Album Review: Surrounded by the Sounds – the music of Tim Prottey-Jones (2011)

“She screamed, I think – it was hard to hear”

Surrounded by the Sounds – the music of Tim Prottey-Jones is the second of actor/writer Prottey-Jones’ albums featuring a whole array of his West End pals, but the third that I’ve reviewed (see reviews of More With Every Line and To Do. To Be.) It features songs from two of Prottey-Jones musicals – Once Bitten and After The Turn – and has a decidedly more pronounced rock feel to it than either of his other collections.

As such, it didn’t quite tickle my fancy in the way that I might have liked, especially since To Do. To Be. had impressed me. And it’s not that this is a collection of bad songs, they’re just not my cup of tea. Such guitars, much rock, so not wow. Even when the tempo slows a little into ballad territory, as with Michael Xavier’s ‘Chance In A Lifetime’ or Jodie Jacobs’ ‘Colour Me’, it is still just too monotonely guitar-heavy for my liking.

 

 

Song Review – Twinnie Lee Moore – Home/Cool

“Without you around it just don’t feel like home”

It seems like we might have lost Twinnie Lee Moore from the world of musical theatre, which is a shame as I enjoyed her work. She moved on to Hollyoaks as a member of the anarchic McQueen family but from there, she’s now opted to devote herself entirely to her music career. An EP is in the works but for the moment we have two songs to tide us over and mightily impressive they both are too.

‘Cool’ is very much in the mould of the country-pop that Moore is aiming for, its gentle twang and whoops driving a delightfully hummable melody , whereas ‘Home’ is a straight-up power pop anthem with a massively defiant chorus. The pair of tracks make me very keen to hear what else she has up her sleeve and I’m hoping there’s room for some quieter, not quite so heavily produced moments too to really show off her voice. Definitely one to look out for, but then you knew that already! Continue reading “Song Review – Twinnie Lee Moore – Home/Cool”

Album Review: Desperately Seeking Susan (London Cast)

“One way or another I’m gonna lose ya”

There’s something perverse about wanting to have been there for shows that have been deemed a flop, to see if it really was that bad (in Too Close To The Sun’s case, it really was, and worse) or more often than not, just discover that they’re not really working that well (c.f. any number of big title musicals of recent years). Arriving late 2007, Desperately Seeking Susan came at a time when I still only saw a couple of shows a month and so I didn’t get witness its full glory before it closed a scant month after opening.

Much like double denim, its twin hit of 80s classics was a lot to take: an adaptation of the 1985 film starring Rosanna Arquette and Madonna with a soundtrack of Blondie songs bolted on for good measure. By all accounts it was a troubled mixture, as evidenced by its early closure but listening to the soundtrack, there is at least the bonus of not having to figure out how the book (by Peter Michael Marino) fits in. What’s left is the jukebox selection of Debbie Harry’s band’s finest tracks (plus a few others), performed by a well-meaning cast. Continue reading “Album Review: Desperately Seeking Susan (London Cast)”

Review: Rock of Ages, Shaftesbury

“Sometimes you tell the day by the bottle you drink”

If you thought that it would be rather unlikely for me to be going to Rock of Ages, then you would have been correct. It didn’t have the instant appeal to me, not so much in the fact that it is a jukebox musical but rather that the music on which it is based is the kind of the classic 1980s rock of which I wasn’t a fan as a boy at the time nor have I become one now. But one of the joys of maintaining a blog such as this is that occasionally I am offered tickets to shows, thereby getting to see things I wouldn’t normally have considered and so broadening my theatrical horizons, so thank you very much AKA, I am most grateful. So that is how I ended up in the Shaftesbury Theatre on a Wednesday evening, being served beer at my seat, fake lighter in hand.

The show has been something of a success on Broadway and has been eagerly anticipated by fans of the show here, of whom I know a surprising number, but I knew nothing of the show itself. It centres on Hollywood rock dive The Bourbon Room which is threatened with closure by some German developers who want to ‘clean up’ the city and the effect that will have on the people who work and frequent the bar. The owner calls in a big rock star to play his final gig there before splitting with his band; a city planner wants to secure its unique place in the town’s history, and these all have an impact on the tentative and tortured love story between the barman (and would-be rocker) and the waitress (an aspiring actress). Continue reading “Review: Rock of Ages, Shaftesbury”

Review: Four Nights in Knaresborough, Southwark Playhouse

“Look at us, the men who murdered Becket by the altar”

Four Nights in Knaresborough takes a rather unique look at events around a significant moment in medieval English history: the assassination of Thomas à Becket in Canterbury Cathedral in 1170. Paul Webb’s play, presented here by co-producers Rooster and MokitaGrit at the Southwark Playhouse, looks at the four knights of Henry II’s court who carried out the murder of the troublesome Archbishop and follows them as they hole up in a drafty castle in deepest Yorkshire, visiting them four times over the course of a year as they wait, and wait, unsure of just what is going to happen to them.

The promotional material cites a modern day sensibility that has “more in common with Tarantino than Cadfael” but what the play put me most in mind of, particularly in the first half, was Sam Mendes’ film Jarhead in its portrayal of military men driven stir-crazy, frustratingly forced into an extended waiting game rather than doing what it is that they do best. And so we see the knights here dealing with the mundanity of killing time with tales of constipation, horniness, hunger, sword-polishing, even love, and the funniest scene of emergency medieval dentistry I’ll wager you’ll see all year. Continue reading “Review: Four Nights in Knaresborough, Southwark Playhouse”

fosterIAN awards 2010

 WinnerRunner-upOther nominees
Best Actress in a PlayMichelle Terry, TribesNancy Carroll, After the DanceZoë Wanamaker, All My Sons
Helen McCrory, The Late Middle Classes
Miranda Raison, Anne Boleyn
Sophie Thompson, Clybourne Park
Best Actor in a PlayJohn Heffernan, Love Love LoveBenedict Cumberbatch, After the DanceJacob Casselden, Tribes
David Suchet, All My Sons
Roger Allam, Henry IV Part I + II
Andrew Scott, Design for Living
Best Supporting Actress in a PlayRachael Stirling, A Midsummer Night’s Dream (Rose, Kingston)Jemima Rooper, All My SonsJessica Raine, Earthquakes in London
Sylvestra Le Touzel, Les Parents Terribles
Clare Higgins, Hamlet (NT)
Madeleine Potter, Broken Glass
Best Supporting Actor in a PlayRobin Soans, Palace of the EndNigel Lindsay, Broken GlassAdrian Scarborough, After the Dance
Eddie Redmayne, Red
Stephen Campbell Moore, All My Sons
William Gaunt, Henry IV Part I + II
Best Actress in a MusicalTracie Bennett, End of the RainbowEmma Williams, Love StoryCora Bissett, Midsummer
Sheridan Smith, Legally Blonde
Katie Moore, Salad Days
Kirsty Hoiles, Spend! Spend! Spend!
Best Actor in a MusicalSam Harrison, Salad DaysJon-Paul Hevey, Once Upon a Time at the AdelphiJohn Owen-Jones, Les Misérables
Alan Richardson, Iolanthe
Matthew Pidgeon, Midsummer
Dean Charles Chapman, Billy Elliot
Best Supporting Actress in a MusicalHannah Waddingham, Into the WoodsJodie Jacobs, State FairKaren Mann, Spend! Spend! Spend!
Siobhan McCarthy, The Drowsy Chaperone
Jill Halfpenny, Legally Blonde
Twinnie Lee Moore, Flashdance
Best Supporting Actor in a MusicalMichael Xavier, Into the WoodsMatthew James Willis, IolantheTom Parsons, Avenue Q
Michael Howe, The Drowsy Chaperone
Liam Tamne, Departure Lounge
Earl Carpenter, Les Misérables

2010 Best Supporting Actress in a Play & in a Musical

Best Supporting Actress in a Play

Rachael Stirling, A Midsummer Night’s Dream
That voice! That voice! I could listen to Stirling read the telephone directory and it would be a happy day. And it is remarkable that in a production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream that saw Dame Judi Dench taking on the role of Titania once again, it was Stirling from whom I could not tear my eyes. She brought such fiery warmth to her Helena, a great clarity to her verse speaking but her best moments for me (ironically) were when she was not speaking but reacting to the Rude Mechanicals’ efforts where she was just gorgeous to watch, almost stealing the show from an extremely funny Pyramus and Thisbe. You can currently catch her in An Ideal Husband, which finishes in February.

Honourable Mention: Jemima Rooper, All My Sons
Playing against such heavyweights as Suchet and Wanamaker both delivering stellar performances, one could have forgiven Rooper and Stephen Campbell Moore for slacking a little bit in their supporting roles in Arthur Miller’s All My Sons. But part of what made this production such a monster success was the strength of their own performances, standing up to these heavyweight talents and delivering their own great turns. Rooper’s face-off with Wanamaker was one of my favourite scenes of the year. Rooper is currently in Me and My Girl in Sheffield, and I’m going in early January!

Jessica Raine, Earthquakes in London
Sylvestra Le Touzel, Les Parents Terribles
Clare Higgins, Hamlet
Madeleine Potter, Broken Glass

7-10
Noma Dumezweni, Romeo & Juliet/The Winter’s Tale; Barbara Marten, Henry IV Part I + II; Jade Williams, Palace of the End/ Henry IV Part I + II; Sian Clifford, The Road To Mecca

 

Best Supporting Actress in a Musical

Hannah Waddingham, Into the Woods

I first lost my heart to Hannah Waddingham in A Little Night Music a couple of years back, but this year she really confirmed her place as one of my most favourite musical theatre actresses with four stellar performances that I was lucky enough to see. Rocking the Menier Chocolate Factory with her own cabaret was massive amounts of fun; appearing at Wilton’s Music Hall as part of a charity gala was lovely (and possibly her best rendition of ‘Send in the Clowns’ yet); her contribution to Anton Stephans’ concert Grateful, singing Jason Robert Brown’s ‘Coming Together’ with Stephans was one of those indescribable moments of bliss, but in Stephen Sondheim’s Into the Woods, in a cleverly designed production at the Open Air Theatre, she excelled as the Witch. Whether hunched over as the disguised crone or standing statuesquely tall post-transformation, she sang beautifully and precisely, really demonstrating herself to be, alongside co-star Jenna Russell, as one of the best interpreters of Sondheim in a year when we heard so very much of his works. She will evidently spend most of next year in The Wizard of Oz but I hope Lloyd-Webber is coming up with some crackers for her to sing as the Wicked Witch of the West is not a part best known for its songs. Now I just need to her to look at me, just once, as she sings the line ‘there ought to be clowns’ and I would die a happy man!

Honourable Mention: Jodie Jacobs, State Fair
Again, a bit of a recognition of a body of work for the year here as Jacobs managed the not inconsiderable feat of appearing in three different musicals in as many months: Bright Lights Big City, Me & Juliet and the revival of State Fair at the Trafalgar Studios, this latter of which was my favourite of all her performances and one of my highlights of the year. As Emily, the showgirl with a heart and a wise head, she shone in the tiny Studio 2, revelling in the heady flirtations with Karl Clarkson’s dopey farm-boy, dazzling with her own burlesque-inspired routine and hoofing with the best of them in the numerous glorious ensemble numbers. People around the country will be able to see her next year in the touring production of Footloose (I think), but I hope it is not too long before she hits London’s stages again.

Karen Mann, Spend! Spend! Spend!
Siobhan McCarthy, The Drowsy Chaperone
Jill Halfpenny, Legally Blonde The Musical
Twinnie Lee Moore, Flashdance The Musical

7-10
Ally Holmes, Once Upon A Time at the Adelphi; Beverley Rudd, Into the Woods; Jenna Russell, Into the Woods; Aoife Mulholland, Legally Blonde The Musical

Review: Flashdance – The Musical, Shaftesbury

“Just a steel town girl on a Saturday night”

I was originally meant to see Flashdance -The Musical at the Shaftesbury Theatre a couple of weeks ago but that first preview was cancelled due to technical difficulties, so when I finally made it to one of the last previews, my heart sank as we waited for the curtain to rise and the announcement came that the start of the afternoon’s show was being delayed due to, you’ve guessed it, technical difficulties! Having been outraged at the merchandising in the foyer (£60 for a special Barbie! £15 for a pair of legwarmers!) I was thus prepared with sharpened knives for what was coming my way. Perhaps my lowered expectations had something to do with then, but I ended up having quite a good time!

Based on the Paramount Pictures film, Flashdance – The Musical has a book by Tom Hedley & Robert Cary, music by Robbie Roth and lyrics by Robbie Roth and Robert Cary, but also features choreography from Arlene Phillips (who really does belong back on our screens at the weekend). Set in Pittsburgh in the 1980s, we meet Alex, apprentice steel welder by day, club dancer by night (who isn’t!) who dreams of love and life in dance school. Watching this reminded me of just how many times I have seen variations of this story played out in countless films, of someone fighting against the odds to, delete as appropriate, date a black guy/rise above working class roots/honour a dead relative/not be a stripper and get to the audition in time to wipe the smile off that smug auditioner’s face in order to secure a place at an amazing dance school for which they are eminently unsuitable. But I love each and every one of them, there’s nothing like a cheesy teen dance film to raise the spirits! And as Flashdance got in there at the beginning, it can consider itself mistress of the genre. Continue reading “Review: Flashdance – The Musical, Shaftesbury”