Album Reviews: Amélie The Musical / Cases / After You

A trio of cast recording reviews covers musicals Amélie The Musical, Cases and After You – each one a winner in its own way

“I have always thought I’d see the world”

© Pamela Raith Photography

True story, listening to the cast recording of Amélie The Musical for the first time last summer caused the biggest eruption of tears I’d had all pandemic long. It’s a show I’ve loved from the Watermill Theatre, to its UK tour and thence to The Other Palace, and none of its charm has been lost onto its move onto record here (it has been released on CD as of 1st April). Daniel Messé’s score and his lyrics with Nathan Tysen are charmant in the extreme, embracing the quirkiness of the central character but rooting her in a deep emotional truth of social awkwardness. Audrey Brisson was deservedly nominated for an Olivier and leads the ensemble beautifully, Chris Jared and Caolan McCarthy taking moments to shine too. And I swaer, if there’s another 79 seconds that is as achingly gorgeous as ‘How To Tell Time’, I will manger mon béret. Continue reading “Album Reviews: Amélie The Musical / Cases / After You”

Musical news aplenty

Following its opening at the Watermill Theatre, a critically acclaimed sell-out tour in 2019, a highly successful Christmas season at The Other Palace in 2019, a Grammy nomination and 3 Olivier Award nominations, Amélie The Musical arrives in the heart of the West End this summer. Following the government roadmap announcement, tickets are on sale now for a socially distanced audience at the Criterion Theatre from Thursday 20 May. Olivier-nominee Audrey Brisson (The Elephantom, Pinocchio and Pericles (National Theatre), The Flying Lovers of Vitebsk (Kneehigh), and The Grinning Man
(Bristol Old Vic)), will return to the role of ‘Amélie’.

The five–time Oscar®-nominated film will be brought to life once again by a cast of actor-musicians and set to a critically acclaimed re-orchestrated score. With music by Hem’s Daniel Messé, lyrics by Nathan Tysen and Daniel Messé and book by Craig Lucas, Amélie The Musical is directed by Michael Fentiman. The full cast includes Sioned Saunders as Gina, Flora Spencer-Longhurst as Georgette, Rachel Dawson as Amandine/Philomene, Oliver Grant as Lucien/Mysterious Man, Chris Jared as Nino Quincampoix, Caolan McCarthy as Hippolito/Elton John, Samuel Morgan-Grahame as Joseph/Fluffy, Kate Robson-Stuart as Suzanne, Jack Quarton as Blind Beggar, Jez Unwin as Raphael/Bretodeau and Johnson Willis as Collignon/Dufayel. Nuwan Hugh Perera, Miiya Alexandra, Robyn Sinclair and Matthew James Hinchliffe complete the ensemble. Continue reading “Musical news aplenty”

Review: Marry Me A Little

Rob Houchen and Celinde Schoenmaker star in a beautifully sung, beautifully filmed digital version of Sondheim’s revue Marry Me A Little for the Barn Theatre

“What can you do on a Saturday night alone?”

The ever-enterprising Barn Theatre in Cirencester are getting particularly good at making lemonade out of lockdown lemons and so it is little surprise to see that their production of Marry Me A Little, which had its run curtailed by the imposition of Lockdown #2: Electric Boogaloo, is now available to stream for a limited period, thus exponentially increasing its reach.

Recorded over its final performances by Ben Collins, the work of editor Ben Evans (with Collins co-editing and also with sound editor Harry Smith) shouldn’t be underestimated. They have done a remarkable job in translating Kirk Jameson’s directorial vision onto screen, the film is as slickly professional as you could hope to dream of, with just enough texture in there to remind you it is live theatre. Continue reading “Review: Marry Me A Little”

2020 Laurence Olivier Awards nominations

Award season kicks into another gear with the arrival of the nominations for the 2020 Olivier Awards – & Juliet, Fiddler on the Roof and Dear Evan Hansen lead the musicals pack, Death of a Salesman and Rosmersholm the plays

As ever, Laurence giveth and he taketh away and it’s all subjective anyway.

  • I’m really pleased to see the love for Amélie The Musical and The Ocean At The End Of The Lane but a little incredulous that Fairview received no nominations.
  • The weird category shuffle that often happens has landed on ‘Best Entertainment or Comedy Play’ and ‘Best Family Show’ this year, leaving Emilia and Fleabag in a weird place that isn’t ‘Best New Play’ (last year they were divided into ‘Best Entertainment and Family’ and ‘Best New Comedy’.
  • I had zero desire to see Fiddler on the Roof so can’t pass comment there but can’t help wishing the supporting role in a musical nominations weren’t quite so dominated by DEH.
  • & Juliet’s director Luke Sheppard could rightfully feel snubbed, given the wealth of recognition the rest of the production has received.
  • And whither Monica Dolan, Lucian Msamati, Melanie La Barrie, the cast of Three Sisters…(oh wait, they won the more significant award earlier in the year!)

Continue reading “2020 Laurence Olivier Awards nominations”

The 2019 fosterIAN award winners

Best Actress in a Play
Sarah Niles/Natalie Simpson/Racheal Ofori, Three Sisters

Best Actress in a Musical
Audrey Brisson, Amélie the Musical

Best Actor in a Play
Lucian Msamati, ‘Master Harold’…and the boys

Best Actor in a Musical
Jamie Muscato, West Side Story (Curve Leicester)

Best Supporting Actress in a Play
Monica Dolan, All About Eve

Best Supporting Actress in a Musical
Cassidy Janson/Melanie La Barrie, & Juliet 

Best Supporting Actor in a Play
Nick Holder, Faith Hope and Charity

Best Supporting Actor in a Musical
David Bedella, & Juliet

And my top 10 plays of the year:
1. The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Southwark Playhouse
2. Call Me Fury, Hope Theatre
3. West Side Story, Curve Leicester
4. As You Like It, Queen’s Theatre Hornchurch
5. Islander, Southwark Playhouse
6. Amélie the Musical, Watermill Theatre/UK Tour/The Other Palace
7. & Juliet, Shaftesbury Theatre
8. Sexy Lamp, VAULT
9. Karaoke Play, Bunker Theatre
10. The Ocean at the End of the Lane, National Theatre

My 10 favourite shows of 2019

I barely saw 250 shows this year, quiet by my standards! And as is the way of these things, here’s a rundown of some of the productions that moved me most…

1. The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Southwark Playhouse
I haven’t lost it in a theatre as much as this in a good long while. I cry at all sorts but this superlative musical had me trying, and failing, to choke back huge, hacking sobs. And I can still sing some of the songs – it has to come back, surely. “It’s all just a matter of time…”

2. Call Me Fury, Hope Theatre
“This is the history we should be teaching, these are the stories we should be sharing”, this striking and soulful piece gave voice to so many whom history have ignored, and was bloody entertaining with it. 

3. West Side Story, Curve Leicester
A musical I love, in a production that I simply adored. Getting to see two WSSs in one year was a privilege and for me, it was the emotional heart of Nikolai Foster’s production that won out.

4. As You Like It, Queen’s Theatre Hornchurch
The second year of the Public Acts programme comes up trumps once again with this gorgeous musical version of the Shakespeare classic, community theatre at its finest.

5. Islander, Southwark Playhouse
The magic of musical theatre distilled into two voices and a loop pedal – a marvellously inventive and endlessly moving. 

6. Amélie the Musical, Watermill Theatre/UK Tour/The Other Palace
As sweet-sharp as a diabolo grenadine, something truly gorgeous emerges from this film adaptation that simply demands you come up with better words than quirky to describe it.

7. & Juliet, Shaftesbury Theatre
Tell me why… About as much fun as you can have in the West End right now, this is a particularly fine example of the jukebox model and I want it that way.

8. Sexy Lamp, VAULT
A standout piece in a standout festival, Katie Arnstein’s brutally honest monologue about navigating the patriarchy may be lightened with songs and sweets but is no less effective for it.

9. Karaoke Play, Bunker Theatre
Deeply confessional and subtly magical, Annie Jenkins’ inter-connected monologues combined to become so much more than the sum of their parts.

10. The Ocean at the End of the Lane, National Theatre
A magical family tale, perfect for kids of all ages. Not even reading the exit poll as I left could ruin the feeling! 

Shows 11-25 under the cut

Continue reading “My 10 favourite shows of 2019”

Review: Amélie the Musical, The Other Palace

Not too much more to say about Amélie the Musical, now in London at The Other Palace, other than book now for un moment merveilleux 

“Will there be time to keep on dreaming once this dream is over?”

In what has felt like an inordinately long year, Amélie the Musical captured my heart a long time ago. It was April to be precise, when this beautiful actor-musician show debuted in the gorgeous intimacy of the Watermill and then as it set off on a UK tour, I couldn’t help but go back a month later for second helpings, which I enjoyed just as much. So could I resist a third trip after a London residency was booked in at The Other Palace? What do you think…?!

First off, it feels great to finally see The Other Palace fulfilling the actual need that exists in London theatre but one which is rarely met, in providing a mid-size home for touring musicals, allowing them to establish a foothold here without the pressures of filling a West End house just yet. It helps that Michael Fentiman’s production of Amélie the Musical was originally conceived en bijou but this just feels like the right home for it, right now. Continue reading “Review: Amélie the Musical, The Other Palace”

July 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 July.

On Your Feet, aka the rhythm will get you, sometimes
the end of history…, aka how can you get cheese on toast so wrong
Equus, aka hell yes for Jessica Hung Han Yun’s lighting design
Games for Lovers, aka straight people be crazy
Captain Corelli’s Mandolin, aka the one that got my goat
The Girl on the Train, aka Philip McGinley in shorts
A Midsummer Night’s Dream, aka Another Dream? dream on
Uncle Vanya, aka I really need to stop booking for plays like this with casts like that 
Jellyfish, aka justice for the second best play of last year
Sweat, aka Clare Perkins should always be on in the West End
Sue Townsend’s The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole Aged 13 3/4 The Musical, aka yay for lovely new musicals in the West End
The Light in the Piazza, aka Molly Lynch fricking nails it
Jesus Christ Superstar, aka was third time the charm?
Continue reading “July theatre round-up”

June theatre round-up

I might have taken a break from reviewing in June, but I didn’t stop going to the theatre – I had too many things already booked in. Here’s some brief thoughts on what I saw.

Betrayal, Harold Pinter
Shit-Faced Shakespeare – Hamlet, Barbican
The Knight of the Burning Pestle, Cheek By Jowl at the Barbican
Somnium, Sadler’s Wells
Les Damnés, Comédie-Française at the Barbican
Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike, Theatre Royal Bath
Blithe Spirit, Theatre Royal Bath
The Hunt, Almeida
Present Laughter, Old Vic
Europe, Donmar Warehouse
The Deep Blue Sea, Minerva
Plenty, Chichester Festival Theatre
Pictures of Dorian Gray, Jermyn Street
The Light in the Piazza, Royal Festival Hall
J’Ouvert, Theatre503
Hair of the Dog, Tristan Bates Continue reading “June theatre round-up”

Review: Amélie the Musical, New Wimbledon Theatre

As sweet-sharp as a diabolo grenadine, the touring version of Amélie the Musical impresses me at the New Wimbledon Theatre

“Will there troubles?
I don’t know
Will there be sweet things?
I hope so”

As sweet-sharp as a diabolo grenadine, Amélie the Musical has lost none of its inimitable charm as it gears up for a considerable UK tour. I adored it at the Watermill but the intimacy there left me wondering how the show would fare in the significantly larger houses to which it will be touring. Turns out I need not have worried.

Michael Fentiman’s production has expanded perfectly to fill the space. A few more ensemble members here, a tweak to Madeleine Girling’s canny set design there, and the show has lost nothing of itself or its kooky Parisian whirl. If anything the actor-muso ensemble’s reinterpretation of Daniel Messé’s score sounds even better than before under George Francis’ musical direction. Continue reading “Review: Amélie the Musical, New Wimbledon Theatre”