News: I Dare You – Charity Single To Be Released on 16 March

The Make A Difference Trust today announce the release of the charity single I Dare You. The track featuring a host of stars of the West End stage will be released on Tuesday 16 March 2021, to mark the anniversary of the day UK Theatres went dark in 2020.

With an appeal by Vanessa Williams, raising funds for the MAD Covid-19 Emergency relief Fund, singing together for the first time are Aimie Atkinson, Samantha Barks, Sharon D Clarke, Kerry Ellis, Shaun Escoffery, Shanay Holmes, Francesca Jackson, Cassidy Janson, Aisha Jawando, Tosh Wanogho-Maud, Jamie Muscato, Eva Noblezada, Natalie Paris, Jay Perry, Louise Redknapp, Oliver Tompsett, Faye Tozer, Sally Ann Triplett, Rachel Tucker, Marisha Wallace and Layton Williams. Continue reading “News: I Dare You – Charity Single To Be Released on 16 March”

Film Review: Blithe Spirit (2020)

Despite a talented cast including Judi Dench and Dan Stevens, this cinematic version of Noël Coward’s Blithe Spirit is a big miss

“I’ll have a grilled grapefruit and a strong coffee please”

On the one hand, I knew I wouldn’t enjoy Blithe Spirit, Noël Coward’s enduring play offering increasingly diminishing returns every time it reappears. On the other, I don’t think anyone would have predicted how misjudged this film version would be, directed by Ed Hall and adapted for the screen by Piers Ashworth, Meg Leonard and Nick Moorcroft.

Coward’s plays do what they do, offering safe options for audiences (and theatre programmers) and usually attracting top actors (Jennifer Saunders and Angela Lansbury are the last two to have starred in the West End in this play). And on the face of it, the same ought to be true of a filmed version, here with Dame Judi Dench stepping into the feathered caftan of Madame Arcati. Continue reading “Film Review: Blithe Spirit (2020)”

Album Review: Michael Ball & Alfie Boe – Back Together

Michael Ball and Alfie Boe get back together for Back Together, their third album as a duo, which I ultimately find hard to resist

“The more you refuse to hear my voice
The louder I will sing”

First they were Together, then they were Together Again and now they’re Back Together – there’s no separating Michael Ball and Alfie Boe as their double act has become an extraordinary success, managing that all-too-rare-nowadays feat of actually selling albums. 

And you can see why, especially in a spell-binding trio of musical theatre classics early on. The unexpected harmonies speckled throughout ‘Wishing You Were Somehow Here Again’, the delicate interplay in Fiddler’s ‘Sunrise, Sunset’ and the always rousing ‘Circle Of Life’ (with the assistance of Shaun Escoffrey) all imbue the familiar material with real interest, making the case for Ball & Boe as more than just your average crooners cranking out a new album. And the inclusion of a Pasek & Paul song is predictably de rigueur for a 2019 release, even if neither man quite has the suppleness of voice or diction to really get away with the energy of ‘The Greatest Show’. Continue reading “Album Review: Michael Ball & Alfie Boe – Back Together”

Album Review: Parade (Original London Cast 2007)

“Call for justice! We need justice!
Beat the bastard! Kill the bum!”

Based on historical events from the turn of the last century in Atlanta, Georgia, Jason Robert Brown and Alfred Uhry’s Parade has been something of a slow-burning theatrical success – its original 1998 Broadway run criminally short, ending way before it won 2 Tonys, but later tours and overseas productions cementing its reputation as a sterling piece of new musical theatre. In the UK, Southwark Playhouse had a grand production in 2011 but 2007 saw the Donmar deliver a work of small-scale genius which was captured in its entirety on this double-disc recording.

Perhaps not the most likely of subjects for a piece of musical theatre, the 1913 trial of Jewish factory manager Leo Frank – Bertie Carvel in the role here – for the rape and murder of a 13 year old employee Mary Phagan benefits hugely from the musical treatment. The trial caused a big media sensation in the US and forced an examination of the (not so) latent anti-Semitism in this southern state offering a wide range of opportunities to explore musical styles, estimably executed by Thomas Murray’s 9-strong band playing David Cullen’s new orchestrations.  Continue reading “Album Review: Parade (Original London Cast 2007)”

Review: The Lion King, Lyceum

It took a long time for me to be convinced that going to see The Lion King at the Lyceum was worth it despite it being one of the longest-running shows in the West End and having finally made it there, I’m really not sure that it was worth it for me. Elton John’s music and Tim Rice’s lyrics work with Roger Allers and Irene Meechi’s book which takes the familiar plot and adds in several new scenes with a couple of notable changes (i.e. Rafiki becomes a female character) but the story is essentially the same: young lion Simba is robbed of his father and his throne by his wicked uncle Scar and only by learning about friendship and family and growing up and facing challenges, can he hope to return and claim what is his by birth.

It is often difficult to watch shows that are based on well-loved films, especially when you’re the one that loves the film in question, and so predictably it turned out here that I was disappointed. There is an odd tension between replicating familiar scenarios, as in the glorious opening scene which is stirringly rendered here and making its own mark on the material, Scar is re-envisioned as a camp villain stripping away any of the evil or menace that is associated with his character. Continue reading “Review: The Lion King, Lyceum”