News: The Theatre Channel announce a Stephen Schwartz spectacular for Episode 8

Adam Blanshay Productions’ acclaimed web series The Theatre Channel returns with a show stopping musical spectacular to honour the legendary composer and lyricist Stephen Schwartz (Wicked; Pippin; Godspell). Under the new direction of Olivier Award nominated choreographer Fabian Aloise (Evita, Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre; Wicked, Germany) Schwartz’s modern masterpieces will come alive led by a sensational cast, including leading West End women Alice Fearn (Wicked; Come From Away), Louise Dearman (the only woman to play both Elphaba and Glinda – Wicked; Evita), and Christine Allado (The Prince of Egypt; Hamilton).

Further casting includes the incredible Stewart Clarke (Be More Chill; Fiddler on the Roof), Melanie La Barrie (Wicked; & Juliet), Cedric Neal (Back to the Future; Motown: The Musical) and the cast of the critically acclaimed revival of Pippin at the Charing Cross Theatre, with their fantastic rendition of ‘Magic To Do’. This marks the first time The Theatre Channel is doing a music video in collaboration with a production currently running in the West End, as they continue to evolve their concept. Continue reading “News: The Theatre Channel announce a Stephen Schwartz spectacular for Episode 8”

Review: Pippin, Charing Cross Theatre

Steven Dexter’s production of Pippin transfers to the Charing Cross Theatre with some nifty choreography

“I don’t know anything about ducks”

I was low-key obsessed with Godspell as a kid, a production at the school where one or other of my parents worked winning me over to its charms early on. But Pippin, also written by Stephen Schwartz one year on in 1972, entirely passed me by and even as a grown-up kid, it isn’t a show that has ever won me over either time I’ve seen it.

Hence I gave Steven Dexter’s boutique production a miss when it opened in chilly English summer evenings at the Garden Theatre last year but now that it has resurfaced indoors at the Charing Cross Theatre, I gave it a go. Here, a strong cast give it their all with some nifty choreography but my heart remains untouched. Continue reading “Review: Pippin, Charing Cross Theatre”

Lockdown theatre review: Jesus Christ Superstar (2012 Arena Tour)

Jesus Christ Superstar takes to the “rock’n’roll” arena. It isn’t good.

“Why waste your breath moaning at the crowd?
Nothing can be done to stop the shouting.”

Amidst the deluge of theatrical content emerging online, it can be quite hard to make decisions about what to actually watch. Andrew Lloyd Webber’s release of the 2012 live arena tour of Jesus Christ Superstar stood out for me as though I did go and see it at the O2, we were seated at the back of the cavernous space and so the opportunity to actually see what happened on the actors’ faces was enough to tempt me. Plus it’s Good Friday…

Pre-dating the Open Air Theatre’s revelatory restaging by three years, Laurence Connor’s restaging of ALW’s 1971 rock opera lays its contemporary allusions thickly (Occupy, Guantánamo, reality TV) but right from the start, you can see how superficial it is. A busy prologue full of kinetic energy references the Occupy movement strongly but as soon as the show proper starts, it’s as if it never happens, you could cut it and never know the difference.

Continue reading “Lockdown theatre review: Jesus Christ Superstar (2012 Arena Tour)”

Review: Show Boat, Crucible

“We drink water from a dipper,
You drink champagne from a slipper”

Christmastime is often one for traditions and one of the better theatrical ones has proven to be the big musicals that Sheffield Theatres produce. From Me and My Girl to My Fair Lady to a never-better Company and last year’s Anything Goes that went on to tour, the outgoing Artistic Director Daniel Evans has proved a master at big-hearted, large-scale productions that skimp on nothing to create some of the best musical theatre the country has to offer.

This year sees Jerome Kern and Oscar Hammerstein’s Show Boat as Evans’ final show (as AD at least) and it is an undoubted success, a fitting festive farewell. It’s a brave choice too, an unwieldy beast of a story based on Edna Ferber’s novel about the backstage drama onboard the Mississippi show boat Cotton Blossom, using the performing troupe as a prism through which to view several decades of momentous change in the USA from the late 1800s. Continue reading “Review: Show Boat, Crucible”

Review: Jesus Christ Superstar, O2 Arena

“Tell the mob who sing your song that they are fools and they are wrong”

Having gone down the road of television casting once again for one of his shows and quite possibly killing off the genre at the same time, Andrew Lloyd-Webber’s much-touted revival of his 1971 rock opera Jesus Christ Superstar will hopefully have the same effect on staging theatrical productions in cavernous arenas like London’s O2. Director Laurence Connor’s concept has been to relocate the loose retelling of Jesus’ last week to a modern-day context, pulling out strong allusions to the Occupy movement, riots, Guantánamo Bay and reality television. 

Tim Minchin’s Judas is the undoubted highlight of the show, a stirringly confident rock vocal of fierce conviction that near perfectly captures the essence of what Lloyd-Webber is trying to achieve but elsewhere there is much less strength. Ben Forster’s Jesus mauls Gethsemane almost beyond recognition but fares better elsewhere where his falsetto is more aptly deployed and his angst not so overplayed; Melanie Chisholm’s goth take on Mary Magdalene is anaemically thin and utterly forgettable; Chris Moyles’ highly gimmicky Jerry Springer-esque King Herod – he hosts a show called Hark! with Herod, a rare flash of genuine humour – is thankfully brief; Alex Hanson’s Pilate is a quality performance that stands out from a hard-working ensemble, but too often the wide lens of the show means that their efforts pass by unnoticed. Continue reading “Review: Jesus Christ Superstar, O2 Arena”

Review: Grateful, starring Anton Stephans, Cadogan Hall

“Whatever my lot, thou has taught me to say, it is well, it is well, with my soul.”

Grateful, featuring Anton Stephans is billed as an evening of uplifting gospel and musical theatre, taking place at Cadogan Hall with numerous special guests from the West End, a 20-piece band and ably assisted by the West End Gospel Choir, a collective of performers from a range of West End shows and the music circuit. Stephans is such an irrepressible and charming presence on stage that one imagines this evening would have been a success anyway, even without the harrowing circumstances that led us here.

For the past two and a half years, Stephans has been battling horrendous illness with tumours on his brain and adrenal glands and incredibly gloomy prognoses, but fortunately he has fought the battle well and is now making a full recovery. Hence his return to the stage here to return to his love of performing and pass on his incredible enthusiasm and joie de vivre and the message of the power of positive thinking. He has said that the programme of songs that have moved him and have significance in his life came to him in his darkest moments and consequently it chose to inspire and uplift, to celebrate life and love rather than dwell on the sad times. And boy, did it inspire the audience at Cadogan Hall and uplift them right out of their seats and onto their feet, clapping and cheering and singing along to what was a truly joyous occasion. Continue reading “Review: Grateful, starring Anton Stephans, Cadogan Hall”