News: A Little Night Music comes to Holland Park

Stephen Sondheim’s wry and beautiful comedy of love and regret, A Little Night Music, comes to Holland Park for a single al fresco concert performance in the year of his 90th birthday. 

Presented by Quick Fantastic and Janie Dee in association with Opera Holland Park

Inspired by Ingmar Bergman’s film, Smiles of a Summer Night, and named after Mozart’s serenade, Eine kleine Nachtmusik, Sondheim’s musical weaves a tapestry of songs and waltzes as new romances begin, ex-lovers reunite, and secret passions are revealed. The night smiles three times: first on the young, second on fools, third on the old. Last seen together in the National Theatre’s celebrated production of Follies, Janie Dee and Joanna Riding lead a cast of Olivier Award-winning performers (Sharif Afifi, Hiba Elchikhe, Danielle Fiamanya, Fra Fee, Hilary Harwood, Emma Kingston, Emma Harrold, Nadim Naaman, Laura Pitt-Pulford, Ella Tronson and Kayi Ushe), directed by Alastair Knights. Alex Parker conducts an eight piece ensemble of instrumentalists in Jason Carr’s critically acclaimed orchestration of Sondheim’s score.

In accordance with current guidelines on social distancing, capacity is strictly limited to 200. Tickets go onsale on 3rd August.

News: Kings of Broadway 2020 concert announced

The works of Jule Styne, Jerry Herman and Stephen Sondheim will be celebrated in a concert to support NHS Charities Together and Acting for Others

Participating remotely in the suitably testosteroney entitled Kings of Broadway 2020 will be Liz Callaway, Michael Colbourne, Deborah Crowe, Jordan Lee Davies, Louise Dearman, Janie Dee, Fra Fee, Rob Houchen, Damian Humbley, Ramin Karimloo, Claudia Kariuki, Emma Kingston, L Morgan Lee, Rebecca Lock, Nadim Naaman, Anna O’Byrne, Fiona O’Carroll, Jamie Parker, Laura Pitt-Pulford, Clive Rowe, Jenna Russell, Lucy Schaufer, Celinde Schoenmaker, Caroline Sheen, Samantha Spiro, Laura Tebbutt, Michael Xavier and Alex Young.

Creatively, the evening will feature musical direction from Alex Parker, it will be mixed by Jack Blume, edited by Ben Hewis and will have additional mixing and editing support from Martin Higgins.

Not a bad line-up eh? You can watch the show on Quick Fantastic’s YouTube channel at 7pm on Sunday 31st May and though it is billed as free, please think about making a donation, however small you think it might be, every little helps.

Lockdown Review: Take Me to the World: A Sondheim 90th Birthday Celebration

On the one hand, so much to love with such an inordinate array of talent assembled to mark Sondheim’s 90th birthday. But on the other, where’s the editor, there’s a real sense of the rambling here too. Fortunately as this has been put together in lockdown (and very well too) it is easier than ever to skip to the bits you want (in the spirit of these times, I ain’t telling you who disappointed me).

For me, I loved the unexpectedness of Katrina Lenk’ ‘Johanna’, the cuteness of Beanie Feldstein & Ben Platt’s ‘It Takes Two’, and the energy of Alexander Gemignani’s ‘Buddy’s Blues’. And of the heavy hitters in the finale, Donna Murphy and Patti LuPone nailed ‘Send in the Clowns’ and ‘Anyone Can Whistle’ respectively, and there’s huge fun (if not finesse) in Christine Baranski, Meryl Streep & Audra McDonald giving us their ‘Ladies Who Lunch’. Continue reading “Lockdown Review: Take Me to the World: A Sondheim 90th Birthday Celebration”

News: Sondheim’s 90th birthday concert line-up announced

Legendary Broadway composer Stephen Sondheim will be toasted with an all-star birthday concert, streaming live on Sunday 26th April. Hosted by Raúl Esparza, with musical direction by Mary-Mitchell Campbell, and coinciding with the 50th Broadway anniversary of Sondheim’s CompanyTake Me to the World: A Sondheim 90th Birthday Celebration can be seen for free on YouTube. 

This once-in-a-lifetime event, benefiting ASTEP (Artists Striving to End Poverty), will include a range of songs from the Sondheim catalogue performed by many of the artists who delivered iconic turns in his musicals, including Meryl Streep, Bernadette Peters, Patti LuPone, Mandy Patinkin, Audra McDonald, Christine Baranski, Donna Murphy, Kristin Chenoweth, Sutton Foster, Brian Stokes Mitchell, Kelli O’Hara, Aaron Tveit, Maria Friedman, Katrina Lenk, Michael Cerveris, Brandon Uranowitz, Elizabeth Stanley, Chip Zien, Alexander Gemignani, Iain Armitage, Stephen Schwartz and, from the cast of Pacific Overtures at Classic Stage Company, Ann Harada, Austin Ku, Kelvin Moon Loh and Thom Sesma.

Lockdown album review: Cyrille Aimée – Move On: A Sondheim Adventure

One of the best Sondheim albums you could ever hope for, and not a sniff of musical theatre about it. Cyrille Aimée’s Move On: A Sondheim Adventure a work of musical genius.

“Anything you do
Let it come from you
Then it will be new”

I first came across the voice of Cyrille Aimée when reviewing the Encores cast recording for The New Yorkers, her rendition of Cole Porter’s ‘Love For Sale’ making hit the repeat button again and again, such is its gorgeous effortless musicality. So I quickly bookmarked her on Spotfy, knowing that when I had the chance, I would give her 2019 album Move On: A Sondheim Adventure a spin.

Along with co-arranger Assaf Gleizner, Aimée brings a wide range of musical influences to bear here, lifting Sondheim right out of the musical theatre and slap bang into the middle of somewhere exciting fresh and new. The piano trio of ‘Loving You’ brings a delicious, deceptive lightness to this tale of obsessive love, the gentle guitar thrumming through the string-laden ‘Marry Me A Little’ mirrors something of the uncertainty at the heart of the song, real instrumental drama explodes out of ‘Not While I’m Around’. Continue reading “Lockdown album review: Cyrille Aimée – Move On: A Sondheim Adventure”

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”

Nominees for the 9th annual Mousetrap Awards

The nominees for the 9th annual Mousetrap Awards are announced

These awards are voted for by young people, anyone aged 15-29 is invited to have their say as to who should pick up the trophies at the ceremony on Sunday 19th April. And while usual suspects Dear Evan HansenWaitress and & Juliet are leading the pack, it is nice to see such love for Small Island here too.

Mousetrap Theatre Projects strive to make London’s theatre scene accessible to young people, low-income families, mainstream and SEND state schools, and those with additional needs.

Voting is open until midnight on 23rd March via this link. Continue reading “Nominees for the 9th annual Mousetrap Awards”

My 10 favourite shows of 2019

I barely saw 250 shows this year, quiet by my standards! And as is the way of these things, here’s a rundown of some of the productions that moved me most…

1. The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Southwark Playhouse
I haven’t lost it in a theatre as much as this in a good long while. I cry at all sorts but this superlative musical had me trying, and failing, to choke back huge, hacking sobs. And I can still sing some of the songs – it has to come back, surely. “It’s all just a matter of time…”

2. Call Me Fury, Hope Theatre
“This is the history we should be teaching, these are the stories we should be sharing”, this striking and soulful piece gave voice to so many whom history have ignored, and was bloody entertaining with it. 

3. West Side Story, Curve Leicester
A musical I love, in a production that I simply adored. Getting to see two WSSs in one year was a privilege and for me, it was the emotional heart of Nikolai Foster’s production that won out.

4. As You Like It, Queen’s Theatre Hornchurch
The second year of the Public Acts programme comes up trumps once again with this gorgeous musical version of the Shakespeare classic, community theatre at its finest.

5. Islander, Southwark Playhouse
The magic of musical theatre distilled into two voices and a loop pedal – a marvellously inventive and endlessly moving. 

6. Amélie the Musical, Watermill Theatre/UK Tour/The Other Palace
As sweet-sharp as a diabolo grenadine, something truly gorgeous emerges from this film adaptation that simply demands you come up with better words than quirky to describe it.

7. & Juliet, Shaftesbury Theatre
Tell me why… About as much fun as you can have in the West End right now, this is a particularly fine example of the jukebox model and I want it that way.

8. Sexy Lamp, VAULT
A standout piece in a standout festival, Katie Arnstein’s brutally honest monologue about navigating the patriarchy may be lightened with songs and sweets but is no less effective for it.

9. Karaoke Play, Bunker Theatre
Deeply confessional and subtly magical, Annie Jenkins’ inter-connected monologues combined to become so much more than the sum of their parts.

10. The Ocean at the End of the Lane, National Theatre
A magical family tale, perfect for kids of all ages. Not even reading the exit poll as I left could ruin the feeling! 

Shows 11-25 under the cut

Continue reading “My 10 favourite shows of 2019”

The Curtain Up Show Album of the Year 2019 nominees

You can now vote for the Best London Cast Recording, Best Broadway Cast Recording and Best Solo Album here. Then fill in your details and click Vote and one lucky voter will win £100 worth of Theatre Tokens!

Best UK Cast Recording
& Juliet – Original London Cast Recording
Company – 2018 London Cast Recording
Follies – 2018 National Theatre Cast Recording
Heathers (Original West End Cast Recording)
The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole Aged 13 ¾ – 2019 Original London Cast
Tina – The Tina Turner Musical Original Cast Recording

Best American Cast Recording
Beetlejuice (Original Broadway Cast Recording)
Hadestown (Original Broadway Cast Recording)
Jagged Little Pill (Original Broadway Cast Recording)
Moulin Rouge (Original Broadway Cast Recording)
Oklahoma! (2019 Broadway Cast Recording)
Tootsie (Original Broadway Cast Recording)

Best Solo Album
Cassidy Janson – Cassidy
Ramin Karimloo – From Now On
John Owen-Jones –Spotlight
Ben Platt – Sing To Me Instead
Jon Robyns – Musical Directions
Hayden Tee – Face to Face

Review: Gypsy, Royal Exchange

Because nothing says Merry Christmas like a stage mum going off the rails….! Gypsy offers a different festive treat at Manchester’s Royal Exchange

“If the cow goes, I go”

The choice of the festive musical is a big one for many a venue, and they don’t come much bigger than Broadway classic Gypsy, which director Jo Davies has tackled for the Royal Exchange (returning to Manchester after a really rather excellent Twelfth Night). It also feels a bit of a bold choice given that the shadow of Imelda Staunton looms large for many, though that was over four years ago now. And if we consider Mama Rose to be the ne plus ultra of female MT roles, well you rarely hear people complaining about the endless succession of Hamlets and Lears, so it is more than time for a new Rose to bloom.

Davies gets a lot right, particularly in terms of her collaborators. Andrew Wright’s choreography makes considered use of the space, brilliantly exploiting the intimacy of being in the round (this is definitely a show to splash out on stalls seats for) as Leo Munby’s musical direction delivers a bright, if fairly traditional rendition of Jule Styne’s iconic score. The bulb-bright flashes of Colin Grenfell’s lighting are showstoppingly effective throughout, particularly when allied with the mobile rig that dominates Francis O’Connor’s set. The sequence where ghosts of the past come to bear witness to a crucial decision by Rose is stunningly, hauntingly effective. Continue reading “Review: Gypsy, Royal Exchange”