Review: An Officer and a Gentleman, Curve

Emma Williams reconfirms her star status in this 80s musical adaptation of An Officer and a Gentleman at Leicester’s Curve Theatre ahead of a UK tour

“Way to go, Paula! Way to go!”

From its opening number (which provides an unsettling reminder that Status Quo actually had a decent tune or two), this major new musical of An Officer and a Gentleman shimmers with a sense of real quality. Some might demur at the notion of a movie remake peppered with a random assortment of pop songs from the 1980s but the resulting piece of theatre is highly enjoyable.

This is down to the integrity and craft of Nikolai Foster who rightly takes this source material (book by Douglas Day Stewart and Sharleen Cooper Cohen from his original screenplay) seriously. We may be in 1982 but there’s no jokey visual gags about that decade here, just an over-riding sense of life on the edge for the working class community of Pensacola, Florida, looking on at the US Naval Aviation Training Facility that dominates their city. Continue reading “Review: An Officer and a Gentleman, Curve”

Review: Bat Out of Hell, Dominion

Serving up more Meatloaf, Bat Out of Hell returns to London at the Dominion with a new-found subtlety…

“Some nights you’re like nothing I’ve ever seen before or will again”

I jest of course – there ain’t nothing subtle about Bat Out of Hell, apart from the slight price rises on the merchandise stall. Newly installed at the Dominion Theatre, after runs in Manchester, Toronto and at the Coliseum last year, it has lost little of the bizarre, baffling energy that saw it find a very devoted audience.

And they’ll be pleased that leads Andrew Polec and Christina Bennington return, the new cast members slot in effortlessly, and the inimitable vocal prowess of all is still ear-splittingly breathtaking, under Michael Reed’s musical supervision. Rob Fowler and Sharon Sexton remain the show’s secret weapon, stealing the thunder like a punked-up Jack and Karen. Continue reading “Review: Bat Out of Hell, Dominion”

Review: Tina the Musical, Aldwych Theatre

Adrienne Warren absolutely shines in Tina the Musical at the Aldwych Theatre, though the bio-musical form has its limitations here

“It gets bigger baby, and heaven knows”

Mamma Mia has a lot to answer for. The jukebox musical is clearly the legacy project that people are looking to once music stars have retired or disbanded (or not even then, in some cases). But whether they take a fictional route (a la Viva Forever or Son of a Preacher Man) or go bio-musical (a la All Or Nothing), it really isn’t easy to make it work that well. 

Newly opened at the Aldwych Theatre, Tina the Musical has the credentials to make you hope it can do just that. Directed by Mamma Mia’s Phyllida Lloyd, written by Olivier winner Katori Hall with Frank Ketelaar and Kees Prins, and with the almighty back catalogue of Tina Turner to call on, there’s a thrilling sense of energy here which is perfectly encapsulated in the star-making performance of  a fricking amazing Adrienne Warren. Continue reading “Review: Tina the Musical, Aldwych Theatre”

Review: John Barrowman with Seth Rudetsky, Leicester Square Theatre

This weekend only, John Barrowman and Seth Rudetsky deliver conversation and concert realness at the Leicester Square Theatre in London

“Passionate as hell 
But always in control”

I hadn’t originally intended to go and see John Barrowman in this intimate concert setting but my Aunty Jean is a big fan and so decided to make a day trip out of it, and I got to go along for the ride. This micro-run of three performances fell under the aegis of Seth Rudetsky’s intermittent Broadway @ Leicester Square Theatre series, mixing performance with conversation to create a unique and relaxed vibe.

Barrowman’s force of personality means the anecdotes flow out of him with barely any prompting from the wonderfully acerbic Rudetsky but with such a storied career, he’s certainly earned the right to tell them. Continue reading “Review: John Barrowman with Seth Rudetsky, Leicester Square Theatre”

Album Review: Carrie Hope Fletcher – When The Curtain Falls

Featuring a pleasing amount of new musical theatre writing, Carrie Hope Fletcher releases her debut album When The Curtain Falls

“Who you are is how you’re feeling”

Fresh from winning her second What’s On Stage Award, racking up her third novel, vlogging regularly and quite possibly plotting world domination, Carrie Hope Fletcher has now released her debut album When The Curtain Falls. A pleasingly varied tracklisting sees her cover as much new musical theatre writing (shoutout for the brilliant Natasha, Pierre & The Great Comet of 1812) as age-old classics, combined with a few family favourites to make an engaging collection.  

There’s a innate prettiness to Fletcher’s voice that makes it extremely easy to listen to. And it is an over-riding characteristic across the album, which is fine when it comes to the likes of the sweetly lovely ‘Times Are Hard For Dreamers’ from the short-lived Amélie or the Disney tracks here, or smoothing the edges off of Jason Robert Brown’s ‘What It Means To Be A Friend’.  Continue reading “Album Review: Carrie Hope Fletcher – When The Curtain Falls”

Review: Spring Awakening, Hope Mill

Fresh faces do much to highlight the energy of Spring Awakening at Manchester’s Hope Mill Theatre

“You ain’t seen nothing yet – gonna teach you right”

In many ways, the teenage energy of Duncan Sheik and Steven Sater’s Spring Awakening is a great match for the youthful verve of Manchester’s Hope Mill Theatre. The creative upstarts of this fringe powerhouse are maintaining its burgeoning reputation extremely well and with this raucous take on Frank Wedekind’s 1891 play, look set to continue.

Luke Sheppard’s production hangs on its superb casting, drawing talent fresh from drama school (Darragh Cowley and Teleri Hughes) as well as a couple of more experienced hands (Ragtime’s Seyi Omooba) And the company fill the stage with a rough-edged vitality that marks out lots of potential for musicals to come. Continue reading “Review: Spring Awakening, Hope Mill”

Winners of the 2018 Olivier Awards

No real big surprises here though it was a shame that Hamilton’s success (7 awards in total) crowded out Everybody’s Talking About Jamie from nabbing anything. Particularly pleased to see Terera and Atim’s efforts recognised, it’s almost like I saw it coming…

Best New Play 
The Ferryman: Gielgud Theatre and Jerwood Theatre Downstairs at the Royal Court Theatre – WINNER
Ink: Almeida (& Duke of York’s) Theatre
Network: National Theatre – Lyttelton
Oslo: Harold Pinter Theatre

Best New Musical
An American In Paris – Dominion Theatre
Everybody’s Talking About Jamie – Apollo Theatre
Girl From The North Country – The Old Vic
Hamilton – Victoria Palace Theatre – WINNER
Young Frankenstein – Garrick Theatre Continue reading “Winners of the 2018 Olivier Awards”

Review: Brief Encounter, Empire Cinema Haymarket

Perfect for the ‘incurably romantic’, Emma Rice’s Brief Encounter is a glorious piece of theatre at the Empire Cinema Haymarket

This is my whole world and it’s enough, or rather it was until a few weeks ago”

How we change over a decade. When Kneehigh’s Brief Encounter was first announced to take over the cinema on Haymarket, I went to maybe one play a month and was the proud owner of a Cineworld card, so was disgruntled that my West End film options were being curtailed. I did not see the show.

Fast forward 10 years, I can’t remember the last film I saw in a picturehouse, the cinema has been taken over by Empire, and director/adaptor Emma Rice has had quite the ride herself over the last few years. So who can blame her for returning to happier times, happier memories, in reviving this much-loved production. Continue reading “Review: Brief Encounter, Empire Cinema Haymarket”

Review: All Or Nothing, Ambassadors

The ‘small’ show that could – from the Vaults to the Arts and now to the West End, Small Faces musical All Or Nothing transfers to the Ambassadors Theatre

“I am going to exploit every last bit of you”

I have to hold my hands up, I couldn’t name you more than one Small Faces song if I tried, and that’s only because of the M-People cover of ‘Itchycoo Park’ from my formative years. Which is the main reason that it has taken me this long to getting round to see All Or Nothing, the nature of a jukebox musical tending towards existing fans of the music.

Of course, the ideal is that a show can break out to expand its reach to a wider audience (in a way that Sunny Afternoon did, for me at least), and I’m not sure that All or Nothing quite has those chops. Introduced and quasi-narrated by an older Steve Marriott, the band’s frontman, who reflects back on the band’s rise to fame with something close to rose-tinted glasses. Continue reading “Review: All Or Nothing, Ambassadors”

Review: Ruthless! The Musical, Arts

Not even Tracie Bennett can save Ruthless! The Musical from itself

“Not a reason on Earth as far as I know
To write, mount and open a musical show”

Ruthless? Charging up to over £70 for a show at the Arts. Ruthless? Advertising yourselves as an all-female musical when you’ve a man in the cast. Ruthless? Putting said man above the title because he’s a talent show judge. Ruthless indeed. I didn’t mean to start off so grumpily for at times, Ruthless! The Musical is a riot of campy nonsense, your perfectly acceptable off-West-End fare. And with its kaleidoscope of nods to pretty much every example of the showbiz mom/bratty kid genre you can think of, you can see how its niche appeal might build up into cult status.

Richard Fitch’s production, the first major one in the UK, seems determined to achieve bigger things though and it doesn’t always come off. The story centres on strong-willed eight-year-old Tina Denmark who is determined to get the lead in her school play and egged on by a talent agent and a suspect family history, pursues that ambition mercilessly.     Continue reading “Review: Ruthless! The Musical, Arts”