Review: The Theatre Channel – Episode Four The Holiday Special

Nipping in just before Santa arrives, The Theatre Channel’s fourth episode delivers festive treats aplenty in The Holiday Special

“If you’re burdened down with trouble
If your nerves are wearing thin…”

With all the uncertainty that has haunted the world of theatre since the pandemic began, there’s something unalterably pleasing about seeing a theatrical enterprise grow from strength to strength at this time. Born out of the explosion in streaming content that emerged in the first lockdown, The Theatre Channel has taken that concept and elevated it to something rather special, so mince pies and buckets of mulled wine all round for everyone at Adam Blanshay Productions and The Theatre Café.

In its half-hourly episodes, it has found focus in its themes (Hallowe’en, rock musicals) and shown generosity in its casting. Starrier names may be the headliners but the decision to introduce the Café Four (comprised of Alyn Hawke, Emily Langham, Sadie-Jean Shirley and Alex Woodward) as a regular ensemble has proven a masterstroke. providing continuity across a diverse range of performances and from episode to episode, but also showcasing their own talents alongside a raft of Olivier winners and nominees. Continue reading “Review: The Theatre Channel – Episode Four The Holiday Special”

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: Crazy Coqs announces August and September programme

Crazy Coqs, Soho’s unique live entertainment venue within the Brasserie Zédel complex, announces a new limited August programme and a full September programme, offering both live shows and live-streamed shows.

Janie Dee, Maria Friedman, Lauren Samuels, Sophie Evans, Cedric Neal, Nerina Pallot and Jay Rayner all feature in the new season.

The live shows will be performed to a reduced capacity with a socially distanced seating plan, where the front row is at least 2.5m from the stage, and all table groupings are at least 1m apart. There will be a maximum of three performers on stage to maintain social distancing. Customers will be invited to purchase tables, rather than individual tickets, to comply with the ‘reduced social bubble’ government advice.

For more information on what Health and Safety measures Crazy Coqs are implementing to make your visit as safe as possible, please visit the Brasserie Zedel website.

Several live shows will also be live streamed in partnership with Fane Online, giving audiences the chance to watch broadcast quality Crazy Coqs shows from the comfort of their own home. 

The full programme can be found at Crazy Coqs’ new website: https://www.brasseriezedel.com/crazy-coqs/

Subject to government guidelines, the programme from October onwards will be announced in due course. Continue reading “News: Crazy Coqs announces August and September programme”

Lockdown review: Some Enchanted Evening – Hope Mill Theatre

The Hope Mill Theatre crack open their address book to gather a great guest-list for this Rodgers & Hammerstein tribute concert, raising much needed funds

“Night after night, as strange as it seems…”

By rights, the Hope Mill Theatre should have been opening the UK premiere of Rodgers & Hammerstein’s Cinderella next month but ever pragmatic, its very own William Whelton and Joseph Houston have turned their hand to the theatre’s first online concert. Some Enchanted Evening still pays tribute to the iconic composing duo albeit in a different form, with friends and patrons gathering to take us through this wondrous songbook and an illustrious company bringing the songs to life.

From the incomparable Maria Friedman with a King & I medley to the ever-witty Sophie-Louise Dann relishing Allegro’s ‘The Gentleman is a Dope’, Joel Harper-Jackson (who was very good in Little Women) crooning through ‘If I Loved You’ to Louise Dearman#s shimmering star quality in ‘Edelweiss’, there’s a strong set of performances here. Standout of the night for me though was The Prince of Egypt‘s Simbi Akande, whose gorgeous soprano perfectly soared in Flower Drum Song‘s ‘Love Look Away’. Continue reading “Lockdown review: Some Enchanted Evening – Hope Mill Theatre”

10 of my top moments of the decade

Ever behind the curve, I present 10 of my top moments in a theatre over the last ten years (plus a few bonus extra ones because whittling down this list was hard, and it will probably be different tomorrow anyway!)

© James Bellorini

Extraordinary Public Acts for a National Theatre

The establishment of the Public Acts programme at the National Theatre offered up something sensational in Pericles, an initiative designed to connect grassroot community organisations with major theatres, resulting in a production that swept over 200 non-professional performers onto the stage of the Olivier to create something that moved me more than 99% of professional productions.  A truly joyous and momentous occasion. 

Honourable mention: this year’s musical take on As You Like It proved just as heart-swellingly beautiful over at the Queen’s Theatre Hornchurch. Continue reading “10 of my top moments of the decade”

Album Reviews: The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole Aged 13 ¾ / Heathers / Calendar Girls 

A trio of quick London cast recordings – The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole Aged 13 ¾, Heathers and Calendar Girls 

“For a greasy little nobody, you do have good bone structure”

I was delighted to see a belated West End transfer for this lovely new musical by Jake Brunger and Pippa Cleary. I’ve loved every step of its journey and The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole Aged 13 ¾ (Original London Cast Recording) proves the perfect accompaniment as it captures so much of the energy of this most British of tales and sparky performances from the likes of John Hopkins and the luminous Kelly Price.

I didn’t however make it to Heathers, it just not appealing to me at all. With Heathers (Original West End Cast Recording), the opportunity to listen to this high school musical is now ours but I have to say, its charms elude me. There’s a fatal mismatch between the darkness of the source material (it really is a brutal film) and the breeziness of Laurence O’Keefe and Kevin Murphy’s pop-rock score that not even the quality of Carrie Hope Fletcher, Jodie Steele, Sophie Isaacs and Jamie Muscato’s strong performances can overcome.

And I thought I’d pay another visit to Yorkshire for Calendar Girls (Original London Recording) to see whether it stands the test of time. It proved an amiable if short-lived presence in the West End and listening to it again, I’d argue that there’s a gentleness to it that doesn’t quite linger long enough. Gary Barlow’s tunes are undeniably pretty but ultimately, they don’t really call out to be listened to over and again.

The Curtain Up Show Album of the Year 2018 winners

Best UK Cast Recording
Broken Wings – Original Concept Album
Calendar Girls – Original London Recording
Everybody’s Talking About Jamie – Original West End Cast Recording
WINNER: Six The Musical – Studio Cast Recording
Working: A Musical – Original London Cast Recording
Young Frankenstein – Original London Cast Recording

Best American Cast Recording
Frozen – Original Broadway Cast Recording
WINNER: Mean Girls – Original Broadway Cast Recording
My Fair Lady – 2018 Broadway Cast Recording
Once On This Island – New Broadway Cast Recording
Pretty Woman – Original Broadway Cast Recording
The Prom – Original Broadway Cast Recording

Best Solo Album
Audra McDonald – Sing Happy
WINNER: Carrie Hope Fletcher – When The Curtain Falls
David Hunter – Silver Linings
Louise Dearman – For You, For Me
Natasha Barnes – Real
Sutton Foster – Take Me To The World

The Curtain Up Show Album of the Year 2018 nominees

Best UK Cast Recording
Broken Wings – Original Concept Album
Calendar Girls – Original London Recording
Everybody’s Talking About Jamie – Original West End Cast Recording
Six The Musical – Studio Cast Recording
Working: A Musical – Original London Cast Recording
Young Frankenstein – Original London Cast Recording

Best American Cast Recording
Frozen – Original Broadway Cast Recording
Mean Girls – Original Broadway Cast Recording
My Fair Lady – 2018 Broadway Cast Recording
Once On This Island – New Broadway Cast Recording
Pretty Woman – Original Broadway Cast Recording
The Prom – Original Broadway Cast Recording

Best Solo Album
Audra McDonald – Sing Happy
Carrie Hope Fletcher – When The Curtain Falls
David Hunter – Silver Linings
Louise Dearman – For You, For Me
Natasha Barnes – Real
Sutton Foster – Take Me To The World

The Barricade Boys announce a Christmas Cabaret season with an amazing guest cast

As Mrs Merton might have asked, what first attracted you to musical theatre supergroup The Barricade Boys…?

Clearly, it was their cumulative musical talent – between them, Scott Garnham, Simon Schofield, Craig Mather and Kieran Brown have racked up credits in pretty much every major musical from The Phantom of The Opera, Wicked and Billy Elliot to Jersey Boys, The Sound Of Music and Les Misérables. And now they’re bringing their cabaret show to The Other Palace’s Studio for a Christmas season which is enough to bring festive cheer to even the most Scrooge-like of hearts. Continue reading “The Barricade Boys announce a Christmas Cabaret season with an amazing guest cast”

Re-review: The Girls, Phoenix Theatre

“There is nothing in Nepal
More scary than the step from the kitchen to the hall”

So having not gotten round to seeing The Girls for whatever reason (mainly that I didn’t want to), I finally bit the bullet last week and within 24 hours, the show posted closing notices for its West End run. The Girls will then head out on a two year national tour from August 2018, aiming to visit 42 theatres across the UK and if that does perhaps seem a little ambitious, it is hard to shake the feeling that the musical might be more suited out on the road.

Gary Barlow and Tim Firth’s show started life in “the regions” – I saw it in Leeds and my family saw it in Manchester – and away from the cut-throat economics of the West End, it may well thrive again. The instant recognition of the Calendar Girls story has a different currency when there’s only a week’s worth of performances to sell; one gets the sense that the maxim about familiarity breeding contempt may have come into play at the Phoenix. Continue reading “Re-review: The Girls, Phoenix Theatre”