News: concerts announced, warning given

I thought Liam Tamne’s tweet thread about diversity was worth flagging up ahead of today’s concert announcements as talk about change is proving awfully cheap compared with actually actioning it…


The West End Does… team returns to the stage with West End Does: Christmas 2020 at Cadogan Hall on 13th December. They promise a socially distanced West End Christmas extravaganza, featuring stars of the West End performing songs and carols with Louise Dearman, Killian Donnelly, Rachel John and Oliver Tompsett announced as headliners and special guests to be announced in the coming weeks. Continue reading “News: concerts announced, warning given”

Want to see A Christmas Carol this winter? You could be in luck

Want to see A Christmas Carol this festive period? Well it looks like you could well be in luck…

The Bridge Theatre has a devised (by Nick Hytner), 3-person adaptation with Simon Russell Beale, Patsy Ferran and Eben Figueiredo

The Dominion Theatre will host a production of Alan Menken, Lynn Ahrens and Mike Ockrent’s musical version with Brian Conley as Scrooge with a cast and orchestra of over 50

Gemma Bodinetz takes her bow as artistic director of the Everyman and Playhouse Theatres with Patrick Barlow’s small-cast iteration with Liverpool panto regular Adam Keast at the helm

And a brand new retelling of the classic family Christmas tale, will be coming to both cinemas and select theatres nationwide from November 20th, as Scrooge looks to help save Christmas. Simon Russell Beale, Martin Freeman, Carey Mulligan, Daniel Kaluuya and Andy Serkis lend their voices to the tale, whilst dance performances are led by former Royal Ballet soloist and BalletBoyz founder Michael Nunn as Scrooge, Jakub Franasowicz, Russell Maliphant, Karl Fagerlund Brekke, Mikey Boats, Grace Jabbari and Dana Fouras.

Film Review: Last Christmas (2019)

Any film with Patti LuPone has to be a winner, even if Last Christmas only features her for 90 seconds or so. Nowhere near as bad as they’d have you believe…

“Before we eat lesbian pudding…”

There’s always a measure of slight disappointment when something doesn’t live up to its billing. To look at most of its press coverage, you’d think Last Christmas was ZOMG WORST FILM IN THE WORLD™ (a title it might have held at least for the four weeks before Cats came out…). But the reality, as per usual, is something much more mundane – it’s a perfectly serviceable piece of festive fluff, hardly ground-breaking but then what rom-com is?

Obviously I’m biased since the great Patti LuPone makes a random cameo early on, but I found the whole thing to be quite watchable. Its guest cast is a winner from start to finish – Michelle Yeoh! David Mumeni’s inexplicably rebuffed pub guy, Anna Calder-Marshall’s spiky homeless woman, Lydia Leonard and Jade Anouka as a lesbian couple, Amit Shah’s bumbling estate agent…and that joy of trying to work out which bit of London is being used at any given time. Continue reading “Film Review: Last Christmas (2019)”

Film Review: Nativity Rocks! (2018)

The fourth instalment in the Nativity film series, Nativity Rocks! restores a little of the goodwill squandered by the previous two sequels

“I’m wishing Father Christmas doesn’t forget where I live like he did last year”

I can’t think of a film franchise that has squandered such promise as the Nativity series. Debbie Isitt’s original film was such a sweetly unexpected success, but its magic sadly proved rather elusive as its subsequent sequels lost any of its sense of purpose or improvised charm. So the arrival of a third sequel in the shape of Nativity Rocks! (released in cinemas in 2018) came with a healthy dose of apprehension, even if the musical adaptation has rescued some of its lustre (though is that also now in danger of oversaturation , as the musical is now in its third consecutive winter tour).

For all my reservations though, Isitt had zero problem in attracting a quality ensemble as the cast undergoes something of an overhaul. So Marc Wootton’s Mr Poppy is dispatched to Australia and replaced with Simon Lipkin’s Mr Poppy (his long-lost brother), Daniel Boys is the fresh-faced teacher taking St Bernadette’s school choir through the rigours of yet another competition, with Helen George as the putative love interest, Gabriel Vick as the posh rival schoolmaster. Plus there’s Hugh Dennis and Anna Chancellor as some well-to-do parents, Ramin Karimloo as a refugee father, Meera Syal and Celia Imrie too, plus Craig Revel Horwood… Continue reading “Film Review: Nativity Rocks! (2018)”

Album Review: John Barrowman – A Fabulous Christmas

John Barrowman release his festive album A Fabulous Christmas and like Christmas dinner, there’s bits I love (everything apart from the sprouts) and bits I really don’t (the sprouts)

“Well I’m all grown up now
And still need help somehow”

A relatively late entry into the festive album market (Idina Menzel released back in October!), John Barrowman’s A Fabulous Christmas burst onto the scene last week, complete with a neck injury that jeopardised the opening nights of its accompanying tour. Intensive rehabilitation seems to have got him back on the road but how is the album? Can Barrowman convince me that spoken adlibs are ever a good thing on record…?

As it often the case with Barrowman as a performer, for me at least, there are moments of pure loveliness and others when it is all just a bit too much. When he turns down the power in his voice and allows its character to shine through, you understand why he is such a popular singer. The tender restraint of ‘Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas’, the gently swinging fun of ‘Happy Holidays’ with The Puppini Sisters, the hushed beauty of the medley of ‘Be Thou My Vision’ and ‘Away in a Manger’, these are seasonal classics in the making. Continue reading “Album Review: John Barrowman – A Fabulous Christmas”

Review: White Christmas 2019, Dominion Theatre

The reliable charms of White Christmas reappear at the Dominion Theatre

“When what’s left of you gets around to what’s left to be gotten, what’s left to be gotten won’t be worth getting, whatever it is you’ve got left.”

White Christmas is a show that keeps returning and consistently attracts casts that I can’t quite resist. I’ve seen it in Manchester, Leeds and in this very theatre five years ago. So NIkolai Foster’s production holds little surprise for me now, insomuch as any production of White Christmas can surprise. Instead the feeling is more of cocoa-warm comfort, a reliability underscored by fun performances from leads Danny Mac, Dan Burton, Danielle Hope and Clare Halse. Read my 4 star review for Official Theatre here. 

Running time: 2 hours 30 minutes (with interval)
Booking until 4th January

Album Review: Lea Michele – Christmas in the City

Jonathan Groff and Darren Criss elevate Glee star Lea Michele’s first holiday album Christmas in the City

“In the air there’s a feeling of Christmas”

It’s definitely that time of year, as Christmas albums start to pop up left, right and centre and getting in there early is actress and singer Lea Michele with her debut holiday album Christmas in the City. It’s a very New York take on the festive season, tending towards the secular than the sacred, and the result is smoothly satisfying, especially in its strong choice of collaborators.

Michele sounds at her best when partnered by former Glee co-stars Darren Criss and Jonathan Groff. On their respective duets of ‘White Christmas’ and ‘I’ll Be Home For Christmas’, there’s a beautiful lightness of touch to these interpretations of such familiar material. Trading lines and harmonies with all the elegance of Torvill and Dean, the musical beauty here is just lovely. Continue reading “Album Review: Lea Michele – Christmas in the City”

Album Reviews: Kristen Chenoweth – For The Girls / Idina Menzel – Christmas: A Season of Love

A pair of album reviews for the OG Wicked stars – Kristen Chenoweth’s For The Girls and Idina Menzel’s Christmas: A Season of Love

“You know the Queen of hearts is always your best bet”

No matter how they’ve diverged now, the careers of Kristen Chenoweth and Idina Menzel will forever be connected by Wicked and so you wonder whether their respective 2016 albums being released at the same time was ‘just’ a coincidence. And those ties just won’t quit as late 2019 sees them both dropping records, albeit with a month or two inbetween this time.

Chenoweth’s album is For The Girls, a concept album of sorts, produce by Steve Tyrell and Jon Allen, focusing on tracks either written or performed by female artists. She might not exactly reinvent the wheel with her covers, but there’s something impressive about the way in which she draws the connecting line between the country pop of her upbringing – ‘Desperado’, ‘Crazy’ – to the standards for which she’s now famed – a glorious ‘The Man That Got Away’, ‘The Way We Were’. As diverse a collection it gets, it always coheres effectively.  Continue reading “Album Reviews: Kristen Chenoweth – For The Girls / Idina Menzel – Christmas: A Season of Love”

Album Review: The Norm Lewis Christmas Album

In all its variety, The Norm Lewis Christmas Album proves an eclectic but beguiling confection

“Man it doesn’t show signs of stoppin'”

I’m not sure who we apply to for these things but I really would like to see Norm Lewis return to the West End stage – I didn’t catch him in Les Mis but I did get the briefest taste of him at a Lance Horne concert so Santa if you’re listening… In the meantime, we have to make do with the many pleasures of The Norm Lewis Christmas Album

And my are they plentiful. Lewis is certainly generous, offering up a Christmas stocking packed full with 18 tracks and as much variety as a family-sized bag of Revels. Produced by Lewis with Richard Jay-Alexander and Lewis and accompanied by MD Joseph Joubert, with band members George Farmer and Perry Cavari, it makes for an eclectic but beguiling confection. Continue reading “Album Review: The Norm Lewis Christmas Album”

Review: Elf, Lowry

The Lowry Theatre's 2017/8 production of Christmas show Elf

“Make it Sparklejollytwinklejingley”

First things first, it’s a really poor show on behalf of those in charge of this production at the Lowry that there was no announcement or any mention of the fact that the understudy for the main part was on. Not for any sniffy reason about wanting to see Ben Forster but rather that it denied Colin Burnicle his spot in the limelight on the first occasion that he got to play the role of Buddy the Elf.

I don’t think Burnicle will mind me saying he had an understandably slightly nervy beginning but he soon settled into the green felt boots of Buddy, working a slightly more frantic Jim Carrey-esque vibe than one might expect from a role originated on screen by Will Ferrell but it was one that worked. And he connected well with former Atomic Kitten Liz McLarnon as his putative love interest Juvie, as under-developed a part it is. Continue reading “Review: Elf, Lowry”