Review: Joseph And The Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, Palladium

Now this is how you do stunt casting! Linzi Hateley returns in glorious style to Joseph And The Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat after 30 years

“May I return
To the beginning”

In a show already suffused with nostalgia for so many, the return of Linzi Hateley to Joseph And The Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat is a warm hug of perfect decision making. It is a production that has already indulged a little in bringing back Jason Donovan – who played Joseph 30 years ago lest we forget – in the role of Pharoah, but Hateley is returning as the Narrator, the part that she originated (and for which she was Olivier nominated) and immortalised in the cast recording, meaning that this is literally the sound of my childhood coming to life!

For all my misgivings with Lord Lloyd Webber’s voting record and inter-relationship with the theatre ecology as a whole, Joseph is a show for which I have a huge fondness. From family trips to see it way back when, to singing in primary school productions, accompanying secondary school productions on the piano, to adding percussion to local drama group productions, plus catching it when it has perenially re-emerged on stages, its familiarity is the kind of smile-inducing, toe-tapping comfort that has been biting my tongue not to sing along every time I go.  Continue reading “Review: Joseph And The Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, Palladium”

News: 4 West End shows announce their casts

As a comedian, impressionist, game show host, reality TV star, soap, screen and stage actor, Les Dennis returns to the West End in the multi-award-winning smash hit musical Hairspray the Musical as Wilbur Turnblad having previously performed the role on tour. He stars alongside Michael Ball, who returns to his legendary, Olivier Awardwinning role of Edna Turnblad. Lizzie Bea will star in the iconic role of Tracy Turnblad. Acclaimed West End star Marisha Wallace will take the role of Motormouth. Rita Simons (Eastenders’ Roxy Mitchell) and Jonny Amies (Granchester on ITV; Sex Education on Netflix/Eleven Film) will also join the cast as Velma Von Tussle and Link Larkin respectively.

The full company includes Georgia Anderson, Kimani Arthur, Dermot Canavan, Lori Haley Fox, Mari McGinlay, Ashley Samuels, Michael Vinsen and Imogen Bailey, Pearce Barron, Jordan Benjamin, Joel Cooper, Luke George, Christopher Gopaul, Bradley Judge, Winny Herbert, Lily Laight, Madeleine Lawton, Holly Liburd, Will Luckett, Mireia Mambo, Kody Mortimer, Robyn Rose, Tinovimbanashe Sibanda, Amy West and Natalie Woods. Continue reading “News: 4 West End shows announce their casts”

Review: Into the Woods, Menier Chocolate Factory

“I’m not nice, I’m just right”

Fiasco Theater’s production of Stephen Sondheim’s evergreen Into the Woods was a big success over in the US and its actor-muso ethos seems ideally suited for this transfer to the Menier Chocolate Factory. It’s also an approach that pays dividends with the material, Sondheim and James Lapine’s interrogation of the world of fairy tales and what happy ever after really means.

Stripped back and doubled up, Noah Brody and Ben Steinfeld’s fully actor-musician production makes a virtue of the communal spirit and really makes you notice how much of an ensemble show it really is. Not just in how each of the storybook characters get their chance to shine (or not, as the case may be) but in the relationships, of both family and friends, with which we surround ourselves, just to save us from those moments in the woods. Continue reading “Review: Into the Woods, Menier Chocolate Factory”

Review: Beyond the Fence, Arts Theatre

“We are Greenham”

For all the hoopla surrounding the genesis of Beyond the Fence – “a musical conceived by computer and substantially crafted by computer” – one does have to wonder would any of us have noticed had we not been informed in advance. The show is the product of a wide-ranging experiment to use artificial intelligence (including a computer system called Android Lloyd Webber) to crunch actual intelligence (about well over 1,000 musicals) to come up with the ideal book, music and lyrics for a machine-tooled West End hit.

Naturally, it isn’t quite as simple as that as the extensive credits (included below for your convenience) demonstrate, the results of all this considerable data analysis actually being shaped or curated into fully fledged musical theatre form by human hands, specifically those of Benjamin Till and Nathan Taylor (they who made their nuptials into Our Gay Wedding: The Musical). Thus Beyond the Fence was born, the response to the statistically-most-likely-to-come-up-with-a-winner scenario “what if a wounded soldier had to learn how to understand a child in order to find true love?” Continue reading “Review: Beyond the Fence, Arts Theatre”

Review: The World Goes Round, Pheasantry

“What dancing in the park? What laughter in the dark?”

I always find it hard to write much about cabarets that doesn’t just end up as a list of the songs sung, so I’m keeping it short for this one. With the extensive tour of Anything Goes shortened by economic necessity, opportunities to see its leading lady Debbie Kurup again have become available sooner rather than later which has proven something of a bonus. She’ll be in Rhythm of Life, a Cy Coleman celebration later this week but right now she is delving into the work of John Kander and Fred Ebb in The World Goes Round, a cabaret first put together in 1991.

It cherry-picks from a wide range of Kander and Ebb’s collaborations, for film and TV as well as stage, and digs deep into the catalogue to feature lesser known shows like The Happy Time and The Act as well as the marquee numbers like Cabaret and Chicago. And as such it makes for an interesting journey through some brilliant songwriting and in the intimate surroundings of The Pheasantry in this Speckulation Entertainments prodiction, some excellent musicianship from the band of three led by Kris Rawlinson. Continue reading “Review: The World Goes Round, Pheasantry”