News: a whole load of UK musical tour casting announcements

Priscilla Queen of the Desert will restart its tour at the Everyman Theatre, Cheltenham on 23rd June. Miles Western will take on the role of Bernadette, with Nick Hayes as Adam/Felicia and Edwin Ray playing Tick/Mitzi. They are joined by Daniel Fletcher (Bob), Rebecca Lisewski (Marion), Kevin Yates (Miss Understanding), Gracie Lai (Cynthia) and Ronan Burns (Frank). The Divas will be played by Claudia KariukiRosie Glossop and Aiesha Pease, and the cast is completed by Emma Katie Adcock, Jak Allen Anderson, Allie Daniel, Martin Harding, Clarice Julianda, Jemima Loddy, Nathan Ryles, Tom Scanlon and Jermaine Woods. Continue reading “News: a whole load of UK musical tour casting announcements”

Review: Kings of Broadway 2020

Jule Styne, Jerry Herman & Stephen Sondheim get a worthy lockdown tribute in Kings of Broadway 2020

“Knock-knock! Is anybody there?”

There certainly was a whole lot of people there as the online concert of Kings of Broadway 2020 in support of NHS Charities Together and Acting for Others brought a large dose of classic musical theatre back into our lives. Expertly marshaled by musical director and pianist Alex Parker, the choice to spotlight Black Lives Matter through a recital of Maya Angelou’s ‘And Still I Rise’ was a good one, even if it showed the relative caucasity of the main line up. Continue reading “Review: Kings of Broadway 2020”

Review: Gypsy, Royal Exchange

Because nothing says Merry Christmas like a stage mum going off the rails….! Gypsy offers a different festive treat at Manchester’s Royal Exchange

“If the cow goes, I go”

The choice of the festive musical is a big one for many a venue, and they don’t come much bigger than Broadway classic Gypsy, which director Jo Davies has tackled for the Royal Exchange (returning to Manchester after a really rather excellent Twelfth Night). It also feels a bit of a bold choice given that the shadow of Imelda Staunton looms large for many, though that was over four years ago now. And if we consider Mama Rose to be the ne plus ultra of female MT roles, well you rarely hear people complaining about the endless succession of Hamlets and Lears, so it is more than time for a new Rose to bloom.

Davies gets a lot right, particularly in terms of her collaborators. Andrew Wright’s choreography makes considered use of the space, brilliantly exploiting the intimacy of being in the round (this is definitely a show to splash out on stalls seats for) as Leo Munby’s musical direction delivers a bright, if fairly traditional rendition of Jule Styne’s iconic score. The bulb-bright flashes of Colin Grenfell’s lighting are showstoppingly effective throughout, particularly when allied with the mobile rig that dominates Francis O’Connor’s set. The sequence where ghosts of the past come to bear witness to a crucial decision by Rose is stunningly, hauntingly effective. Continue reading “Review: Gypsy, Royal Exchange”

The winners of the 6th annual Mousetrap Awards

Most Legendary Show
Les Misérables

Best Understudy
Alice Fearn (understudy of Elphaba in Wicked)

Best Ensemble
Matilda the Musical

Best Actress
Noma Dumezweni (Hermione in Harry Potter)

New Play On The Block
The Comedy About A Bank Robbery

Best Actor
Tyrone Huntley (Judas in Jesus Christ Superstar)

Band That Rocked our World
School of Rock

Jaw Dropping Set’ sponsored by AKA:
Aladdin

Most Welcoming Venue 
The Young Vic

Show That We’ll Miss In The West End
Sunny Afternoon

Welcome To The West End – Best Newcomer
Amber Riley (Dreamgirls)

Musical That Landed With A Bang
Half A Sixpence

News: Meet the new Matildas!

 

(C) Helen Maybanks

 
For me, one of the more pleasing recent success stories in theatreland has been the enduring success of Matilda The Musical. The cut-throat world of the West End has claimed many a high profile victim but the Royal Shakespeare Company’s multi award-winning production has gone from strength to strength at the Cambridge Theatre, where it is currently booking until 17th December.

>With that in mind and appropriately enough for World Book Day, the show has announced that Lilian Hardy, Emma Moore and Éva-Marie Saffrey will join Abbie Vena the title role of Matilda from 14th March. And to mark the arrival of the show’s new young actresses, a video has been released today of the four girls learning acrobatic tricks, to add to their already immense skill set, with their fellow cast member Craige Els, who plays Miss Trunchbull.

 
And if you needed any further convincing to go and see the show, here’s my reviews of the original Stratford production, the original cast recording (available to buy here), the original West End run, the original Broadway cast recording, and my 2015 revisit to the Cambridge.

Production images – Manuel Harlan

Album Review: From Here To Eternity (2014 Live Cast Recording)

“All along knowing that no-one has returned to care”

Barely managing six months in the West End in 2013/4, I think it’s fair to say the musical adaptation of From Here to Eternity underwhelmed. And though I was reasonably fair to it at the time, I can’t say that it has aged well, upon returning the live cast recording that was made before the final curtain fell, blame seeming to fall evenly between composer Stuart Brayson, lyricist Tim Rice and book writer Bill Oakes. 

And with weaknesses on all sides like this, very much exposed in the medium of record, it’s not too hard to see why the show didn’t achieve anywhere near the levels of success it was aiming for. There’s so little sense of the main thrust of the story coming through, or indeed any of the strands put forward being sufficiently developed, to make you care about any of the relationships or the plight of the men. Continue reading “Album Review: From Here To Eternity (2014 Live Cast Recording)”

Re-review: From Here To Eternity, Shaftesbury Theatre

“I got the ‘ain’t where I wanna be’ blues”

Suffering the fate of a fair few musicals that have taken up residence in the slightly-too-out-of-the-way Shaftesbury Theatre, From Here To Eternity announced its early closing last year and since then the end has drawn even closer with the final date being moved from the end of April to 29th March. I wasn’t blown away by it on first viewing but I had thought I might be tempted to see it again to see how it stood up to repeated viewing and also to get another listen to Stuart Brayson’s naggingly persistent score. But to be honest, it didn’t really work out that well. 

A sadly small audience robbed the theatre of atmosphere despite the cast’s best efforts – it was however nice to see Marc Antolin doing well standing in for Ryan Sampson as Maggio – and there is no escaping the strange weighting of the show towards trying to make empathetic figures out of a largely objectionable group of people, especially in the racist, adulterous, misogynistic, homophobic bullying G Company.  Continue reading “Re-review: From Here To Eternity, Shaftesbury Theatre”

Review: From Here To Eternity, Shaftesbury Theatre

“Don’cha like Hawaii?”

From Here to Eternity marks the return of noted lyricist Tim Rice to the London stage with this new adaptation of this World War II story, probably best known in its film incarnation and its iconic shenanigans in the surf. This treatment harks back to the original novel to introduce darker elements to the story yet it has also been transformed into a traditional West End musical, which brings with it a certain style that doesn’t always sit too well together with the material.

Set in the adulterous, misogynistic, homophobic, racist and bullying atmosphere of the G Company barracks in Hawaii in the summer of 1941, Bill Oakes’ book – based on James Jones’ novel of his own experiences – has a strangely disjointed quality as it struggles to weave together its three main strands. First Sergeant Milt Warden is hot for his captain’s lascivious wife; new arrival Private Robert E Lee Prewitt is less concerned about joining the corps’ boxing team and falls in love with call girl Lorene instead; and Private Angelo Maggio spends his time ducking and diving, making a quick buck by fraternising with the island’s gay population. Continue reading “Review: From Here To Eternity, Shaftesbury Theatre”

DVD Review: Oklahoma!, National Theatre

“I heared a lot of stories an’ I reckon they’re true”

A nip into Wigan whilst up at my parents’ for Bonfire Night paid great dividends with the My Fair Lady soundtrack and this DVD popping up in the same charity shop. I was particularly excited for Oklahoma! as it has Josefina Gabrielle in a lead role: becoming aware of her in recent years, I have only seen her in supporting roles and loved her immensely in almost every one. It also has Hugh Jackman whom I saw a snippet of in Hey Mr Producer! just a couple of weeks ago, which introduced me briefly to the concept of him as a musical theatre star, something that’s still a bit odd. My favourite bit of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s first musical though is how it confirms that everyone thinks they’re a great dancer when on drugs!

Trevor Nunn’s 1998 production for the National Theatre takes an impressively gritty approach to the show which undercuts the popular notion that musicals are all cheery jazz hands and nothing more. Yes there is splendid choreography from Susan Stroman which sparkles with a marvellous joie de vivre but it comes in scenes when people are coming together for a good time, market day or the big ball, and they are captured beautifully here. But alongside this, is no attempt to hide how tough day-to-day life is for these people and the violence that underscores much of life on the ranches and farms. Continue reading “DVD Review: Oklahoma!, National Theatre”