Some early October musical news

Put A Pin In It Productions (a new Brighton based production company with a big heart and big ambition) brings a not-to-be-missed show to The Old Market in Hove this autumn. Voices of Today and Tomorrow is a musical show tunes event with a difference – partnering established West End stars with talented newcomers who are already making waves on the fringe of the industry and are sure-fire stars of tomorrow!

Jodie Steele, Luke Bayer, Maiya Quansah-Breed, Joanne Harper and Alexandra Doar plus Brighton-born Alex James Ellison, creator of the hit musical, FIVER, are set to appear live in concert alongside some of the UK’s most promising up-and-coming talent in the musical theatre industry, including Frankie Davison, Eleanor Lakin, Daniel Walford, Katie Ramshaw and Amie Shouler. Continue reading “Some early October musical news”

Some theatre news from the last week

New interview series from the NT, Julius Caesar and Sunset Boulevard reappearing digitally and Hushabye Mountain coming to the Hope Mill

© Louise Haywood-Schiefer

The National Theatre announced a new interview series Life in Stages, profiling some of the biggest names in British theatre. The series, which will be free to watch, will launch on the National Theatre’s YouTube channel on Thursday 22 April at 7pm BST with each new episode added at the same time every Thursday.  

The first episode boasts Olivia Colman and Director and Joint Chief Executive of the National Theatre Rufus Norris. The second episode on Thursday 29 April will feature Romeo & Juliet co-stars Josh O’Connor and Jessie Buckley. On Thursday 6 May the third episode puts Adrian Lester and Meera Syal together. Details of further episodes from this series will be announced later this month.  Continue reading “Some theatre news from the last week”

Review: Sunset Boulevard in Concert, Curve Leicester at home

As a piece of digital theatre, Curve Leicester’s Sunset Boulevard in Concert plays excitingly with the possibilities of this developing form 

“There’s nothing else – just us and these cameras”

Damned if do, damned if you don’t. Curve Leicester boldly took steps in the autumn to reimagine their auditorium in order to be able to mount a post-Lockdown #1 season of socially-distanced concert performances of previous hits. The ongoing mismanagement of the pandemic and the dance of the tiers put paid to those plans, even as technical rehearsals had already started but in a move that would please Norma Desmond herself, Sunset Boulevard in Concert has still found its way to the spotlight.

Nikolai Foster’s reconception of his initial adaptation of his original production sees him lean heavily into Sunset Boulevard’s cinematic origins, taking full advantage of the lack of audience to ditch the traditional notions of semi-staged concerts and create an inventive fusion of theatre and film. And with those restraints fully loosed, this production unfurls across every inch of the auditorium – Norma first appears from the back of the circle, Joe’s rooms are tucked into the fly tower, the ensemble watch impassively from the empty seats in an almost Brechtian manner of observation. Continue reading “Review: Sunset Boulevard in Concert, Curve Leicester at home”

UK theatre casting news – November update

Theatre Royal Bath will reopen on 3 December with a revised performance schedule for Oleanna and Copenhagen, the final two plays in the theatre’s Welcome Back Season.

David Mamet’s provocative  drama Oleanna, directed by Lucy Bailey will star Rosie Sheehy  and Jonathan Slinger, who replaces John Heffernan in the role of John. The play will now run in Theatre Royal Bath’s Ustinov Studio from 3 December to 22 December and again from 4 January to 16 January 2021. Reduced capacity at the Ustinov Studio will allow for an audience of 60 persons per performance.

The November run of Michael Frayn’s multi award-winning  Copenhagen has been postponed until the new year when it will play Theatre Royal Bath’s Main House from 20 January to 6 February 2021.  Directed by Polly Findlay it will star Haydn Gwynne, Philip Arditti, and in a change to original billing of Michael Gould, Malcolm Sinclair. Continue reading “UK theatre casting news – November update”

Review: Sunset Boulevard Curve, Leicester

“Smile a rented smile, fill someone’s glass
Kiss someone’s wife, kiss someone’s ass”

Ria Jones’ extraordinary history with Sunset Boulevard might well be entitled The Norma Conquests – from originally workshopping the role of Norma Desmond for Andrew Lloyd Webber (music) and Don Black and Christopher Hampton (book and lyrics) in 1991 to her headline-grabbing stint as Glenn Close’s understudy in last year’s ENO staged concert version of the show to finally getting to play the leading role in her own right on this UK tour, premiering at Leicester’s Curve, some 26 years later.

And was it worth the wait? Jones certainly is making the most of her well-deserved moment, offering a different skillset for her markedly different interpretation. Jones is undoubtedly the better singer, the lushness of her voice soaring effortlessly to the impassioned heights of the score. And she’s a different kind of actress, offering a brasher, more manic kind of energy to this former movie star caught up in a fantasy world when a young screenwriter (Danny Mac) accidentally offers hope to her faded career.  Continue reading “Review: Sunset Boulevard Curve, Leicester”

Review: Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, West Yorkshire Playhouse

“Scrumptious as the breeze across the day”

Who knew that Leeds would be a musical theatre hotspot this December but between The Girls and this Music & Lyrics and West Yorkshire Playhouse production of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, it’s been the place to be for big, warm-hearted musical fun. This is the first new version of Chitty Chitty… since its original 2002 West End production and its many regional tours but in James Brining’s clever and wondrous adaptation, it’s thoroughly revitalised and as lovely as any cherry peach parfait.

Ian Fleming’s novel was adapted by Jeremy Sams, via Roald Dahl and Ken Hughes’ own reshaping of the story for the cinema, and with a glorious score from the Sherman Brothers (as if they could do any other kind) beefed up with new songs by them as well, it captures much of the Disney noir feel of the film whilst bringing its own depths too. I’d forgotten how much sadness there was in the tale and that’s something Brining never lets us forget, even whilst delighting us with flying cars and fun. Continue reading “Review: Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, West Yorkshire Playhouse”

Review: Barnum, New Wimbledon

“If I present an educated pooch
Who’s trained to dance the hoochie cooch
What better way to waste a bit of time”

We’re so used now to the big Chichester musicals making the automatic leap into the West End that it was something of a surprise to hear that last year’s Barnum would not be getting the much-rumoured transfer even with less than stellar reviews. And seeing the show for the first time tonight in its retooled version – Jean Pierre Van Der Spuy directing an adaptation of Timothy Sheader and Liam Steel’s CFT production – which is heading out on a very extensive UK tour that stretches to next August, it is not hugely difficult to see why, if one looks at it with a coolly dispassionate eye.

Mark Bramble’s book has showman PT Barnum following his dreams to put on the world’s first travelling circus but little dramatic impetus to form a more interesting narrative journey. And Cy Coleman’s score with Michael Stewart’s lyrics has some pleasant enough songs in it – ‘Come Follow The Band’ and ‘There’s A Sucker Born Every Minute’ – but it also has a lot of filler; for such an ambitious show, it is a rather bland musical experience. Fortunately it is also blessed with some game-changing visuals and Andrew Wright’s peerless (certainly for his generation) choreographic gifts. Continue reading “Review: Barnum, New Wimbledon”

Re-Review: Crazy For You, Novello

“Who could ask for anything more?!”

After a highly accomplished run at the Open Air Theatre, Crazy For You has transferred into the West End to take up residence in the Novello Theatre, taking advantage of the premature closing of Betty Blue Eyes. I saw it in Regents Park – review can be read here – and was easily seduced by its combination of Stephen Mears’ pulsating choreography and lively renditions of selections from the Gershwins’ considerable catalogue of songs. The show has been transplanted indoors pretty much in its entirety and continues to be a whole heap of uncomplicated entertainment.

I previously described the story as ‘pure hokum’ and little has changed in that respect but it really doesn’t matter in the end, because this really is a show that is all about the singing and dancing. It doesn’t so much reinvent this set of classic Gershwin songs, they are too well known for that, but it does present them in a fresh new setting which feels incredibly natural and well-fitted. Sometimes with jukebox shows there can be the feeling of songs being shoe-horned into the narrative but because this show wears its story quite lightly, that is rarely the case here. Instead, there’s a cheery skip through some of the best songs ever written that is guaranteed to lift the heart. Continue reading “Re-Review: Crazy For You, Novello”

Review: Crazy for You, Open Air Theatre

“Dancing makes my troubles all seem tiny”

There’s no hiding the fact that the Open Air Theatre’s Crazy for You is pure hokum but for sheer escapist fun and a feel-good atmosphere that will whisk you away from the troubles outside of Regent’s Park for an evening, this will pretty much do the trick. Based on the George and Ira Gershwin musical Girl Crazy, Ken Ludwig – he of the recently departed Lend Me A Tenor – wrote a new book in 1992, heavy on post-modern knowingness and light on substance: silly but fun – if you come here looking for authenticity you’re bound to be disappointed!

Banker Bobby Child is forced to abandon his Broadway dreams and is dispatched to Deadrock, Nevada to foreclose on a theatre there. Sensing an opportunity as he falls head over heels with the daughter of the theatre’s owner, he decides to impersonate the Broadway impresario he longs to work for and arranges for a benefit show to be put on to save the theatre: madcap fun ensues with mistaken identities – clearly a Ludwig fave – at the fore. Continue reading “Review: Crazy for You, Open Air Theatre”