News: 4 West End shows announce their casts

As a comedian, impressionist, game show host, reality TV star, soap, screen and stage actor, Les Dennis returns to the West End in the multi-award-winning smash hit musical Hairspray the Musical as Wilbur Turnblad having previously performed the role on tour. He stars alongside Michael Ball, who returns to his legendary, Olivier Awardwinning role of Edna Turnblad. Lizzie Bea will star in the iconic role of Tracy Turnblad. Acclaimed West End star Marisha Wallace will take the role of Motormouth. Rita Simons (Eastenders’ Roxy Mitchell) and Jonny Amies (Granchester on ITV; Sex Education on Netflix/Eleven Film) will also join the cast as Velma Von Tussle and Link Larkin respectively.

The full company includes Georgia Anderson, Kimani Arthur, Dermot Canavan, Lori Haley Fox, Mari McGinlay, Ashley Samuels, Michael Vinsen and Imogen Bailey, Pearce Barron, Jordan Benjamin, Joel Cooper, Luke George, Christopher Gopaul, Bradley Judge, Winny Herbert, Lily Laight, Madeleine Lawton, Holly Liburd, Will Luckett, Mireia Mambo, Kody Mortimer, Robyn Rose, Tinovimbanashe Sibanda, Amy West and Natalie Woods. Continue reading “News: 4 West End shows announce their casts”

Review: Imagine This, Union Theatre

“There’s singing, there’s dancing, and all the Jews die in the end”

The West End production of Imagine This lasted for barely a month in 2008, so it usually one of the first shows named when it comes to lists of notorious flops. Which might explain, at least partly, why it has taken nearly a decade for anyone to go near the show again, that honour going to first-time director Harry Blumenau who is now mounting the musical at the Union Theatre, in a well-cast production seeking to reassess that reputation.

For me, as a first-timer to the show, it didn’t feel hard to see why it didn’t succeed. Glenn Berenbeim’s grimly stoic book is set in the Warsaw Ghetto in 1942 where a group of actors are trying to lift spirits by staging a play. And not just any play, it’s the story of the siege of Masada, a historical act of Jewish resistance and thereby flicking the v-sign to the Nazis. But Berenbeim attempts to gild the lily by throwing a would-be epic romance which ultimately cheapens the narrative fatally. Continue reading “Review: Imagine This, Union Theatre”

Review: Legally Blonde, Upstairs at the Gatehouse

“You need to see me in a brand new domain”

A bit of a change over at Upstairs at the Gatehouse has seen their customary Christmas musical take on a more modern bent after recent successes with classics such as Guys and Dolls, Crazy For You and Singin’ in the Rain. Over the past years, many a West End musical has been cleverly refashioned for this intimate space in Highgate, where fringe premieres of The Drowsy Chaperone, Buddy, and Avenue Q have previously been seen, and it is to the latest of these that the in-house Ovation Theatres have turned with Legally Blonde the Musical.

Like protagonist Elle Woods herself, the show might easily be dismissed on superficial grounds but it is worth remembering that it managed over three years at the Savoy in the cutthroat world of the West End musical and also took home the Olivier for Best New Musical. A good deal of that was due to the winning charms of Sheridan Smith but there’s also no denying that Laurence O’Keefe and Nell Benjamin’s ebullient score and Heather Hach’s adroitly pitched book from Amanda Brown’s novel and the Reese Witherspoon-starring film taps into something irresistible. Continue reading “Review: Legally Blonde, Upstairs at the Gatehouse”

Review: Parade, London Theatre Workshop

“Not much survives of the old hills of Georgia

Jason Robert Brown and Alfred Uhry’s Parade is a brutally effective piece of musical theatre, based on a harrowing turn-of-the-century true story of racism and anti-Semitism, child-murder and mob mentality, set to a wide-ranging and often challenging score. Last seen in London at the Southwark Playhouse, Fulham’s London Theatre Workshop go for another small-scale staging, directed by Jody Tranter, the intimacy of which again plays to the strength of the piece. 

Bringing a 13-strong company into such a small space is something of a challenge but a necessary one in order give the real sense of the full scope of a community at odds with each other. Tranter manages it well though with a fluid sense of pace swirling around Harry Johnson and Justin Williams’ inventive set design and ably assisted by some ingeniously conceived choreography from Adam Scown, bringing a real intricate power to the ensemble numbers. Continue reading “Review: Parade, London Theatre Workshop”