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 Burnt Part Boys, Park Theatre

“I watch women every Sunday tend a row of empty graves
Wives of men whose bodies never left company caves”

Another quickie as I continue to catch up with the openings I missed whilst on holiday. Receiving its European premiere here at the Park, The Burnt Part Boys continues the surprising number of musicals about mining (Floyd Collins alone would have scratched the itch, never mind Billy Elliot) and true to form, is musically really quite interesting. Chris Miller’s score folds in bluegrass and folk influences as befits its West Virginia setting and is certainly the strongest part of the show.

Mariana Elder’s book follows the impact of a tragic mining disaster on the hillside community of Pickaway – several men were killed and their bodies trapped underground but ten years later, news breaks that the mine is to be reopened, causing varied responses from the sons who lost their fathers. And particularly from brothers Pete and Jake, the former stealing some dynamite from his older sibling – now a miner himself – to force his own solution. Continue reading “Review: The Burnt Part Boys, Park Theatre”

Review: Love Story, Union Theatre

“Hey, I never liked it when you cried”

The Howard Goodall season at Sasha Regan’s Union Theatre continues with a revival of what could possibly be one of my favourite new musicals of recent times so no pressure there then. It is a tricky show to get right though, Stephen Clark’s book (from Erich Segal’s original story) speeds through the entire life of this tragic relationship at a relentless pace and so care does need to be taken to ensure the audience is fully engaged from the off and are kept fully onboard throughout.

In some way, the overall approach to Love Story here lacks the kind of propulsive energy that Clark’s book sorely needs. Regan curiously leaves lots of dead space in and around her scenes, far too many moments of awkward silence during transitions which are difficult in such a small space as this – the impact of Jenny communing with the spirit of her dead mother is somewhat muted by the sound of her heels as the ghost walks away… Continue reading “Review: Love Story, Union Theatre”