Review: The Sorcerer’s Apprentice

The Sorcerer’s Apprentice brushes up well as a classy and confident new British musical

“You must be a young lady of extraordinary power”

Thwarted out of its planned run at the Southwark Playhouse at the beginning of the year, The Sorcerer’s Apprentice has worked its own kind of magic to re-emerge as an online production, available now to stream at stream.theatre over the next couple of weeks. And we should be mighty glad that it has, as it turns out to be a refreshing twist on familiar material, family-friendly without talking down to its audience and ultimately, a really rather lovely new British musical .  

Acknowleding the relative paucity of Goethe’s original poem, Richard Hough’s book imagines a much richer world in which brooms can eventually go crazy. The show is set in Midgard, a place up in the far north with a unique and precarious relationship to the aurora borealis,  one which is challenged by the desire for economic progress. There, only a single-father sorcerer and his rebellious daughter exploring her own magical potential can save the day, but they can barely talk properly together. Continue reading “Review: The Sorcerer’s Apprentice”

News: new musicals for Christmas and New Year

It’s a theatre that reliably creates memorable Christmas productions so it is good to hear that Forever Plaid will return to Upstairs at the Gatehouse from 16th December. The cast features Cameron Burt, George Crawford, Christopher Short and Alexander Zane, with Ian Oakley (musical director) and Jess Martin.

The show was written and originally directed and choreographed by Stuart Ross and has musical continuity, supervision and arrangements by James Raitt. This production is directed by John Plews and choreographed by Racky Plews. Continue reading “News: new musicals for Christmas and New Year”

Review: The Boy Friend, Menier Chocolate Factory

As light as a madeleine and as frivolous as a macaron, Sandy Wilson’s The Boy Friend proves a festive treat at the Menier Chocolate Factory

“Clap-a your hands and slap on your thighs
Grin like a goon and roll up your eyes”

As light as a madeleine and as frivolous as a macaron, Sandy Wilson’s The Boy Friend belongs in the same delightfully daft bracket of musical theatre as the likes of Salad Days and as such, is the perfect kind of frothy fun that offers a little respite from the darkness of winter nights and politicians’ empty promises. Written in the 1950s as an homage to the 1920s and with a plot that can be summed up in one character’s aside “poor little rich girl”, Matthew White’s production for the Menier Chocolate Factory sees him renew a richly fruitful relationship which has included such successes as She Loves Me and Sweet Charity.

Keeping the original three act structure, complete with two intervals, pushes the evening a little towards the episodic, but any sense of slightness is banished by the thrilling choreographic content from Bill Deamer (also associate director). From the gobsmacking elasticity and unflagging energy of Jack Butterworth and Gabrielle Lewis-Dodson’s first act charleston, to the explosive passion of Bethany Huckle and Matthew Ives’ fiery carnival tango, the quality of the dancing really is second to none. And as the full company join in time and again, it’s hard not to be swept up in the joyous atmosphere and just join in with their beaming grins. Continue reading “Review: The Boy Friend, Menier Chocolate Factory”

Review: Hair, Palace Theatre Manchester

This 50th anniversary tour of Hair the Musical does more than any to make me like the show, at the Palace Theatre Manchester

“Grab your blankets, and something to suck”

True story, I’m no real big fan of Hair. I’ve seen it a couple of times now and it just doesn’t grab me in the way that so many other classic musicals do. But when looking for a Wednesday matinée to complete my trip to Manchester, it was the only show in town. And given that this Aria Entertainment, Senbla and Hope Mill Theatre production was born here in Manchester, it seemed only right to give it another shot.

And I have to say, in its 50th anniversary year, it is beginning to win me over. The music (by Galt MacDermot) may not occupy a special place in my soul and the book (by Gerome Ragni and James Rado) remains chronically weak but there’s something so persuasive about Jonathan O’Boyle’s production that is entirely seductive, and feels even more so in the grander theatres in which it is now touring, as opposed to the more intimate spaces it has previously occupied. Continue reading “Review: Hair, Palace Theatre Manchester”

10 of my top moments in a theatre in 2018

Flashes of excellence can be found in the midst of any production so this list celebrates some of those breath-taking and/or memorable moments that really made theatregoing enjoyably fun this year.

For reference, here’s my 2017 list2016 list2015 list and 2014 list.

Being your hero!

No word of a lie, my happiest memory from inside a theatre has to be Knights of the Rose. Nothing about the overblown opening night (including real roses on the seat) prepared us for the moment someone broke out into Enrique Iglesias’ ‘Hero’ in what had been heavily trailed as a rock musical. Kudos to the cast for continuing valiantly on, and thanks for the entertainment. Continue reading “10 of my top moments in a theatre in 2018”

Review: Knights of the Rose, Arts

Less a rock musical and more Now That’s What I Call Music 1066, Knights of the Rose at the Arts Theatre threatens a return to the dark ages 

“Would you tremble if I touched your lips?
Or would you laugh?”

The website for Knights of the Rose leads with the quote “is this the most epic rock musical?” and bold as that is, well, the answer is most definitively no. That  much is evident from the start as a bunch of medieval knights start doing some slo-mo running on the spot as they return from war. But even as they dream of the ale to be drunk, the Bon Jovi songs to be sung, the wenches to be laid and other such Olde Worlde fare, a Knight’s lot is never done and a new battle upends their world once again. Sacrifice! Betrayal! Bonnie Tyler! In a time when Bat Out Of Hell can come back, maybe the rock musical is having a moment.

But wait, what the hell is Enrique Iglesias doing in here? Not only is ‘Hero’ a fantastically misjudged choice of song, the way in which its first line is used to lead into the track snaps you right out of the world of the show, as evidenced by an audience rolling in the aisles. It was the funniest thing I’ve seen in a theatre this year made all the more so by the fact that it was not meant to be at all hilarious.  An edited snippet of No Doubt’s ‘Don’t Speak’ feels similarly incongruous, ‘He Ain’t Heavy He’s My Brother’ pops up in a po-faced moment and overall, as the playlist starts to sound like Now That’s What I Call Music 1066, you begin to worry for the identity of this show which ultimately takes the idea of being a rock musical as seriously as fancy dress. Continue reading “Review: Knights of the Rose, Arts”