Review: The Normal Heart, National Theatre

Heartbreaking but fiercely essential work. Larry Kramer’s The Normal Heart receives a masterful revival courtesy of Dominic Cooke at the National Theatre

“The only way we’ll have real pride is when we demand recognition of a culture that isn’t just sexual”

A flame lit in respectful silence, shirts whipped off to the pulsing synthline of ‘I Feel Love’, the opening moments of Dominic Cooke’s revival of Larry Kramer’s 1985 play The Normal Heart are full of Pride and perfectly encapsulate one of the key dilemmas haunting its characters. It is New York City in the early 1980s and writer and activist Ned Weeks is struggling to make the wider world understand what to him seems obvious, an unidentified disease is scything through the gay community in alarming numbers.

Plays about AIDS have tended to the operatic in scale – Angels in America and The Inheritance both sprawling over two lengthy parts. So by comparison, The Normal Heart is over in a flicker, coming in well under three hours. And my lord is that a good thing, as the second half in particular is punishingly, essentially, brutal. Prior to the interval, there’s a beautiful sense of world-building – Weeks and his pals bonding over their shared need to do something, battling over the best way to do it. And Weeks also falls in love for the first time, a scene of combative flirting is as entertaining as it is erotic.

Continue reading “Review: The Normal Heart, National Theatre”

Rehearsal images for The Normal Heart released

The National Theatre has released rehearsal images by Helen Maybanks for Larry Kramer’s The Normal Heart a co-production with Fictionhouse, being performed in the Olivier Theatre in September 2021. Directed by Dominic Cooke, Kramer’s largely autobiographical play about the AIDS crisis in 1980 New York has not been performed professionally in London since its European premiere in 1986.

Ben Daniels will perform the role of Ned Weeks, the co-founder of an AIDS advocacy group fighting to change the world around him, with Robert Bowman, Richard Cant, Liz Carr, Jonathan Dryden Taylor, Dino Fetscher, Daniel Krikler, Daniel Monks, Elander Moore, Luke Norris, Henry Nott, Lucas Rush, Freddie Stabb, Samuel Thomas and Danny Lee Wynter completing the company.

Set design by Vicki Mortimer, costume design by Lisa Duncan, lighting design by Paule Constable, sound design by Carolyn Downing and fight direction by Bret Yount. The Normal Heart will be in the Olivier theatre from 23rd September until 6th November 2021. Continue reading “Rehearsal images for The Normal Heart released”

News: new musical The Rhythmics releases album and video

Metta Theatre and Aria Entertainment – two of the UK’s leading production companies devoted to British musical theatre – are pleased to announce that the album for brand-new life affirming musical THE RHYTHMICS, is now available via Spotify, iTunes, Amazon Music, Apple Music and many other digital platforms. With book and lyrics by Metta’s Artistic Director Poppy Burton-Morgan, and music & lyrics from Stiles&Drewe award winner Ben Glasstone (Reanimator), THE RHYTHMICS explores the crisis of masculinity via a collection of oddballs belting their way through a thrillingly catchy guitar led score.

Hapless single-dad Grey is in a rut. Teenage daughter Silva packs him off to revive his rockstar dreams, successfully auditioning for ‘Nick & the Rhythmics’ only to realise… he’s actually signed up for an All-male Rhythmic Gymnastics troupe. Against the odds these burly blokes make it as far as the World Championships – twirling their ‘ribbons of fire’ – and along the way Grey finally learns to commit to life. Calendar Girls meets Full Monty in this joyous new British musical. Continue reading “News: new musical The Rhythmics releases album and video”

News: A Song For Our Time winner is announced

After the announcement of the search for ‘A Song For Our Time’, an original song to be written in response the the effect of the global pandemic and the following lockdown, organisers Danielle Tarento and Paul Wilkins are delighted to unveil the chosen song, ‘Looking At The Moon’ by Amir Shoenfeld and Caitlyn Burt.

They said “We were absolutely overwhelmed at the response to this search, with over 260 submissions from across six continents. The standard was incredibly high, with new songs from world-class songwriters from all four corners of the globe. Narrowing them down to a shortlist of three was unbelievably difficult and we are so grateful to Tony Award-winning composer Jason Robert Brown for helping us to make the final decision. We are delighted with the chosen song, ‘Looking At The Moon’ and thank Amir and Caitlyn for sharing their message of hope with us.” Continue reading “News: A Song For Our Time winner is announced”

Review: 35mm – A Musical Exhibition, The Other Palace Studio

“Why must we justify? 
Let’s defy their forms and fixtures…”

There’s something about choosing a song cycle as your form that automatically feels like a declaration that the entertainment that lies ahead is going to be a mixed bag, some hits and the possibility of some misses in a willfully diverse collection, loosely connected by an overarching theme. And so it proves with Ryan Scott Oliver’s 35mm: A Musical Exhibition, currently getting a short run in The Other Palace’s studio space.

The hook here is that the 15 songs are each inspired by a photograph taken by Broadway photographer Matthew Murphy, allowing for the exploration of any (and all) aspect of human nature and the adoption of any musical style he wishes. An exponent of new musical theatre writing, Scott Oliver calls to mind something of the complexity of Michael John LaChiusa’s compositions and equally brings the same kind of challenges. Continue reading “Review: 35mm – A Musical Exhibition, The Other Palace Studio”

Winners of The Stage Debut Awards 2017

The Joe Allen Best West End Debut

WINNER: Andrew Polec for Bat Out of Hell at the London Coliseum
John Boyega for Woyzeck at the Old Vic
Anthony Boyle for Harry Potter and the Cursed Child at the Palace Theatre
Andy Karl for Groundhog Day at the Old Vic
Audra McDonald for Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar and Grill at Wyndhams Theatre
Imogen Poots for Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? at the Harold Pinter Theatre
Amber Riley for Dreamgirls at the Savoy Theatre
Charlie Stemp for Half a Sixpence at the Noel Coward Theatre

Best Actor in a Play
WINNER: Abraham Popoola for Othello at Tobacco Factory Theatres, Bristol
Jack Archer for Nivelli’s War at the Lyric Theatre, Belfast
TJ Jones for The Seven Acts of Mercy at the Swan Theatre, Royal Shakespeare Company
Kenneth Omole for Assata Taught Me at the Gate Theatre, London

Best Actress in a Play Sponsored by Pauline Quirke Academy at PQA Studios London
WINNER: Grace Molony for The Country Girls at the Minerva Theatre, Chichester
Anya Chalotra for Much Ado About Nothing at Shakespeare’s Globe, London
Kellan Frankland for The House of Bernarda Alba at the Royal Exchange, Manchester
Jess Peet for Alice in Wonderland at the Royal Lyceum Theatre, Edinburgh

Best Actor in a Musical Sponsored by Encore Radio
WINNER: Samuel Thomas for Allegro at Southwark Playhouse, London
Adam J Bernard for Dreamgirls at the Savoy Theatre, London
Ben Hunter for The Girls at the Phoenix Theatre, London
Daniel Urch for 110 in the Shade at Ye Olde Rose and Crown, London

Best Actress in a Musical Sponsored by The Other Palace
WINNER: Miriam-Teak Lee for On the Town at Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre, London
Chloe Carrington for Hair at Hope Mill Theatre, Manchester
Emily Hughes for Fiddler on the Roof at Everyman Theatre, Liverpool
Siena Kelly for On the Town at Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre, London

Best Composer Sponsored by Trafalgar Entertainment Group
WINNER: Dan Gillespie Sells for Everybody’s Talking About Jamie at the Crucible Theatre, Sheffield
Jonah Brody for Removal Men and This Beautiful Future at the Yard, London
Ruth Chan for Snow in Midsummer at the Swan Theatre, Royal Shakespeare Company, Stratford-upon-Avon
MJ Harding for Removal Men at the Yard, London
Stephen Jackson for Roller Diner at the Soho Theatre, London

Best Designer Sponsored by Robe
WINNER: Rosie Elnile for The Convert at the Gate Theatre, London
Joshua Gadsby for Dreamplay at the Vaults, London and Still Ill at the New Diorama, London
Simon Spencer for The Tempest at the Royal Shakespeare Company, Stratford-upon-Avon
Jessica Staton for Extra Yarn at the Orange Tree Theatre, London

Best Director Sponsored by See Tickets
WINNER: Lekan Lawal for Betrayal at Derby Theatre, Derby
Sean Aydon for Richard III at the Rosemary Branch, London
Alexander Lass for 46 Beacon at Trafalgar Studios 2, London
Lynette Linton for Assata Taught Me at the Gate Theatre, London

Best Writer
WINNER: Katherine Soper for Wish List at the Royal Exchange, Manchester, and Royal Court Theatre, London
Titas Halder for Run the Beast Down at the Marlowe Theatre, Canterbury and Finborough Theatre, London
Asif Khan for Combustion at Tara Arts, London
Victoria Willing for Spring Offensive at the Clapham Omnibus, London

 

Nominees for The Stage Debut Awards 2017

The Joe Allen Best West End Debut
John Boyega for Woyzeck at the Old Vic~
Anthony Boyle for Harry Potter and the Cursed Child at the Palace Theatre
Andy Karl for Groundhog Day at the Old Vic
Audra McDonald for Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar and Grill at Wyndhams Theatre
Andrew Polec for Bat Out of Hellat the London Coliseum
Imogen Poots for Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? at the Harold Pinter Theatre
Amber Riley for Dreamgirls at the Savoy Theatre
Charlie Stemp for Half a Sixpence at the Noel Coward Theatre

Best Actor in a Play
Jack Archer for Nivelli’s War at the Lyric Theatre, Belfast
TJ Jones for The Seven Acts of Mercy at the Swan Theatre, Royal Shakespeare Company
Kenneth Omole for Assata Taught Me at the Gate Theatre, London
Abraham Popoola for Othello at Tobacco Factory Theatres, Bristol

Best Actress in a Play Sponsored by Pauline Quirke Academy at PQA Studios London
Anya Chalotra for Much Ado About Nothing at Shakespeare’s Globe, London
Kellan Frankland for The House of Bernarda Alba at the Royal Exchange, Manchester
Grace Molony for The Country Girls at the Minerva Theatre, Chichester
Jess Peet for Alice in Wonderland at the Royal Lyceum Theatre, Edinburgh

Best Actor in a Musical Sponsored by Encore Radio
Adam J Bernard for Dreamgirls at the Savoy Theatre, London
Ben Hunter for The Girls at the Phoenix Theatre, London
Samuel Thomas for Allegro at Southwark Playhouse, London
Daniel Urch for 110 in the Shade at Ye Olde Rose and Crown, London

Best Actress in a Musical Sponsored by The Other Palace
Chloe Carrington for Hair at Hope Mill Theatre, Manchester
Emily Hughes for Fiddler on the Roof at Everyman Theatre, Liverpool
Siena Kelly for On the Town at Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre, London
Miriam-Teak Lee for On the Town at Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre, London

Best Composer Sponsored by Trafalgar Entertainment Group
Jonah Brody for Removal Men and This Beautiful Future at the Yard, London
Ruth Chan for Snow in Midsummer at the Swan Theatre, Royal Shakespeare Company, Stratford-upon-Avon
Dan Gillespie Sells for Everybody’s Talking About Jamie at the Crucible Theatre, Sheffield
MJ Harding for Removal Men at the Yard, London
Stephen Jackson for Roller Diner at the Soho Theatre, London

Best Designer Sponsored by Robe
Rosie Elnile for The Convert at the Gate Theatre, London
Joshua Gadsby for Dreamplay at the Vaults, London and Still Ill at the New Diorama, London
Simon Spencer for The Tempest at the Royal Shakespeare Company, Stratford-upon-Avon
Jessica Staton for Extra Yarn at the Orange Tree Theatre, London

Best Director Sponsored by See Tickets
Sean Aydon for Richard III at the Rosemary Branch, London
Alexander Lass for 46 Beacon at Trafalgar Studios 2, London
Lekan Lawal for Betrayal at Derby Theatre, Derby
Lynette Linton for Assata Taught Me at the Gate Theatre, London

Best Writer
Titas Halder for Run the Beast Down at the Marlowe Theatre, Canterbury and Finborough Theatre, London
Asif Khan for Combustion at Tara Arts, London
Katherine Soper for Wish List at the Royal Exchange, Manchester, and Royal Court Theatre, London
Victoria Willing for Spring Offensive at the Clapham Omnibus, London

 

Review: Honeymoon in Vegas, London Palladium

“I am not making friki-friki”

The London Musical Theatre Orchestra’s arrival on the scene has not gone unnoticed by me but their previous concerts have always fallen on days when I couldn’t make it. So finally putting a show on on a Sunday night meant I was able to put it in the diary and to mark the occasion, they only went and invited their first guest conductor along, Mr Jason Robert Brown himself to helm the UK premiere of his show Honeymoon in Vegas.

And in the swish surroundings of the London Palladium, it was hard not to be entirely seduced by the lush sound of a 30-strong orchestra (under the musical direction of Freddie Tapner), a chorus of 16 up-and-coming performers and a main cast of bona fide West End stars directed by Shaun Kerrison. The concert staging allows for an amusingly slapdash approach which really suited the joie de vivre exuding from pretty much everyone involved here, a real passion project. Continue reading “Review: Honeymoon in Vegas, London Palladium”

News: #AlsoRecognised Awards shortlists announced

Shortlists for the third annual Also Recognised Awards have been announced by MyTheatreMates, founded by Mark Shenton and Terri Paddock. These audience-voted industry accolades celebrate talent in fields often overlooked by other award bodies. Voting is now open for all categories and closes on Sunday 26th March 2017. Cast your vote at: www.mytheatremates.com/AlsoRecognisedAwards-2017/
 
The aim of the awards is to recognise some of those categories that are sometimes overlooked in other awards – for example, Best Musical Direction is one that is sadly unique to the Also Recognised roster. There’s also a nod to the behind-the-scenes folk with awards for Best Twitter Engagement, Show Trailer and Show Poster recognising the invaluable part that marketing, especially digitally, has to play in the industry.
 
So find the shortlists below and head over to My Theatre Mates to cast your vote. I helped to draw up these lists along with Mark and Terri, Andrew Keates and Mike Dixon, and the rest of the My Theatre Mates collective, and I think the blend of West End, Off-West End, fringe and regional nominees reflects that, so I’ll be most interested to see how the results pan out.

Continue reading “News: #AlsoRecognised Awards shortlists announced”