Film review: The Witches (2020)

Robert Zemeckis takes on Roald Dahl’s The Witches for a new spin but loses his purpose pretty quickly. And Anne Hathaway is no Anjelica Huston as the Grand High Witch

“That’s how you wanna play, we’ll play”

I swear I went into watching this ‘reimagining’ of The Witches with as open a mind as I could muster but the truth, Nicolas Roeg’s iconic 1990 film looms incredibly large in the mind as I first saw it then as an impressionable 11 year old. The fabulousness of Anjelica Huston’s performance, and Jane Horrocks’ menacing work too, etched themselves on my mind, leaving Robert Zemeckis with lots to do here.

And I’m not sure he really does it. His screenplay, written with Guillermo Del Toro and Kenya Barris, shifts the action to Alabama in the late 1960s but does little with that, aside from casting the excellent Octavia Spencer as Grandma alongside Jahzir Bruno’s Charlie. And in simply retreading familiar ground, there’s little that really gives any sort of compelling reason for this new adaptation to exist. Continue reading “Film review: The Witches (2020)”

Review: Hairspray Live (The Show Must Go On)

A joyous production of Hairspray Live gives you hope that the show will go on with The Show Must Go On

“You can wonder i you wanna but I never ask why”

I assumed that since The Show Must Go On went with The Sound of Music Live last week that they would be working their way through the series of live TV musicals that NBC had aired in the US. In going with Hairspray Live this weekend though, it seems that we’ve skipped Peter Pan and The Wiz (maybe due to rights issues?), though it’s not necessarily the worst thing as Hairspray is such a joyous show it should perk up many a flagging spirit.

It proves far superior to The Sound of Music and you have to believe that it stems from a far more successful casting policy. Heading out for a national casting call for Tracy works because she’s such an everywoman character but even then, newcomer Maddie Baillio is thoroughly charming. Having Harvey Fierstein reprise his Edna is a masterstroke and then roping in Tony winners Kristin Chenoweth and Jennifer Hudson indicates that the right strengths were being looked for. Continue reading “Review: Hairspray Live (The Show Must Go On)”

News: Sondheim’s 90th birthday concert line-up announced

Legendary Broadway composer Stephen Sondheim will be toasted with an all-star birthday concert, streaming live on Sunday 26th April. Hosted by Raúl Esparza, with musical direction by Mary-Mitchell Campbell, and coinciding with the 50th Broadway anniversary of Sondheim’s CompanyTake Me to the World: A Sondheim 90th Birthday Celebration can be seen for free on YouTube. 

This once-in-a-lifetime event, benefiting ASTEP (Artists Striving to End Poverty), will include a range of songs from the Sondheim catalogue performed by many of the artists who delivered iconic turns in his musicals, including Meryl Streep, Bernadette Peters, Patti LuPone, Mandy Patinkin, Audra McDonald, Christine Baranski, Donna Murphy, Kristin Chenoweth, Sutton Foster, Brian Stokes Mitchell, Kelli O’Hara, Aaron Tveit, Maria Friedman, Katrina Lenk, Michael Cerveris, Brandon Uranowitz, Elizabeth Stanley, Chip Zien, Alexander Gemignani, Iain Armitage, Stephen Schwartz and, from the cast of Pacific Overtures at Classic Stage Company, Ann Harada, Austin Ku, Kelvin Moon Loh and Thom Sesma.

Album Reviews: Singing You Home / Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again / Vanara the Musical

This trio of album reviews covers Singing You Home: Children’s Songs for Family Reunification, Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again (2018 Film Soundtrack) and Vanara the Musical

“Ay, ay, ay, ay, canta y no llores”

Regardless of your politics, Singing You Home: Children’s Songs for Family Reunification is a really rather lovely album of bilingual children’s songs. But in this day and age nothing is not political and the current US administration’s policy of child separation is a genuine atrocity that it is hard to know how to respond. Laura Benanti had the nous to conceive this project though and produced it with Mary-Mitchell Campbell and Lynn Pinto, and a whole host of the great and good of the American musical theatre. Thus this is more than just your usual set of lullabies – Lin-Manuel Miranda and Mandy Gonzalez crooning on the Mexican song ‘Cielito Lindo’, Audra McDonald shining on Jason Robert Brown’s ‘Singing You Home’, Kristin Chenoweth’s ‘Beautiful Dreamer’, well worth the investment for this uniquely exceptional cause. Continue reading “Album Reviews: Singing You Home / Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again / Vanara the Musical”

Album Reviews: Kristen Chenoweth – For The Girls / Idina Menzel – Christmas: A Season of Love

A pair of album reviews for the OG Wicked stars – Kristen Chenoweth’s For The Girls and Idina Menzel’s Christmas: A Season of Love

“You know the Queen of hearts is always your best bet”

No matter how they’ve diverged now, the careers of Kristen Chenoweth and Idina Menzel will forever be connected by Wicked and so you wonder whether their respective 2016 albums being released at the same time was ‘just’ a coincidence. And those ties just won’t quit as late 2019 sees them both dropping records, albeit with a month or two inbetween this time.

Chenoweth’s album is For The Girls, a concept album of sorts, produce by Steve Tyrell and Jon Allen, focusing on tracks either written or performed by female artists. She might not exactly reinvent the wheel with her covers, but there’s something impressive about the way in which she draws the connecting line between the country pop of her upbringing – ‘Desperado’, ‘Crazy’ – to the standards for which she’s now famed – a glorious ‘The Man That Got Away’, ‘The Way We Were’. As diverse a collection it gets, it always coheres effectively.  Continue reading “Album Reviews: Kristen Chenoweth – For The Girls / Idina Menzel – Christmas: A Season of Love”

2018 BroadwayWorld UK Awards Shortlist

Best Actor in a New Production of a Musical
Alex Wadham, The Full Monty: The Musical, Old Joint Stock Theatre, Birmingham
Giles Terera, Hamilton, Victoria Palace Theatre
Jamal Kane Crawford, Fame, UK Tour
Jamie Muscato, Heathers The Musical, The Other Palace/Theatre Royal Haymarket
Louis Maskell, The Grinning Man, Trafalgar Studios
Marc Antolin, Little Shop of Horrors, Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre

Best Actor in a New Production of a Play
Aidan Turner, The Lieutenant of Inishmore, Noël Coward Theatre
Ben Batt, The York Realist, Donmar Warehouse/Crucible Theatre, Sheffield
Ian McKellen, King Lear, Chichester Festival Theatre
Matthew Tennyson, A Monster Calls, Old Vic
Reed Birney, The Humans, Hampstead Theatre
Tyrone Huntley, Homos, Or Everyone in America, Finborough Theatre Continue reading “2018 BroadwayWorld UK Awards Shortlist”

Album Reviews: Over the Moon: The Broadway Lullaby Project / Mamma Mia / Il Divo – A Musical Affair

This trio of album reviews covers Over the Moon: The Broadway Lullaby Project, Mamma Mia! The Movie Soundtrack and Il Divo – A Musical Affair

“You know I’ve got
So much that I wanna do”

Over the Moon: The Broadway Lullaby Project has an amazing list of performers, composers, and musicians behind it, all coming together to create a 2-CD set and 48-page children’s book to benefit breast cancer research, support and education. And rather wonderfully, it is an utterly gorgeous record. Brilliant jazz musicians accompany writers like Michael John LaChiusa, Adam Gwon and Kristen Anderson-Lopez & Robert Lopez in indulging their gentler side to create the prettiest tunes. And then a cast of dreams sing them – just listen to Raúl Esparza’s aching tenderness on ‘This Little World’, or Donna Murphy’s crystal clear ‘Lucky’ (by Stephen  Schwartz) – we should all be so lucky to be lulled to sleep this way. Continue reading “Album Reviews: Over the Moon: The Broadway Lullaby Project / Mamma Mia / Il Divo – A Musical Affair”

Review: Speech and Debate, Trafalgar Studios 2

“Please don’t riff”

An opportunity to see this play in dress rehearsal was snaffled away from me at the last minute so stubbornly, I’d opted not to see it. But the offer of a friend’s spare ticket and the good notices that Patsy Ferran’s performance seemed to be universally receiving eventually got me along to the Trafalgar Studios’ smaller space.

Stephen Karam’s Speech and Debate dates from 2006 (his most recent play The Humans took the 2016 Tony Award for Best Play) and though this is the UK premiere, the drama is also getting a film adaptation which arrives later this month. It’s a curiously American thing – in the same way that spelling bees have been celebrated, Karam extols the virtues of the titular debating society.  Continue reading “Review: Speech and Debate, Trafalgar Studios 2”

The Curtain Up Show Album of the Year 2016 nominees

Best UK Cast Recording
American Psycho – Original London Cast Recording
Close To You: Bacharach Reimagined – Original London Cast Recording
Funny Girl – Original London Cast Recording
Half A Sixpence – 2016 London Cast Recording
Kinky Boots – Original West End Cast Recording
Mrs Henderson Presents – Original London Cast Recording

Best American Cast Recording
Allegiance – Original Broadway Cast Recording
The Color Purple – New Broadway Cast Recording
Fiddler On The Roof – 2016 Broadway Cast Recording
Lazarus – Original Cast Recording
On Your Feet! – Original Broadway Cast Recording
Waitress – Original Broadway Cast Recording

Best Solo Album / Non Cast Recording
Cheyenne Jackson – Renaissance
Lin-Manuel Miranda – The Hamilton Mixtape
Idina Menzel – idina.
Kristin Chenoweth – The Art of Elegance
Nadim Naaman – Sides
Samantha Barks – Samantha Barks