Review: Mame, Hope Mill Theatre

There’s still a reason Mame hasn’t been seen in the UK for 50 years but this lavish Hope Mill Theatre production and a spectacular Tracie Bennett give it a damn good try

“Your special fascination’ll
prove to be inspirational
we think you’re just sensational”

In some ways you have to admire the ambition in reviving a show that hasn’t been seen professionally in the UK for 50 years. In others, you wouldn’t be blamed for blurting ‘what are you thinking’! The ever-adventurous folks at Manchester’s Hope Mill Theatre have done just that with this revival of Mame, hoping to find a glitzy neglected diamond in the rough. (And when oh when will they transfer their lovely take on Little Women to London like so many of their other shows.) 

Director Nick Winston’s wisest decision is to mount it with a lavishly decadent production that you don’t often see on the fringe, especially with the likes of Tracie Bennett (so excellent in Follies recently) heading the cast. Getting to see a performer of the calibre of Bennett, with a voice like that, in such intimacy as this, is a rare treat and even singing a minor Jerry Herman score, is a genuine theatrical thrill.
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Review: Hey, Old Friends, Theatre Royal Drury Lane

Stop worrying where you’re going—move on”

Theatreland does like to make sure every anniversary gets marked somehow and so following on from the celebrations around Les Misérables’ 30th birthday earlier this month is a similar hoohah for Stephen Sondheim’s 85th year on this planet. As is de rigueur for these events, a gala concert has been put on for the occasion with the kind of rollcall you could only normally dream of and naturally, Hey, Old Friends! had the price tag to go along with it.

As with Les Mis (which donated to Save The Children’s Syria Children’s appeal), the show benefitted charitable purposes, specifically The Stephen Sondheim Society and telephone helpline service The Silver Line, harnessing the major fundraising potential of such events. That said, these tickets tend to be so expensive that there’s a nagging feeling that they’re serving a limited audience with few opportunities for regular theatregoers to be a part of them. Continue reading “Review: Hey, Old Friends, Theatre Royal Drury Lane”

Review: Wag! The Musical, Charing Cross

“I really have a heart, let that be known,
I once sponsored an elephant in Sierra Leone”

I doubt anyone is turning up to WAG! The Musical expecting insightful commentary into the illusory nature of celebrity and the socio-economic impact of the WAG phenomenon on a generation of young women. But it is hard to see exactly what Tibetan writer Belvedere Pashun is trying to achieve or say. This is no indictment of the WAG lifestyle – with personal spray tan artists and eyelash suppliers credited in the programme, how could it be – and it seems like it wants to break away from the stereotypical image of these figures to show the real women within.

But it is hard to feel any vestige of sympathy or indeed empathy for any of them when everything they do pertains to received notions of WAGdom. The tottering around in sky-high heels, the money-grabbing chase after rich men, the turning up to any event which has the label ‘celebrity’ plastered on it, sleeping with other women’s husbands, acting like a grade-A bitch when you’ve been caught sleeping other women’s husbands and still somehow getting away with it. There’s no real attempt to show that there could be anything more to a WAG than these situations and so the stereotypes end up being reinforced. Continue reading “Review: Wag! The Musical, Charing Cross”