News: cast albums for The Little Prince, HouseFire and Treason

A trio of cast album announcements from the last couple of weeks offers a different way to help support theatres in these trying times

Nicholas Lloyd Webber and James D. Reid have launched a crowdfunding campaign to raise £200,000 for a special recording of The Little Prince musical album and provide over 70 people in the theatre industry with jobs during the current COVID-19 pandemic

Richard E. Grant, Kevin McKidd, Sierra Boggess, Tracie Bennett, Amara Okereke and Lorna Want will all lend their support to the project by playing principal cast members. Emma Lindars, Emma Harris, Sarah Ryan, Alison Arnopp, Janet Mooney, T’Shan Williams, John Addison, Oliver Lidert, Michael Pickering, James Gant and David Durham will also be part of the cast.

Audiences can choose from a range of available rewards from the crowdfunding campaign whilst also creating essential jobs. The full list of awards can be found here: https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/the-little-prince-the-album Continue reading “News: cast albums for The Little Prince, HouseFire and Treason”

Review: Holy Crap, King’s Head Theatre

“Paralysis sets in every time I try to sin”

There’s something to admire in the King’s Head’s devotion to offering something different for the Upper Street theatregoer – diverse programming with a decided LGBT focus, late night slots to allow festival-friendly shows a moment in the capital and to attract perhaps a different kind of audience. With Holy Crap though, it feels like a bit of a swing and a miss.

An 8.45pm start time and a 2 hours 15 minutes run time are uneasy bedfellows at the best of times and sad to say, these are not the best of times. Written by The Heather Brothers (best known for A Slice of Saturday Night), Holy Crap aims squarely for cult status with its bad-taste scything through religious hypocrisy and (the lack of) media ethics but in all honesty, it struggles to get past the barely puerile. Continue reading “Review: Holy Crap, King’s Head Theatre”

Review: The Life, Southwark Playhouse

“I’ve done everything that a body can do.
But how goddamn much can a body go through?”

There’s a moment early on in The Life where Sharon D Clarke’s been-around-the-block-and-then-some Sonja has a moment akin to Jenna Russell’s ‘The Revolutionary Costume for Today’ in Grey Gardens where she utterly and completely steals the show with an outstanding musical number, the likes of which will scarcely be bettered all year. Here it is ‘The Oldest Profession’, a world-weary but witty run through life working on the streets which is just bloody fantastic. But lest you worry that this is a musical to glamourise prostitution, all that good feeling is instantly shattered by a scene of brutal cruelty from her pimp which leaves you in no doubt as to how (melodramatically) serious The Life is.

Set on the seedier side of 42nd Street in 1980s New York, David Newman, Ira Gasman and Cy Coleman’s book remembers Times Square before it became tourist-friendly and follows a group of people just trying to get by in this callous world. Queen is turning tricks and saving money to move on out of this world but when her lover Fleetwood, a troubled Vietnam vet with a habit, blows half her stash on his stash, it’s clear that something drastic needs to happen. Angered by new arrival from the sticks Mary, aided by longtime friend and co-worker Sonja, and abetted by the malicious Memphis, Queen is spurred onto a course of ambitious but tragic action. Continue reading “Review: The Life, Southwark Playhouse”

Album Review: The Phantom of the Opera at the Royal Albert Hall

“We had such hopes…”

To celebrate its 25th anniversary, The Phantom of the Opera decamped to the Royal Albert Hall for 3 performances, the highlights of which were spliced together to give a full CD/DVD release package which contains as full a rendering of the entire score as it currently available. Maybe it was a rush job though as the sound quality on this CD really isn’t good enough for it to be genuinely recommendable, even for a live recording. 

I also had mixed feelings about the production itself. I just can’t get on with Sierra Boggess’ voice, her soprano voice always erring to the too shrill for my liking and the vibrato she employs has all the subtlety of a jackhammer. Christine isn’t the strongest-written of roles at the best of times and Boggess just feels too emotionally vapid to be the inspiration of such all-conquering adoration as she is served with in this story. Continue reading “Album Review: The Phantom of the Opera at the Royal Albert Hall”

Review: Dessa Rose, Trafalgar Studios 2

“Who does she think she is?”

Based on the novel of the same name by Sherley Anne Williams and premiering off-Broadway in 2005, this is a show that has taken its time to reach our shores. And reflecting the hugely diverse nature of their back catalogue, Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty’s Dessa Rose adds another multi-layered account of a key moment in US history (see Ragtime) to their account, in the tale of the diverse but complementary journeys of a young black woman and a young white women in the Deep South.

It’s 1847 and Dessa is reaping the results of her wilful temperament as a love affair with a fellow slave has left her pregnant and behind bars. But try as she might to assert her independence, she has to learn to accept the kindness of others, chief among whom is Ruth, a former Charleston belle whose marriage has gone awry due to her husband’s gambling problem. Alone on the plantation, she welcomes runaway slaves and altogether, through their difficulties, they dare to dream of a brighter future.  Continue reading “Review: Dessa Rose, Trafalgar Studios 2”

Review: The Thing About Men, Landor

“Who has an affair with someone who isn’t good in bed?!”

The Thing About Men is a US musical comedy about the unexpected bromance that develops between Sebastian and Tom when the latter moves into the former’s New York apartment. Unexpected, because Sebastian, a would-be bohemian artist, is having an affair with Lucy, who is married to advertising executive Tom but tired of his philandering ways. When Tom finally twigs that his wife has been having some fun as well, he moves out and somehow manoeuvres his way into identifying Sebastian, adopting the name Milo and moving in with him. But his plans for sabotage are derailed when the process of getting to know each other turns into the beginnings of a much-needed male friendship.

Billed as a musical comedy affair, Joe DiPietro’s book is based on a German film Men by Doris Dörrie and along with Jimmy Roberts songs’, makes for an enjoyable evening in the intimate surroundings of the Landor Theatre. It may be warmly funny rather than laugh-out-loud hilarious and pleasantly tuneful rather than instantly catchy (on first listen at least) and there’s a definite randomness to much of the story, but the creative team assembled by director Andrew Keates play very much to the venue’s strengths to elevate the production into something more than the sum of its parts.  Continue reading “Review: The Thing About Men, Landor”

Review: The Great British Musical, Criterion

“How could this be the ending of our story?”

The Great British Musical was a showcase event at the Criterion Theatre, put together by the production company Perfect Pitch to celebrate British musical theatre both new and old through the performances of a cracking company of West End stars both established and upcoming. It was compered by Stephen Fry, the evening was led by Paul Herbert’s musical direction and supported by young performers from the MTA.

We were treated to songs from shows that are currently open: George Stiles and Anthony Drewe gave us a mini comedy routine before launching into a medley from Betty Blue Eyes including the title song which worked and ‘Nobody’ which I wasn’t too sure about (I’m still longing to hear the promised version by Liza); Steven Webb and Jack Shalloo gave us their ‘Long Sunday Afternoon/That Guy’ from Blood Brothers and Lloyd-Webber was well-represented too, especially by Stuart Matthew Price’s ‘Heaven On Their Minds’ from Jesus Christ Superstar. Continue reading “Review: The Great British Musical, Criterion”