Review: Seussical the Musical, Arts Theatre

“Oh, the thinks you can think!
Any thinker who thinks
Can come up with a few!”

Much of the charm of many festive shows comes from their innate familiarity – childhood pantomimes, the ever-present Dickens, the ageless music of The Nutcracker – but in an increasingly global cultural world, other shows are attempting to crack the family market at this potentially lucrative time of year for theatres. Seussical the Musical is one such show, returning to the Arts Theatre after a run last Christmas and though the world of Dr Seuss may not have quite the same purchase here as it does in the US, its appeal is undeniable.

Stephen Flaherty and Lynn Ahrens’ musical premiered on Broadway in 2000 but it is the ‘Theatre for Young Audiences’ version that Sell A Door Theatre Company have brought to the UK, a tale suitable for all ages woven together from a number of Dr Seuss’ stories. So the famous Cat in the Hat is there, introducing us to the weirdly wonderful way in which language is used in this world, and we soon get sucked into the adventures of Horton Hears A Who, as a kindly elephant tries to save a tiny world that exists on a speck of dust. Continue reading “Review: Seussical the Musical, Arts Theatre”

Review: Thirteen Days The Musical, Arcola Theatre

“You used me, you were lying, you are only here for spying”

The Grimeborn Festival is now in its sixth year of providing a very East London take on opera at the Arcola Theatre in Dalston, but wrapping up the programme this year is a new piece of musical theatre – Thirteen Days by Alexander S Bermange. A rather ambitious piece of work set around the Cuban Missile Crisis, not only does it tell the story of the brinkmanship between the three leaders of Kennedy, Khrushchev and Castro, it dramatizes the conflict in miniature in the form of a love triangle between a Cuban, a Soviet and an American, and thirdly also attempts to portray how the events affected the populations of each country.  

In painting his canvas so broad, Bermange – in charge of book, music and lyrics here – sets up a considerable challenge for himself, one which is not helped by his writing style. He is very much of the old-school British musical theatre school which stands him in good stead for the second of the above strands, the intimate love story of the Cuban student engaged to  a Soviet engineer but whose head is turned by an American visitor whose intentions are, initially at least, less than honourable. The stirring balladry that comes out of songs like ‘Anyone But You’ and ‘More Than A Memory’ feels ready to take up residence on a West End stage, as does the storming Act One finale – the mark of many a good musical past. Continue reading “Review: Thirteen Days The Musical, Arcola Theatre”

Review: The Roar of the Greasepaint, The Smell of the Crowd, Finborough Theatre

“There’s always a joker in the pack, there’s always a lonely clown”

There ought to be clowns and indeed there were, six urchin-types all done up in Pierrot costumes, an ever-present chorus observing the almost Beckettian power dynamics between the two main characters who are constantly playing and replaying the age old game of life. What might surprise is that this is the set-up for a musical, The Roar of the Greasepaint The Smell of the Crowd with book, music and lyrics by Leslie Bricusse and Anthony Newley, perhaps best known for their collaboration on the soundtrack to Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory.

Upper class ‘Sir’ is always in change of the game and is constantly changing the rules so that working-class Cockney ‘Cocky’ is always kept down-at-heel: the plays aims for a metaphysical representation of the 1960s British class system, replete with a sprinkling of absurdist touches that try to enliven the grindingly repetitive nature of the game-playing. But the story is accompanied by a musical score which encompasses a number of songs which may be incredibly familiar to you: standards like ‘Who Can I Turn To (When Nobody Needs Me)’ and ‘Look At That Face’, ‘The Joker’ – recognisable as the theme tune for hilarious television show Kath and Kim and also from Shirley Bassey’s Greatest Hits (or maybe both…!) and ‘Feelin’ Good’, immortalised by Nina Simone’s flawless interpretation. Continue reading “Review: The Roar of the Greasepaint, The Smell of the Crowd, Finborough Theatre”