Review: When Midnight Strikes, Drayton Arms

“Strike up the band, make it piping hot”

MKEC Productions have been carving out a niche for themselves in conjuring fringe productions of lesser-known musicals and in Charles Miller and Kevin Hammonds’ When Midnight Strikes, directed by Marc Kelly, they’re onto a winner. Set in a Manhattan apartment on New Year’s Eve 1999, a plush dinner party looks set to career off the rails as the hostess has discovered that her husband is cheating and the guests are just about to arrive.

Admittedly, Hammonds’ book is a tad sketchily drawn – 11 partygoers and the waitress/actress serving them all jostling for space, and so naturally not all get a fair whack at the wheel of the main narrative. And set so specifically at the millennium, its humour and reference points feel weirdly dated, with an almost US sitcom feel. What Kelly’s production does do though is highlight that it is still a set of potentially vibrant character studies and so the company respond by each seizing their moment. Continue reading “Review: When Midnight Strikes, Drayton Arms”

Review: Birds of Paradise, Drayton Arms

“Penguins must sing”

Birds of Paradise is a show that had an ignominiously brief off-Broadway run in 1987 and might well have faded into obscurity were it not for its lyricist and co-book-writer Winnie Holzman going on to have a small measure of success in later writing the book for a show called Wicked… So MKEC Productions have opted to revive the show and give it its belated UK premiere at the Drayton Arms in South Kensington. 

And as with a fair few shows that suffer from terrible reputations due to their performance in the harsh commercial reality of musical theatre, it isn’t as bad as all that at all. Set in the world of amateur dramatics, the Harbour Island Players are excited about their new project, a musical version of Chekhov’s The Seagull, and over-excited about the news that a Broadway star (and former local) is coming to watch them rehearse. Continue reading “Review: Birds of Paradise, Drayton Arms”

Review: Musical of the Year, LOST Theatre

“I yearn as I burn”

Stephen Lanigan-O’Keeffe and Owain Rose’s Musical of the Year pops up as something of a surprise, a genuinely funny musical theatre extravaganza in the mould of something like Forbidden Broadway as it parodies any number of big musicals from the last 60 years. The conceit is a simple one – the year is 1955 and college sweethearts Rudy Brown and Lizzie Conlon are looking for ways to update a musical they wrote together. They decide to ape the style of the big award-winning musical of the year and when that fails, Rudy tries time and time again.

Their show is based on The Hunchback of Notre Dame, so we’re instantly given a helping hand in terms of the story being told. But even then, there’s a clever advancement of the travails of Quasimodo, Esmeralda et al that brings real interest to the songs, in addition to the pastiches that they engender. There’s an occasional urge to overegg the pudding in terms of making sure we ‘get’ it (the shows referenced are all in the programme) but if you can resist, there’s real joy in working out what’s coming next and its plot will be intertwined with the events of the show. Continue reading “Review: Musical of the Year, LOST Theatre”

Review: Off Cut Festival Group 2, Riverside Studios

“Commitment. What a conundrum.”

I’ve written more about the Off Cut Festival in the review of Group 1 and in this post, so in this post, I’ll just cover the shows that were included in the second group of plays. As a collection, it felt that they were slightly more adventurous both in the writing and the direction, unafraid to push the artistic envelope a bit more but with mixed success.

My top three were Two Rings by Louise Taylor, a favourite from the Bloggers evening and one which moved me once again with its mismatched couple of a stroppy young volunteer and an Alzheimer’s-ridden care home resident who find they have so much more in common than they ever dreamed; Wet Dog by Ösp Viggósdóttir was a delightfully surreal adventure with an all-too plausible manipulation of a hapless visitor; and the bizarre MEAT, which was most squirm-inducing yet still managed to intrigue as well. Rebecca Fielding’s Bound was very well received so I wouldn’t be surprised if that made it through but I found it a little dull to be honest. Continue reading “Review: Off Cut Festival Group 2, Riverside Studios”