Review: Sweet Charity, Donmar Warehouse

Nowhere near enough charm in this Sweet Charity for my liking. Josie Rourke’s farewell to the Donmar Warehouse is grey rather than silver

“I’m always looking for an emotional experience”

When the light lands just right on Robert Jones’ set for Sweet Charity at the Donmar Warehouse, it sparkles like silver; the rest of the time, it is rather grey. Sadly, that’s pretty much rather true as a whole for Josie Rourke’s production here, her farewell as Artistic Director here.

Those bright spots are dazzling. Debbie Kurup and Lizzie Connolly are superb as Charity’s pals and co-workers Helene and Nickie, dreaming their dreams with real circumspection. Martin Marquez’s velvety smoothness is charm personified as movie star Vittorio Vidal. Continue reading “Review: Sweet Charity, Donmar Warehouse”

Review: West Side Story, Royal Exchange

Aletta Collins’ new choreography is just one of the highlights of a most successful West Side Story at the Royal Exchange

“Sleep well and when you dream
Dream of me”

For an undoubted classic of the musical theatre, West Side Story really isn’t revived all that often but 2019 seems determined to rectify that. The Curve have announced it as their Christmas show, Ivo van Hove is reimagining it on Broadway, and Steven Spielberg is remaking the film for good measure. But getting the (beautifully balletic) jump on all of them is Manchester’s Royal Exchange, whose revival is the first to be performed with new choreography replacing the iconic moves of original director and choreographer Jerome Robbins.

And only naturally, Sarah Frankcom’s production soars when it puts Aletta Collins’ new moves front and centre. They are certainly recognisably inspired by Robbins but there’s an unmistakeable freshness that is just beautiful to watch and there’s something great about the fact they’re all doing it in Converse. The repeated ronds de jambe are iconic in their own way, an emotional grace is suffused throughout, and hints of contemporary nod to the physicality of two warring gangs, coiled bodies poised on Anna Fleischle’s climbing frame design. Fleischle has also maximised the floor space of the Exchange to great effect, the aesthetic is pure dance and it works. Continue reading “Review: West Side Story, Royal Exchange”

Review: Hair, Palace Theatre Manchester

This 50th anniversary tour of Hair the Musical does more than any to make me like the show, at the Palace Theatre Manchester

“Grab your blankets, and something to suck”

True story, I’m no real big fan of Hair. I’ve seen it a couple of times now and it just doesn’t grab me in the way that so many other classic musicals do. But when looking for a Wednesday matinée to complete my trip to Manchester, it was the only show in town. And given that this Aria Entertainment, Senbla and Hope Mill Theatre production was born here in Manchester, it seemed only right to give it another shot.

And I have to say, in its 50th anniversary year, it is beginning to win me over. The music (by Galt MacDermot) may not occupy a special place in my soul and the book (by Gerome Ragni and James Rado) remains chronically weak but there’s something so persuasive about Jonathan O’Boyle’s production that is entirely seductive, and feels even more so in the grander theatres in which it is now touring, as opposed to the more intimate spaces it has previously occupied. Continue reading “Review: Hair, Palace Theatre Manchester”

Review: Thrill Me – The Leopold & Loeb Story, Hope Theatre

A twisted but thrilling true crime two-hander – Thrill Me – The Leopold & Loeb Story is a must-see at the Hope Theatre

“If this keeps going on I’ll go crazy
I’m aroused, you’re conveniently lazy”

How far to go in the name of erotic obsession? You’d hesitate to call Thrill Me – The Leopold & Loeb Story a love story, what happens here is far too dark and twisted for that, but what you do get is a horribly fascinating study of twisting power dynamics and blurred moralities. And with sex thrown into the equation, it becomes a heady combination, enough to drive you to…well, you’ll see.

Stephen Dolginoff’s one-act musical is based on the true story of Richard Loeb and Nathan Leopold but rather than glorifying their crimes, including murder, it focuses on the extraordinary relationship between these two men in 1920s Chicago. Lovers, abusers, conspirators, victims, they slip and slide from pillar to post as we try to make sense of who they are and what they do to each other.
Continue reading “Review: Thrill Me – The Leopold & Loeb Story, Hope Theatre”

Re-review: Follies 2019, National Theatre

Follies 2019 remains the show that I need right now

“I’m so glad I came”

Just a quickie for this revisit to Follies, which remains as perfect a piece of musical theatre as I could hope for. I loved it then but I really love it now, Joanna Riding is just heartbreakingly perfect as Sally, she really brings something to the role that somehow eluded Imelda Staunton (for me at least), Alexander Hanson is superb in tracing Ben’s tragic fall, and Janie Dee and Peter Forbes maintain their stellar work as Phyllis and Buddy (seriously, Dee is a proper showstopper).

And as is surely appropriate in Dominic Cooke’s production, ghosts of the past interplay with what we’re seeing from top to bottom. It was great to see Dame Felicity Lott as Heidi, a different but no less affecting proposition than Dame Josephine Barstow (there truly ain’t nothing like a…). And the young talents of Gemma Sutton, Ian McIntosh, Harry Hepple and Christine Tucker are eloquently elegant as the younger incarnations of the central quartet. Continue reading “Re-review: Follies 2019, National Theatre”

Review: Shit-faced Showtime – Oliver with a Twist, Leicester Square Theatre

My first time getting Shit-faced…Shit-faced Showtime’s Oliver with a Twist is raucous if unfocused affair at the Leicester Square Theatre

“You’re a rather high-breasted boy”

Just a quick write-up for my first time getting shit-faced… Shit-faced Showtime’s USP is that they perform shows with a whopper of a wildcard, one of their company getting “genuinely inebriated” beforehand and then being encouraged to drink more as the performance goes on. It’s an intriguing set-up and one which has proved endlessly flexible (they’ve just announced Hamlet as their new summer production).  

Their current show at Leicester Square Theatre is Oliver with a Twist, which I caught last week early in its run and I have to say, though I was sceptical to start with, it won me over with the beery-breath charm and close-to-the-knuckle humour that Alan McHale’s Artful Dodger brought to proceedings. Perhaps inevitably, initially it felt there was an element of the performatively drunk but as the hour progressed, it was impossible to resist the chaos he wrought as Fagin was renamed Vegan, Oliver’s body shape was called into question and wayward dogs threatened to derail all. Continue reading “Review: Shit-faced Showtime – Oliver with a Twist, Leicester Square Theatre”

Yet-another-re-review: Company, Gielgud Theatre

Just the one more trip to see the glorious Company at the Gielgud Theatre before it sadly depart

“You can’t stay in your thirties forever”

I went back, again. Well I had to, at least while the above quote is still true for me for a couple more months. There’s not much left to say about Company that I haven’t said already here, or here, or here and it remains an absolute pleasure to watch, a show I could sit through time and time again even more so than I have already. It will be very much missed.

And I do think it really has gotten better as the run has progressed, performances deepened and matured, but also deliciously playful – I swear the magnificently brassy Patti Lupone has done something different every single time and it has been wonderful for it. It will be fascinating to see how Marianne Elliot’s production fares on Broadway and who, if anyone, transfers with it. Continue reading “Yet-another-re-review: Company, Gielgud Theatre”

Review: Romance Romance, Above the Stag

Caught in a bad romance, a gayed-up take on Romance Romance does nothing for me at the Above the Stag theatre

“There are days he blows his fuse now 
And there are nights he’s just not there”

Romance Romance was nominated for 5 Tonys in 1988 and performance nods aside, you have to wonder what the standard of the other nominees was (actually, they included The Phantom of the Opera and Into the Woods…!) as its charms really rather eluded me. 

Steven Dexter’s production reframes Barry Harman’s book and lyrics into a gay context which certainly has interest. But the disparity of the two acts, based respectively on Arthur Schnitzler’s The Little Comedy and Jules Renard’s Le Pain de Ménage, means it is a curiously disengaging watch. Continue reading “Review: Romance Romance, Above the Stag”

Review: Waitress, Adelphi Theatre

Fresh from Broadway, hit musical Waitress proves funnier and lighter than you might expect at the Adelphi Theatre

“Let’s see the next amazing thing baking does now”

True story, I didn’t love Waitress when I first saw it in my Broadway Blitz of 2016. But as it sometimes the way, upon listening to the cast recording again and then again, I fell for the show that way, and so was delighted with news of its UK premiere at the Adelphi Theatre.

To think of it as a big Broadway show is to misinterpret what it is trying to do though. Jessie Nelson (book) and Sara Bareilles’ (music and lyrics) adaptation of Adrienne Shelly’s 2007 indie flick is a subtler thing than much West End fare, an intimate story of pies, pregnancy and just how much we’ll put up with. Continue reading “Review: Waitress, Adelphi Theatre”

Review: The Limit, VAULT Festival

The Limit is a hugely impressive new musical from Freya Smith and Jack Williams at the VAULT Festival

“One spark is all you need”

Ooh, a real treat this. The world of new musical theatre can be a little unforgiving but on the evidence of The Limit, Freya Smith and Jack Williams’ Bottle Cap Theatre are marking themselves as ones to watch out for. Their musical celebrates the unsung life and unheralded achievements of French mathematician Sophie Germain and it does so with real spirit and success.

The DNA of shows like Hamilton and Six are certainly palpable here, in a refreshingly contemporary approach to its historical subject and to be frank, these are fantastic influences to be drawing from. It instantly imbues the relationships and happenings with a relatability that speaks just as much truth (if not more) than any rendition of ‘historical accuracy’ could hope for. Continue reading “Review: The Limit, VAULT Festival”