Review: Cabaret, New Wimbledon Theatre

“Start by admitting from cradle to tomb, it isn’t that long a stay”

Perhaps with a nod to the fact that it isn’t that long since it was in the West End, the touring production of Kander and Ebb’s Cabaret directed by Rufus Norris is just playing a few days at the New Wimbledon Theatre before touring the country. It was a production that I enjoyed when I saw it back at the Savoy and crucially, it has made the one casting change it needed to really improve. Despite her best efforts, Michelle Ryan never felt really at home as Sally Bowles and the introduction of Siobhan Dillon is a clever one as she embodies the simultaneous fragility and strength of this most iconic of characters.

Otherwise, there isn’t too much more to say about it that wasn’t already said in that previous review. Will Young is a genuine revelation as a chilling Emcee, Matt Rawle’s bisexual writer Cliff exudes chemistry all around and the older lovers torn apart by the encroaching regime hits a real chiming note – Lyn Paul taking over from Siân Phillips against Linal Haft. And Valerie Cutko is an inspired casting choice for Fräulein Kost, a character I always end up wanting to see more of. Continue reading “Review: Cabaret, New Wimbledon Theatre”

Film Review: Les Misérables (2012)

“Life has dropped you at the bottom of the heap”

For many people, myself included, it is nigh on impossible to approach a film version of stage behemoth Les Misérables with a blank slate. It’s been a mainstay of the musical theatre world since its 1985 London debut – it is most likely the show I have seen the most times throughout my lifetime – and after celebrating its 25th anniversary with an extraordinarily good touring production, has been riding high with a revitalised energy. So Tom Hooper’s film has a lot to contend with in terms of preconceptions, expectations and long-ingrained ideas of how it should be done. And he has attacked it with gusto, aiming to reinvent notions of cinematic musicals by having his actors sing live to camera and bringing his inimitable close-up directorial style to bear thus creating a film which is epic in scale but largely intimate in focus.

In short, I liked it but I didn’t love it. I’m not so sure that Hooper’s take on the piece as a whole is entirely suited to the material, or rather my idea of how best it works. Claude-Michel Schönberg’s score has a sweeping grandeur which is already quasi-cinematic in its scope but Hooper never really embraces it fully as he works in his customary solo shots and close-ups into the numbers so well known as ensemble masterpieces.  ‘At The End Of The Day’ and ‘One Day More’ both suffer this fate of being presented as individually sung segments stitched together but for me, the pieces never really added up to more than the sum of their parts to gain the substantial power that they possess on the stage. Continue reading “Film Review: Les Misérables (2012)”

18th Critics’ Choice Awards nominees

Best Picture
Argo
Beasts of the Southern Wild
Django Unchained
Les Misérables
Life of Pi
Lincoln
The Master
Moonrise Kingdom
Silver Linings Playbook
Zero Dark Thirty

Best Director
Ben Affleck – Argo
Kathryn Bigelow – Zero Dark Thirty
Tom Hooper – Les Misérables
Ang Lee – Life of Pi
David O. Russell – Silver Linings Playbook
Steven Spielberg – Lincoln Continue reading “18th Critics’ Choice Awards nominees”

Review: Gay’s the Word, Finborough Theatre

“On such a night as this”

The Finborough Theatre has long been well regarded as a powerhouse of intimate (not small!) theatre, developing a strong reputation on two fronts with its rediscoveries of old plays and in the promotion of new writing. But though the space above the rather lovely wine bar is petite, their productions never are and this revival of Ivor Novello’s Gay’s the Word, on for just six performances (now extended by two), features a cast of 19. Last year’s Perchance to Dream, another of Novello’s neglected works, was a genuine pleasure to watch – introducing me to the song ‘We’ll Gather Lilacs’ which has never since left my head – and so anticipation was indeed high for this.

This is incredibly the first professional revival of Gay’s the Word despite it being quite the success in the early 1950s. The plot is frothy nonsense, but a bit of candy floss is delightful now and then. Gay Daventry is a leading lady whose light is fading a little and when facing bankruptcy after an out-of-town flop, seizes on the chance bequest of a keen younger actress and opens up a drama school. But it isn’t plain sailing by any means as the money starts to run out, the doddery teachers grow frustrated with the lack of talent in the student body and some dastardly smugglers also arrive to cause further mayhem. Will Gay be able to save the day with some of her trademark vitality? What do you think 😉 Continue reading “Review: Gay’s the Word, Finborough Theatre”

Shows I am looking forward to in 2012

Though the temptation is strong, and the actuality may well prove so, I don’t think I will be catching quite so much theatre in 2012 as I did last year. I could do with a slightly better balance in my life and also, I want to focus a little more on the things I know I have a stronger chance of enjoying.

So, I haven’t booked a huge amount thus far, especially outside of London where I think I will rely more on recommendations, but here’s what I’m currently looking forward to the most: Continue reading “Shows I am looking forward to in 2012”

CD Review: My Fair Lady Original 2001 London Cast

“An average man am I, of no eccentric whim”

Unless you can’t buying all sorts of theatrical related goodies in charity shops, I have few eccentric whims myself, and one such shop in Wigan surrendered a veritable treasure trove of goodies, including the soundtrack to the National Theatre’s production of My Fair Lady. I wasn’t living in the country at the time, nor obsessed with theatre for that matter, but I was still aware of the travails of erstwhile leading lady Martine McCutcheon, who managed incredibly to still win an Olivier Award despite managing fewer performances that her understudy in the original NT run.

Lerner and Loewe’s classic is another of those shows that I’ve never actually seen on stage myself, and so I have to admit that this CD didn’t really catch my attention whilst listening to it, not that it wasn’t good but rather that I felt disengaged from it. Without having seen this production either at the NT or the Theatre Royal Drury Lane to where it transferred, there was nothing to relate it back to which is often the joy of official cast recordings of classic shows. Instead, one becomes a little too aware of the differences without the context in which they were made. Continue reading “CD Review: My Fair Lady Original 2001 London Cast”

Review: Bewitched Bothered and Bewildered, Jermyn Street Theatre

Ev’ry Sunday afternoon we’ll be polite”

Bewitched Bothered and Bewildered is a musical revue, celebrating of the works of Rodgers + Hart, both those lesser known and more famous, in a similar way to how Classic Moments Hidden Treasures went through the Sondheim back catalogue last year. Eschewing any kind of formal narrative, it simply flows from song to song, some obviously paired up, some just left simply alone, as the cast of five in their louche 30s Hollywood costumes swirl elegantly around the intimate stage of the Jermyn Street Theatre.

In many respects, this was exactly how I imagined it would be: fairly traditional arrangements of a fairly traditional repertoire, sung professionally yet not quite reaching levels of inspiration that might make it a must-see, though it is charming. Stephen Ashfield brings an effortless class to all of his numbers, making his forthcoming entry into Legally Blonde seem an intriguing prospect; Katie Kerr injects some much needed personality into some of the quirkier numbers and Valerie Cutko’s beautifully subtle tone added an interesting texture. Continue reading “Review: Bewitched Bothered and Bewildered, Jermyn Street Theatre”

Review: Cabaret in the House with Tiffany Graves, Lauderdale House

Much of the success of cabaret shows relies on the right combination of performer and selection of material and with this show featuring Reed Sinclair and Tiffany Graves, the Cabaret in the House series at Lauderdale House absolutely hit the jackpot. Tim McArthur’s programming has paired rising stars with more established performers but what is nice is that they are both given ample opportunity to shine, there’s no minor supporting slot here but a full programme from both which really offers value for money, especially when it is of this quality and compered by the delightfully self-deprecating Valerie Cutko.

Canadian Reed Sinclair put together an intriguing set of songs, showcasing a range of musical theatre numbers from his career ranging from Cole Porter numbers to songs from US musicals that didn’t make it to the West End. And whilst the tendency might have been towards the slightly obscure, Sinclair delighted me by featuring not one but two of my randomly favourite songs! Hedwig & The Angry Inch is one of those shows and indeed films that really deserves to be much better known and when it was introduced to me by a friend, ‘Wicked Little Town’ was the song that stuck out for from the first listen and Sinclair’s rendition here was beautifully heartfelt, mixed in with some of ‘Hedwig’s Lament’ too. Continue reading “Review: Cabaret in the House with Tiffany Graves, Lauderdale House”

Review: Cabaret in the House with Rosalie Craig, Lauderdale House

“But now it’s just another show, you leave ‘em laughing when they go”

Cabaret in the House is a series of Sunday afternoon cabaret shows held at Lauderdale House, a historic building tucked away in Waterlow Park in Highgate and the room used for the cabaret is actually one where Nell Gwynne stayed 400 years ago, providing a nice link. Each show is introduced by Valerie Cutko, who also gives a number at the beginning of each act accompanied by Stephen Hose. Her fabulously over-dressed appearances were full of great personality and bon mots and she made a most engaging host.

As the highlight of the afternoon, Rosalie Craig gave a highly eclectic programme, mixing in pop songs with musical theatre standards and also taking the opportunity to showcase some of her compositions as a budding singer-songwriter, and excelling at all of them. One of the best things about the cabaret format is that performers can choose the material that they want to, that they have an emotional connection with, and so it didn’t matter that this playlist came from disparate sources, Rosalie pulled it all together with her bubbly personality, her clear rapport with her band (including Hadley Fraser on guitar) and a genuine love of performing. Highlights for me were a lovely rendition of Kander and Ebb’s ‘Sometimes a Day Goes By’, Joni Mitchell’s ‘Both Sides Now’ accompanied by herself on piano and a tender ‘So Many People’ from Sondheim’s Saturday Night. Continue reading “Review: Cabaret in the House with Rosalie Craig, Lauderdale House”

Review: Classic Moments – Hidden Treasures, Jermyn Street Theatre

“Take me to a world where I can be alive”

Classic Moments – Hidden Treasures is described as a ‘cabaret celebration of some of the lesser known works of Stephen Sondheim’ and forms the latest in a string of celebratory events in the composer’s 80th birthday year. Directed by TIm McArthur originally under the (better) title Secret Sondheim, this show features a five person ensemble and pianist, singing a range of songs both solo and in groups, with hints of choreography and a huge amount of both talent and enthusiasm.

On the one hand, it is highly appropriate that a show like this should take place to celebrate Sondheim’s birthday and highlight some of his lesser-known works; on the other hand, since it is his birthday year, many of these ‘lesser known’ works have actually been running in London recently, Assassins is still on and Anyone Can Whistle played in this very venue. And shows like these often run the danger of leaving you wishing for at least one or two of the more well-known songs. But McArthur and musical director David Harvey have fashioned a fast-paced journey that rips through 28 songs in just over 90 minutes, without any narrative constraints or superimposed plot. Continue reading “Review: Classic Moments – Hidden Treasures, Jermyn Street Theatre”