10 questions for 10 years – Matthew Parker

As the Hope Theatre’s outgoing AD prepares for his final season and new adventures, Matthew Parker takes a little time to answer Ten Questions for Ten Years

It is no mean feat to transform a fringe theatre into a must-see venue but that’s what Mr Parker has done so successfully over the last few years at the Hope. Both as a director (Her Aching Heart and Steel Magnolias being particular highlights) and as an artistic director (his programming really has been reliably delightful), he has flourished and consequently, I’ve kept on going back even on Arsenal matchdays…  
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10 questions for 10 years – Alex Ramon

Tinkle, drizzle, bubble and gush! Alex Ramon, the man forever Boycotting Trends takes up the 10 questions challenge

My world, and the UK theatre blogging scene, has been all the poorer since Alex Ramon swapped London for Łódź. We first bonded over Avenue Q, he introduced me to Propeller and encouraged me out to Richmond more times than is probably reasonable – there’s no-one I’d rather share a show and a Wetherspoons curry with.  It is well worth keeping an eye on his ever-eloquent writing at Boycotting Trends.

10 questions for 10 years – Nadim Naaman

Actor/singer/writer/dad Nadim Naaman takes a moment to answer 10 Questions for 10 Years most thoughtfully indeed

  • Where were you 10 years ago?

    10 years ago I was experiencing unemployment for the first time! I finished an 18 month run of The Sound of Music at The Palladium in February, and didn’t start my next gig until the November. That was James and The Giant Peach at The Watermill. That nine months taught me a lot. I made a voiceover reel and became a private tutor of English, and began learning how to produce my own work – cabarets, concerts, writing etc. I don’t tutor anymore, but much of the work I do today I owe to the experience of being out of work back then. I quickly realised how you could be in a West End show one minute, and the next day, nothing. Continue reading “10 questions for 10 years – Nadim Naaman”

10 questions for 10 years – Rebecca Caine

Canadian soprano and OG Cosette, Rebecca Caine takes on the Ten Questions for Ten Years challenge 

Rebecca Caine may have been in a couple of musicals you’ve heard of before, but my introduction to her was through Tête à Tête’s inspired take on Salad Days at the old Riverside Studios in Hammersmith, recollections of which below. She’s also one of the more entertaining people to follow on Twitter, just don’t mention anyone called Jonas… 

Salad Days! Such a lovely production. I used to love pulling people out to dance with, some would dance me off my feet, as a Don in the pre show, seating Cameron Mackintosh, calling him Mackintosh Minor and telling him to pull his socks up and watching the happiness of the audience at the end when they were just happy to be silly on a sunny day in 1954 Hyde Park.”

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Blogged: long-running shows and long-running blogs – what does the future hold

I revisit long-runners The Mousetrap, Les Misérables and Wicked, and come to a decision (of sorts) about the future of this blog

“Here’s to you and here’s to me”

Well 2019 has been an interesting year so far and one full of significance – I’ve turned 40, this blog has turned 10 and it’s all got me in a reflective mood. Personally, professionally, is this what I want to be doing? Do quote a Netflix show I haven’t even seen, does all this bring me joy…? Over the last couple of weeks, I’ve revisited a few long-running shows in the West End to consider what cost longevity. 

The longest running show in the West End is The Mousetrap – 66 years old with over 27,000 performances and their answer to keeping going is to not change a single bit – has the show even ever cast a person of colour? My limited research suggests not… On the one hand, it’s a policy that does seem to have worked and that record is a mighty USP, although does the number of empty seats at the St Martin’s that afternoon suggest a waning of interest finally? Continue reading “Blogged: long-running shows and long-running blogs – what does the future hold”

Album Review: Justine Balmer – Simple Thing

From Coldplay to Claude Debussy, crossover soprano Justine Balmer’s debut album Simple Thing is a collection of songs that work well together

“Stick, or twist
The choice is yours”

With an intriguing bio that takes her from musicals to cruise ships to shopping channels, contemporary crossover soprano Justine Balmer’s debut album Simple Thing is 5 years in the making. The mix of pop, opera and classical is a seductive one and though the track-listing might seem diverse at first glance – Aerosmith next to Andrew Lloyd Webber, Coldplay rubbing shoulders with Claude Debussy – such is the serene force of Balmer’s voice that she really does make them all feel like they belong together here.

There’s a pleasing sense of balance too, you’d be hard-pressed to tell which genre Balmer prefers. A tender rendition of ‘Fix You’ with fellow crossover artists Blake, is as lushly beautiful as Fauré’s ‘In Paradisum’, the lightness of Dvořák’s ‘Song to the Moon’ matched by the simple purity of ‘Somewhere Only We Know’ – you might not think you need another cover of the Keane track but it positively shimmers under the gorgeous treatment here. Continue reading “Album Review: Justine Balmer – Simple Thing”

Review: Dead Dog in a Suitcase (and other love songs), Lyric Hammersmith

The inimitable Kneehigh retool The Beggar’s Opera in Dead Dog in a Suitcase (and other love songs), now playing at the Lyric Hammersmith

“What is the world coming to?”

Kneehigh’s Dead Dog in a Suitcase (and other love songs) was well received 5 years ago and so they’ve opted to revive it for a UK tour. Carl Grose’s reworking of John Gay’s The Beggar’s Opera has evergreen reference points with its corrupt political classes and mercenary business types and adorned with Charles Hazelwood’s songs, it makes for a striking experience on stage.

Macheath, the Peachums and the Lockits are all present and correct though in this more modern setting, Macheath is a contract killer who Mrs Peachum employs to bump off her husband’s political rival. He also kills his dog and that’s just in the opening scene. From there, there’s a raucous ride through a society turned entirely toxic by nastiness and greed and probably the puppets too. Continue reading “Review: Dead Dog in a Suitcase (and other love songs), Lyric Hammersmith”

Dreamy Album Reviews: Matthew Croke – Only Dreaming & Anna O’Byrne – Dream

A pair of dreamy album reviews with Matthew Croke’s Only Dreaming & Anna O’Byrne’s Dream

“Moonlight and love songs
Never out of date”

There’s only a few weeks left to catch Aladdin onstage in London so what better time to sample the debut album from Agrabah’s finest son. Matthew Croke’s Only Dreaming was released earlier this year and serves as an excellent showcase for his smoothly appealing voice. He’s a Disney leading man through and through and whether paying tribute to his current home in the sweetly lovely ‘Proud of Your Boy’, or urging us to ‘Go The Distance’ with Hercules, it’s hard to resist him. 

The emphasis in this collection is mainly on classic musicals, so we get ‘Singin’ in the Rain’, ‘Something’s Coming’ from West Side Story (though I’m not the biggest fan of the arrangement used here) and a gorgeous ‘Beautiful City’ from Godspell. There’s a nod to more modern musical theatre too, in the form of powerful versions of ‘Fight the Dragons’ from Andrew Lippa’s Big Fish and ‘This Is Not Over Yet’ from Jason Robert Brown’s Parade. Top of the pops for me though is the stirring rendition of The Wiz’s ‘Home’ which more than justifies the whole album. Continue reading “Dreamy Album Reviews: Matthew Croke – Only Dreaming & Anna O’Byrne – Dream”

Review: Amélie the Musical, New Wimbledon Theatre

As sweet-sharp as a diabolo grenadine, the touring version of Amélie the Musical impresses me at the New Wimbledon Theatre

“Will there troubles?
I don’t know
Will there be sweet things?
I hope so”

As sweet-sharp as a diabolo grenadine, Amélie the Musical has lost none of its inimitable charm as it gears up for a considerable UK tour. I adored it at the Watermill but the intimacy there left me wondering how the show would fare in the significantly larger houses to which it will be touring. Turns out I need not have worried.

Michael Fentiman’s production has expanded perfectly to fill the space. A few more ensemble members here, a tweak to Madeleine Girling’s canny set design there, and the show has lost nothing of itself or its kooky Parisian whirl. If anything the actor-muso ensemble’s reinterpretation of Daniel Messé’s score sounds even better than before under George Francis’ musical direction. Continue reading “Review: Amélie the Musical, New Wimbledon Theatre”

Review: The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Southwark Playhouse

A sensationally good new British musical that I couldn’t recommend more. The Curious Case of Benjamin Button at the Southwark Playhouse is something special

“It’s only a matter of time”

Jethro Compton has made me cry before. At the Southwark Playhouse too no less, albeit in its former location, as a young JM Barrie in a truly imaginative staging of The Boy James. This time though, he’s wearing the multiple hats of book-writer, co-lyricist and director of this adaptation of the F Scott Fitzgerald short story The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. And reader, I bawled!

Some of those tears were of joy, at the unexpected discovery of a sensationally good new British musical. With the story’s relocation to Cornwall, Darren Clarke’s (composer, co-lyricist and musical director) score leans heavily into folk song and shanty rhythms to glorious effect. These are songs that feel like they have always existed, elevated by powerful dynamic changes and harmonies to live a life in reverse for. Continue reading “Review: The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Southwark Playhouse”