Lockdown review: Les Misérables – The Staged Concert

Les Misérables – The Staged Concert is released on digital download, along with a bonus featurette which is highly amusing

“Minutes into hours, and the hours into years”

Striding over the barricades to alleviate lockdown tedium, Les Misérables – The Staged Concert has now been released on digital download. The release will raise funds for performers, musicians and the NHS as well as incurring additional donations (an extra £5 for every purchase) from The Mackintosh Foundation which will go to the charity Acting for Others, the Musicians Union Coronavirus Hardship Fund and Captain Tom Moore’s Walk for the NHS fund

You can actually watch Bringing It Home – A Les Miz Stay at Home Special below but I thought I’d give you fair warning as it has its pros and cons. Continue reading “Lockdown review: Les Misérables – The Staged Concert”

Blogged: long-running shows and long-running blogs – what does the future hold

I revisit long-runners The Mousetrap, Les Misérables and Wicked, and come to a decision (of sorts) about the future of this blog

“Here’s to you and here’s to me”

Well 2019 has been an interesting year so far and one full of significance – I’ve turned 40, this blog has turned 10 and it’s all got me in a reflective mood. Personally, professionally, is this what I want to be doing? Do quote a Netflix show I haven’t even seen, does all this bring me joy…? Over the last couple of weeks, I’ve revisited a few long-running shows in the West End to consider what cost longevity. 

The longest running show in the West End is The Mousetrap – 66 years old with over 27,000 performances and their answer to keeping going is to not change a single bit – has the show even ever cast a person of colour? My limited research suggests not… On the one hand, it’s a policy that does seem to have worked and that record is a mighty USP, although does the number of empty seats at the St Martin’s that afternoon suggest a waning of interest finally? Continue reading “Blogged: long-running shows and long-running blogs – what does the future hold”

Album Review: Bumblescratch (2016 London Concert Cast Recording)

“What is this that I see”

Robert J Sherman’s musical Bumblescratch played a high-profile charity concert at the Adelphi Theatre last year and keeping up the energy behind this piece of new writing, the original band and cast made this London Concert Cast Recording at Angel Studios, under the auspices of the folks at SimG Records. It’s a canny way to keep up the profile of a show that only a handful of people got to see and a useful tool for those that did to reassess the score.

Sherman’s extensive family legacy (A Spoonful of Sherman) means that the family friendly ethos is never far from the surface and it is something that has emerged in his previous work (Love Birds). And in some ways it is a blessing and a curse. A blessing in that he clearly has a gift for melody, sometimes gentle, sometimes nagging (in the best way); and a curse in that it is so ingrained in his musical identity that it is hard to escape it. Continue reading “Album Review: Bumblescratch (2016 London Concert Cast Recording)”

Review: Pete ‘n’ Keely, Tristan Bates

“It’s us again”

Emily Bestow’s technicolor set design for Pete ‘n’ Keely is one of those which fully exploits the transformative possibilities of the Tristan Bates’ black box, converting the space into a convincing evocation of a swingin’ Sixties television studio. That studio is currently home to pop duo Pete Bartel and Keely Stevens who soared up the charts with their winning charm and captured the hearts of a nation when they got married. Five years down the line though, fame has cooled, they’re divorced and the first time they’ve met up since, they’re filming a live reunion special on TV.

Thus we get a variety show format that allows the pair to fill us in anecdotally on their shared past through the medium of popular song, at least when their barely concealed present animosity doesn’t interfere. For there’s a multitude of unresolved issues that need to be dealt with if they’re to make it to the end of the programme, never mind consider the future beyond it. Appropriately enough for the era, Pete ‘n’ Keely is a rather gentle show and Matthew Gould’s production here possesses a warmly nostalgic glow that is well essayed by performers David Bardsley and Katie Kerr. Continue reading “Review: Pete ‘n’ Keely, Tristan Bates”

Review: Bumblescratch, Adelphi Theatre

“At least a rat ‘as got an excuse”

In the cut-throat world of the West End, introducing a new musical is an undoubted challenge so it is quite gratifying to see the backers of Bumblescratch going all out to make its mark with this gala concert launch. With merchandise available, a full-throttle social media campaign in train, and a top-notch cast and creative team making the most of their two week rehearsal period, there’s certainly no lack of ambition here.

Set in London during the Great Plague of 1665 and Great Fire of 1666, the show is told from the perspective of plague rat Melbourne Bumblescratch and the anthropomorphic nature of the musical should come as no surprise once you learn it was written by Robert J Sherman, who has both form of his own (Love Birds) and an impressive family history (A Spoonful of Sherman) to live up to when it comes to writing a tune or two. Continue reading “Review: Bumblescratch, Adelphi Theatre”

Review: Sunset Boulevard, London Coliseum

“Has there ever been a moment
With so much to live 
for?” 

Dammit – one of the key rationales behind my Broadway blowout last winter was seeing actors I didn’t think I’d otherwise have the chance to see in the West End, Glenn Close being chief among them and thus I forked out a pretty penny to see her in Edward Albee’s A Delicate Balance. So naturally her return to these shores was announced a few months later with a reprisal of her Tony Award-winning performance as Norma Desmond in Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Sunset Boulevard.

And as with last year’s Sweeney Todd here at the Coliseum too, director Lonny Price and the ENO have returned to the semi-staged format which allows them to mount a bare-bones production and still charge full whack for tickets, prices thus go up to £150. I understand that money has to be made, especially for an organisation in as perilous a position as theirs and they say at least 400 tickets at every performance is available at £25 or under (altitude training not provided though…) Continue reading “Review: Sunset Boulevard, London Coliseum”

Review: Sweeney Todd, London Coliseum

“At the top of the hole sit the privileged few”

And it is mostly the privileged few who’ll get to see this lavish English National Opera production of Sondheim’s oft-revived Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street as stalls seats will set you back an eye-watering £95, £125 or £155. Somewhat cheaper seats are available from the upper circle upwards but still…* Lonny Price’s semi-staged production (with its nifty fake-out of a beginning) was first seen in New York in March 2014 but unsurprisingly, given it featured Emma Thompson and Bryn Terfel as Mrs Lovett and the demon barber himself, it declared “there’s no place like London” and has now taken up residence in the Coliseum alongside a cast of nearly 40 musical theatre veterans (and Thompson’s daughter) and a lush-sounding  orchestra of 60.

Thompson and Terfel may be the headline names but the real pleasure comes in the luxury casting that surrounds them. Philip Quast and John Owen-Jones bring a richness of vocal to Judge Turpin and Pirelli respectively, Alex Gaumond and Jack North both mine effectively Dickensian depths to Beadle and Toby and there’s something glorious about having the marvellous Rosalie Craig here, even in so relatively minor a role as the Beggar Woman as her quality shines through despite that wig. Matthew Seadon-Young and Katie Hall as Anthony and Johanna are both really impressive too, their voices marrying beautifully as they respond intuitively to the textures of David Charles Obell’s orchestra. Continue reading “Review: Sweeney Todd, London Coliseum”

TV Review: What Remains

“Something bad always happens when you go upstairs”

Something is in the water of British crime drama that is making it more interesting than it has been for quite some time. Tony Basgallop’s What Remains, directed by Coky Giedroyc, has thrilled across four weeks on BBC1 making the kind of whodunnit that genuinely had one guessing right till the very end with its carousel of hugely unlikeable personalities remarkably all remaining in the mix for the crime for a very long time. Set in an inner-city townhouse split into flats, it plays on the anonymity of metropolitan life – the fact that we can live next door to people and remain strangers, dissociated from their lives entirely. Such is the fate of Melissa Young, whose decaying body is found in the loft of a building yet whose absence for two years has gone unnoticed. 

She owned the top flat but as soon we get to know the rest of the inhabitants, we soon see why this wasn’t the happiest of houses. A cranky maths teacher lives in the basement with something of a dirty secret, on the ground floor is a recovering alcoholic journalist whose romance with a colleague is under threat from his self-possessed teenage son, above them are lesbian graphic designers gripped in a psychotically abusive relationship and above them are a newly-arrived and heavily pregnant young couple. Throw in a widower detective on the brink of retirement and no life outside of work and the scene is set for cracking four-parter What Remains. Continue reading “TV Review: What Remains”

Review: Wag! The Musical, Charing Cross

“I really have a heart, let that be known,
I once sponsored an elephant in Sierra Leone”

I doubt anyone is turning up to WAG! The Musical expecting insightful commentary into the illusory nature of celebrity and the socio-economic impact of the WAG phenomenon on a generation of young women. But it is hard to see exactly what Tibetan writer Belvedere Pashun is trying to achieve or say. This is no indictment of the WAG lifestyle – with personal spray tan artists and eyelash suppliers credited in the programme, how could it be – and it seems like it wants to break away from the stereotypical image of these figures to show the real women within.

But it is hard to feel any vestige of sympathy or indeed empathy for any of them when everything they do pertains to received notions of WAGdom. The tottering around in sky-high heels, the money-grabbing chase after rich men, the turning up to any event which has the label ‘celebrity’ plastered on it, sleeping with other women’s husbands, acting like a grade-A bitch when you’ve been caught sleeping other women’s husbands and still somehow getting away with it. There’s no real attempt to show that there could be anything more to a WAG than these situations and so the stereotypes end up being reinforced. Continue reading “Review: Wag! The Musical, Charing Cross”