Album Review: Joel Harper-Jackson – So What Happens Now? / Makerman – Grove Hill / Rob Houchen

An album review of Joel Harper-Jackson’s So What Happens Now? and inspired by Marry Me A Little last night, I explore Makerman and Rob Houchen

“I don’t care if it hurts
I wanna have control”

Released just as the second lockdown kicked in, Joel Harper-Hackson’s debut album has ended up with a painfully apposite title – So What Happens Now?. I first spotted Harper-Jackson a few years as a standout in a middling new musical and have enjoyed following his career since then, not least in the Hope Mill’s gorgeous production of Little Women. Interestingly, this album largely eschews the world of musical theatre for the world of popular music, albeit reimagined through the wonderfully moody arrangements of Greg Morton.

Piano, guitar and cello thus come to the fore to underscore mournful takes on ‘Jolene’ and ‘The Man That Got Away’, the quavering vocal at the beginning of ‘Another Suitcade in Another Hall’ really refocuses the song’s emotion, and the shivering sparseness of ‘Wicked Game’ hits harder than usual, especially once the dramatic stakes are raised. Unexpectedly effective though is the duet on ‘Tragedy’ with Jodie Steele which utterly reinterprets the rueful acceptance of the song in a way which makes complete sense. ‘Creep’ with Lauren Byrne is pretty damn good too. If ever there was an album to cry-listen to whilst looking through a rainy November window and eating a packet of biscuits, this is that album and this is that moment. Highly recommended. Continue reading “Album Review: Joel Harper-Jackson – So What Happens Now? / Makerman – Grove Hill / Rob Houchen”

News: live theatre returns to Leicester

Curve has today announced plans to reopen to the public. The theatre, which was forced suddenly to close its doors to the public on 16 March, will open again this autumn for spectacularly re-imagined, socially distanced concert performances of acclaimed Made at Curve productions, using the building’s unique theatre design.

The Color Purple in Concert 23rd November – 5th December, with T’Shan Williams and Danielle Fiamanya, who won The Stage Debut Award for Best Supporting Actress in a Musical for her role as ‘Nettie’.
Sunset Boulevard in Concert – 14th December – 3rd January,
Ria Jones and Danny Mac will return to star.
Memoirs Of An Asian Football Casual 25th January – 6th February.

By raising the walls between its theatre spaces, Curve will reopen as a 533-seat socially-distanced auditorium, with audiences enjoying live performances from all four sides of the stage, fully realising the ambition of architect Rafael Viñoly’s original design. A triple-revolve, donated by Sir Cameron Mackintosh, will help to transform the space to create an epic experience for audience members. Continue reading “News: live theatre returns to Leicester”

Album Review: Amanda Holden – Songs From My Heart

Britain’s Got Talent judge Amanda Holden releases her debut album Songs From My Heart, full of musical theatre treats and Sheridan Smith

“You pulled me in and together we’re lost in a dream”

I’ve never actually seen an episode of Britain’s Got Talent so the rise of Amanda Holden to “undoubtedly one of Britain’s best loved entertainers” is one that has largely passed me by. That’s not to denigrate a career that has impressively straddled many media though and with the release of her debut album Songs From My Heart, it is clear that she hasn’t finished adding strings to her bow.

The album sees her delve mainly into the world of musical theatre (I did see her in Shrek the Musical back in 2011) and it is an endeavour in which she acquits herself well. Holden has a lovely clear voice but more impressively, an interpretative style that is blessedly free of unnecessary riffs and that pervasive need that many have to make the material ‘their own’. Continue reading “Album Review: Amanda Holden – Songs From My Heart”

Review: The Theatre Channel – Episode One

Featuring the likes of Jenna Russell, Matt Henry and Carrie Hope Fletcher, Episode 1 of The Theatre Channel is a roaring success

“Believe me, my admiration for you hasn’t died”

As big question marks remain over if and when theatre doors will start opening again, the move to online delivery of musical theatre  has taken an interesting turn with the arrival of The Theatre Channel. It is officially described as a web series but it is basically a musical theatre version of classic Top of the Pops online, ie heaven!

Set on location in (and on top of) The Theatre Café, the first episode was a slick half hour of cracking entertainment that really gladdened the heart. Director Bill Deamer offers a slice of real variety across its six numbers but also maintains a high level of quality, right down to the witty timing of the snippets of choreography he introduces via the inhouse ensemble. Continue reading “Review: The Theatre Channel – Episode One”

Album Review: The Songsmiths – Tenors of the West End

Vocal group The Songsmiths’ Tenors of the West End offers up some fascinating harmonies on some classic pop tunes

“Everybody needs a little time away…from each other”

Simon Gordon, Benjamin Purkiss and Patrick Sullivan can boast 30 years experience in the West End and beyond and all spent some time in Obsidian as part of Bat Out Of Hell, so their teaming up together to form vocal group The Songsmiths makes sense. Their album Tenors of the West End, now available to download, draws on a wider range than Shaftesbury Avenue though – the mention of Chicago more likely to refer to soft-rock than Kander & Ebb.

This focus on pop-rock staples over musical theatre yields some fascinating results. There are no real surprises in terms of song choices but there’s no denying the exhilaration of hearing Fleetwood Mac’s ‘Go Your Own Way’ receive such a full-bodied treatment as this, so too with their meatier rendition of A-Ha’s classic ‘Take On Me’. The arrangement of ‘Hallelujah’ wisely keeps it out of mawkishness and some interesting harmonies emerge out of ‘Somebody To Love’. Continue reading “Album Review: The Songsmiths – Tenors of the West End”

Lockdown theatre review: Jesus Christ Superstar (2018 Concert)

Would Jesus have condoned such artistic thievery? Jesus Christ Superstar (2018 Concert) is full of great performances but borrows heavily from the Open Air’s production

“Would I be more noticed than I ever was before?”

The most striking thing about the US Jesus Christ Superstar Live in Concert from 2018, that will particularly stand out to those who saw the Regents Park Open Air Theatre production in any of its iterations, is that it is boldly credited to David Leveaux as director and Jason Ardizzone-West as production designer. There’s so much synchronicity between the two productions here that it is hard to believe that Timothy Sheader and Tom Scutt respectively didn’t deserve at least thanks if not full co-credits because original this is not.

A live television musical special – as the Americans did much more of than the Brits – this version of Jesus Christ Superstar is undoubtedly heavily influenced by the freshness of that iconic reimagining of the show. Released from its 70s origins but also any need to be particularly politically relevant (which tripped up the UK arena tour) it is a powerful piece of contemporary theatre which speaks to the cult of celebrity as pointedly as it ever has done. Continue reading “Lockdown theatre review: Jesus Christ Superstar (2018 Concert)”

Lockdown theatre review: Jesus Christ Superstar (2012 Arena Tour)

Jesus Christ Superstar takes to the “rock’n’roll” arena. It isn’t good.

“Why waste your breath moaning at the crowd?
Nothing can be done to stop the shouting.”

Amidst the deluge of theatrical content emerging online, it can be quite hard to make decisions about what to actually watch. Andrew Lloyd Webber’s release of the 2012 live arena tour of Jesus Christ Superstar stood out for me as though I did go and see it at the O2, we were seated at the back of the cavernous space and so the opportunity to actually see what happened on the actors’ faces was enough to tempt me. Plus it’s Good Friday…

Pre-dating the Open Air Theatre’s revelatory restaging by three years, Laurence Connor’s restaging of ALW’s 1971 rock opera lays its contemporary allusions thickly (Occupy, Guantánamo, reality TV) but right from the start, you can see how superficial it is. A busy prologue full of kinetic energy references the Occupy movement strongly but as soon as the show proper starts, it’s as if it never happens, you could cut it and never know the difference.

Continue reading “Lockdown theatre review: Jesus Christ Superstar (2012 Arena Tour)”

Review: (Wo)men Rule Broadway [West End Edition], VAULT Festival

(Wo)men Rule Broadway [West End Edition] sees women take on the male musical theatre songbook at the VAULT Festival

“If you strip away the myth from the man…”

There’s no arguing that the musical theatre songbook is skewed in favour of men and with theatre’s enduring love of a revival, that means the opportunities for women to express the fullness of their selves onstage have always been limited (hell, even as I write this a man has been announced to play Mother Superier in the Edinburgh run of Sister Act…). 

This is the world US performers Genevieve Flati and Kelly Rogers are trying to reshape just a little with their show (Wo)men Rule Broadway [West End Edition], making its international debut here at the VAULT Festival. More than just a gender-reversed concert, Flati and Rogers compere the evening with a running commentary of how and why these songs have been chosen, exploring and explaining the boundaries being broken here.  Continue reading “Review: (Wo)men Rule Broadway [West End Edition], VAULT Festival”

2020 Laurence Olivier Awards nominations

Award season kicks into another gear with the arrival of the nominations for the 2020 Olivier Awards – & Juliet, Fiddler on the Roof and Dear Evan Hansen lead the musicals pack, Death of a Salesman and Rosmersholm the plays

As ever, Laurence giveth and he taketh away and it’s all subjective anyway.

  • I’m really pleased to see the love for Amélie The Musical and The Ocean At The End Of The Lane but a little incredulous that Fairview received no nominations.
  • The weird category shuffle that often happens has landed on ‘Best Entertainment or Comedy Play’ and ‘Best Family Show’ this year, leaving Emilia and Fleabag in a weird place that isn’t ‘Best New Play’ (last year they were divided into ‘Best Entertainment and Family’ and ‘Best New Comedy’.
  • I had zero desire to see Fiddler on the Roof so can’t pass comment there but can’t help wishing the supporting role in a musical nominations weren’t quite so dominated by DEH.
  • & Juliet’s director Luke Sheppard could rightfully feel snubbed, given the wealth of recognition the rest of the production has received.
  • And whither Monica Dolan, Lucian Msamati, Melanie La Barrie, the cast of Three Sisters…(oh wait, they won the more significant award earlier in the year!)

Continue reading “2020 Laurence Olivier Awards nominations”