Review: Ex, Soho Theatre

“Go now, before someone starts singing”

The critical word about the Soho Theatre’s new musical Ex was shockingly bad in several places, there was even a little petty Twitter spat between one of the reviewers and the writer, Rob Young. I’m not one to be too easily swayed by the opinions of others but my lack of enthusiasm was down to the last minute withdrawal of one of the lead actors – the yummy Gabriel Vick – due to a broken foot (though given the show’s reception, one can’t help but wonder if a little self-sabotage crept in…!). Nonetheless, I made it along at the end of the run, and due to the strength of reaction against it, ended up finding it not that bad.

To be sure, it is not a strong show, but I couldn’t see what had provoked such opprobrium. The show is aiming for the play with songs genre rather than calling itself an outright musical, which always seems an odd choice for me – has anyone ever said I will never see a musical, but I would see a play with songs… – Young’s play is combined with songs by Ross Lorraine as we look at the tangled relationships of two couples. Jack and Ruby used to be lovers but find themselves drawn back together even though both have moved onto new partners. Ruby is about to leave for the US to be with her new dentist paramour but nips into Jack’s bar for a final goodbye and to get some closure after he broke her heart and so as history is revisited and sparks fly, the four protagonists do battle. Continue reading “Review: Ex, Soho Theatre”

Re-review: Hamlet! The Musical, Richmond

“You can’t make a Ham-e-let without breaking some eggs”

I always tend to write less about shows the second time I see them, but in this particular case there is even less than usual as it was only three days since I saw Hamlet! The Musical. But with no future plans for the show currently confirmed and one of the funniest experiences in a theatre thus year so far, it didn’t take much convincing to make me journey back over to Richmond for second serving of Danish delight.

My original review is here and unsurprisingly there’s no change in my response to the show, other than to say it stood up to a second viewing extremely well even so close to the first time, it still got the laughs (and I was probably that annoying guy who was giggling in advance of the funnier jokes) and generated a huge warmth from the audience once again. Continue reading “Re-review: Hamlet! The Musical, Richmond”

Review: Hamlet! The Musical – Richmond Theatre

“When I think about Denmark and the way things used to be”

It’s Hamlet, but not as you know it. Originally an Edinburgh Festival hit in 2001, returning in 2010 and now developed under the auspices of the Royal & Derngate to a fully fledged hour and three quarters production, Hamlet! The Musical takes a delightfully irreverent look at this Shakespearean classic in an adaptation that is highly inventive, supremely silly and one of the funniest things I have seen this year.

Where it succeeds is in some really sharp writing, there are plenty of genuine laughs in here alongside the broader comedy, and the engagement of a highly enthusiastic and talented cast of familiar faces. Jack Shalloo’s (recently very good in The Kissing Dance) daft teenager with stars in his eyes makes a very appealing leading man and Mark Inscoe’s (huge amounts of fun in Salad Days) doubling as an Elvis-inspired ghost and a devilish Claudius were both excellently good. Continue reading “Review: Hamlet! The Musical – Richmond Theatre”

Review: Double Falsehood, Union Theatre

“I invite thee, consuming desolation, to this temple”

Well it is not so much desolation that can be consumed at the Union Theatre in Southwark but rather the first professional production of the play Double Falsehood since 1792. It is most notable for being a play that was controversially included in the Arden Complete Works of Shakespeare last year despite its provenance being hotly debated. As it is understood in this Clown’s mind, Double Falsehood is a 1727 adaptation by Lewis Theobald reportedly based on a 1613 play called Cardenio by Shakespeare and John Fletcher (who also collaborated on Henry VIII and The Two Noble Kinsmen). There’s reams of debate and scholarly concerns about this but ultimately, it should not be allowed to detract from what is an interesting production here.

Set in Andalucía around the court of Duke Angelo, whose youngest son Henrique causes a whole world of trouble when he rapes and abandons servant girl Violante and then decides to pursue and marry Leonora who just happens to be betrothed to his friend Julio. The fall-out from these events sees everyone scattered, themselves and their families left behind distraught, throughout the local countryside and it is left up to the noble older son and heir of Angelo, Roderick, to round everyone up and reunite lovers, parents and children and ensure that justice is served in the Spanish hills. Continue reading “Review: Double Falsehood, Union Theatre”

Review: Finishing The Hat, Sondheim’s 80th Birthday Concert, King’s Head Theatre

“And he showed me things, many beautiful things, that I hadn’t thought to explore”

In New York, Stephen Sondheim’s 80th birthday was marked with an all-star gala featuring such names as Patti LuPone, David Hyde Pierce, Mandy Patinkin, Bernadette Peters and Elaine Stritch. In London, we got a gig in the back room of a pub in Islington. I am however quoting the show’s compere, lest you think I’m being overly critical, and in this case, small was indeed beautiful with a fun evening of mixed delights, celebrating the 80th birthday of Stephen Sondheim.

Finishing the Hat, at the King’s Head, featured a diverse array of West End performers coming together to pay tribute to Sondheim with a birthday concert, cherrypicking their favourite songs from his shows and performing them simply on a stage under Chris Peake’s musical direction, accompanied by keyboard, bass and percussion. The show was held together by compere Chris Allen, who provided some linking material whilst one performer shuffled off and the next emerged from the curtain behind, and a powerpoint presentation showed us pictures of the man himself throughout his career and even a hilarious snippet of the Simpsons. Yes, it was all a bit low-rent but this show proudly wore its heart on its sleeve and focused on highlighting the excellence of the compositions being sung, which even divested of their context remain songs of the highest quality. Continue reading “Review: Finishing The Hat, Sondheim’s 80th Birthday Concert, King’s Head Theatre”

2010 What’s On Stage Award nominations

BEST ACTRESS IN A PLAY
Rachel Weisz – A Streetcar Named Desire at the Donmar Warehouse 
Alison Steadman – Enjoy at the Gielgud 
Fiona Shaw – Mother Courage & Her Children at the NT Olivier
Helen Mirren – Phedre at the NT Lyttelton 
Juliet Stevenson – Duet for One at the Almeida & Vaudeville
Lesley Sharp – The Rise & Fall of Little Voice at the Vaudeville 

THE CAPITAL BREAKS BEST ACTOR IN A PLAY
Jude Law – Hamlet, Donmar West End at Wyndham’s 
David Harewood – The Mountaintop at Theatre 503 & Trafalgar Studios 1 
Dominic West – Life Is a Dream at the Donmar Warehouse 
Ken Stott – A View from the Bridge at the Duke of York’s 
Mark Rylance – Jerusalem at the Royal Court Downstairs
Samuel West – Enron at the Royal Court Downstairs  Continue reading “2010 What’s On Stage Award nominations”

Re-review: La Cage aux Folles, Playhouse

“Judas…Traitor…Het-er-o-sexual!”

When it was first announced that John Barrowman would be taking one of the lead roles in La Cage au Folles, many, including myself, instantly called this a crazy decision. Having seen this show twice already with different casts, and it remaining one of my favourite things I have seen on the stage this year, I had my doubts about this particular casting decision but when a family delegation (including 3 major Barrowman fangirls) expressed their interest in coming down to see the show, tickets were booked.

The obvious criticism is that John Barrowman is too young and good-looking to play Albin, especially given the actors who have played the role here previously, but by casting an equally younger-looking and handsome Simon Burke as his lover, this production has been cleverly reconceived. Instead of being a meditation on a drag queen at the end of his career, the focus here is more on Albin’s insecurities about his relationship with Georges, the comment about not being able to play Salome any longer becomes more of a bitchy aside than a sad statement of truth. There has been a considerable injection of raunchiness into this production, with some very suggestive croissant eating that was dangerously close to the bone (fnarr fnarr) for a family show. However this more overt sexuality played very convincingly with the younger coupling and led to some hilarious scenes. Continue reading “Re-review: La Cage aux Folles, Playhouse”

Review: A Little Night Music, Menier Chocolate Factory

Given the name of this blog, I was more than a little excited when the Menier Chocolate Factory announced their Christmas show as Stephen Sondheim’s A Little Night Music for, in case you do not know, ‘There Ought To Be Clowns’ is a lyric from the most well-known song from this musical, ‘Send in the Clowns’. It is based on Ingrid Bergman’s film Smiles of a Summer Night and with a score almost entirely written in waltz time, it is a coolly Scandinavian intellectual and detached look at romance.

Middle-aged Frederik has married Anna, his 18-year-old neighbour, and she is having difficulty with consummating the marriage. At the same time, Frederik’s son Heinrik is studying to become a minister yet lusts after Anna, who is younger than he is. When one of Heinrik’s old flames, a touring actress, returns to town with a jealous Brigadier-General (inconveniently married to one of Anna’s friends) as her current on-again off-again lover, the set of romantic relationships readjust and realign to potentially better suited pairings over a weekend in the country. Continue reading “Review: A Little Night Music, Menier Chocolate Factory”

Re-Review: Avenue Q again again! Noël Coward Theatre

So, up to my third trip to Avenue Q now with yet another group of people to whom I have raved about this show: I feel I ought to get some kind of commission at this rate. This will be a short piece as you can read my earlier two reviews which cover the production in much more depth.

The only notable change is the first major cast replacement with Ann Harada, who came over from the New York cast when this first opened, leaving the role of Christmas Eve to be replaced with Naoko Mori, who is perhaps most famous from her role in Doctor Who spin-off Torchwood. Making a completely different visual impact and bringing a different comic sensibility to the part, Mori impressed despite perhaps not inspiring the same vocal confidence as Harada. Continue reading “Re-Review: Avenue Q again again! Noël Coward Theatre”

Review: Avenue Q Lurvefest, Delfont Room

Continuing the massive love-in that I have for Avenue Q, when I heard about this late night cabaret show by the cast on Valentine’s Day at the Delfont Room, I had no doubt in my mind about booking. And it was well worth it as it turned out to be a brilliant and hugely amusing night, full of great singing. It played as a total assortment of things, with cast members mixing up serious heartfelt renditions of songs with personal meaning to witty interpretations of songs from other songs, both solo and in groups and of course some serious puppet play as the more furry characters from Avenue Q also took time out of their busy schedules to give us a number or 3.

I didn’t take notes as we were stood up for the show and it was the kind of night where I just wanted to soak it all up and enjoy it with my partner for once. It may not have been the most romantic way to spend Valentine’s, although I don’t think we ever thought it would be as it was frequently hysterical. So this is more a recollection of highlights from the evening than a full review. Continue reading “Review: Avenue Q Lurvefest, Delfont Room”