News: West End Unplugged announces four free concerts in September

West End stars and theatre’s technical entertainment companies come together to support industry family with West End Unplugged

Each Wednesday from 9th to 30th September, a dazzling line-up of the West End’s most well-loved singers will perform alongside some of theatre’s top musicians in West End Unplugged (live from L-Acoustics Creations), a series of four, 45-minute charity concerts. 

COVID-19 has dealt a devastating blow to the theatre community across the U.K., with shows closed across the West End and around the country since March, and for the foreseeable future leaving all those involved with little or no income. This series of shows been produced to help raise funds for three charities that help the most in need across the entertainment industry.  Continue reading “News: West End Unplugged announces four free concerts in September”

Nominations for 2017 Lucille Lortel Awards

Outstanding Play
Indecent Produced by Vineyard Theatre in association with La Jolla Playhouse and Yale Repertory Theatre. Written by Paula Vogel, Created by Paula Vogel & Rebecca Taichman
Oslo Produced by Lincoln Center Theater. Written by J.T. Rogers
Underground Railroad Game Produced by Ars Nova. Written by Jennifer Kidwell and Scott R. Sheppard
Vietgone Produced by Manhattan Theatre Club in association with South Coast Repertory. Written by Qui Nguyen
The Wolves Produced by The Playwrights Realm in association with New York Stage and Film and Vassar’s Powerhouse Theatre Season. Written by Sarah DeLappe

Outstanding Musical
The Band’s Visit Produced by Atlantic Theater Company. Music and Lyrics by David Yazbek, Book by Itamar Moses, Based on the screenplay by Eran Kolirin
Dear Evan Hansen Produced by Second Stage Theatre in association with Stacey Mindich Productions. Book by Steven Levenson, Music and Lyrics by Benj Pasek and Justin Paul
Hadestown Produced by New York Theatre Workshop. Written by Anaïs Mitchell
Ride the Cyclone Produced by MCC Theater. Book, Music, and Lyrics by Brooke Maxwell and Jacob Richmond
The Total Bent Produced by The Public Theater. Text by Stew, Music by Stew and Heidi Rodewald Continue reading “Nominations for 2017 Lucille Lortel Awards”

Album Review: Mamma Mia (Original Cast Recording 1999)

“It’s the best I can do”

It’s easy to be dismissive about Mamma Mia and all it has wrought in revitalising the jukebox musical as a form but the numbers don’t lie. 17 years and counting in the West End, the 8th longest running show on Broadway (it occupies the same position on the UK ranking at the moment too), a wildly successful film adaptation that became the highest grossing musical ever…it’s impressive stuff.

And listening to the Original Cast Recording from 1999, subsequently re-released with bonus tracks for the 5th anniversary, I’d say it’s fairly easy to see why it has endured so long. For all you may mock Catherine Johnson’s book, which hangs oh so lightly on a varied selection of Benny Andersson and Björn Ulvaeus’ iconic music for ABBA, it actually does interesting things with it, in telling its own story rather relying on the songs themselves (I’m looking at you Jersey Boys…!)

So to say you’re better off listening to ABBA’s greatest hits is to miss the point. As light as the plot may be in its girl-wants-father-to-walk-her-down-the-aisle-but-finds-there’s-three-potential-candidates frothiness but there’s something genuinely tender in hearing ‘Chiquitita’ repurposed for two friends comforting a third, maternal lament ‘Slipping Through My Fingers’ actually sung between mother and daughter, the stag v hens vivacity of ‘Lay All Your Love on Me’.

And yes, they sound different to the originals, of course they do with a full orchestra and chorus to back them up, not to mention the lack of Swedish accents. This recording is a little blessed too in having the film’s soundtrack with its interesting casting choices to easily surpass, but that’s not to take away from the delightful vocals of Louise Plowright, Jenny Galloway, and Siobhán McCarthy as the leading trio, the latter’s Donna a fabulous leading lady from heartbreak to happiness.

Plowright’s cougarish ways enliven ‘Does Your Mother Know’ no end and Galloway’s equally predatory stance toward Nic Colicos’ Bill in ‘Take A Chance on Me’ is a delight. Lisa Stokke’s Sophie, the bride-to-be is charm personified and in keeping with the show’s female-friendly ethos, her intended – Andrew Langtree’s Sky – is somewhat sidelined. For me, ‘Our Last Summer’ has always been one of my favourite ABBA songs and remains so here, ruefully sung by former rocker Harry, an appealing Paul Clarkson, and McCarthy with a gentle loveliness that seems to stand in for the show as a whole.

 

 

Review: Pure Imagination: The Songs of Leslie Bricusse, St James Theatre

“Don’t know whether it’s mornin’ or night;
Only know it’s soundin’ right”

The numbers around composer Leslie Bricusse stack up most impressively indeed – over 1,000 songs written over a period of more than 60 years, including the book, music or lyrics for 40+ musical films and plays, winning 2 Academy Awards and being nominated for a further 8. So one can certainly indulge him in a moment of reflection in Pure Imagination: The Songs of Leslie Bricusse, a career retrospective that merely skims the surface of that mighty back catalogue with 50 numbers but giving a glorious sense of the formidable and unerring quality of his undoubted talent.

Devised by Bricusse along with director Christopher Renshaw and producer Danielle Tarento, the show eschews any kind of formal narrative, instead collecting songs into loose groupings which give the ideal opportunity to show off the vast breadth of material and leave even the most knowledgeable saying ‘I didn’t know he wrote that one as well’. So the theme to The Pink Panther rubs shoulders with Doctor Dolittle’s ‘Talk To The Animals’ and Willy Wonka’s ‘Oompa-Loompa Doompadee-Doo’, and a sing-song around the old joanna features such classics as ‘My Old Man’s A Dustman’ and ‘The Good Old Bad Old Days’. 
Continue reading “Review: Pure Imagination: The Songs of Leslie Bricusse, St James Theatre”

Album Review: The Postman and the Poet (2011 Concept Album)

“Now is the time when the people of Chile come together” 

I’m going to put it out there, I have no idea why new musical The Postman and the Poet hasn’t received a major production yet. This concept album was recorded in 2011 and has to rank as one of my favourite things I’ve listened to over the last few weeks of all these cast recordings, if not the whole year. It’s even based on source material that has Oscar-winning connections to endear it to risk-averse audiences – if From Here To Eternity can make it to a West End theatre, I’m sure The Postman and the Poet could make a decent stab at it too. 

The show is based on Antonio Skármeta’s novel Ardiente Paciencia, on which the 1994 Oscar-winning film Il Postino was based, but Trevor Bentham and Eden Phillips’ book keeps the story of the musical in Isla Negra, a small fishing village on the Chilean coast and in the early 1970s, when political turmoil threatened to overwhelm this South American country. And Michael Jeffrey, a composer new to me, has pulled together a hugely exciting and accomplished score that blends its Latin influences seamlessly into a grand musical theatre style. Continue reading “Album Review: The Postman and the Poet (2011 Concept Album)”