Review: Legally Blonde The Musical, Savoy

“You can’t come in here with all your singing, dancing and…ethnic movements”

If Priscilla Queen of the Desert was the marshmallow on top of the whipped cream on top of your cocoa, then Legally Blonde is the full mug of the best Viennese hot chocolate you can imagine. Sticking closely to the story of the film, with just a little streamlining, we follow Elle Woods, a Malibu princess and sorority queen whose world is rocked when her boyfriend leaves her for Harvard Law School and the pursuit of someone more ‘serious’. Elle then follows him but ends up finding out a lot more about herself than she anticipated. The book is completely original and I found it surprisingly good, the opening numbers of ‘Ohmigod you guys’ and ‘What you want’ were both great tunes, ‘Ohmigod’ in particular will not leave your head for hours! There are of course some weaker numbers in there, but never any boring ones which is achievement enough. Continue reading “Review: Legally Blonde The Musical, Savoy”

Review: Priscilla Queen of the Desert, Palace

“Everyone likes to dress up, wear some sequins, get in touch with their feminine side…apart from lesbians that is”

When I found out a great Canadian friend who just happens to be a huge musicals fan was stopping in town briefly in the festive season, I had little doubt of what would be the best thing for us to see: Priscilla Queen of the Desert. For this is not a show about about subtlety: using a carefully judged collection of familiar pop songs, some amazing costumes and a production design team whose maxim was clearly ‘more more more’, this is a fun-packed, crowd-pleasing spectacular that was the perfect anecdote to the horrible weather.

It’s based on the film of the same name, where three ill-matched drag performers take a road trip from Sydney to Alice Springs to meet up with the estranged wife and son of one of them, and little has been changed. Of the three leads, Tony Sheldon is superb as the transexual Bernadette, armed with a lifetime’s collection of quick one-liners, a steady grace and an unerring conviction in who she is. The trumpet anecdote is one of the funniest things you will hear all year and Sheldon’s performance holds the show together, elevating it beyond a series of drag turns. Continue reading “Review: Priscilla Queen of the Desert, Palace”

Review: Cat On A Hot Tin Roof, Novello

Seeing a deal on lastminute for restricted view tickets for a tenner, I thought I’d squeeze this revival of Tennessee Williams’ Cat on a Hot Tin Roof in for a Saturday matinee, but was almost jeopardised by the seats we were allocated: seats AA1&2 in the Grand Circle don’t actually have a restricted view of the stage, because you are actually facing the audience! The seats are about 120 degrees to the stage so you’re basically facing most of the Grand Circle, a great opportunity to fulfil my Glenn Close in Dangerou Liaisons  fantasy, but not the best for playwatching. To see the stage, you need to twist round and then lean quite far forward, which then forces everyone else in the row to lean too. Fortunately, with a house that was only 75% full, we were able to relocate at the end of the first act, but it is truly outrageous that these seats are up for sale at all.

As for the play itself, it is an updated version relocated into the 1980s according to the show literature, although there were curiously few references to this and I don’t think I would have worked it out had I not been informed of it. It’s a tale of a wealthy landowning family who are struggling to conceal the cracks caused by repressed homosexuality, inheritance struggles, alcoholism and the shadow of terminal illness, and I suppose the one benefit of shifting the timing of the play enables the fact that the cast are all black to be not considered an issue. Continue reading “Review: Cat On A Hot Tin Roof, Novello”

Review: Cock, Royal Court

“Maybe you’re the most complicated sexual being that ever existed”

Staged in the round upstairs at the Royal Court, inside a three tier plywood ring (which unfortunately put both me and my companion in mind of the set of Big Brother’s Big Mouth), the provocatively named Cock is a play which is performed without artifice, without props, just remarkably intense acting and the suggestive power of movement. Ben Whishaw plays John, a gay man tumbling out of a long term relationship with an older man, M (Andrew Scott) and finding unexpected solace in the arms of a woman, W (Katherine Parkinson). What follows is a messy struggle as John finds himself conflicted, not just with his fluctuating sexuality but also with issues of identity and the nature of the relationship that he wants to pursue, whether that be with M or W.

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Review: Entertaining Mr Sloane, Trafalgar Studios

“It’s what is called a dilemma boy, you are on the horns of it”

After a discussion over the weekend about people who have not yet been made Dames and damn well ought to be, Imelda Staunton’s name came up amongst others (Fiona Shaw and Juliet Stevenson being my other choices), but when I had a check on this blog for the delightful Ms Staunton, I saw no mention of her despite being sure I had seen her earlier this year. Eventually I remembered it was Entertaining Mr Sloane at the Trafalgar Studios, way back in February, but somehow I’d neglected to write up the review. As I want this blog to be a full record of my theatregoing, I’m just going to make a few comments about what I remember of it with the help of some notes I made back then.

The play, written by Joe Orton in 1964, is one of the darkest comedies I think I have ever seen. In brief, a landlady and her brother are both overwhelmed with sexual desire when a charismatic young lodger moves into her house. Caught in a deadly game of cat-and-mouse as his psychopathic tendencies come to the fore, as the balance of power continually shifts around them in this battle for power and possession. Continue reading “Review: Entertaining Mr Sloane, Trafalgar Studios”

Re-review: La Cage aux Folles, Playhouse

“Judas…Traitor…Het-er-o-sexual!”

When it was first announced that John Barrowman would be taking one of the lead roles in La Cage au Folles, many, including myself, instantly called this a crazy decision. Having seen this show twice already with different casts, and it remaining one of my favourite things I have seen on the stage this year, I had my doubts about this particular casting decision but when a family delegation (including 3 major Barrowman fangirls) expressed their interest in coming down to see the show, tickets were booked.

The obvious criticism is that John Barrowman is too young and good-looking to play Albin, especially given the actors who have played the role here previously, but by casting an equally younger-looking and handsome Simon Burke as his lover, this production has been cleverly reconceived. Instead of being a meditation on a drag queen at the end of his career, the focus here is more on Albin’s insecurities about his relationship with Georges, the comment about not being able to play Salome any longer becomes more of a bitchy aside than a sad statement of truth. There has been a considerable injection of raunchiness into this production, with some very suggestive croissant eating that was dangerously close to the bone (fnarr fnarr) for a family show. However this more overt sexuality played very convincingly with the younger coupling and led to some hilarious scenes. Continue reading “Re-review: La Cage aux Folles, Playhouse”

Review: Public Property, Trafalgar Studios 2

“Young boys should be enjoying Nintendos, not old newreaders’ c*cks”

Tucked away in the basement of the Trafalgar Studios, Public Property is a new play, a “dark comedy”, written by Sam Peter Jackson. With a very attractive cast of Nigel Harman, Stephen Webb and Robert Daws, it is a sharply observed look at the world of celebrity scandal and spin doctors, and poses the eternal question: is all publicity, good publicity.
As a married but closeted, high profile newsreader with a new autobiography to sell, Geoffrey Hammond finds himself embroiled in a sex scandal when photographers catch him engaged in salacious activities with a 16 year old rent boy in his car. He turns to his publicist Larry to try and spin him out of what seems to be an impossible situation, but all is not what it necessarily seems as the long night goes on, revealing layers of deceit, the machinations of media spin and debates about the scandal-hungry press.

As the PR man Larry, Nigel Harman is excellent: wannabe Machiavellian in temperament and sharply dressed with a rapier wit, he spits out comic lines with verve and his interaction with his beleaguered client is a delicious exposition of a shifting power struggle in which there are no real winners. He also demonstrates a gift for physical comedy with some impressive leg muscles, I’ll say no more! As the homosexual newsreader, Daws is also good, petulantly defiant about public opinion on his private life, though craving their money through his poorly-received book and their adoration as a minor celeb. Although I did take issue with the underworked relationship with his male lover who was only made reference to intermittently despite allegedly being the love of his life, especially as this didn’t seem to fit with his emotional interactions with the rent boy Jamie. And given his desperation for his book to sell, I struggled to believe that he wouldn’t have had more inclination to use the situation as best to his advantage, his was a dubious moral centre to the play. Continue reading “Review: Public Property, Trafalgar Studios 2”

Review: Little Fish, Finborough

“I had never known what I was really like until I stopped smoking, by which time there was hell to pay”

I was looking forward to this, if only because it was my first trip to the Finborough Theatre: tucked away in Earl’s Court, this tiny fringe theatre has a sterling reputation and always has a highly varied programme, so off I went along the District Line to see what all the fuss was about. The play in question was Little Fish, advertised as the European premiere of a new musical by Michael John LaChiusa (a great name for a playwright, obviously I need to change mine so that I too can write musicals, Foster just ain’t exciting enough!)

The story is based on 2 short stories by Deborah Eisenberg, and revolves around a single New York gal, Charlotte, whose decision to give up smoking leads her down a path of startling self-realisation, as she comes to terms with her troubled past to try and deal with her current unhappiness and finally learn how to enjoy life in the city. It is presented in an episodic form, with key scenes from Charlotte’s past being interspersed throughout the modern day storyline of her trying to find activities to help keep her off the tobacco. I loved this portrayal of urban life as it felt so much more authentic than any number of television shows would have us believe, and the difficulties in maintaining friendships in the face particularly rang true.

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Review: The York Realist, Riverside Studios

“Foxes their dens have they
Birds have their nests so gay
But the son of man
Has not where his head may rest.”

The York Realist is one of Peter Gill’s most well-known plays, and was revived here at Hammersmith Riverside Studios, a theatre co-founded by Gill, as part of his 70th birthday celebrations.

It tells the story of George, a Yorkshire farm worker content with his lot in life, until his participation in a production of the York Mystery Plays throws open a new world of possibilities and choices. He discovers a talent for acting, and a relationship with the assistant director blossoms, leading him to the chance of a career acting on the stage in London. But his ties to his home life are incredibly strong, most notably in the form of his ailing mother, and George finds himself torn between these two worlds, these opposing facets to his life which he finds impossible to reconcile. Continue reading “Review: The York Realist, Riverside Studios”

Review: Matthew Bourne’s Dorian Gray

Just a quick review for this as it was a couple of weeks ago, and the run has now finished, plus there’s lots of lovely pics I wanted to post too! Matthew Bourne’s Dorian Gray returned to Sadler’s Wells after premiering in Edinburgh last summer, with largely the same cast. Taking Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray as its source material, this dance drama updates the action to modern times, so that Dorian is now a beautiful model who becomes an ‘It boy’ who takes the London fashion scene by storm, the portrait becomes a giant advertising billboard and there are a couple of characters who have switched gender.

I generally do not go to much dance and so cannot comment with much authority on the finer points of the quality of the choreography, but I can say that I found it most entertaining. The combination of the at times classical dancing between pairs and the modern, almost pop video-like group dances worked very well, and there was a surprising amount of humour worked into the dance as well. My lack of dance knowledge perhaps made me focus more on the storytelling, and I find it incredible how well the piece did in relating the action with not a word being said. The only area that needed a little clarity for me was with the doppelganger: I wasn’t sure whether he was a real character that had appeared on the scene or meant to just be an alter ego of Dorian himself. Continue reading “Review: Matthew Bourne’s Dorian Gray”