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”

News: Dear Audience coffee table book announced

If you’re still writing your lists for Santa, then Dear Audience could be just what you’re looking for. A theatrical coffee table book filled with over 140 pages showcasing the Arts industry, with exclusive imagery, personalised letters to audiences and much more besides.

There’s a veritable who’s who of stage folk involved, from Sally Ann Triplett, Michael Xavier and Frances Rufelle to Oliver Tompsett, Linzi Hateley and Andy Coxon, and the book has been put together by Sophie Ross and Danny Kaan’s Digi Creative. Pre-orders can be made now and are guaranteed for Christmas delivery.

Review: The Theatre Channel – Episode Two

Episode Two of The Theatre Channel takes its Halloween theme and has a ball with it, with brilliant performances from the likes of Linzi Hateley, Jordan Shaw, Bradley Jaden and Sophie Isaacs

“It’s a matter of time before London belongs to us”

After a highly successful debut, Episode 2 of The Theatre Channel arrives and things have gone a bit Strictly with a theme week. Natch it is Hallowe’en that acts as a linking thread between the performances here but unlike Strictly, it is pleasingly effective as the production design (by Gregor Donnelly) gets to play with a more cohesive visual language across the show (credit too to director Bill Deamer and DP Ben Hewis), and the song selection gets to go a bit dark and dramatic.

That’s not to say that there’s not a variety of tone here. As befits this holiday, there’s a healthy dose of camp as a CGI-enhanced Ria Jones casts her spell over Into the Woods’ ‘Last Midnight’ and the camp drama of Frank Wildhorn’s ‘Life After Life’ from Dracula the Musical is well served by the relatively straight bat and sensational voices of Bradley Jaden and Sophie Isaacs. The same goes for Josh Piterman’s dangerously seductive take on ‘The Confrontation’ from Jekyll and Hyde. Continue reading “Review: The Theatre Channel – Episode Two”

Review: The Theatre Channel – Episode One

Featuring the likes of Jenna Russell, Matt Henry and Carrie Hope Fletcher, Episode 1 of The Theatre Channel is a roaring success

“Believe me, my admiration for you hasn’t died”

As big question marks remain over if and when theatre doors will start opening again, the move to online delivery of musical theatre  has taken an interesting turn with the arrival of The Theatre Channel. It is officially described as a web series but it is basically a musical theatre version of classic Top of the Pops online, ie heaven!

Set on location in (and on top of) The Theatre Café, the first episode was a slick half hour of cracking entertainment that really gladdened the heart. Director Bill Deamer offers a slice of real variety across its six numbers but also maintains a high level of quality, right down to the witty timing of the snippets of choreography he introduces via the inhouse ensemble. Continue reading “Review: The Theatre Channel – Episode One”

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: Mary Poppins (2005 Original London Cast Recording)

“Children who refuse to learn will not return”

I only actually got round to seeing the ‘new’ musical version of Mary Poppins a couple of years ago at the Curve in Leicester, ahead of its mammoth tour, and so the novelty of finally seeing it onstage distracted me a little from the finer details of the score, which merged the original of Robert B Sherman and Richard M Sherman with new songs and arrangements from George Stiles and Anthony Drewe.

And listening to it a couple of times, I think I find myself slightly less enamoured of the interventions. That’s not to detract from the quality of the performances – Laura Michelle Kelly makes for a vibrant Mary, Gavin Lee a perky Bert, and the supporting cast is blessed by the likes of David Haig and Linzi Hateley as the Banks, Rosie Ashe as the nefarious Miss Andrew and Jenny Galloway, Melanie La Barrie, and Claire Machin too. Continue reading “Album Review: Mary Poppins (2005 Original London Cast Recording)”

Film Review: London Road

“Everybody’s very very nervous”

The theatrical production of London Road was a major success for the National Theatre, the opening run first extending in the Cottesloe and then being rewarded with a later transfer to the much larger Olivier – I was first blownaway by its originality and then later comforted by its message in the aftermath of the 2011 riots. So the news that director Rufus Norris was making a film adaptation was received with apprehensive anticipation, could this strikingly experimental piece of theatre possibly work on screen.

Writer Alecky Blythe uses a technique whereby she records interviews with people which are then edited into a play but spoken verbatim by the actors, complete with all the ums and aahs and repetitions of natural speech. And in 2006, she went to Ipswich to interview a community rocked by a series of murders, of five women in total, all sex workers, and set about telling a story not of salacious deaths but of a community learning to cleave together in trying times. Oh, and it’s all set to the most innovative of musical scores by Adam Cork, elevating ordinary speech into something quite extraordinary. Continue reading “Film Review: London Road”

Review: Carrie, Southwark Playhouse

“You’re not like the other girls…”

Carrie managed that feat in the late 1980s, though for the wrong reasons, when the moderately-received RSC production transferred to Broadway and swiftly became a multi-million dollar flop, lasting for just 16 previews and 5 performances.

Finally taking Stone’s advice after a long period licking their wounds, book writer Lawrence D Cohen, composer Michael Gore and lyricist Dean Pitchford – undoubtedly boosted by the show’s growing cult reputation – substantially reworked Carrie in 2012 and it is that version that is now seeing the light of day with Gary Lloyd’s production at the Southwark Playhouse – its London debut no less. Was it worth the wait? Did it deserve to flop? Does she make things fly? Does she get covered in blood?  Continue reading “Review: Carrie, Southwark Playhouse”

Review: Barnum, New Wimbledon

“If I present an educated pooch
Who’s trained to dance the hoochie cooch
What better way to waste a bit of time”

We’re so used now to the big Chichester musicals making the automatic leap into the West End that it was something of a surprise to hear that last year’s Barnum would not be getting the much-rumoured transfer even with less than stellar reviews. And seeing the show for the first time tonight in its retooled version – Jean Pierre Van Der Spuy directing an adaptation of Timothy Sheader and Liam Steel’s CFT production – which is heading out on a very extensive UK tour that stretches to next August, it is not hugely difficult to see why, if one looks at it with a coolly dispassionate eye.

Mark Bramble’s book has showman PT Barnum following his dreams to put on the world’s first travelling circus but little dramatic impetus to form a more interesting narrative journey. And Cy Coleman’s score with Michael Stewart’s lyrics has some pleasant enough songs in it – ‘Come Follow The Band’ and ‘There’s A Sucker Born Every Minute’ – but it also has a lot of filler; for such an ambitious show, it is a rather bland musical experience. Fortunately it is also blessed with some game-changing visuals and Andrew Wright’s peerless (certainly for his generation) choreographic gifts. Continue reading “Review: Barnum, New Wimbledon”