Review: Sasha Regan’s All Male The Pirates of Penzance, Palace Theatre

Sasha Regan’s All Male The Pirates of Penzance proves a feast for ears and the eyes in a glorious but short at the Palace Theatre

“Here, in this our rocky den,
Far away from mortal men”

There’s a beautiful sense of homecoming to the return of Gilbert & Sullivan to the West End, even if its only for a weekend. The Palace Theatre was founded by Richard D’Oyly Carte as The Royal English Opera House in 1891 and opened with Sir Arthur Sullivan’s Ivanhoe so the arrival there of Sasha Regan’s All Male The Pirates of Penzance could hardly be more apposite and turned out to be a real festive treat. 

We don’t see much operetta around these days but Regan’s commitment to the cause has been admirable. It’s over a decade now since she first reinvigorated the form with this production (previously reviewed here and here), and working her way through the G&S catalogue (for my money, Iolanthe is the best), transfers, national tours and even international tours are a testament both to the enduring quality of the material and the frisson that comes from this method of interpretation.  Continue reading “Review: Sasha Regan’s All Male The Pirates of Penzance, Palace Theatre”

Sasha Regan’s All Male ‘The Pirates of Penzance’ cast announced, plus second date in the West End

Sasha Regan’s All Male The Pirates of Penzance cast announced, plus second date in the West End confirmed

Nimax Theatres have added a second night for Sasha Regan’s all-male take on W. S. Gilbert and Arthur Sullivan’s The Pirates of Penzance at the Palace Theatre, Shaftesbury Avenue.  The show will now run on Saturday 12th December and Sunday 13th December 2020 at 7:00pm.  

The production was meant to open at Wilton’s Music Hall and then tour but those plans have had to be cancelled and postponed respectively. For the uninitiated, Regan’s reinvigoration of this classic is a corker, I’ve seen it a couple of times now over the years and it never fails to delight. Continue reading “Sasha Regan’s All Male ‘The Pirates of Penzance’ cast announced, plus second date in the West End”

Lockdown theatre review: Jesus Christ Superstar (2012 Arena Tour)

Jesus Christ Superstar takes to the “rock’n’roll” arena. It isn’t good.

“Why waste your breath moaning at the crowd?
Nothing can be done to stop the shouting.”

Amidst the deluge of theatrical content emerging online, it can be quite hard to make decisions about what to actually watch. Andrew Lloyd Webber’s release of the 2012 live arena tour of Jesus Christ Superstar stood out for me as though I did go and see it at the O2, we were seated at the back of the cavernous space and so the opportunity to actually see what happened on the actors’ faces was enough to tempt me. Plus it’s Good Friday…

Pre-dating the Open Air Theatre’s revelatory restaging by three years, Laurence Connor’s restaging of ALW’s 1971 rock opera lays its contemporary allusions thickly (Occupy, Guantánamo, reality TV) but right from the start, you can see how superficial it is. A busy prologue full of kinetic energy references the Occupy movement strongly but as soon as the show proper starts, it’s as if it never happens, you could cut it and never know the difference.

Continue reading “Lockdown theatre review: Jesus Christ Superstar (2012 Arena Tour)”

Review: Aladdin, Prince Edward Theatre

“A hundred thousand things to see”

Say Aladdin to most people across the world, and Disney would hope that the first thing that comes to mind is their 1992 animated film. In the UK though, the title is indelibly linked to pantomime and so it feels a little incongruous to have a major musical production of it opening in the middle of June. And whilst Casey Nicholaw’s production hasn’t stimped in any conceivable way when it comes to the look of the show (striking design from Bob Crowley), there’s still a faintly hollow ring to the whole proceeding.

A big hit on Broadway, Aladdin has been pretty much replicated and transplanted into the Prince Edward. Which is good in terms of the undeniable quality of the Disney brand – the family-friendly ethos, the slickness of the design, the unexpected self-referential dips into other Disney musicals. And in the knowing performance of American Trevor Dion Nicholas as the Genie, there’s a respectful homage to the character that Robin Williams brought to life so memorably on screen, which still carves its own identity too. Continue reading “Review: Aladdin, Prince Edward Theatre”

Review: Jesus Christ Superstar, O2 Arena

“Tell the mob who sing your song that they are fools and they are wrong”

Having gone down the road of television casting once again for one of his shows and quite possibly killing off the genre at the same time, Andrew Lloyd-Webber’s much-touted revival of his 1971 rock opera Jesus Christ Superstar will hopefully have the same effect on staging theatrical productions in cavernous arenas like London’s O2. Director Laurence Connor’s concept has been to relocate the loose retelling of Jesus’ last week to a modern-day context, pulling out strong allusions to the Occupy movement, riots, Guantánamo Bay and reality television. 

Tim Minchin’s Judas is the undoubted highlight of the show, a stirringly confident rock vocal of fierce conviction that near perfectly captures the essence of what Lloyd-Webber is trying to achieve but elsewhere there is much less strength. Ben Forster’s Jesus mauls Gethsemane almost beyond recognition but fares better elsewhere where his falsetto is more aptly deployed and his angst not so overplayed; Melanie Chisholm’s goth take on Mary Magdalene is anaemically thin and utterly forgettable; Chris Moyles’ highly gimmicky Jerry Springer-esque King Herod – he hosts a show called Hark! with Herod, a rare flash of genuine humour – is thankfully brief; Alex Hanson’s Pilate is a quality performance that stands out from a hard-working ensemble, but too often the wide lens of the show means that their efforts pass by unnoticed. Continue reading “Review: Jesus Christ Superstar, O2 Arena”

Review: The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas, Union Theatre

“Now my good friends, it behooves me to be solemn and declare,

I’m for goodness and for profit and for living clean and saying daily prayer”
I’m not the kind of gentleman who normally ends an evening with a lady in his lap but that was what (nearly) happened last night at the Union Theatre’s revival of US musical The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas. Inspired by a true story of a similarly-titled brothel , the Chicken Ranch is a well-established institution that has been passed down to Miss Mona from the original owner, who runs it with a veneer of classy respectability wherein she looks after her girls well and gets on with the local law enforcement to keep things running smoothly. But the decision of crusading news reporter Melvin P Thorpe to try and get the establishment closed down threatens everything.

Sarah Lark plays Miss Mona, the role made famous by Dolly Parton in the movie of the same name, all big brassy blonde hair piled up on her head and possessed of a wardrobe stuffed with fringes and sequins and quietly understated as a warmly maternal figure. Her singing voice is lovely though lacked a little volume in places and there was a little gravitas missing from her portrayal, though that could square with her being pushed into the position of Madam through unexpectedly inheriting the place. And around her are her scantily-dressed girls who service the townsmen’s needs – mainly portrayed here through shadow-play – and most of whom are running away from something, assumedly also using the somersaulting skills that got one lady closer to me than I was expecting! Together they make a strong group – the harmonies of ‘Girl You’re A Woman’ most lovely, the mix of personalities entertaining and as a starting point for a show, it feels like a fascinating premise. Continue reading “Review: The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas, Union Theatre”