News: Jermyn Street Theatre reveals all-star cast for Restoration comedy reading

An all-star cast has assembled for an online reading of William Wycherley’s 1671 comedy Love in a Wood, presented by Jermyn Street Theatre, conceived and directed by Hermione Gulliford, and performed in aid of Equity Charitable Trust.

Word spreads fast in Restoration England. When romantic idealist Valentine makes a secret return from exile in France, he hears whispers that his lover Christina has been untrue. The thing is, Valentine is only jealous because his friend Vincent said that the hapless rogue Ranger had taken a liking to Christina. So, while Vincent and Ranger run amok, Valentine takes it upon himself to discover the truth. But can he see the wood from the trees…? Continue reading “News: Jermyn Street Theatre reveals all-star cast for Restoration comedy reading”

Review: Falling Stars

Exploring the extraordinary songbook of the 1920s, Peter Polycarpou and Sally Ann Triplett are fantastic in the hauntingly excellent Falling Stars

“There are people who hesitate, but corned-beef makes them cheer”

The creative team behind Falling Stars had only gotten one day into rehearsals before the second lockdown was announced in England so after rearranging their dates at the Union Theatre for early January, they also set about creating a filmed adaptation which will be available to stream for a week from Sunday 22nd November. 

Falling Stars was conceived and written by Peter Polycarpou after the discovery of a 1920s songbook in an antiques shop. It takes the form of a revue, exploring the work of writers who created some of the most sublime music, songs which have endured for nearly a century now. Names like Carl Schraubstader and James V Monaco might not be as well known as those of Charlie Chaplin and Irving Berlin but they were all writing standards to be remembered. Continue reading “Review: Falling Stars”

Review: Little Wars

A fabulous cast make this rehearsed reading of Steven Carl McCasland’s play Little Wars an interesting choice to stream

“What happens next?”

Raising money in aid of Women For Refugee Women, Ginger Quiff Media in collaboration with the Union Theatre have brought together a stellar cast of some of our finest actors for a rehearsed reading of Steven Carl McCasland’s play Little Wars. It is a weighty and wordy play but streaming passes last for 24 hours so you can always give yourself the interval(s) you need.

The drama imagines a dinner party between six women of considerable note. Its the early 1940s and Gertrude Stein and her girlfriend Alice Toklas are hosting an intimate soirée at their salon in the French Alps. Writers Lillian Hellman and Agatha Christie are expected but when the bell rings, it is anti-fascist freedom fighter Muriel Gardiner at the door. Continue reading “Review: Little Wars”

News: top casting for Little Wars revival

Linda Bassett, Juliet Stevenson and Sophie Thompson are among the cast for a digital revival of Little Wars

The marvellous Juliet Stevenson leads an all-star female cast in the online revival of US creative Steven Carl McCasland’s dinner party drama, Little Wars. Joining Stevenson will be Linda Bassett (Call The Midwife; East is East), Debbie Chazen (The Smoking Room; The Girls, West End), Natasha Karp (Rags, Park Theatre; The Kite Runner, West End), Catherine Russell (Holby City; What The Butler Saw, Curve Theatre), Sarah Solemani (Him & Her; Bad Education), and Sophie Thompson (Feel Good; Present Laughter, Old Vic). Continue reading “News: top casting for Little Wars revival”

Album Review: Rags – The Musical: Original London Cast Recording

The Original London Cast Recording for Rags – The Musical is released by Ghostlight Records, the first to capture the many changes to the show

“What if we never meet again?”

Sometimes a musical just doesn’t grab you, and so it was for me with Rags The Musical. The show received its UK premiere at the Northern powerhouse that is the Hope Mill Theatre in February 2019 and transferred to the Park Theatre in London at the beginning of 2020 and despite its excellent notices, I just didn’t fancy it. The universe clearly wants me to hear it one way or another though, as Ghostlight Records are now releasing an official London cast recording, the first for this show since 1991.

I think my ambivalence might have stemmed from a lack of love for Fiddler on the Roof (I know…). And Rags was initially conceived in 1986 as a sequel of sorts by book-writer Joseph Stein, as he explores the experience of a group of Jewish immigrants as they arrive in the US. Over the years though, David Thompson has considerably revised it and Stephen Schwartz’s lyrics and Charles Strouse’s music have also been substantially tinkered with. Musicals are ever a work in progress but such overhauling doesn’t always inspire the greatest confidence – credit then to director Bronagh Lagan and musical director Joe Bunker for refining this material in such a stylish manner. Continue reading “Album Review: Rags – The Musical: Original London Cast Recording”

Lockdown film review: Red Joan (2018)

My lockdown watching doesn’t get much better with the horribly dreary Red Joan which sorely misuses the treasure that is Dame Judi Dench

“You did this, didn’t you”

Hurrah, you might think, a film with Dame Judi Dench in the lead part. But hold on a mo, Red Joan is also a Trevor Nunn film – take that as you will – and should it ever have reached award conversations, Dench would surely have had to be in the supporting actress category, such is her role in the way the story is lugubriously doled out like a barely dripping tap.

She plays Joan Stanley, a character loosely based on Soviet spy Melita Norwood who passed on details of the British nuclear programme to Moscow, who finds Special Branch knocking on her door and muttering treason. But the majority of the film is told in flashback, as Sophie Cookson plays the younger Joan who back in the 1940s, had her head turned at Cambridge University by the flirty Leo (Tom Hughes with an unconscionable accent) and her politics turned by the horrors of war. Continue reading “Lockdown film review: Red Joan (2018)”

TV Review: Sticks and Stones

Mike Bartlett adapts his play Bull for the TV in the form of Sticks and Stones, with mixed if enjoyable results

“Maybe it’s banter”

I had clocked that Sticks and Stones that a new TV drama written and created by Mike Bartlett, hence it appearing pretty high on my to-watch list. What I hadn’t realised was that it is an adaptation of his cracking 2013 play Bull, which I have seen a fair few times, dating back to a reading in 2010. Given that the play was less than an hour and this serial was three (ITV) hours, I was intrigued to see how an extended version of this workplace bullying drama would work and I was pleased to see Ken Nwosu leading the cast, which included an alumni of the Young Vic production in Susannah Fielding.

And in line with the way his TV writing has been skewing, the result is something far more melodramatically silly than you’d ever expect from Bartlett in a theatre. I don’t say it as a particularly negative thing, more a statement of fact. The tautness of the play’s running time meant that once teeth were bared, it was one vicious snarl through to the end, heart-racingly menacing in its cruelty. Here, there’s much more time to fill and so it is more of slow build, as nice guy Thomas is essentially gaslit by his cut-throat team of property mangers (“we’re now able to offer a bespoke office solution”). Continue reading “TV Review: Sticks and Stones”

Album Reviews: The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole Aged 13 ¾ / Heathers / Calendar Girls 

A trio of quick London cast recordings – The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole Aged 13 ¾, Heathers and Calendar Girls 

“For a greasy little nobody, you do have good bone structure”

I was delighted to see a belated West End transfer for this lovely new musical by Jake Brunger and Pippa Cleary. I’ve loved every step of its journey and The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole Aged 13 ¾ (Original London Cast Recording) proves the perfect accompaniment as it captures so much of the energy of this most British of tales and sparky performances from the likes of John Hopkins and the luminous Kelly Price.

I didn’t however make it to Heathers, it just not appealing to me at all. With Heathers (Original West End Cast Recording), the opportunity to listen to this high school musical is now ours but I have to say, its charms elude me. There’s a fatal mismatch between the darkness of the source material (it really is a brutal film) and the breeziness of Laurence O’Keefe and Kevin Murphy’s pop-rock score that not even the quality of Carrie Hope Fletcher, Jodie Steele, Sophie Isaacs and Jamie Muscato’s strong performances can overcome.

And I thought I’d pay another visit to Yorkshire for Calendar Girls (Original London Recording) to see whether it stands the test of time. It proved an amiable if short-lived presence in the West End and listening to it again, I’d argue that there’s a gentleness to it that doesn’t quite linger long enough. Gary Barlow’s tunes are undeniably pretty but ultimately, they don’t really call out to be listened to over and again.

The Curtain Up Show Album of the Year 2018 winners

Best UK Cast Recording
Broken Wings – Original Concept Album
Calendar Girls – Original London Recording
Everybody’s Talking About Jamie – Original West End Cast Recording
WINNER: Six The Musical – Studio Cast Recording
Working: A Musical – Original London Cast Recording
Young Frankenstein – Original London Cast Recording

Best American Cast Recording
Frozen – Original Broadway Cast Recording
WINNER: Mean Girls – Original Broadway Cast Recording
My Fair Lady – 2018 Broadway Cast Recording
Once On This Island – New Broadway Cast Recording
Pretty Woman – Original Broadway Cast Recording
The Prom – Original Broadway Cast Recording

Best Solo Album
Audra McDonald – Sing Happy
WINNER: Carrie Hope Fletcher – When The Curtain Falls
David Hunter – Silver Linings
Louise Dearman – For You, For Me
Natasha Barnes – Real
Sutton Foster – Take Me To The World