News: Kings of Broadway live concert announced

Following an online concert that took place earlier this year, Kings of Broadway will entertain live audiences this December. The musical celebration will take place at the Palace Theatre on 9th December, just a week after the upcoming England lockdown is said to end.

Over 30 performers will come together for the concert, celebrating music of Jule Styne, Jerry Herman and Stephen Sondheim. Styne wrote the music for Gypsy and Funny Girl, with Hello, Dolly! by Jerry Herman and Company by Sondheim. Continue reading “News: Kings of Broadway live concert announced”

Review: Kings of Broadway 2020

Jule Styne, Jerry Herman & Stephen Sondheim get a worthy lockdown tribute in Kings of Broadway 2020

“Knock-knock! Is anybody there?”

There certainly was a whole lot of people there as the online concert of Kings of Broadway 2020 in support of NHS Charities Together and Acting for Others brought a large dose of classic musical theatre back into our lives. Expertly marshaled by musical director and pianist Alex Parker, the choice to spotlight Black Lives Matter through a recital of Maya Angelou’s ‘And Still I Rise’ was a good one, even if it showed the relative caucasity of the main line up. Continue reading “Review: Kings of Broadway 2020”

News: Kings of Broadway 2020 concert announced

The works of Jule Styne, Jerry Herman and Stephen Sondheim will be celebrated in a concert to support NHS Charities Together and Acting for Others

Participating remotely in the suitably testosteroney entitled Kings of Broadway 2020 will be Liz Callaway, Michael Colbourne, Deborah Crowe, Jordan Lee Davies, Louise Dearman, Janie Dee, Fra Fee, Rob Houchen, Damian Humbley, Ramin Karimloo, Claudia Kariuki, Emma Kingston, L Morgan Lee, Rebecca Lock, Nadim Naaman, Anna O’Byrne, Fiona O’Carroll, Jamie Parker, Laura Pitt-Pulford, Clive Rowe, Jenna Russell, Lucy Schaufer, Celinde Schoenmaker, Caroline Sheen, Samantha Spiro, Laura Tebbutt, Michael Xavier and Alex Young.

Creatively, the evening will feature musical direction from Alex Parker, it will be mixed by Jack Blume, edited by Ben Hewis and will have additional mixing and editing support from Martin Higgins.

Not a bad line-up eh? You can watch the show on Quick Fantastic’s YouTube channel at 7pm on Sunday 31st May and though it is billed as free, please think about making a donation, however small you think it might be, every little helps.

Review: Hedda Gabler, Salisbury Playhouse

“Every so often a dark impulse takes hold of me”

Brian Friel’s translation of Hedda Gabler was first seen at the Old Vic in 2012 when Sheridan Smith took on the lead role but Anna Mackmin’s production struggled somewhat with the humour that the Irish playwright introduced. A few years later though, Gareth Machin takes the same adaptation for his Salisbury Playhouse with greater success, finding an ideal balance of tragicomedy that might not always feel entirely Ibsenesque but remains convincing nonetheless.

Matters are also helped by casting the excellent Kirsty Bushell as Hedda, present on the not-inconsiderable list of actresses I really rate but well worthy of the place. With a whip-smart wit that lacerates too easily (her husband’s ageing aunt and their servant bear the brunt of this) and a sensuality that she deploys on seemingly every man but the one she’s wed to, Bushell gives us a real woman with a real sense of all the capricious vivacity that she believes will no longer be a part of her humdrum married life. Continue reading “Review: Hedda Gabler, Salisbury Playhouse”

Album Review: Lend Me A Tenor (Original London Cast Recording)

“Life is like opera, it’s hard to keep the drama from seeping through”

The West End is a tough nut to crack at the best of times and despite its best efforts, the musical version of Ken Ludwig’s Lend Me A Tenor lasted barely 2 months at the Gielgud in 2010. It’s strange, especially in light of Dirty Rotten Scoundrels’ relative success, as it occupies a similar groove with its traditional, even old-school, vibes, aping a classic era of musical theatre with japes and jolliness but somehow, it just didn’t connect with audiences – not everyone loves a farce…

Its old-fashioned humour and madcap antics are well served by Brad Carroll’s score and Peter Sham’s lyrics and book, which follows the trials of the Cleveland, Ohio Grand Opera Company as a world famous tenor scheduled to sing in their Otello goes AWOL in the hotel just hours before he’s due onstage. Is there a schmuck who can step in at the last minute and pretend to be Merelli, of course there is, but there’s also jealous wives, lovelorn girlfriends and conniving co-stars aplenty to thicken the plot. Continue reading “Album Review: Lend Me A Tenor (Original London Cast Recording)”

Review: Songs for a New World, St James Theatre

“I saw you look at Blitzen long and lovingly 
The way you used to look at me”

Like many things in real life, Jason Robert Brown’s Songs for a New World defies easy description. Not really a musical, not quite a song cycle, it’s an abstract anthology of diverse songs that circle around a similar theme of making a decision. One of his first shows to be produced and now 20 years old, it represents perhaps the purest distillation of his piano-based pop-rock stylings even as we skip between the various times, places and people woven together into the patchwork of this one emotional journey.

A show like this stands or falls by its cast but director Adam Lenson has cast it to the hilt. Fresh off the hugely successful Here Lies Love, Dean John-Wilson brings real energy; perhaps a little undersung, Damian Humbley has built up a hugely impressive musical theatre CV; Cynthia Erivo has been making waves for a while now and this is her last UK engagement before heading to Broadway to reprise her role in The Color Purple; and Jenna Russell, oh Jenna Russell, as fine an exponent of Sondheim as she is of Bart Simpson, she’s the kind of performer who illuminates the stage even with just a hint of her presence. Continue reading “Review: Songs for a New World, St James Theatre”

Review: Forbidden Broadway, Menier Chocolate Factory

“You sing cliché
I’ll sing haiku”
 

There are, in the main, two types of people in the audience for Forbidden Broadway. There’s your devotees who preach evangelically about this Broadway legend and the previous times it has come to the UK, the ones who laugh in anticipation of the jokes that they probably know already, and then there’s the more regular folk who might find themselves just a little turned off by the smugness of a show that is essentially one big inside joke.

Gerard Alessandri’s original concept, augmented here with additional material from Phillip George, is indubitably a classic – making viciously biting fun of the biggest shows to hit (and miss) our stages such as Once, Les Mis, The Book of Mormon etc and this iteration of the show has its West End-specific references too, The Pajama Game and Charlie and Chocolate Factory come in for a hammering here, there is indeed much to laugh at.

Continue reading “Review: Forbidden Broadway, Menier Chocolate Factory”

Review: Life of the Party, Menier Chocolate Factory

“I planned a well-rendered, one-gendered lesbian love story”

You’d be forgiven for not being familiar with Andrew Lippa, whose work is being celebrated at the Menier Chocolate Factory with a vivacious show that cherry-picks from his career so far. Although born in Leeds, his successes have been over the Atlantic with shows like The Addams Family, Big Fish and The Wild Party which have helped him to build a considerable, if niche, audience. With the help of some classy West End friends though, this sparkling revue could well encourage a further groundswell of popular support in the UK and get Lippa’s work produced here more often. 

In the meantime, the concert format works well here with The Life of the Party. Lippa is a born raconteur and from his piano, he is a hugely entertaining presence full of gossipy tidbits but more importantly, brimming with enthusiasm for the world of musical theatre and his continued place in it. Talking about the songs and shows that have made up his oeuvre, there is no mistaking his sheer love for what he does and that brings something extraordinary to the material, an intensity that might not even been matched when the songs are being performed in their natural context within the shows. Continue reading “Review: Life of the Party, Menier Chocolate Factory”

Review: Putting It Together, St James Theatre

Sooner is better than later but lover, I’ll hover, I’ll plan”

For a show that proudly describes itself as a musical review, Sondheim compendium Putting It Together sure spends a lot of time faffing about trying to construct an (unspoken) narrative on which to hang the various excerpts from musicals such as Merrily We Roll Along, Company and A Little Night Music. But in all honesty, it is a more successful piece of entertainment once it jettisons such lofty ideas (somewhere early in the second half) and incorporates some of Sondheim’s lesser performed works, not least a number of songs from Dick Tracy.

These may not necessarily be familiar to everyone but Sondheim did win an Oscar for ‘Sooner Or Later’ and when I was a wee whippersnapper, the soundtrack album as such (Madonna’s I’m Breathless) was one of my favourite cassettes. So it was these moments that shone best for me, particularly Caroline Sheen’s glorious take on ‘More’ (and also ‘Sooner or Later’) and a titanic duet with Janie Dee from Anyone Can Whistle. Continue reading “Review: Putting It Together, St James Theatre”

Review: Dickens Abridged, Arts Theatre

“Fistulas, fistulas, always the fistulas”

Previously seen in an earlier incarnation as Dickens Unplugged, Dickens Abridged is a shorter, sharper “high-speed comic sprint through Dickens’ greatest hits.” If the format seems a little familiar, then it should come as no surprise that writer and director Adam Long is one of the founding members of the Reduced Shakespeare Company and it is the same frenetic energy and absurd humour that he brings to this 90 minute show which sweeps through the life and works of this literary genius.

The show works best when its 5-strong company are freewheeling merrily through its rapid-fire comedy. Purists may blanch but to hear the plots of Bleak House and The Old Curiosity Shop encapsulated in four-line ditties, likewise Little Dorrit in a musical limerick and Great Expectations covered in a quick-change routine is breathlessly hilarious. Long’s undoubted skill of creating a witty précis of even the most convoluted of plots is adroitly observed and with this talented cast of actor-musicians on fine form, it’s a winning combination. Continue reading “Review: Dickens Abridged, Arts Theatre”