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”

2019 BroadwayWorld UK Awards Shortlist

Best Actor in a New Production of a Musical
Andy Nyman, Fiddler on the Roof, Menier Chocolate Factory
David Hunter, Waitress, Adelphi Theatre
David Ricardo-Pearce, Kiss Me, Kate, The Watermill Theatre
Kayi Ushe, Kinky Boots, UK Tour
Tom Bennett, Only Fools and Horses: The Musical, Theatre Royal Haymarket
Tyrone Huntley, The View UpStairs, Soho Theatre

Best Actress in a New Production of a Musical
Amara Okereke, Oklahoma!, Chichester Festival Theatre
Audrey Brisson, Amélie The Musical, UK Tour
Caroline Sheen, 9 to 5 The Musical, Savoy Theatre
Rebecca Trehearn, Kiss Me, Kate, The Watermill Theatre
Samantha Pauly, Evita, Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre
Sheridan Smith, Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, London Palladium Continue reading “2019 BroadwayWorld UK Awards Shortlist”

Review: Chess, London Coliseum

Nobody’s on nobody’s side – an all-star cast can’t save this game of Chess from itself, for me at least

“From square one I’ll be watching all sixty-four”

It’s taken over 30 years for Chess to return to the West End (though it was seen at the Union in 2013) and though it has a huge amount of resource thrown at it in Laurence Connor’s production for English National Opera, it doesn’t necessarily feel worth the wait. An 80’s mega-musical through and through with an intermittently cracking score from ABBA’s Benny Andersson and Björn Ulvaeus, Richard Nelson’s book hasn’t aged particularly well and bears the hallmarks of the  substantial tinkering it has had at every opportunity.

It’s not too hard to see why it has needed the tinkering. The mix of Cold War politics told through the prism of rival US and Soviet chess Grandmasters, love triangles and power ballads is a tricky one to get right and part of the problem seems to be just how seriously to take it all. On the one hand, the chess matches are backgrounded with montages of the real-life tensions of the 80s; on the other, scenes that take us through the various locations of the tournaments are a cringeworthy riot of cultural stereotyping that revel in their utter kitsch. Continue reading “Review: Chess, London Coliseum”

Album Review: Comrade Rockstar (2017 Studio Cast Recording)

“Just call me the Soviet cowboy”

Try as I might, the words ‘rock musical’ can’t help but give me a little shiver of discontent, such is my preference for piano and strings over an electric guitar. But I do try and test my preconceptions (Lizzie probably being the last time I proved myself wrong!) and so I sat down to listen to recent SimG release – Comrade Rockstar, a new musical with book & lyrics by Julian Woolford and music by Richard John.

It’s based on the properly fascinating tale of Dean Reed, an American singer known as the Soviet Elvis after he defected to the other side of the Iron Curtain at the height of the Cold War. And sure enough, it is much more musically varied than the moniker ‘rock musical’ might suggest, stretching its wings far past any connotations of solely Elvis-lite content too, to create a gently beguiling musical that you can certainly visualise on a stage somewhere near you soon. Continue reading “Album Review: Comrade Rockstar (2017 Studio Cast Recording)”

Review: Jingle Bell Christmas, Royal Albert Hall

“With those holiday greetings and gay happy meetings”

Just a quickie for this slice of Christmas party fun at the Royal Albert Hall. Never having been to one of these before, and so not realising quite what a tradition it is for some people as witnessed by the level of tinsel, fairy lights, and light-up Christmas jumpers and hats on display, Jingle Bell Christmas was an unexpected delight in its unashamedly retro way. A concert made up of Christmas pop hits from yore, plus the inevitable Mariah Carey, its non-stop festivity proved pretty much impossible to resist.

An energetic John Rigby conducted the London Concert Orchestra and vocal ensemble Capital Voices to great effect in this iconic venue, and there was something rather wonderful about being inside the Royal Albert Hall in party mood. The times I’ve been, like for Björk, Follies, even a Christmas carol concert six years ago, have always been more serious affairs and so it was just nice to be in there with such an informal, and fun, atmosphere for once, something akin to what the last night of the Proms might feel like. Continue reading “Review: Jingle Bell Christmas, Royal Albert Hall”

DVD Review: Last Chance Harvey

“Cantankerous I’ve never been”

Joel Hopkins’ The Love Punch was a film that worked far better than one might have expected, a lovely surprise in the cinema back in 2014, so I’ve been looking forward to catching up with his earlier 2008 movie Last Chance Harvey. And once again I was caught unawares, even as I knew that I would probably like it, I had no idea I would love it so completely.

Dustin Hoffman’s Harvey is a washed-up US jingle-writer, finding himself on the fringes of his daughter’s London wedding in place of a beloved stepfather; Emma Thompson’s Kate has found life has passed her by, still single and struggling with an overbearing mother. That the two will end up together somehow is never in doubt but the joy of Hopkins’ film is in making the journey so beautifully, emotionally real. Continue reading “DVD Review: Last Chance Harvey”

CD Review: Somewhere in the Audience

“You feel the urge, you think you can’t help it”

Eric Woolfson may be better known as the creator, songwriter and lyricist of The Alan Parsons Project but as a writer of musical theatre, in the great tradition of David Hasselhoff, he was big in Germany (and other parts of Europe and Asia). He passed away in 2009 but a compilation of music from four of his musicals – Gaudi, Gambler, Poe and Dancing Shadows – has been put together with the hope of resuscitating interest in his work either side of the Atlantic.

Somewhere in the Audience is a curious CD – on first listen, one is smacked over the head with the dated feel of the material. Not necessarily in a bad way but rather that the arrangements are so definitively of their time (the late 80s and 90s) that they distract from everything else. Take a number like ‘Too Late’ – sung with charisma and verve by Tim Howar, Louise Dearman and James Fox, it has a magnificently stirring drive to its structure but given the arrangement it gets here, it calls to mind a Central European power pop number with a jerky shoulder dance routine.  Continue reading “CD Review: Somewhere in the Audience”