News: musicals update

© Danny Kaan

The Distance You Have Come recorded live at The Apollo Theatre will be available to stream on stream.theatre from 5th to 11th August 2021. In a song cycle of his most acclaimed works, sung by some of the best voices in the west end, award winning composer and lyricist Scott Alan leads us through a year in the intertwined lives of six people facing the joy and heartache of the human experience, as they each search for their own version of happiness – which is, after all, what it’s all about.

This phenomenal cast features Andy Coxon (West Side Story, Beautiful – The Carole King Musical); Alice Fearn (Come From Away, Wicked); Adrian Hansel (Starlight Express, Hairspray); Emma Hatton (Evita, Wicked); Dean John-Wilson (The King and I, Aladdin) and Maiya Quansah- Breed (SIX, Rent).

Orchestrations are by Scott Hayes (Rent; I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change) who will also be the Musical Director, Kirk Jameson joins as Director (I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change; Marry Me a Little; Madagascar) with Lighting Design by Andrew Ellis (Eugenius, Flashdance): Original Direction was by Scott Alan and original Production Design by Simon Daw. The production is produced by Sevans Productions and Krystal Lee.


New UK Musicals and Parkwood Theatres have announced the cast and creatives of the world premiere of new British musical Ordinary People. Supported by funding from the Farnham Maltings Our Town Project and written by Darren Clark, Ordinary People takes real life stories from the lives of the people of Maidstone in Kent and turns them into a truly British musical. At its heart the show explores the idea that there is nothing ordinary about ordinary people.

The cast features actor musicians Anne Marie Piazza (RSC’s The Day of the Living, These Trees Are Made of Blood), Jared Leathwood (Billionaire Boy), Tom Self (The Hired Man UK Tour) and Sorrel Jordan (The Juliet Letters). This new musical is directed by Jenny Longley with choreography by Lorna Thomas and musical direction by Tom Self. Ordinary People premieres at Maidstone’s Hazlitt Theatre for two performances on the 30th and 31st July.


The highly anticipated tour of the Edinburgh Fringe hit Tokyo Rose has announced their all-female cast, starring Kanako Nakano (Miss Saigon, West End; Priscilla Queen of the Desert, West End). The production, winner of the coveted Les Enfant Terribles Stepladder Award, will also feature Maya Britto (Tokyo Rose, New Diorama Theatre/Edinburgh Fringe; Arabian Nights, Hoxton Hall) in the titular role, Lucy Park (Tokyo Rose, New Diorama Theatre/Edinburgh Fringe; Game Face, Q Theatre/Tristan Bates Theatre), Yuki Sutton (Tokyo Rose, New Diorama Theatre/Edinburgh Fringe; Satanic Panic ’87, Channel 4), Amy Parker (Ride, Vault Festival; Dancing By Myself, King’s Head Theatre), and Cara Baldwin (The Marathon Project, online; The Half Moon Shania, Zoo Venues/Vault Festival).

Tokyo Rose is an electrifying new musical about one of America’s most controversial trials, examining a real-life story of scaremongering and scapegoating. New Diorama Theatre and Underbelly first commissioned this exciting project as part of the Untapped Award, and its potential was realised following a sold out run at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe in 2019. From September, the tour will visit MAST Mayflower Studios, Southwark Playhouse, Curve Theatre, Leicester, The North Wall Arts Centre, Oxford, Corn Exchange Newbury, and Birmingham Hippodrome.


Michael Harrison and David Ian have announced that Adam J BernardTarinn CallenderMatt Henry and Tosh Wanogho-Maud will play The Drifters in a brand new musical also starring Beverley Knight, which tells the remarkable story of one of the world’s greatest vocal groups and the woman who made them.

The Drifters Girl will begin performances in Newcastle on Saturday 9 October 2021, playing until Saturday 23 October. Performances at the Garrick Theatre in London start on Thursday 4 November 2021.


Hamilton returns to the Victoria Palace from 19th August and has revealed its new cast. Karl Queensborough will play the title role of Alexander Hamilton with Simon-Anthony Rhoden as Aaron Burr, Ava Brennan as Angelica Schuyler, Sharon Rose as Eliza Hamilton, Trevor Dion Nicholas as George Washington, Waylon Jacobs as Marquis De Lafayette/Thomas Jefferson, Emile Ruddock as Hercules Mulligan/James Madison, Khalid Daley as John Laurens/Phillip Hamilton, Emilie Louise Israel as Peggy Schuyler/Maria Reynolds and Harry Hepple as King George. At certain performances the role of Alexander Hamilton will be played by Nuno Queimado.

The cast also comprises Jade Albertsen, Curtis Angus, Robson Broad, Matthew Caputo, Filippo Coffano, Ashley Daniels, Kelly Downing, Lydia Fraser, Jordan Frazier, Manaia Glassey-Ohlson, Jake Halsey-Jones, Olivia Kate Holding, Peter Houston, DeAngelo Jones, Nicolais-Andre Kerry, Travis Kerry, Ella Kora, Natasha Leaver, Aaron Lee Lambert, Phoebe Liberty Jones, Sinead Long, Louis Mackrodt, Jay Perry, Lindsey Tierney and Brandon Williams.

Some musicals news from the last week

News about new musicals in Leicester and Maidstone, plus concerts in the West End and Chiswick 

The line up has been confirmed for the first concert of the series for Monday Night at the Apollo – which will be performed in front of a socially distanced audience at the Apollo Theatre on Shaftesbury Avenue on Monday 24 May, and simultaneously livestreamed to viewers at home via the theatre discovery platform Thespie.

Aimie Atkinson (Six, Pretty Woman), Cassidy Janson (&Juliet, Beautiful), Lucie Jones (Waitress, Rent), Cedric Neal (Chess, Motown the Musical) and Julian Ovenden (South Pacific, Downton Abbey) will join on-stage for an intimate night of music and theatrical chat, featuring ovation worthy performances of songs from their favourite genres with host Greg Barnett (Miss Littlewood, Swallows and Amazons). Continue reading “Some musicals news from the last week”

10 top theatrical moments of 2020

In lieu of trying to make sense of this shitshow of a year through the normal year-end lists, I thought I’d just stick with an unranked list of 10 of my top theatrically based productions of the year

For reference, here’s my 2019 list, 2018 list, 2017 list2016 list2015 list and 2014 list.

Uncle Vanya, Harold Pinter Theatre

A rather exhilaratingly good take on the familiar Chekhov classic, a worthy presence in the West End.

The Wicker Husband, Watermill Theatre

One of the last things I saw before lockdown and what a gorgeous lingering memory to have, I pray that this is not the last we hear of this beautiful new musical. Continue reading “10 top theatrical moments of 2020”

Album Review: Joel Harper-Jackson – So What Happens Now? / Makerman – Grove Hill / Rob Houchen

An album review of Joel Harper-Jackson’s So What Happens Now? and inspired by Marry Me A Little last night, I explore Makerman and Rob Houchen

“I don’t care if it hurts
I wanna have control”

Released just as the second lockdown kicked in, Joel Harper-Hackson’s debut album has ended up with a painfully apposite title – So What Happens Now?. I first spotted Harper-Jackson a few years as a standout in a middling new musical and have enjoyed following his career since then, not least in the Hope Mill’s gorgeous production of Little Women. Interestingly, this album largely eschews the world of musical theatre for the world of popular music, albeit reimagined through the wonderfully moody arrangements of Greg Morton.

Piano, guitar and cello thus come to the fore to underscore mournful takes on ‘Jolene’ and ‘The Man That Got Away’, the quavering vocal at the beginning of ‘Another Suitcade in Another Hall’ really refocuses the song’s emotion, and the shivering sparseness of ‘Wicked Game’ hits harder than usual, especially once the dramatic stakes are raised. Unexpectedly effective though is the duet on ‘Tragedy’ with Jodie Steele which utterly reinterprets the rueful acceptance of the song in a way which makes complete sense. ‘Creep’ with Lauren Byrne is pretty damn good too. If ever there was an album to cry-listen to whilst looking through a rainy November window and eating a packet of biscuits, this is that album and this is that moment. Highly recommended. Continue reading “Album Review: Joel Harper-Jackson – So What Happens Now? / Makerman – Grove Hill / Rob Houchen”

Interview: founder of New UK Musicals and composer extraordinaire Darren Clark

As new digital sheet music store New UK Musicals launches, I talk with multi-award winning composer & lyricist Darren Clark about the site and his career

Darren Clark has been responsible for two of my favourite shows of recent years in The Curious Case of Benjamin Button and The Wicker Husband so I was interested to discover that he has been keeping very busy during lockdown, creating New UK Musicals

New UK Musicals is an online platform where you will be able to purchase sheet music from some of the best new musical theatre writers working in the UK today. It’s a digital store where performers and fans can listen to online samples, purchase fresh, new songs and also connect with the writers who create them.

Designed and built during lockdown, the site launches with a competition for performers who will be able to buy and download selected songs from the site and upload videos of themselves performing to New UK Musicals. First prize includes a number of free downloads from the site as well as the opportunity to perform alongside West End stars in a special edition of Adam Lenson’s SIGNAL Online Concert Series celebrating the work of these writers on the 16th June.

Writers represented on the site include: Finn Anderson (Islander), Rebecca Applin (Jabberwocky), Bateman & Conley (The Sorrows of Satan), Ed Bell (My 80 Year Old Boyfriend), Darren Clark (The Curious Case of Benjamin Button), Elliot Davis (Loserville), Gus Gowland (Pieces of String), Teresa Howard (I Capture the Castle), Richy Hughes (Superhero), Carl Miller (Wasted), Noisemaker (My Left Right Foot), Eamonn O’Dwyer (The Legend of Sleepy Hollow), Susannah Pearse (Jabberwocky), Victoria Saxton (Marriage a la Mode), Amir Shoenfeld (Benny in Beta), Emily Rose Simons (Confessions of a Rabbi’s Daughter), Tim Sutton (The Secret Garden), Stiles & Drewe (The Wind in the Willows), Webborn & Finn (The Clockmaker’s Daughter) and Wigmore and Green (Van Winkle). Continue reading “Interview: founder of New UK Musicals and composer extraordinaire Darren Clark”

Review: The Wicker Husband, Watermill Theatre

Gorgeous new folk musical The Wicker Husband is perfectly situated at the Watermill Theatre and simply must be given more opportunity to soar post-crisis

“Once upon a withy on the edge of a deep damp swamp, nestled in the arms of a winding river, stood a pretty little town…”

Snuck in under the radar for this one as I’ve been looking forward to The Wicker Husband for a long time. Four years in fact, since I first heard a snippet of the score but as ever in the world of writing a new musical, the show has been in development for more than twice that time. Further upping my anticipation was the success of composer/lyricist Darren Clark’s last major project The Curious Case of Benjamin Button which was only my very favourite show of last year.

Together with book-writer Rhys Jennings, their adaptation of a short story by Ursula Wills-Jones has a bewitching quality that is eerily compelling and in the tradition of all the best fairy tales, has no problem in going very dark. Along with my mortal fear of eerily humanoid puppets, it makes for a much more chilling night at the theatre (for me, at least) but one which is ultimately beautifully human too, as Charlotte Westenra’s production reminds us why fables have endured for so long. Continue reading “Review: The Wicker Husband, Watermill Theatre”

20 shows to look forward to in 2020

I look ahead to some of the 2020 shows exciting me most with an emphasis away from the West End, looking mostly instead at the London fringe and across the UK 

Sure, there’s all sorts of big ticket shows coming to London in 2020 (with big ticket prices too to go with their big names), like Sunday in the Park with George with Jake Gyllenhaal, Sister Act with Whoopi Goldberg, A Doll’s House with Jessica Chastain. But there’s so much more to discover if you venture away from Shaftesbury Avenue…

1 The Glass Menagerie, Odéon–Théâtre de l’Europe at the Barbican
Not that I want to be predictable at all but Isabelle Huppert! Acting in French! Right in front of you! I understand that van Hove-fatigue might be setting in for people but only a FOOL would pass up the chance to see one of our greatest living actors. A FOOL! 

2 The Glass Menagerie, Royal Exchange
And if you wanted to do a direct compare and contrast, Atri Banerjee’s revival for the Royal Exchange will be worth checking out too for an alternative perspective. 

3 The Wicker Husband, Watermill
Even before Benjamin Button tore my heart apart, I was excited for the arrival of this new musical by Rhys Jennings and Darren Clark but now, the bar has been raised even higher. And the gorgeous intimacy of the Watermill feels like a perfect fit.


4 Children of Nora, Internationaal Theater Amsterdam
Me: “I don’t need any more Ibsen in my life”
Also me: Robert Icke revisiting the world of A Doll’s House through the eyes of the next generation? Yes please.

5 Romantics Anonymous, Bristol Old Vic
I don’t think I thought this delicious Koomin and Dimond musical would ever actually return, so this short run in the UK ahead of a US tour feels like a real blessing. Now where did I put my badge?
Continue reading “20 shows to look forward to in 2020”

Family theatre in August

A rare summer in the city for me means I can take in some of the family shows on in the West End right now – Mr Gum and the Dancing Bear the Musical, The Scarecrow’s Wedding, Where is Peter Rabbit? and Monstersaurus 

“Microscopic Bobby was my wife”

Photo © TheOtherRichard

The world of Mr Gum and the Dancing Bear the Musical (suitable for 7yrs+) as imagined by director Amy Hodge and designer Georgia Lowe is a fantastically bizarre one, full of warm and witty touches that shoud delight children and adults alike. Tiny gingerbread professors, menacing sunflowers, dancing doughnuts, a rainforest of umbrellas, it is an impressive and inventive take on imaginative world-building that perfectly suits Andy Stanton’s storytelling.

All things told, it is a fairly slight tale – bears, beers, butchers, you know the usual, but there’s just such a sense of fun about the whole proceedings. The cast revel in non-sequiturs aplenty (Helena Lymbery, Steve Furst and Gary Wilmot particularly impress), Jim Fortune’s eclectic score builds in post-modern layers that further pique the interest, and the show even manages to sneak in some pretty powerful messaging among all the madness. Recommended. Continue reading “Family theatre in August”

Review: The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Southwark Playhouse

A sensationally good new British musical that I couldn’t recommend more. The Curious Case of Benjamin Button at the Southwark Playhouse is something special

“It’s only a matter of time”

Jethro Compton has made me cry before. At the Southwark Playhouse too no less, albeit in its former location, as a young JM Barrie in a truly imaginative staging of The Boy James. This time though, he’s wearing the multiple hats of book-writer, co-lyricist and director of this adaptation of the F Scott Fitzgerald short story The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. And reader, I bawled!

Some of those tears were of joy, at the unexpected discovery of a sensationally good new British musical. With the story’s relocation to Cornwall, Darren Clarke’s (composer, co-lyricist and musical director) score leans heavily into folk song and shanty rhythms to glorious effect. These are songs that feel like they have always existed, elevated by powerful dynamic changes and harmonies to live a life in reverse for. Continue reading “Review: The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Southwark Playhouse”