Review: Carousel, Open Air Theatre

Despite some careful thinking and some glorious singing, the Open Air Theatre’s reimagined Carousel can’t stop this problematic musical from being, well, problematic

“Walk on through the wind
Walk on through the rain”

There’s a glorious moment early in the second half of the Open Air Theatre’s production of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Carousel when all its constituent concepts and parts coalesce together in perfect harmony. Joanna Riding delivering the haunting strains of ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’ as the sparseness of Tom Scutt’s design reveals its haunting potential, cleverly contextualising Drew McOnie’s lyrical choreography with the bold brass of Tom Deering’s new orchestrations recasting this classic score with real vibrancy.   

Around it though, the rest of this notoriously tricky musical doesn’t quite stick the landing in the same way, despite the work that director Timothy Sheader and his company have put in to try and address its intrinsic issues. A soft relocation to somewhere in’t’north allows the cast to use a range of British accents but it is a certain truth that no British person has ever said the word clambake, particularly as often as it is said in this show. It may seem like a small point but it is an incongruency that rings out every single time someone says it. Continue reading “Review: Carousel, Open Air Theatre”

News: The National Theatre announces 2021-22 programming and launches National Theatre Together

The National Theatre announces new programming and launches a major new campaign for its future, National Theatre Together

The National Theatre has announced its programming until the start of next year with productions on all three South Bank stages as well as three major UK tours, two productions on Broadway, a return to cinemas, and a new feature film to be broadcast on television this autumn. In the week the theatre reopened for audiences again, six new productions were announced, and five productions halted by the pandemic were confirmed to return to the South Bank.  

It has also announced the public launch of National Theatre Together, a new campaign with people at its heart, highlighting the importance of creativity and collaboration with theatre-makers and communities, for young people and audiences. The campaign cements the NT’s commitment to the people of this country and will raise vital funds for the theatre’s ambitious recovery post-pandemic.  Continue reading “News: The National Theatre announces 2021-22 programming and launches National Theatre Together”

Review: The Theatre Channel – Episode Five The Classics of Broadway

The Theatre Channel returns with Episode Five, full of The Classics of Broadway sung by the likes of Bonnie Langford, Gary Wilmot and Marisha Wallace

“Tell me, why should it be true,
That I get a kick out of you”

Over four instalments last year, Adam Blanshay Productions and The Theatre Café’s The Theatre Channel managed the not-inconsiderable feat of finding its niche within the crowded marketplace of streamed theatrical content and also elevating its quality. Such is its quality with its consistently high production values, you really do get the feeling of seeing bona fide musical theatre rather than just another concert.

It doesn’t come easily though and the filming of Episode Five – The Classics of Broadway was hit particularly hard with the double whammy of the third lockdown and director and choreographer Bill Deamer having to shield. But we all know the show must go on and with Thom Southerland being brought in as co-director, this musical journey down the Great White Way arrives in fine form, maintaining that impressive standard. Continue reading “Review: The Theatre Channel – Episode Five The Classics of Broadway”

Review: The Theatre Channel – Episode Four The Holiday Special

Nipping in just before Santa arrives, The Theatre Channel’s fourth episode delivers festive treats aplenty in The Holiday Special

“If you’re burdened down with trouble
If your nerves are wearing thin…”

With all the uncertainty that has haunted the world of theatre since the pandemic began, there’s something unalterably pleasing about seeing a theatrical enterprise grow from strength to strength at this time. Born out of the explosion in streaming content that emerged in the first lockdown, The Theatre Channel has taken that concept and elevated it to something rather special, so mince pies and buckets of mulled wine all round for everyone at Adam Blanshay Productions and The Theatre Café.

In its half-hourly episodes, it has found focus in its themes (Hallowe’en, rock musicals) and shown generosity in its casting. Starrier names may be the headliners but the decision to introduce the Café Four (comprised of Alyn Hawke, Emily Langham, Sadie-Jean Shirley and Alex Woodward) as a regular ensemble has proven a masterstroke. providing continuity across a diverse range of performances and from episode to episode, but also showcasing their own talents alongside a raft of Olivier winners and nominees. Continue reading “Review: The Theatre Channel – Episode Four The Holiday Special”

News: Tristram Kenton’s stage archive – the musicals edition

Since it is the season of goodwill to all men, I’m not going to belabour the point that it is a shame that ‘musicals’ have been lumped together as a category here, whereas the likes of Pinter and Kane got their own specials, whither Sondheim, Herman and Tesori. Still, it’s lovely as ever to stretch back over years of musical theatre productions to see some of Tristram Kenton’s most iconic shots for the Guardian:
https://www.theguardian.com/stage/gallery/2020/dec/02/musicals-on-stage-in-pictures-tristram-kenton

Photos: Tristram Kenton

Review: The Theatre Channel – Episode Three

Exploring the world of rock musicals, Episode 3 of The Theatre Channel features Alex Gaumond, Shan Ako, John Owen-Jones, Francesca Jackson, Aisha Jawando and Rob Houchen

Je cherche le soleil
Au milieu de ma nuit

First, a confession. The idea of a rock musical generally leaves me cold so the announcement of the theme of the third episode of The Theatre Channel being just that wasn’t one that filled me with too much joy. But the quality of Episode 1 and Episode 2, plus the calibre of talent they’ve been attracting, meant that I was happy to at least give it a whirl.

And if it didn’t make a convert out of me (there’s enough fans of Rent out there already…), there’s plenty to be impressed with. The highlight of the half-hour show for me was the chance to hear the Québécois Alex Gaumond singing ‘Le Monde est Stone’ from Starmania in its original French, the desperation of this soaring ballad transcending any linguistic barrier (though subtitles are provided). Continue reading “Review: The Theatre Channel – Episode Three”

Review: The Theatre Channel – Episode Two

Episode Two of The Theatre Channel takes its Halloween theme and has a ball with it, with brilliant performances from the likes of Linzi Hateley, Jordan Shaw, Bradley Jaden and Sophie Isaacs

“It’s a matter of time before London belongs to us”

After a highly successful debut, Episode 2 of The Theatre Channel arrives and things have gone a bit Strictly with a theme week. Natch it is Hallowe’en that acts as a linking thread between the performances here but unlike Strictly, it is pleasingly effective as the production design (by Gregor Donnelly) gets to play with a more cohesive visual language across the show (credit too to director Bill Deamer and DP Ben Hewis), and the song selection gets to go a bit dark and dramatic.

That’s not to say that there’s not a variety of tone here. As befits this holiday, there’s a healthy dose of camp as a CGI-enhanced Ria Jones casts her spell over Into the Woods’ ‘Last Midnight’ and the camp drama of Frank Wildhorn’s ‘Life After Life’ from Dracula the Musical is well served by the relatively straight bat and sensational voices of Bradley Jaden and Sophie Isaacs. The same goes for Josh Piterman’s dangerously seductive take on ‘The Confrontation’ from Jekyll and Hyde. Continue reading “Review: The Theatre Channel – Episode Two”

Review: The Theatre Channel – Episode One

Featuring the likes of Jenna Russell, Matt Henry and Carrie Hope Fletcher, Episode 1 of The Theatre Channel is a roaring success

“Believe me, my admiration for you hasn’t died”

As big question marks remain over if and when theatre doors will start opening again, the move to online delivery of musical theatre  has taken an interesting turn with the arrival of The Theatre Channel. It is officially described as a web series but it is basically a musical theatre version of classic Top of the Pops online, ie heaven!

Set on location in (and on top of) The Theatre Café, the first episode was a slick half hour of cracking entertainment that really gladdened the heart. Director Bill Deamer offers a slice of real variety across its six numbers but also maintains a high level of quality, right down to the witty timing of the snippets of choreography he introduces via the inhouse ensemble. Continue reading “Review: The Theatre Channel – Episode One”