News: West End musical castings confirmed

The thought of outdoors theatre was fine earlier this week, not so much right now! For the brave, Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre have confirmed full casting for Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Carousel, which plays 31 July – 25 September. Joining the already announced Carly Bawden (Julie Jordan), Declan Bennett (Billy Bigelow), John Pfumojena (Enoch Snow), Joanna Riding (Nettie Fowler) and Natasha May Thomas (Louise Bigelow) are Brendan Charleson (Mr Bascombe), Jo Eaton-Kent (Mrs Mullin), Sam Mackay (Jigger Craigin), Ediz Mahmut (Young Enoch) and Christina Modestou (Carrie Pipperidge).

The ensemble includes: Chanelle AnthonyCraig ArmstrongWilliam AtkinsonShay BarclaySarah BenbelaidMadeline CharlemagneFreya FieldSebastian GoffinAmie HibbertTim HodgesLukas Hunt, Tessa KadlerLindsay McAllisterMatthew McKennaJack MitchellCharlotte RibyLisa Ritchie and Daisy West. Continue reading “News: West End musical castings confirmed”

The 2014 London Evening Standard Theatre Awards

BEST ACTOR
Tom Hiddleston, Coriolanus, Donmar Warehouse
Ben Miles
Wolf Hall and Bring Up The Bodies, RSC Swan and Aldwych
Mark StrongA View From The Bridge, Young Vic

NATASHA RICHARDSON AWARD FOR BEST ACTRESS
Gillian Anderson, A Streetcar Named Desire, Young Vic
Helen McCrory
Medea, National Theatre’s Olivier
Tanya MoodieIntimate Apparel, Ustinov Bath and Park Theatre
Billie PiperGreat Britain, National Theatre’s Lyttelton
Kristin Scott ThomasElectra, Old Vic Continue reading “The 2014 London Evening Standard Theatre Awards”

Review: The Body of an American, Gate Theatre

“People ask me questions they don’t want the answers to”

Paul is a Canadian photographer, Dan is an aspiring American playwright, and they’re the two main characters of The Body of an American. In real life, Paul Watson is a photojournalist who won awards for a shocking picture of the body of a US soldier being dragged through Mogadishu by Somali insurgents, and Dan O’Brien is a writer who has pulled together fragments of Watson’s biography and pieces of their own burgeoning relationship – as initial respect turns into genuine friendship – into a freewheeling study of how guilt can corrode the soul.

Photojournalism has proven a richly fascinating topic for contemporary writers (Lucy Kirkwood’s Chimerica, Vivienne Franzmann’s The Witness) and so too it proves here, initially at least. Paul is tormented by the idea that his photo was a desecration of sorts of the dead soldier and craves forgiveness; and Dan suggests, obliquely, that the picture had a huge part to play in the geo-politics of the region and can even be said to have prefigured 9/11. It’s a leap, a huge one, but barely touched upon in this fast-moving, almost free-associating complex piece of writing. Continue reading “Review: The Body of an American, Gate Theatre”

Review: On A Clear Day You Can See Forever, Union Theatre

“How it will astound you…”

Alongside the rightly lauded all-male Gilbert and Sullivans, the Union Theatre in Southwark has also carved a niche for itself in mounting productions of lesser-known musicals, delving into the archives much as the Finborough does with British plays, in search of a gem of a discovery, ripe for re-polishing. It’s a brave approach, not least because there is an argument that shows that collect dust on the shelves do so for a reason which in turn means that no matter how strong the production, it’s never quite starting on a full tank.

Which seems a little harsh now I’ve said it, but ultimately reflects much of how I feel about the Union’s output of late. Their productions are great value for money, demonstrate a hard-won understanding of how to use the intimate space of their railway arch, and attract a remarkable calibre of performer. But the shows haven’t made my heart sing, filled me with the inescapable joie de vivre that I crave when I see old-school musical theatre and that’s how I felt about On A Clear Day You Can See Forever. Continue reading “Review: On A Clear Day You Can See Forever, Union Theatre”

Review: The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas, Union Theatre

“Now my good friends, it behooves me to be solemn and declare,

I’m for goodness and for profit and for living clean and saying daily prayer”
I’m not the kind of gentleman who normally ends an evening with a lady in his lap but that was what (nearly) happened last night at the Union Theatre’s revival of US musical The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas. Inspired by a true story of a similarly-titled brothel , the Chicken Ranch is a well-established institution that has been passed down to Miss Mona from the original owner, who runs it with a veneer of classy respectability wherein she looks after her girls well and gets on with the local law enforcement to keep things running smoothly. But the decision of crusading news reporter Melvin P Thorpe to try and get the establishment closed down threatens everything.

Sarah Lark plays Miss Mona, the role made famous by Dolly Parton in the movie of the same name, all big brassy blonde hair piled up on her head and possessed of a wardrobe stuffed with fringes and sequins and quietly understated as a warmly maternal figure. Her singing voice is lovely though lacked a little volume in places and there was a little gravitas missing from her portrayal, though that could square with her being pushed into the position of Madam through unexpectedly inheriting the place. And around her are her scantily-dressed girls who service the townsmen’s needs – mainly portrayed here through shadow-play – and most of whom are running away from something, assumedly also using the somersaulting skills that got one lady closer to me than I was expecting! Together they make a strong group – the harmonies of ‘Girl You’re A Woman’ most lovely, the mix of personalities entertaining and as a starting point for a show, it feels like a fascinating premise. Continue reading “Review: The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas, Union Theatre”