Festive news #1: West End Up Close… at Christmas

‘Tis the season for goodwill to all, and proving most generous with their time are various sets of musical theatre performers who are doing all sorts of charitable endeavours this December. First up are the guys at Relative Motion have just announced West End Up Close… at Christmas, their third concert in partnership with The House of St Barnabas, a charity and members’ club in the heart of Soho.

After sold-out concerts earlier this year with Jodie Jacobs and Julie Atherton, this festive concert will take place on Wednesday 14th December at 7.30pm feature the amazing talents of Madalena Alberto, Julie Atherton, Julie Jupp, Joshua LeClair, Nigel Richards and George Ure as they bring some of their favourite songs and seasonal classics to the Chapel of St Barnabas in an intimate, acoustic concert, musically directed by James Taylor. Continue reading “Festive news #1: West End Up Close… at Christmas”

Review: Road Show, Union Theatre

“Carelessness and being free of care,
Aren’t they the same?”

Since its inception in 1999, Stephen Sondheim’s Road Show – with book by John Weidman – has undergone considerable rehabilitation, not least three title changes, and so has rarely been seen on this side of the Atlantic. John Doyle transferred his Off-Broadway production to the Menier Chocolate Factory in 2011 for its European premiere but this is the first UK revival since then, director Phil Willmott continuing a mini-residency at the Union after last month’s fine Fear and Misery of the Third Reich

But where the episodic nature of Brecht’s storytelling worked well, Road Show is less successful in stringing together its vignettes of chasing the American Dream into something more affectingly substantial. The show follows the contrasting but always connected lives of brothers Wilson and Addison Meisner (per the programme) as they seek to parlay guts and gumption into something more, taking unsuspecting benefactors, love interests and easy marks along for the ride. Continue reading “Review: Road Show, Union Theatre”

Review: Hello Again, Hope Theatre

“The bed was not my own”
 

Round and round and round we go, Arthur Schnitzler’s La Ronde has inspired many an adaptation, so much so that the Hope Theatre’s Hello Again can’t even boast of being the only one on Upper Street (F**king Men at the King’s Head newly extending into December). But it is the only musical version there, Michael John LaChiusa crafting the daisy chain of sexual encounters into a song cycle that moves from decade to decade just as much as it does from bed to bed.

The show is made up of 10 two-handers, connected by one character remaining in the next scene, so first we have The Whore and The Soldier, then The Soldier and The Nurse, The Nurse and The College Boy and so on until The Senator and The Whore completes the cycle. But the timeline is played non-chronologically, the characters aren’t necessarily the same person from scene to scene, the only real connection is the multitude of ways in which sex is used and abused in our daily lives, no matter how sexuality is perceived in that particular age. Continue reading “Review: Hello Again, Hope Theatre”

Review: The Theory of Relativity, Drayton Arms Theatre

“Find your favourite fruit”

Given that in ‘Quiet’, Matilda is giving West End audiences lessons on the speed of light, it is brave of another show to enter into the same arena but given the college student age of the protagonists here, one can forgive writer Brian Hill and composer Neil Bartram. Their show The Theory of Relativity, previously seen in Toronto, lies somewhere between chamber musical, song cycle and even revue as eight characters explore the random connections in life (a popular theme this week after buckets) and discover the web of links that result from our actions, even if we’re unaware of how far-reaching they truly are.

The US college bias of the writing skews the experience a little but most of the trials and tribulations experienced here are universally felt – the fluttering nerves of first loves and coming out, dealing with upheaval and change, the pain of loss of love or life. And a large part of the relatability comes from the warmth and openness of the performances here – Jodie Steele’s affecting heartbreak in ‘Me and Ricky’, Ina Marie Smith’s plaintive lament for her mother in ‘Promise Me’, Joshua LeClair’s powerfully felt ‘Footprint’, all supported by some fine work from MD Barney Ashworth from the keyboard. Continue reading “Review: The Theory of Relativity, Drayton Arms Theatre”

Review: She Loves Me, Landor Theatre

“Still I’m incandescent
Like an adolescent”

There’s always something difficult about seeing a show after the notices have come in, especially when I’m going to be writing about it myself. The interconnectedness of Twitter and the blog means that it is nigh on impossible to ignore the chatter about something especially six days later (press night was on Monday, I went in on the Sunday after) and when Shenton himself devotes a whole blog to his love for a particular show, you have to think there’s something there. All that said, I really wasn’t a fan of She Loves Me. At all. And I’m struggling to see what people saw in both play and production.

The story may well be familiar to you – Joe Masterhoff’s book is based on the play Parfumerie by Miklos Lazslo and has been variously adapted into The Shop Around The Corner and the rom-com film You’ve Got Mail. Co-workers Amalia and Georg fall in hate at first sight as they struggle to work together when she gets a job at the perfume shop where he’s manager but little do they know that the lonely hearts club to which they both subscribe and through which they’ve each found a letter-writing love, has already brought them together. Continue reading “Review: She Loves Me, Landor Theatre”

Review: See Rock City And Other Destinations, Union Theatre

“It’s not what I expected.
Is it what you expected?”

I doubt it was fully the intention of bookwriter Adam Mathais and composer Brad Alexander to suggest Dante’s circles of hell in the unconnected stories of their song cycle See Rock City And Other Destinations but there are moments when it might feel like it. The show purports to show vignettes of people searching for the meaning of life and love against the backdrop of different US landmarks with no real connection between them all save the shadowy presence of the Tour Guide, lurking at each scene.

In reality, we get fragments of stories accompanied by a handful of songs each which a youthful company try their hardest to make register but few really succeed. They’re hardly helped by a format which allows so short a time to establish their characters and a score which seems intent mainly on showcasing a wide range of musical styles rather than really forming any sort of narrative push or wider coherence to the scattered storytelling. Nor does Graham Hubbard’s direction really help us to find any connective tissue that might help the piece hang together more effectively. Continue reading “Review: See Rock City And Other Destinations, Union Theatre”