Album Review: Alfie Boe – As Time Goes By

Alfie Boe shines on As Time Goes By, his first solo record in four years featuring the music of the 30s and 40s

“Now you’re singin’ with a swing”

As Time Goes By is Alfie Boe’s tenth studio album and his first solo disc in four years, having hit a sweet spot with his recent collaborations with Michael Ball which saw them take home two Classic BRIT Awards this year. But he moves here to reclaim the solo spotlight with a record that celebrates the music of the 30s and 40s.

That it does remarkably well, as Boe reins in much of the booming power of his powerful tenor to allow colour and character into his vocal performance. And with Gordon Goodwin and his Big Phat Band providing sensational musical accompaniment throughout, this is a music lover’s tribute to an era which doesn’t always get the attention it deserves. Continue reading “Album Review: Alfie Boe – As Time Goes By”

Album Review: The Halcyon (Original Music From The 2017 Television Series)

“We knew the excitement was bound to begi
When Laura got blind on Dubonnet and gin

And scratched her veneer with a Cartier pin
And I couldn’t have liked it more”

The main reason for getting your hands on the soundtrack to the ITV series The Halcyon is for Beverley Knight’s highly spirited and hugely seductive take on Noël Coward’s ‘Marvellous Party’. I start with this, lest you think that I’m recommending Jamie Cullum to you (he has two tracks on here, specially recorded for the show) – his appeal having long eluded me. 

The rest of the album is filled with Kara Tointon’s rather lovely voice sliding over classics from the first half of the twentieth century and Samuel Sims’ original compositions for the 1940s drama. You might not think it’s particularly worth searching out if you didn’t see the show but in all honesty, even if you’re just a bit a fan of the era then it is worth a listen and a download or three. Continue reading “Album Review: The Halcyon (Original Music From The 2017 Television Series)”

TV Review: The Halcyon Series 1

“Ladies and gentlemen, please remain calm. I’m sure it’s just another false alarm”

Oh The Halcyon – shafted by the overwhelming desire for it to be the new Downton, or maybe the unfriendly Monday evening slot, or maybe the fact that Charlotte Jones’ serial never quite honed in on what it wanted to be. Following the fortunes of a luxury London hotel during the first couple of years of the Second World War, it took all possible opportunities to explore a society on the cusp of major change. But between the aristocrats who owned it, the aristocrats who stayed there, the lower classes who work there, and the multitudes of people affiliated to all these lives, the canvas was far too wide.

The hints were there right from the off in episode 1 which struggled to introduce even just its leading players in its running time, whilst still proving most tantalising, due to its cracking cast and its sumptuous design (those costumes!). At the heart of The Halycon lay the antagonistic relationship between Olivia Williams’ Lady Hamilton and Steven Mackintosh’s Mr Garland, owner versus manager as they butted heads over practicalities in the face of an ensuing Blitz but though their scenes were electric, they were given too little too late together to exploit this to its fullest.  Continue reading “TV Review: The Halcyon Series 1”

TV Review: The Halcyon Episode 1

“Gin please.
‘Of course.'”

Billing something as the new Downton Abbey is all well and good but for someone who only ever watched the Christmas specials because his parents commandeered the telly on Christmas Day, it’s not actually that much of a pull. What I can’t resist however is Olivia Williams, and Olivia Williams in a period drama in particular, and so I put on ITV for what feels like the first time in ages for The Halcyon.

Set in a swish London hotel of the same name in 1940, The Halcyon looks to be your regular upstairs-downstairs as the aristocratic residents lounge about talking about Nazi sympathisers and swigging gin, while the honest-guv staff scurry around being decent and hard-working and dull and thoroughly unbelievable in the way that they chat so easily with their employers and clientele (just one of the things that bugged me about the little of Downton that I saw). Continue reading “TV Review: The Halcyon Episode 1”

TV Review: The Sound of Music Live

“It’s quite different after you’ve grown up”

The hills are alive, with the sound of questions. Like, why. The UK’s first fully live musical theatre television broadcast saw ITV produce Rodgers and Hammerstein’s The Sound of Music though the result was a curious experiment that fell uneasily between two stools. Lacking the crucial energy that propels the best live theatre (which comes from an audience too), the production values (though often impressive) naturally fell short of the opportunities of filmed work

Which ultimately begs the question, what’s the point. Is the UK hankering for a new production of the show? It’s hardly as if we’re lacking for productions popping up regularly in theatres across the land. Is it showcasing the best of British musical theatre talent? In that case why cast someone like Strictly winner and former Eastender Kara Tointon as Maria and shunt the likes of Julie Atherton (one of the most outstanding performers we have, bar none) into the nun ensemble. Continue reading “TV Review: The Sound of Music Live”

Review: Relatively Speaking, Wyndham’s Theatre

“I can’t say I’m very taken with this marmalade”

It does seem that Alan Ayckbourn has been officially anointed national treasure status by the critical establishment but his charms have largely eluded me, appealing more to a middle-aged greying sensibility that trips merrily down the middle of the road. But the ease with which I was able to get one of the cheaper tickets for the balcony of the Wyndham’s Theatre, one of the more intimate West End houses and so a great bargain tip, for the final day of the run of Relatively Speaking meant a cheeky matinée was in the offing.

The story is one of his archetypal mistaken identity farces – Ginny has decided that Greg is the man for her even though it has only been a month and so she nips off to the country to end her affair with an older man. But she tells Greg she is going to visit her parents and in a moment of passion, he decides to follow her in order to ask for her father’s hand. What follows is confusion at the enduring mix-ups, exacerbated by the English reticence to confront the obvious and thus avoid social embarrassment.  Continue reading “Review: Relatively Speaking, Wyndham’s Theatre”

Review: Absent Friends, Harold Pinter Theatre

“Keep it cheerful”

In some ways, there’s no point in commenting on Alan Ayckbourn as a playwright – his position in the pantheon is evidently secured and his body of work is frequently revived and toured around the country. And with such a prolific pen, it is a considerable number of plays that he has now amassed – 75 at the last count. However, I have never really been seduced by him, the only play I’ve really liked was the atypical Snake in the Grass, the majority of his pieces have struck me as somewhat inconsequential and sitcom-like, and further dulled by repetition as evidenced by the smattering of his oeuvre I have witnessed. But I can never resist a ticket being dropped into my hand and the lure of an interesting looking cast meant that I took in Absent Friends at the Harold Pinter Theatre.

One of his earlier works from 1974, Absent Friends sees Ayckbourn train his aim on death and the different ways people deal with it. Colin’s old friends are holding a Saturday afternoon tea party to comfort him after the unfortunate death of his fiancee but as they attempt to step gingerly around the topic, he is more than willing to talk about her, their short time together and show his photo collection to everyone. But what Colin is blithely unaware of is that the perfect lives that he imagines they are all living are a sham and behind the forced smiles over the sandwiches, lies a seething mass of jealousy, anger and frustration that is coming to the boil and it becomes apparent that it is not him whose really in need of tea and comfort. Continue reading “Review: Absent Friends, Harold Pinter Theatre”

2012 What’s On Stage Award nominations

James Corden – One Man, Two Guvnors at the National, Lyttelton & Adelphi 
Benedict Cumberbatch – Frankenstein at the National, Olivier 
Jude Law – Anna Christie at the Donmar Warehouse 
Kevin Spacey – Richard III at the Old Vic 
David Tennant – Much Ado About Nothing at Wyndham’s
James Earl Jones – Driving Miss Daisy at Wyndham’s 

Vanessa Redgrave – Driving Miss Daisy at Wyndham’s 
Eve Best – Much Ado About Nothing at Shakespeare’s Globe 
Kristin Scott Thomas – Betrayal at the Comedy 
Ruth Wilson – Anna Christie at the Donmar Warehouse 
Samantha Spiro – Chicken Soup with Barley at the Royal Court Downstairs
Tamsin Greig – Jumpy at the Royal Court Downstairs Continue reading “2012 What’s On Stage Award nominations”