Album Reviews: Peter Pan A Musical Adventure / The Confession Room / Marie Christine

This trio of album reviews covers Peter Pan A Musical Adventure, The Confession Room and Marie Christine

“Would I oblige?
I obliged”

Michael John LaChiusa is one of those composers of the new American musical theatre mould, or maybe even beyond, in adopting a dense and complex compositional style that means his work hasn’t always had the credit it deserves. This original Broadway cast recording of his 1999 show Marie Christine feels like a case in point – a Tony-nominated book and score that has rarely been revived, never mind made it to the UK. An adaptation of the Medea story that relocates it to 1890s New Orleans, it is blessed by a stunning central performance from Audra McDonald as a remarkably vicious leading lady. The score is made up of fragmented pieces of music rather than conventional notions of what we would consider a song but its operatic drama hits the mark for me. And I’d love to see it the UK some time soon please… Continue reading “Album Reviews: Peter Pan A Musical Adventure / The Confession Room / Marie Christine”

Review: The Book of Mormon, Prince of Wales Theatre

“I believe that the Garden of Eden was in Jackson County, Missouri”

In terms of first world problems, being constantly distracted by fellow audience member Kate Winslet probably ranks fairly highly but it is symbolic of the utter randomness that can accompany a gala performance. I was lucky enough to attend the opening night of The Book of Mormon which meant that in the haze of A-list to Z-list celebrities, the battle to get into the theatre, the newspaper reviews that had already been published and a thousand and one opinion pieces of one of the cannier marketing campaigns of recent times, it was difficult to separate out just what I really thought of the show itself. 

With the show not exactly being the cheapest – premium tickets have now apparently broken the £200 mark for Saturday nights – it hasn’t been easy to find the optimum opportunity to go back (or taken my chances on their lottery). Until now that is, when a rare deal popped into my Twitter feed courtesy of @BargainTheatre and a £40 ticket on the end of row B in the stalls saw me making the trip once again to the Prince of Wales theatre, unencumbered by expectation or excitement and much more able to take in Trey Parker, Robert Lopez and Matt Stone’s show on its own merits.  Continue reading “Review: The Book of Mormon, Prince of Wales Theatre”

Review: The Confession Room, St James Theatre

“Welcome to the room where your problems are heard”

In this cut-throat theatre world, one takes the opportunity to celebrate new musical theatre writing where one can so there was little hesitation in booking for this one-off concert performance of Dan Looney’s The Confession Room at the St James Theatre’s downstairs studio space. I actually came across Looney as part of an evening celebrating another writer John Kristian last month so it was nice to be able join the dots a little here and see some of his work given theatrical life.

This show received a concept recording from SimG Productions which was released on CD last year when a production also played the Landor for a night and tonight’s show, directed by Paul Foster with musical direction from Tim Evans, used the music from the recording along with excerpts of Patrick Wilde’s book to entertain an audience who’d opted to miss (the first half at least) the theatre of the World Cup final for some genuine musical theatre.  Continue reading “Review: The Confession Room, St James Theatre”

Review: Songs from the Playground, Union Theatre

“Here’s a little thing I wrote about life”

A little Sunday night treat at the Union was Songs from the Playground, a showcase of new musical theatre writer John Kristian, giving us snippets from a number of his works-in-progress and featuring a cast of performers that pleasingly contained few of the usual suspects. Don’t get me wrong, I love Julie Atherton, I truly do, but it is nice to see someone else get to do the comedy song for once 😉 And there’s a big one here in the form of ‘The Big O’ with which Catherine Digges had great, knee-trembling fun.

That song came from his revue show Hidden Talents but most of the first act focused on his first musical Vow and an adaptation of the well-known film The Holiday (although it was new to me…). Presented without introduction, it was a solid rather than a spectacular beginning to the evening, a constant flow of context-free new material is hard to fully process though Dan Looney and Bronté Barbé’s awkward teenage party encounter ‘Kiss Me’ was very well done as was Looney’s rapid rattle through ’23 Vows’. Continue reading “Review: Songs from the Playground, Union Theatre”

Review: Darling of the Day, Union Theatre

“Not on your nellie”

The fear with shows that are receiving their UK premieres some 45 years after an abbreviated Broadway run is that there is a good reason that they have continued to languish in obscurity. But London’s fringe theatres have a good record in sorting through the duds to unearth some genuine neglected treasures and chief on the musical side, is the Union Theatre. And it is there where director Paul Foster has returned, to put on Jule Styne’s Darling of the Day – which managed just the 31 performances on Broadway, wilting in the winds of change ushered in by its contemporary Hair – and whilst it may not emerge as a hugely revelatory success, it makes for an evening of gentle pleasures.

Set in Edwardian times, the plot circles around Priam Farll, an artist of note who seizes the chance to escape the pressures of fame when his valet Henry Leek dies suddenly and a mistake by a doctor allows him to swap identities. Farll then rejoices in the freedom of living a less complicated life, which includes meeting up with working class Putney widow Alice Challice through the matrimonial agency both were using, and unexpectedly ends up in love and married. But times are tight and when a plot is hatched to bring in some extra money, it arouses the avaricious attentions of art collector Lady Vale and dealer Clive Oxford who threaten to expose the whole affair. Continue reading “Review: Darling of the Day, Union Theatre”