet, its retro charms remain perhaps rather niche, but you can rest assured that should it pop up again on tour, I’ll be there – hands above my head – reversing polarity.

Review: Return to the Forbidden Planet, New Wimbledon Theatre

“Two beeps or not two beeps”

Early 2015 is turning out to be something of a nostalgia-fest for me as following the Royal Exchange’s superb revival of Little Shop of Horrors is another of the first shows that I came to love as a child – Return to the Forbidden Planet. I can’t recall exactly how many time my sisters, Aunty Jean and I must have seen this show but every time its tour came near us we were there, reversing polarity and loving it every time. Consequently, I have huge affection for the show, even though it is many years since I last saw it, and so naturally the notion of a 25th anniversary tour was one I could not resist as it came into my orbit at the New Wimbledon.

For those without such prior knowledge, Return to the Forbidden Planet is a schlocky sci-fi B-movie version of The Tempest, complete with a rock’n’roll jukebox soundtrack. Not only that, there’s video narration by Brian May. cod-Shakespearean dialogue and any number of quotations lifted from other plays by the Bard and repurposed to intergalactic effect. So a routine space mission led by Captain Tempest gets diverted to a mysterious rock called D’Illyria (“what planet, friends, is this…”) after getting caught in a meteor storm (“goodness, gracious, great balls of fire…”) where they meet the mad Doctor Prospero, his robot servant Ariel and his innocent daughter Miranda. Continue reading “Review: Return to the Forbidden Planet, New Wimbledon Theatre”

Looking ahead to 2015

I realise I’m just adding (belatedly) to the plethora of 2015 features already published but so many of them trod the boringly familiar ground of forthcoming West End shows (and in the Evening Standard’s case, managed to recommend booking for three shows already sold out from their list of six). So I’ve cast my net a little wider and chosen a few random categories for just some of the shows I’m recommending and looking forward to in 2015.

Continue reading “Looking ahead to 2015”