10 of my top moments of the decade

Ever behind the curve, I present 10 of my top moments in a theatre over the last ten years (plus a few bonus extra ones because whittling down this list was hard, and it will probably be different tomorrow anyway!)

© James Bellorini

Extraordinary Public Acts for a National Theatre

The establishment of the Public Acts programme at the National Theatre offered up something sensational in Pericles, an initiative designed to connect grassroot community organisations with major theatres, resulting in a production that swept over 200 non-professional performers onto the stage of the Olivier to create something that moved me more than 99% of professional productions.  A truly joyous and momentous occasion. 

Honourable mention: this year’s musical take on As You Like It proved just as heart-swellingly beautiful over at the Queen’s Theatre Hornchurch. Continue reading “10 of my top moments of the decade”

Review: West Side Story, Curve

No doubt about it, Nikolai Foster’s production of West Side Story for Curve Leicester is damn close to musical theatre perfection

“Could it be, yes it could
something’s comin’, something good”

The Royal Exchange may have gotten there first this year but Nikolai Foster’s production of West Side Story for Leicester’s Curve proves an absolute triumph. Going down a similar route of featuring brand-new choreography, here by Ellen Kane, the familiar becomes something refreshing and new and hugely emotionally satisfying. From its opening moments which set the anti-immigrant tone like never before, through Musical Supervisor Sarah Travis’ incredible treatment of this iconic Bernstein score, to Kane’s sensational set-pieces which fill every inch of the Curve’s stage, this is damn close to musical theatre perfection.

It works so well because for all of the epic sweep of its Romeo and Juliet-inspired story, this is a very intimate reading of it. Jamie Muscato and Adriana Ivelisse really are exceptional as the ill-fated lovers Tony and Maria, delivering an unforced chemistry that is sweetness personified. Theirs is a heady, instant passion that feels so natural as to be entirely captivating. Their flirting is delicately but determinedly done – there’s no mistaking what ‘Tonight’ holds here – and something ignites in them when together. And as understated as their acting is, magic happens when they start to sing. Muscato’s ‘Maria’ is as good as I’ve ever heard in my life, as natural as breathing and then taken up to the heavens with a touch of wonder with his deeply expressive tenor. And Ivelisse’s thrilling soprano imbues ‘I Feel Pretty’ with just the right amount of character to refresh its familiar rhymes. Continue reading “Review: West Side Story, Curve”

Review: Mamma Mia, Novello

 “It’s all very Greek”

18 years since it opened, Mamma Mia continues to tempt people to the island as it now ranks as the seventh-longest running show in the West End. It recently welcomed a new cast into the Novello and I got the opportunity to revisit this stalwart this week (only for the second time actually, here’s my review from 2014). I’ll post a link to my three star review once it gets published.

Running time: 2 hours 30 minutes (with interval)
Booking until 3rd March 2018, at the moment

 

fosterIAN awards 2014

 WinnerRunner-upOther nominees
Best Actress in a PlayGillian Anderson, A Streetcar Named Desire Chris Nietvelt & Halina Reijn, Maria Stuart (Toneelgroep Amsterdam) Linda Bassett,
Visitors

Susannah Fielding,
The Merchant of Venice (Almeida)

Denise Gough,
Adler and Gibb

Imelda Staunton,
Good People
Best Actor in a PlayCary Crankson, The Saints Jack Holden, Johnny Get Your Gun Jonathan Broadbent,
My Night With Reg

Chris Connel,
Wet House

Harry Melling,
peddling

Mark Strong,
A View From The Bridge
Best Supporting Actress in a PlayVanessa Kirby, A Streetcar Named DesirePhoebe Fox & Nicola Walker, A View From The Bridge Blythe Duff,
The James Plays

Liz White,
Electra

Lydia Wilson,
King Charles III
Best Supporting Actor in a PlayJoe Caffrey, Wet House Hans Kesting, Maria Stuart (Toneelgroep Amsterdam) Patrick Godfrey,
Donkey Heart

Julian Ovenden,
My Night With Reg

Hugh Skinner,
Thérèse Raquin (Theatre Royal Bath)

Geoffrey Streatfeild,
My Night With Reg
Best Actress in a MusicalImelda Staunton, Gypsy Gemma Arterton, Made in Dagenham Charlotte Baptie,
Free As Air

Natalie Mendoza,
Here Lies Love

Christina Modestou,
In The Heights

Sophie Thompson,
Guys and Dolls
Best Actor in a MusicalSam Mackay, In The Heights Benjamin Scheuer, The Lion Adrian der Gregorian,
Made In Dagenham

Killian Donnelly,
Memphis

Jon Robyns,
The Last Five Years

Jeremy Secomb,
Sweeney Todd (Tooting Arts Club)
Best Supporting Actress in a MusicalJenna Russell, Urinetown Lara Pulver, Gypsy Samantha Bond,
Dirty Rotten Scoundrels

Victoria Hamilton-Barritt,
In The Heights

Kiara Jay,
Sweeney Todd (Tooting Arts Club)

Zoe Rainey,
The Return of the Soldier
Best Supporting Actor in a MusicalJason Pennycooke, Memphis Aaron Tveit, Assassins Damian Buhagiar,
In The Heights

Tyrone Huntley,
Memphis

Nadim Naaman,
Sweeney Todd (Tooting Arts Club)

Jonathan Slinger,
Urinetown

2014 Best Supporting Actor in a Play + a Musical

Best Supporting Actor in a Play

Joe Caffrey, Wet House
One of the most painfully believable portrayals of alcoholism you could ever wish to see and just brutal in its tragedy, even if the audience around laughed merrily away

Honourable mention: Hans Kesting, Maria Stuart (Toneelgroep Amsterdam)
As the charismatic Leicester, loved by two queens, Kesting was a silkily seductive presence but one with steel at its very core. The kind of actor you can’t keep your eyes off (and if you ever see a show at the Stadschouwberg, nip upstairs to look at the very fetching portrait of him!).

Patrick Godfrey, Donkey Heart
Julian Ovenden, My Night With Reg
Hugh Skinner, Thérèse Raquin (Theatre Royal Bath)
Geoffrey Streatfeild, My Night With Reg

7-10
Sam Crane, Eternal Love; John Hodgkinson, Love’s Labours Lost/Won (RSC); Luke Norris, A View From The Bridge; Mark Rowley, The James Plays

 

Best Supporting Actor in a Musical

Jason Pennycooke, Memphis
Twinkle-eyed and twinkle-toed, Pennycooke is a sheer delight in Memphis as Bobby, the cleaner who becomes an unexpected television star, and just edges colleagues Rolan Bell and Tyrone Huntley who altogether make a superbly strong supporting line-up for this show.

Honourable Mention: Aaron Tveit, Assassins
The arrival of this square-jawed Broadway import was much heralded and certainly didn’t disappoint as he bolstered the tip-top ensemble that Jamie Lloyd assembled for Assassins with some fierce commitment and sheer quality.

Damian Buhagiar, In The Heights
Tyrone Huntley, Memphis
Nadim Naaman, Sweeney Todd (Tooting Arts Club)
Jonathan Slinger, Urinetown

7-10
Dean John-Wilson, Here Lies Love; John Marquez, Dirty Rotten Scoundrels; Michael Matus, The Return of the Soldier; Cedric Neal, Porgy and Bess

Re-review: In The Heights, Southwark Playhouse

“Since when are Latin people scared of heat?”

I can’t remember the exact moment when I knew I would book to see In The Heights again but it would definitely be somewhere in the first 10 minutes of watching it the first time. There was a certain amount of expectation resting on the shoulders of this production – the show was brand new to me but it was impossible to ignore the excitement of those were previously familiar with it – and so I had a little trepidatious fear that I might be swimming against the tide with this one. But I could not have been more wrong – as my original review will attest – and so I nabbed a pair of tickets for the final week within minutes of getting home!

There isn’t really too much more to say about the show than to commend it for maintaining such a magnificent level of energy throughout its run, it feels as fresh and punchy as it did last time and that is no mean feat with such a physically demanding piece as this. There’s a wonderfully teasing note on their website which says sign up here to be kept informed of the future of this production and it would be a well-deserved success for all concerned if a transfer was secured. I really hope they find a space suitable though, as whilst many may cry ‘it should be in the West End’, so much of its unique joy comes from the intimacy of this studio configuration.  

Photo: Robert Workman

Review: In The Heights, Southwark Playhouse

 
“My mom is Dominican-Cuban
My dad is from Chile and PR which means
I’m Chile..Domini-curican!
But I always say I’m from Queens!”

Amid the crashing and burning of ill-conceived big budget West End shows, it has been left to the smaller venues of London to carry the torch for musical theatre in the capital and currently leading the charge with what will surely end up being one of the productions of the year is the Southwark Playhouse. They secured the UK premiere of Tony winning show In The Heights which in itself is an achievement but more importantly, they assembled a team who have expertly reconceived it for the relatively intimate space to create some explosively exciting theatre.

Luke Sheppard’s production is pitch-perfect on every level. The choreography – Drew McOnie deserves every prize going – is fearless, fast and furious, Latin influences married with contemporary movement to create something that feels incredibly organic in its fluidity; Howard Hudson’s lighting is full of vibrant splashes of colour and well evokes the near-unbearable heat; and takis’ set design maximises the space brilliantly, suggesting the communal spirit and run-down feel of a hard-done-by enclave yet also finding room for a band of 8 along with a cast of 17. Continue reading “Review: In The Heights, Southwark Playhouse”

Review: The Boy Friend, Shaw Theatre

“We want to have, we plot to have, for it’s so dreary not to have that certain thing called ‘The Boyfriend'”

If you are quick, you might be able to catch the second show of this production of The Boy Friend at the Shaw Theatre in St Pancras by the Tring Park School for the Performing Arts. Written by Sandy Wilson in the 1950s, this enduring classic, a light-hearted pastiche of 1920s shows, is constantly being revived by professionals and amateurs alike, last appearing significantly in London at the Open Air Theatre in Regents Park in 2007.

Set in a finishing school on the French riviera, it’s a classic girl-meets-boy story, with secretary Polly falling for errand boy Tony, despite being incognito in their lowly positions and are both actually filthy rich. Their story is placed in the midst of lots of charleston-dancing young ladies and their intendeds, a bunch of madly flirtatious adults, and it’s all jolly japes, flapper dresses and a set of very tuneful songs. Continue reading “Review: The Boy Friend, Shaw Theatre”