Album Review: Frozen 2 / Hello Again / Chicago

The release of Frozen 2 (2019 Film Soundtrack), sends me off to a couple of other film soundtracks I’ve been meaning to review in Hello Again (2017 Film Soundtrack) and Chicago (2002 Film Soundtrack)

“Are you the one I’ve been looking for
All of my life?”

Possibly the album that is most wanted by kids and most feared by parents is the soundtrack to the forthcoming Frozen 2. Musical supremos Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez return in fine form with a suite of songs that suggest quite the emotional journey for the film and one which could be too sad for even me to cope with. In that respect, Kristen Bell’s griefstricken ‘The Next Right Thing’ scares me but it is gorgeously done. ‘Into the Unknown’ with its daring intervals and Aurora’s ethereal supplemental vocals seems like the song most identified to replicate ‘Let It Go’ enormous success but it is the dramatic swoops of ‘Show Yourself’ that I think Idina Menzel shines best on, along with Evan Rachel Wood. Wood’s delicate ‘All is Found’ speaks to the film’s core mysteries and Jonathan Groff finally gets a song with the amusing 80s-inflected ‘Lost In The Woods’. Continue reading “Album Review: Frozen 2 / Hello Again / Chicago”

August theatre round-up

I might have taken a break from reviewing for the last couple of months, but I didn’t stop going to the theatre. Here’s some brief thoughts on most of what I saw in August.

Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, aka the Sheridan Smith show
Queen of the Mist, aka the surprisingly affecting one
Appropriate, aka all hail Monica Dolan
Waitress, aka ZZZZZZZOMGGGGG STUNT CASTING oh wait, Joe Suggs hasn’t started yet
The Doctor, aka all hail Juliet Stevenson
A Very Expensive Poison, aka it was a preview so I shouldn’t say anything
Blues in the Night, aka all hail Broadway-bound Sharon D Clarke (and Debbie Kurup, and Clive Rowe too)
The Night of the Iguana, aka justice for Skyler Continue reading “August theatre round-up”

Review: Hello Again, Union Theatre

Round and round and round we go. La Ronde surfaces again as Michael John LaChiusa’s Hello Again at the Union Theatre

“I’ve been searching high and low
For you but then
What does it matter?
Hello again”

It is a universal truth that you’re never too far away from some adaptation or another of Arthur Schnitzler’s La Ronde. It’s been gay, it’s been musical, it’s been gender-neutral, it’s been Hollywood, and now it is back to being musical again, with the Union Theatre’s revival of Michal John LaChiusa’s Hello Again

LaChiusa’s adaptation sets each of its ten scenes in a different decade of the twentieth century, aiming for a broad investigation of how, if at all, love and sex have changed over the years. This also allows him to cherrypick from a much wider range of musical styles than if he’d stuck with the original’s 1890 Vienna. Continue reading “Review: Hello Again, Union Theatre”

Album Reviews: Over the Moon: The Broadway Lullaby Project / Mamma Mia / Il Divo – A Musical Affair

This trio of album reviews covers Over the Moon: The Broadway Lullaby Project, Mamma Mia! The Movie Soundtrack and Il Divo – A Musical Affair

“You know I’ve got
So much that I wanna do”

Over the Moon: The Broadway Lullaby Project has an amazing list of performers, composers, and musicians behind it, all coming together to create a 2-CD set and 48-page children’s book to benefit breast cancer research, support and education. And rather wonderfully, it is an utterly gorgeous record. Brilliant jazz musicians accompany writers like Michael John LaChiusa, Adam Gwon and Kristen Anderson-Lopez & Robert Lopez in indulging their gentler side to create the prettiest tunes. And then a cast of dreams sing them – just listen to Raúl Esparza’s aching tenderness on ‘This Little World’, or Donna Murphy’s crystal clear ‘Lucky’ (by Stephen  Schwartz) – we should all be so lucky to be lulled to sleep this way. Continue reading “Album Reviews: Over the Moon: The Broadway Lullaby Project / Mamma Mia / Il Divo – A Musical Affair”

Review: The Wild Party, The Other Palace

“Blame it on the gin”

There’s no doubting the visual flair that choreographer Drew McOnie is able to conjure in his work – In The Heights and Jesus Christ Superstar being just two recent examples – and so it is no coincidence that his move into directing has begun with dance-heavy pieces. Strictly Ballroom lit up the stage at the West Yorkshire Playhouse before Christmas and now The Wild Party opens up the programming at The Other Palace, Andrew Lloyd Webber’s rebranded St James Theatre.

Michael John LaChiusa’s musical version is not the first adaptation of Joseph Moncure March’s epic poem to hit London this year – that title goes to the Hope Theatre’s two hander from last month. But it does have its own tunes presented as a vaudeville, a real mish-mash of every 1920s style you can think of and more, which makes for a bold and brash evening – especially as performed by this lavishly assembled ensemble – but ultimately, one of little staying power.  Continue reading “Review: The Wild Party, The Other Palace”

20 shows to look forward to in 2017

2017 is only just over a week away now and the reviewing diary is already filling up! All sorts of headline-grabbing West End shows have already been announced (The Glass Menagerie, Who’s Afraid Of Virginia Woolf, Don Juan In Soho, The Goat, Or Who Is Sylvia) and the National look to continue a sensational year with another (Twelfth Night, Consent, the heaven-sent Angels in America), so this list is looking a little further afield to the London fringe and some of the UK theatres I hope to get to throughout the year.


The Tenant of Wildfell Hall, Bolton Octagon

After hearing Elizabeth Newman speak passionately on a panel discussion about women’s theatre, I kinda have a big (intellectual) crush on her, so I’m very keen to see her tackle a new adaptation by Deborah McAndrew of the classic Anne Bronte novel in a theatre that is very close to my heart.
Continue reading “20 shows to look forward to in 2017”

Album Reviews: Peter Pan A Musical Adventure / The Confession Room / Marie Christine

This trio of album reviews covers Peter Pan A Musical Adventure, The Confession Room and Marie Christine

“Would I oblige?
I obliged”

Michael John LaChiusa is one of those composers of the new American musical theatre mould, or maybe even beyond, in adopting a dense and complex compositional style that means his work hasn’t always had the credit it deserves. This original Broadway cast recording of his 1999 show Marie Christine feels like a case in point – a Tony-nominated book and score that has rarely been revived, never mind made it to the UK. An adaptation of the Medea story that relocates it to 1890s New Orleans, it is blessed by a stunning central performance from Audra McDonald as a remarkably vicious leading lady. The score is made up of fragmented pieces of music rather than conventional notions of what we would consider a song but its operatic drama hits the mark for me. And I’d love to see it the UK some time soon please… Continue reading “Album Reviews: Peter Pan A Musical Adventure / The Confession Room / Marie Christine”

Album Review: Audra McDonald – Go Back Home (2013)

“Maybe someday I’ll get lucky”

It took seven years for Audra McDonald to get around to her fifth solo album Go Back Home but as the adage says, some things are just worth waiting for. As entertaining as her diversion into the world of singer-songwriters on previous collection Build A Bridge was, there’s real joy in hearing her return so whole-heartedly to the world of musical theatre, particularly when it is as gloriously well done as this.

As ever, there’s the mixture of old and new that has typified McDonald’s output – the dips into the classics, represented here by Rodgers and Hammerstein, Sondheim and Styne, and the showcasing of the new, the likes of Michael John LaChiusa, Adam Guettel and Steven Marzullo who have regularly received her patronage. Such intelligent support of her industry has longed proved invaluable and helped to establish her at its forefront. Continue reading “Album Review: Audra McDonald – Go Back Home (2013)”

Album Review: Audra McDonald – Happy Songs (2005)

“I double dare you to fall in love with me”

For her third album, and the first after the birth of her daughter, Audra McDonald’s third album saw her turn to Happy Songs. More specifically, it’s the music of the 1930s and 40s that is the focus of attention, Harold Arlen and Duke Ellington, Irving Berlin and the Gershwins, and McDonald proves herself the equal of the likes of Lena Horne and Judy Garland by taking on the standards they made famous and infusing them with a new lease of life. 

It’s a seductive mixture and one which once again works perfectly under McDonald’s stewardship. Even if the title might suggest light-heartedness, the song selection soon puts you right – tracks like ‘Ill Wind (You’re Blowing Me No Good)’ and ‘Supper Time’, an anti-lynching anthem, bring real gravitas to the album, alongside the more frivolous but no less seriously intended ‘I Wish I Were In Love Again’ and the rapid-fire corker that is ‘I Double Dare You’. Continue reading “Album Review: Audra McDonald – Happy Songs (2005)”

Album Review: Audra McDonald – Way Back to Paradise (1998)

“To whirl and to dance till the white day is done”

It’s easy to look back with hindsight on this kind of thing but it is remarkable to see what Audra McDonald did with her first solo album Way Back To Paradise. Eschewing the easy route of well-worn standards and crowd-pleasing hits, McDonald turned to her contemporaries, working with upcoming composer-lyricists in showcasing their little-known or unproduced work (in some cases , writing specifically for her) that was very much at the vanguard of new musical theatre writing.

And she chose wisely, for among that company are the likes of Jason Robert Brown, Michael John LaChiusa and Adam Guettel. And thus the tracklisting respectively features gems like ‘You Don’t Know This Man’ from Parade, now surely acknowledged as a modern classic but at this point yet to open on Broadway, the striking ‘Mistress of a Senator’ from Hello Again, and ‘Come To Jesus’ from Saturn Returns, on which Guettel appears too. Continue reading “Album Review: Audra McDonald – Way Back to Paradise (1998)”