News: Chichester Festival Theatre announces summer plans

Artistic Director Daniel Evans and Executive Director Kathy Bourne have announced that Chichester Festival Theatre will reopen its doors with its summer musical: Rodgers & Hammerstein’s South Pacific, running from 5 July – 4 September. 

Daniel Evans directs Gina Beck (Nellie Forbush), Julian Ovenden (Emile de Becque), Joanna Ampil (Bloody Mary), Keir Charles (Luther Billis) and Rob Houchen (Joe Cable). Continue reading “News: Chichester Festival Theatre announces summer plans”

Review: The Theatre Channel – Episode Three

Exploring the world of rock musicals, Episode 3 of The Theatre Channel features Alex Gaumond, Shan Ako, John Owen-Jones, Francesca Jackson, Aisha Jawando and Rob Houchen

Je cherche le soleil
Au milieu de ma nuit

First, a confession. The idea of a rock musical generally leaves me cold so the announcement of the theme of the third episode of The Theatre Channel being just that wasn’t one that filled me with too much joy. But the quality of Episode 1 and Episode 2, plus the calibre of talent they’ve been attracting, meant that I was happy to at least give it a whirl.

And if it didn’t make a convert out of me (there’s enough fans of Rent out there already…), there’s plenty to be impressed with. The highlight of the half-hour show for me was the chance to hear the Québécois Alex Gaumond singing ‘Le Monde est Stone’ from Starmania in its original French, the desperation of this soaring ballad transcending any linguistic barrier (though subtitles are provided). Continue reading “Review: The Theatre Channel – Episode Three”

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.

Album Review: Joel Harper-Jackson – So What Happens Now? / Makerman – Grove Hill / Rob Houchen

An album review of Joel Harper-Jackson’s So What Happens Now? and inspired by Marry Me A Little last night, I explore Makerman and Rob Houchen

“I don’t care if it hurts
I wanna have control”

Released just as the second lockdown kicked in, Joel Harper-Hackson’s debut album has ended up with a painfully apposite title – So What Happens Now?. I first spotted Harper-Jackson a few years as a standout in a middling new musical and have enjoyed following his career since then, not least in the Hope Mill’s gorgeous production of Little Women. Interestingly, this album largely eschews the world of musical theatre for the world of popular music, albeit reimagined through the wonderfully moody arrangements of Greg Morton.

Piano, guitar and cello thus come to the fore to underscore mournful takes on ‘Jolene’ and ‘The Man That Got Away’, the quavering vocal at the beginning of ‘Another Suitcade in Another Hall’ really refocuses the song’s emotion, and the shivering sparseness of ‘Wicked Game’ hits harder than usual, especially once the dramatic stakes are raised. Unexpectedly effective though is the duet on ‘Tragedy’ with Jodie Steele which utterly reinterprets the rueful acceptance of the song in a way which makes complete sense. ‘Creep’ with Lauren Byrne is pretty damn good too. If ever there was an album to cry-listen to whilst looking through a rainy November window and eating a packet of biscuits, this is that album and this is that moment. Highly recommended. Continue reading “Album Review: Joel Harper-Jackson – So What Happens Now? / Makerman – Grove Hill / Rob Houchen”

Review: Marry Me A Little

Rob Houchen and Celinde Schoenmaker star in a beautifully sung, beautifully filmed digital version of Sondheim’s revue Marry Me A Little for the Barn Theatre

“What can you do on a Saturday night alone?”

The ever-enterprising Barn Theatre in Cirencester are getting particularly good at making lemonade out of lockdown lemons and so it is little surprise to see that their production of Marry Me A Little, which had its run curtailed by the imposition of Lockdown #2: Electric Boogaloo, is now available to stream for a limited period, thus exponentially increasing its reach.

Recorded over its final performances by Ben Collins, the work of editor Ben Evans (with Collins co-editing and also with sound editor Harry Smith) shouldn’t be underestimated. They have done a remarkable job in translating Kirk Jameson’s directorial vision onto screen, the film is as slickly professional as you could hope to dream of, with just enough texture in there to remind you it is live theatre. Continue reading “Review: Marry Me A Little”

News: Hiba Elchikhe launches Out Of The Darkness, Into The Spotlight

In collaboration with Nimax and The Theatre Café, West End performer Hiba Elchikhe is thrilled to announce a brand-new musical theatre based web series: Out Of The Darkness, Into The Spotlight.

Bringing a little bit of glitter to the grey, this three-episode series hopes to not only entertain, but shine a light on the performers who are keeping the West End alive, even during lockdown.  Continue reading “News: Hiba Elchikhe launches Out Of The Darkness, Into The Spotlight”

Album Reviews: Mazz Murray – Midnight Mazz – Here We Go Again / Mascherato the Musical / Howard Goodall’s Songs from the Musicals Vol. 1

This set of album reviews covers Mazz Murray – Midnight Mazz – Here We Go Again, Mascherato the Musical (Original Studio Cast Recording) and Howard Goodall’s Songs from the Musicals Vol. 1

“You thrill me, you delight me
You please me, you excite me”

If anyone gets to follow Cher in making an album of ABBA songs, then it is probably the West End’s Donna Sheridan, Mazz Murray.  Midnight Mazz – Here We Go Again sees her interpret 10 of Agnetha, Björn, Benny, and Anni-Frid’s best with an unexpectedness tenderness that you don’t necessarily always associate with the band. Handclaps guitar arpeggios adorn ‘Chiquitita’, a solo ‘My Love My Life’ feels packed with more yearning than ever, so too a delicately layered ‘I’ve Been Waiting For You’ which is making a late case to be one of my all-time favourite ABBA songs. A lovely way to revisit some of those oh-so-familiar songs. Continue reading “Album Reviews: Mazz Murray – Midnight Mazz – Here We Go Again / Mascherato the Musical / Howard Goodall’s Songs from the Musicals Vol. 1”

News: October UK theatre news update

We’re beginning to see the fruits of some more of the lockdown programming that has seen theatres across England respond in a variety of impressive ways

Nottingham Playhouse’s Unlocked Festival continues to rocket up the must-see list as it announces more details. Their local writing commission has ended up with two winners – Wayward Thread’s Hand Me Down and Lapelle’s Factory’s Shuck, both of which will now receive work-in-progress performances as part of the festival.

Casting has also been announced for James Graham’s Bubble, which will star the marvellous Pearl Mackie and the equally marvellous Jessica Raine. They join the likes of Mark Gatiss and Jade Anouka reading ghost stories on
Halloween, new work from Naomi Obeng and a concert starring Rosalie Craig, Sandra Marvin and Jodie Prenger. Continue reading “News: October UK theatre news update”