Review: “Daddy” A Melodrama, Almeida Theatre

Jeremy O Harris’ “Daddy” A Melodrama receives a fantastic production at Almeida Theatre, better than the play itself for the most part

“You have money, but the taste is like, booty”

One of the more anticipated casualties of lockdown, Jeremy O Harris’ “Daddy” A Melodrama arrives in some style at the Almeida. Matt Saunders’ Bel Air mansion design dominated by its swimming pool is jaw-droppingly good and Danya Taymor’s production reflects that largesse in many aspects, saturating its audience right from the off (and soaking them too, if you’re in the front couple of rows!).

But when you take away the glitz and the glamour, the gospel choirs, the full-frontal nudity, the repeated use of the N-word, even Harris’ reputation, we’re left with a fairly good play about sex and art, about gay relationships with age gaps and the fallout of becoming the next hot thing. It is clumsily structured though, the playwright still learning how to do complex without veering into unnecessarily convoluted. Continue reading “Review: “Daddy” A Melodrama, Almeida Theatre”

February casting updates

Full casting has been announced for the highly anticipated return of critically acclaimed musical The Wicker Husband. Following the show’s premature closure on its original press night on 16 March 2020, Artistic Director Paul Hart, Executive Director Claire Murray and the team at Newbury’s Watermill Theatre are thrilled to welcome the creative team and cast to The Watermill for a new run of the show this March.

Joseph Alessi will play ‘Cobbler’, Gemma Sutton will play ‘Ugly Girl’, Olivier Award winner George Maguire as ‘Wicker Husband’, Angela Caesar as ‘Cobbler’s Wife’, Jonathan Charles as ‘Innkeep’, Claire-Marie Hall as ‘Innkeep’s Wife’, Jack Quarton as ‘Tailor’ and Davina Moon as ‘Tailor’s Wife’,  Julian Forsyth as ‘Old Basket Maker’ with Jon Whitten as on-stage band playing the Hammered Dulcimer, Rachel Barnes also as on-stage band, and Pat Moran as onstage Musical Director.

Nisha Anil and Sebastian Charles will be the puppeteers of The Wicker Husband, with Tom Norman as Swing. Continue reading “February casting updates”

Book review: Time To Act – Simon Annand

Simon Annand’s Time To Act is a beautiful book of photos capturing actors in the minutes before they go on stage

Tackling the constraints of the pandemic in its own way, Simon Annand’s fantastic new book of photos Time To Act has launched a virtual exhibition of some of the photographs which has now been extended to until Christmas. It’s an ingenious way of sharing some of the hundreds of images from the book and should surely whet the appetite for either just buying it now or putting on your list for Santa to collect soon.

Continue reading “Book review: Time To Act – Simon Annand”

Not-a-review: Daddy, Almeida Theatre

Let me wet your whistle, should it be needed, for Jeremy O Harris’ Daddy, which is promises to return to the Almeida Theatre when possible

“Let the doors be shut upon him, that he may play the fool no where but in’s own house.”

Like all right-minded people, I was particularly gutted to be missing Daddy at the Almeida Theatre due to the ongoing Covid-19 crisis. Jeremy O Harris’ play made waves in New York last year and was a hotly anticipated arrival. If you so desire, you can read any number of reviews from the USA but I am reliably informed that it’s best to go in as blind as possible which is what I still intend to do. But to wet your whistle in an approrpriate way, keep on reading. 

Continue reading “Not-a-review: Daddy, Almeida Theatre”

Review: An Officer and a Gentleman, Curve

Emma Williams reconfirms her star status in this 80s musical adaptation of An Officer and a Gentleman at Leicester’s Curve Theatre ahead of a UK tour

“Way to go, Paula! Way to go!”

From its opening number (which provides an unsettling reminder that Status Quo actually had a decent tune or two), this major new musical of An Officer and a Gentleman shimmers with a sense of real quality. Some might demur at the notion of a movie remake peppered with a random assortment of pop songs from the 1980s but the resulting piece of theatre is highly enjoyable.

This is down to the integrity and craft of Nikolai Foster who rightly takes this source material (book by Douglas Day Stewart and Sharleen Cooper Cohen from his original screenplay) seriously. We may be in 1982 but there’s no jokey visual gags about that decade here, just an over-riding sense of life on the edge for the working class community of Pensacola, Florida, looking on at the US Naval Aviation Training Facility that dominates their city. Continue reading “Review: An Officer and a Gentleman, Curve”

Album Review: Memphis (2014 Original London Cast Recording)

“Open your eyes, I got a surprise!”

It was fascinating to revisit Memphis, a show that I enjoyed on seeing but in all honesty, isn’t one I’ve given much thought to since it left the West End after just over a year at the Shaftesbury Theatre (I went back once). I remarked then that David Bryan’s score was “highly tuneful if not instantly catchy” so was surprised that a fair few of the songs had managed to work their way into my subconscious and so provided that ‘ping’ of recognition which is always nice.

It was also interesting to listen to the songs in isolation from the show, as more of them than I remembered felt somewhat disconnected from the narrative, just happy in their sprightly pop song-ness. And thanks to the quality of the cast assembled here – leads Beverley Knight and Killian Donnelly, supported by the likes of Jason Pennycooke, Tyrone Huntley and Rolan Bell plus Claire Machin, it is a consistently enjoyable record to listen to. Continue reading “Album Review: Memphis (2014 Original London Cast Recording)”

Review: Annie, Piccadilly Theatre

“‘Steada treated
We get tricked”

With a singing style that is as strong as Theresa May’s record on supporting the police and an accent that is as stable as the content of her manifesto, it’s a bold move to make Miranda Hart the above the title star of this production of Annie, the first in London this millennium. To be fair though, unlike May she’s willing to work well with others, gamely throwing herself into harmonies and hoofing around in vaudevillean-style routines, but her performance is too close to the warmth of her TV persona to ever really convince of the darkness at the heart of Miss Hannigan.

Equally, it’s hard to feel that the West End is in real need of Annie and all its old-fashioned ways. Nikolai Foster’s production, seen on tour in the UK over the last year, has its certain charm but it is hard to get excited by any of it. Colin Richmond’s jigsaw puzzle of a set design misguidedly evokes thoughts of Matilda when in reality there’s nothing that fresh about it; Nick Winston’s choreography similarly promises much but ends up reaching for traditional touchpoints which end up underwhelming with the relatively small company at hand here, as evidenced in the small scale of ‘N.Y.C.’. Continue reading “Review: Annie, Piccadilly Theatre”

Review: Grease, Curve

“It’s still familiar to me
Sends a thrill right through me”

It’s a funny thing, returning to a show you know so well even if you haven’t seen it for maybe 2 decades. My abiding memory of seeing Grease as a child was Shane Richie corpsing after accidentally knocking the bosom of a co-star and then being singularly unimpressed that this happened every single night. And since then, I’ve never felt the need to see it on stage, whether on tour or in its intermittent West End appearances where, if memory serves, it became one of the guiltier culprits of stunt casting. 

But Nikolai Foster’s musical theatre experience and tenure at Leicester’s Curve as its AD piqued my interest and quenched my doubts sufficiently to make the trip to Rydell High and chang chang changitty chang sha-bop, darn me if it isn’t a rather good time. It does require you putting a measure of scepticism to one side in the show’s questionable message about changing who you are but it does also make you think about who we change for – it’s easy to forget that Danny has already fallen for Sandy by the time she decides to transform, is she changing for him, for herself, or to fit into the Pink Ladies?  Continue reading “Review: Grease, Curve”

The Curtain Up Show Album of the Year 2015 nominees

Best Cast Recording
Bend It Like Beckham (Original London Cast Recording)
Cool Rider (Original Studio Recording)
Gypsy (2015 London Cast Recording)
Made in Dagenham (Original London Cast Recording)
Memphis the Musical (Original London Cast Recording)

Best Solo Album
Cynthia Erivo and Oliver Tompsett Sing Scott Alan
Hugh Maynard – Something Inside So Strong
John Owen-Jones – Rise
Tim Prottey-Jones – To Do. To Be.

Re-review: Memphis, Shaftesbury Theatre

“Have a beer drop a time in the blind man’s jar”

Never one to look a gift-horse in the mouth, the offer of a return ticket to Memphis (the show, not the place sadly) was one I was happy to accept and I was glad for it too. The show remains a hugely impressive showcase for its cast and creatives whilst never quite engaging satisfactorily enough with its subject matter (see my original review here) but the overall effect is certainly one that is entertaining and should set the show up for a successful UK tour in 2016 after it finishes in the West End.

The main change has been the arrival of X Factor winner (and stone cold fox – who knew) Matt Cardle in the cast as Huey, replacing Killian Donnelly who has headed over to Kinky Boots. And as a musical theatre debutant, he is very good indeed, slipping into the role of the fast-talking, highly charismatic DJ with great ease, nailing an adorkable charm that is most appealing. It helps that he shares great chemistry with Beverley Knight as rising star Felicia, herself now off to the latest revival of Cats, further cementing her own MT reputation. Continue reading “Re-review: Memphis, Shaftesbury Theatre”