News: new musical theatre record label launched

Neil O’Brien Entertainment Launches Westway Music – a new musical theatre record label based in London whose initial signings include Samantha Barks, Ramin Karimloo, Kerry Ellis & Lee Mead

Westway Music is a new music and film platform dedicated to the music of theatre, from London’s West End through to New York’s Broadway and beyond. Formed by Neil O’Brien, the label has so far signed musical theatre stars Kerry Ellis, Ramin Karimloo, Samantha Barks, Lee Mead, Joe Stilgoe and Cassidy Janson.

The label launches on November 12th with the release of Frozen star Samantha Barks’ brand-new studio album Into The Unknown. Covering songs from Broadway, West End and film musicals alike and with a couple of duets thrown in for good measure, it’s bound to be a corker, especially if her accomplished debut is anything to go by. Continue reading “News: new musical theatre record label launched”

Review: Closer Than Ever, BroadwayHD

Starring Lee Mead, Kerry Ellis and more, this streaming production of revue Closer Than Ever makes a good impression on BroadwayHD

“I know something that people don’t know”

A revue is always tricky to review. As a random collection of songs by the same composer, unconnected by a book as in a conventional musical, they can be a bit scattershot, relying on directorial vision to provide some kind of thematic consistency that provides a satisfying cohesiveness. This new production of Maltby and Shire’s Closer Than Ever just about gets there, though it occasionally struggles to break through the digital form.

The promotional blurb promises to “delve into the trials and tribulations of modern love”, a rather bold claim given some of these songs date as far back as 1983. But to their credit, musically they freshen up well under Nick Barstow’s assured musical direction. And many matters of the heart are timeless, so there isn’t too much staleness around subject or lyrical content, sexy secretaries aside. Continue reading “Review: Closer Than Ever, BroadwayHD”

Review: Lee Mead at the London Palladium

Celebrating his 40th birthday in quite some style and with quite the guest list, Lee Mead at the London Palladium made for a great night

“I’ll make you so sure about it”

I spent my 40th birthday eating as many Michelin-starred meals as I could hoodwink people into treating me to but being a much more genial sort, Lee Mead celebrated his by making a long-awaited return to live performance. Lee Mead at the London Palladium was his first concert in 18 months and in some ways, it was almost worth the wait.

With time on his hands, he has been able to come up with a beautifully balanced setlist with MD Adam Dennis. One which pays tribute to the shows that have made his career thus far, one reflects songs that have inspired him but above all, one which demonstrates love. Love for music, love for his friends and family, love for the act of performing to which he is so clearly accustomed. Continue reading “Review: Lee Mead at the London Palladium”

News update for Christmas theatre in London

Regions across the UK were hoping to win the lottery but with the news of Tier 2 (for now) for London, here’s some Christmas theatre news 

The Donmar Warehouse announces today that it will present a special concert online to mark the festive season. LOOKING A LOT LIKE CHRISTMAS will be performed in the beautiful setting of St Paul’s Church (affectionately known as The Actors’ Church), in the heart of Covent Garden and premiere online for free on the Donmar’s YouTube channel on Wednesday 16 December, 7.30pm. The concert will be captioned, and an audio introduction will be available in partnership with Vocaleyes.

This hour-long concert of musical numbers, sketches and seasonal poetry will be directed by Simon Evans (Staged, The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui) with musical direction by Nigel Lilley (Piaf, Caroline, or Change) and production design by Grace Smart (My Beautiful Laundrette, One Night in Miami). Continue reading “News update for Christmas theatre in London”

TV Review: Motherland (Series 2)

The second series of Motherland continues to peel back layers of articifice around cultural ideas of motherhood – still bruisingly comic but sometimes just bruising

“Life’s too short to dick about with aubergines”

There’s a boldness to this second series of Motherland that is sometimes breath-taking. The show, created by Sharon Horgan, G*a*a* L*n*h*n, Helen Linehan and Holly Walsh, has never been sentimental about motherhood, brutally comic about the varying difficulties of being a parent/partner/employee/friend all at the same time and being utterly unafraid to show its characters failing at one if not more of them on an episodal basis.  

This second season though, all now available to watch on t’iPlayer, tightens the screws even more, really pushing out the limits of what these people are willing to inflict on others in the name of just getting through the day. It makes for a bracing watch but even I was wondering whether the brutality shouldn’t be reined in just a bit… Continue reading “TV Review: Motherland (Series 2)”

Album Reviews: Dan Burton – Broadway Melodies / Patti LuPone – Don’t Monkey With Broadway / Kyle Riabko – Richard Rodgers Reimagined

 

Something of an undersung talent in this country (all his top gigs have taken place in Paris, or Kilworth), Dan Burton is nevertheless leading man material, and his debut album Broadway Melodies is proof thereof. Short and sweet at ten concise tracks, Burton swoons and slides effortlessly through the Great American Songbook. 

Highlights include the happiest of ‘Singin’ in the Rain’s, a most elegant sway through Camelot’s ‘If Ever I Would Leave You’, and a chirpy duet on ‘Well, Did You Evah?’ with Lee Mead, a palpable warmth of friendship apparent throughout. Also good is The Pajama Game‘s ‘Hey There’, perfectly crooned and symptomatic of the good feeling suffused through this record. Continue reading “Album Reviews: Dan Burton – Broadway Melodies / Patti LuPone – Don’t Monkey With Broadway / Kyle Riabko – Richard Rodgers Reimagined”

How to solve a problem like a compilation – my alternative Unmasked

Andrew Lloyd Webber, Unmasled

I make my own suggestions about interpretations of Andrew Lloyd Webber songs that could have been included on his new compilation album Unmasked

“They must have excitement, and so must I”

In a world of Spotify and iTunes and other online music services, compilation albums ought to have died a death. But the enduring success of the Now That’s What I Call Music series puts the lie to that, showing that while the idea of curating your own content is tempting, many of us prefer to let someone else do it for us.

So Andrew Lloyd Webber’s decision to release new anthology Unmasked is a canny one in that respect (read my review here), tapping into the desire to have a nicely pleasant set of musical theatre tunes to pop on in the car. And as with any compilation, it’s as much about what hasn’t been included as what has, that stands out. Continue reading “How to solve a problem like a compilation – my alternative Unmasked”

Album Review: Rachel Tucker – On The Road (Deluxe)

“Will I ever be more than I’ve always been?”

Proving that you don’t need to win the reality show that you’re in to set your career, and that it’s your talent that matters, Rachel Tucker’s success is testament to just how far hard work and a hella big voice can take. Headlining shows in the West End and Broadway, including playing Wicked’s Elphaba in both, 2017 has seen her play a series of dates on a UK tour with musical director Kris Rawlinson, which in turn produced an album – On The Road – which has recently been digitally released with some bonus tracks in a deluxe edition.

Reflecting the diversity of a live show, the record opens with a potency and confidence that could see her take her place among the Rat Pack as she swings confidently through classics like ‘Miss Otis Regrets (She’s Unable To Lunch Today)’ and ‘The Candyman’. New musical theatre gets a look in with the searching emotion of Dear Evan Hansen’s ‘Waving Through A Window’ and then the intensity is dialled down for a moment with Randy Newman’s heartbreaker ‘When She Loved Me’. Continue reading “Album Review: Rachel Tucker – On The Road (Deluxe)”

Round-up of news and treats and other interesting things


Ahoy sailors, if what you thought the world of musical theatre was missing was the opportunity to be trapped on a boat for four days with a load of wealthy musical theatre fans, then worry no more. Stages – the Musical Theatre Festival at Sea has now been announced, a four night cruise from Southampton to Amsterdam and back, with entertainment from the likes of Michael Ball, Beverley Knight, Lee Mead, Christina Bianco, Sophie Evans, John Owen-Jones and the Showstopper guys.

It looks like it could be hilariously good fun – red carpet arrival onto the ship, masquerade balls and workshops and Q&As with the performers. But it sure ain’t cheap, prices starting at £609 with the taxes added on, though as it doesn’t set sail until 15th October 2018, there’s time to start saving those pennies. For me though, you can consider this my not-so-subtle hint to Floating Festivals that they obviously need a blog review of their cruise and that I am the one for the job.

Continue reading “Round-up of news and treats and other interesting things”

Album Review: Connie Fisher – Secret Love

“The only time I’m happy is when I’m dreaming in the past”

A bit of a random one but I do have a sneaking regard for Connie Fisher. As the first of the winners of Lloyd-Webber’s TV casting shows, she’s taken a lot of stick despite being genuinely talented – I don’t think anyone could argue she didn’t deserve to win – but she has struggled to escape the shadow of The Sound of Music and her much-publicised vocal problems have garnered a little too much glee than is strictly tasteful, in my opinion at least.

Anyhoo, Secret Love was her second album, and though it does not feature the most adventurous of song selections – there’s a lot of standards and Lloyd-Webber (surprise…) on here, but it is all rather appealingly sung and Fisher’s warm voice makes this a CD I do rather enjoy listening to. Classics like ‘I Could Have Danced All Night’ and ‘Someone To Watch Over Me’ are given rich, laidback interpretations which she sings effortlessly, gliding over with a lovely warmth and relaxed confidence. The heartbreaking ‘When She Loved Me’ by Randy Newman from Toy Story 2 soars here in a beautiful version as does a lush-sounding ‘Secret Love’, indeed Doris Day’s wholesome image seems a perfect fit for Fisher and the oeuvre she is marking out for herself. Continue reading “Album Review: Connie Fisher – Secret Love”