Review: Little Wars

A fabulous cast make this rehearsed reading of Steven Carl McCasland’s play Little Wars an interesting choice to stream

“What happens next?”

Raising money in aid of Women For Refugee Women, Ginger Quiff Media in collaboration with the Union Theatre have brought together a stellar cast of some of our finest actors for a rehearsed reading of Steven Carl McCasland’s play Little Wars. It is a weighty and wordy play but streaming passes last for 24 hours so you can always give yourself the interval(s) you need.

The drama imagines a dinner party between six women of considerable note. Its the early 1940s and Gertrude Stein and her girlfriend Alice Toklas are hosting an intimate soirée at their salon in the French Alps. Writers Lillian Hellman and Agatha Christie are expected but when the bell rings, it is anti-fascist freedom fighter Muriel Gardiner at the door. Continue reading “Review: Little Wars”

News: top casting for Little Wars revival

Linda Bassett, Juliet Stevenson and Sophie Thompson are among the cast for a digital revival of Little Wars

The marvellous Juliet Stevenson leads an all-star female cast in the online revival of US creative Steven Carl McCasland’s dinner party drama, Little Wars. Joining Stevenson will be Linda Bassett (Call The Midwife; East is East), Debbie Chazen (The Smoking Room; The Girls, West End), Natasha Karp (Rags, Park Theatre; The Kite Runner, West End), Catherine Russell (Holby City; What The Butler Saw, Curve Theatre), Sarah Solemani (Him & Her; Bad Education), and Sophie Thompson (Feel Good; Present Laughter, Old Vic). Continue reading “News: top casting for Little Wars revival”

Lockdown treat: an American Idiot ‘Green Day Medley’

American Idiot West End and UK Tour Casts sing a Green Day Medley for the Barn Theatre and The Ben Kinsella Trust

Donations can be made to the Barn Theatre at http://www.barntheatre.org/sob, calling 01285 648255 or texting SAVEOURBARN 10 to donate £10 to 70085, texts cost the donation value plus one standard rate message.

Donations to The Ben Kinsella Trust can be made at http://www.benkinsella.org.uk/support

 

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Album Review: Rags – The Musical: Original London Cast Recording

The Original London Cast Recording for Rags – The Musical is released by Ghostlight Records, the first to capture the many changes to the show

“What if we never meet again?”

Sometimes a musical just doesn’t grab you, and so it was for me with Rags The Musical. The show received its UK premiere at the Northern powerhouse that is the Hope Mill Theatre in February 2019 and transferred to the Park Theatre in London at the beginning of 2020 and despite its excellent notices, I just didn’t fancy it. The universe clearly wants me to hear it one way or another though, as Ghostlight Records are now releasing an official London cast recording, the first for this show since 1991.

I think my ambivalence might have stemmed from a lack of love for Fiddler on the Roof (I know…). And Rags was initially conceived in 1986 as a sequel of sorts by book-writer Joseph Stein, as he explores the experience of a group of Jewish immigrants as they arrive in the US. Over the years though, David Thompson has considerably revised it and Stephen Schwartz’s lyrics and Charles Strouse’s music have also been substantially tinkered with. Musicals are ever a work in progress but such overhauling doesn’t always inspire the greatest confidence – credit then to director Bronagh Lagan and musical director Joe Bunker for refining this material in such a stylish manner. Continue reading “Album Review: Rags – The Musical: Original London Cast Recording”

Review: Into the Woods, Menier Chocolate Factory

“I’m not nice, I’m just right”

Fiasco Theater’s production of Stephen Sondheim’s evergreen Into the Woods was a big success over in the US and its actor-muso ethos seems ideally suited for this transfer to the Menier Chocolate Factory. It’s also an approach that pays dividends with the material, Sondheim and James Lapine’s interrogation of the world of fairy tales and what happy ever after really means.

Stripped back and doubled up, Noah Brody and Ben Steinfeld’s fully actor-musician production makes a virtue of the communal spirit and really makes you notice how much of an ensemble show it really is. Not just in how each of the storybook characters get their chance to shine (or not, as the case may be) but in the relationships, of both family and friends, with which we surround ourselves, just to save us from those moments in the woods. Continue reading “Review: Into the Woods, Menier Chocolate Factory”

Review: The Theory of Relativity, Drayton Arms Theatre

“Find your favourite fruit”

Given that in ‘Quiet’, Matilda is giving West End audiences lessons on the speed of light, it is brave of another show to enter into the same arena but given the college student age of the protagonists here, one can forgive writer Brian Hill and composer Neil Bartram. Their show The Theory of Relativity, previously seen in Toronto, lies somewhere between chamber musical, song cycle and even revue as eight characters explore the random connections in life (a popular theme this week after buckets) and discover the web of links that result from our actions, even if we’re unaware of how far-reaching they truly are.

The US college bias of the writing skews the experience a little but most of the trials and tribulations experienced here are universally felt – the fluttering nerves of first loves and coming out, dealing with upheaval and change, the pain of loss of love or life. And a large part of the relatability comes from the warmth and openness of the performances here – Jodie Steele’s affecting heartbreak in ‘Me and Ricky’, Ina Marie Smith’s plaintive lament for her mother in ‘Promise Me’, Joshua LeClair’s powerfully felt ‘Footprint’, all supported by some fine work from MD Barney Ashworth from the keyboard. Continue reading “Review: The Theory of Relativity, Drayton Arms Theatre”

Review: The Grand Tour, Finborough Theatre

“I think, I think…”

Jerry Herman’s The Grand Tour flopped on Broadway which explains a little of why it has taken 36 years for it to make its premiere in Europe. Another reason is the strange tone of Michael Stewart and Mark Bramble’s book, based on a play by SN Behrman, which plots an odd couple roadtrip and ensuing love triangle against the Nazi occupation of France in 1940. Polish compatriots Jewish intellectual SL Jacobowsky and Catholic aristocrat Colonel Stjerbinsky reluctantly join forces in Paris to make their escape, picking up the Colonel’s French lover Marianne on the way, and ending up in all sorts of jolly japes and adventures which are more Boy’s Own than Wilfred Owen.

Director Thom Southerland has great form with musical revivals though and aspects of his work here are superb. Phil Lindley’s approach to designing this show should be studied by all aspiring designers as an inspired way of dealing with the intimacy of a space such as the Finborough. His European map-featuring set unfolds multipally like the pages of a pop-up book to take us from the front seat of a car to the heights of a high-wire, the stillness of a church and the bracing winds of a harbour amongst many other locations, and it does so with real elegance. I’d only question why Belgium appears to have been erased from the map and given how much Saint-Nazaire is referred to in the show, whether that might have been added too. Continue reading “Review: The Grand Tour, Finborough Theatre”