Re-review: All change on the Strand for Dreamgirls and Kinky Boots

All change on the Strand for Dreamgirls and Kinky Boots post closing notices at the Savoy Theatre and Adelphi Theatre respectively, and I revisit both.

“Never let ‘em tell you who you ought to be
Just be”

Come mid-January, the Strand will look a fair bit different for theatregoers as both Kinky Boots and Dreamgirls have posted advance closing notices, leaving the Adelphi and the Savoy respectively on the same date, Saturday 12th January.  As sad as it is to see any show close though, both of these musicals have had a fairly decent run (Kinky Boots opened in August 2015, making it nearly 3 and a half years; Dreamgirls in November 2016, reaching two) and given how merciless the commercial market can be, I think both productions can hold their head up high with their West End runs.

And getting ahead of the game with those closing notices means that people still have many the opportunity to catch either or both of these shows before the final curtain. (I should add too, that both shows have announced that they will be touring the UK going into 2019.) I’ve paid both a revisit relatively recently and am happy to report that they both remain well worth seeing, due to some mighty fine performance. Oliver Tompsett has only just stepped into the role of Charlie Price but he is nigh-on perfect casting and his majestic voice suits Cyndi Lauper’s score down to a T and he’s clearly getting on well with Simon-Anthony Rhoden’s impressive Lola. Continue reading “Re-review: All change on the Strand for Dreamgirls and Kinky Boots”

Film Review: Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again (2018)

On the two viewings I’ve managed so far, I’m pretty sure Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again is the epoch-defining film that we don’t deserve but which we sorely need

“When you’re gone
How can I even try to go on?”

I was lucky enough to see an early screening of Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again last week and I thought it was fricking fantastic. But as the occasion fuelled by an afternoon tea that was heavy on the bubbles and the raucous atmosphere of a stagey audience and not quite bold enough to stick by the courage of my convictions, I opted to wait until seeing the film a second time before officially declaring my opinion.

And I have to say I really do think this is a superb film. The sequel that no-one really knew they wanted, whipped together in under 12 months once the green light had been given, that somehow manages to do everything you expect it to, and but better, and infinitely more moving than it has any right to be. I knew I’d shed a tear or three of joy but there was more than one moment where I was just sobbing, so rich is the emotion here. And that’s only fitting considering the bittersweet melancholy that is ABBA’s true calling card, rather than the cheesiness they are famed for. Continue reading “Film Review: Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again (2018)”

DVD Review: Mamma Mia! (2008)

All hail Mamma Mia! As we tentatively await the sequel, I revisit a film I can’t ever imagine not loving

“I won’t be muscled out by an ejaculation”

With Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again just about to hit cinemas, I thought I’d revisit the original Mamma Mia! film to remind myself of its pleasures, Pierce Brosnan’s singing and all. Released in 2008, it managed that trick of defying a lukewarm critical reception to garnering huge popularity, something repeated by The Greatest Showman (it’s almost as if film critics can’t quite imagine audiences wanting to see a harmlessly fun musical…). 

And that’s what this is in the end, lots of fun and silly with it. Based on the iconic jukebox musical of the same name, it’s a whole load of ABBA songs strung together on a gossamer-light plot of romantic comedy gold. Where it succeeds, as with the musical, is in taking the job at hand most seriously, whilst never taking itself too seriously at all. Songs are in the right places, serving as motors in the narrative, and there’s an integrity to the whole thing, even when its daft as a brush.

Continue reading “DVD Review: Mamma Mia! (2008)”

News: Full casting for Company announced – but what does this really mean for a gender-switched production

Full casting for Elliott Harper’s Company announced – but what does this really mean for a gender-switched production. I crunch some numbers…

The full castlist for Marianne Elliott’s revival of Company has now been revealed, Jonathan Bailey’s casting as Jamie a late twist in the tale in a production trading on the interest of its gender-switching. Making Amy Jamie finally has the impact of queering the show as he remains partnered to Paul; but the rest of the show looks like it merely reinforces the heteronormativity of the world in general. Continue reading “News: Full casting for Company announced – but what does this really mean for a gender-switched production”

Review: Knights of the Rose, Arts

Less a rock musical and more Now That’s What I Call Music 1066, Knights of the Rose at the Arts Theatre threatens a return to the dark ages 

“Would you tremble if I touched your lips?
Or would you laugh?”

The website for Knights of the Rose leads with the quote “is this the most epic rock musical?” and bold as that is, well, the answer is most definitively no. That  much is evident from the start as a bunch of medieval knights start doing some slo-mo running on the spot as they return from war. But even as they dream of the ale to be drunk, the Bon Jovi songs to be sung, the wenches to be laid and other such Olde Worlde fare, a Knight’s lot is never done and a new battle upends their world once again. Sacrifice! Betrayal! Bonnie Tyler! In a time when Bat Out Of Hell can come back, maybe the rock musical is having a moment.

But wait, what the hell is Enrique Iglesias doing in here? Not only is ‘Hero’ a fantastically misjudged choice of song, the way in which its first line is used to lead into the track snaps you right out of the world of the show, as evidenced by an audience rolling in the aisles. It was the funniest thing I’ve seen in a theatre this year made all the more so by the fact that it was not meant to be at all hilarious.  An edited snippet of No Doubt’s ‘Don’t Speak’ feels similarly incongruous, ‘He Ain’t Heavy He’s My Brother’ pops up in a po-faced moment and overall, as the playlist starts to sound like Now That’s What I Call Music 1066, you begin to worry for the identity of this show which ultimately takes the idea of being a rock musical as seriously as fancy dress. Continue reading “Review: Knights of the Rose, Arts”

Review: Fun Home, Young Vic

As exciting as musical theatre can get – Fun Home becomes a must-see production at the Young Vic

“Caption—My dad and I were exactly alike

Caption—My dad and I were nothing alike”

It’s fitting that Fun Home should open in Pride month, not least because it is an all-too-rare show that focuses on the L in LGBT+. But as stirring and gratifying and significant as it is to have a lesbian protagonist, this musical works because it is straight-up fantastic – an unabashedly bold queering of the form that reins back any notion of excess to reveal the simple truth that beneath it all, we all hurt the same.   

Fun Home is based on Alison Bechdel’s memoir of the same name, a graphic novel musing on her experiences in coming out and later discovering her father is a closet homosexual, yearning for a deeper understanding about how he could have, maybe, possibly, taken his life while she was still a teenager. Lisa Kron’s book adopts a non-linear approach, using an adult Alison as a narrator to recall fragments of memory from her childhood and from her early university days, the bruising experience of her own life facilitating a deeper reflection.  Continue reading “Review: Fun Home, Young Vic”

Re-review: Wicked, Apollo Victoria

As Wicked powers towards its 13th year on the West End, Alice Fearn’s Elphaba ensures visitors to the Apollo Victoria won’t be disappointed

“Ah tum ah tum eleka nahmen…”

Off the top of my head, I couldn’t tell you how many times I’ve seen Wicked now – it feels like loads – so it’s useful that I have it all written down in a blog… I do know it is a good while since I last saw it, five years in fact, which was evidently my third visit to the Apollo Victoria and one which left me disappointed. So it has taken a little while for me to get interested in taking up an opportunity to go see it again but we got there, eventually.

And I have to say I enjoyed my return trip to Oz, mainly because of the sensational performance of Alice Fearn as Elphaba. It’s always nice to see a performer rewarded for paying their dues, working their way up through ensemble and chorus roles until they get that chance to shine. And because of that background, that experience, that starring role has the real sense of being a career-defining opportunity. Continue reading “Re-review: Wicked, Apollo Victoria”

Review: Kiss Me, Kate, London Coliseum

Opera North’s production does nothing to address the inherent problems of Kiss Me, Kate and thus feels like a relic of the past

“The overture is about to start,
You cross your fingers and hold your heart”

Revivals speak a lot to where an organisation sees itself. With its heady combination of Shakespearean drama and Cole Porter’s musical wit, Kiss Me, Kate has all the air of a sure bet about it and indeed, Jo Davies first mounted this production for Opera North in 2015, this revival of that revival being directed here by Ed Goggin as it opens here at the Coliseum.

But for all its familiarity, and that inherent bankability, it feels a problematic choice to stage. In a contemporary Britain, in a society switched onto #MeToo, even the sexual politics of something as notionally fatuous as Love Island are being newly parsed and much of what has long been considered acceptable, or tolerated due to ‘classic’ status, is rightly being reassessed.   Continue reading “Review: Kiss Me, Kate, London Coliseum”

Album Review: Broken Wings

Written by Nadim Naaman and Dana Al Fardan, the concept album of new musical Broken Wings marks an ambitious debut and an impressive arrival 

“I remember the beauty of home”

Would you be able to name the third best-selling poet of all time? Behind Shakespeare and Laozi, it is actually the Lebanese writer Kahlil Gibran. So adapting his work for the stage is perhaps something of a natural step, and an under-explored one given the Anglo-Saxon bias of the Western canon. And it feels only right that it should fall to a Lebanese man and a Qatari woman to compose a musical based on one of his most famous works.

The result is Broken Wings. A new musical which has not only released a concept album, but will play the Theatre Royal Haymarket for four nights in early August, marking the first Arabic-inspired musical to grace the West End. But is it any good? I have to say I have fallen hard for its charms, as it reveals itself to be a supremely confident piece of writing, and one which balances the melting pot of its influences with an almost classic approach. Continue reading “Album Review: Broken Wings”

Create A Magic Memory With A London Theatre Break

“Let me entertain you!” former Take That member Robbie Williams once sang! For entertainment is what you’ll get if you spend an evening in the West End of London. See a musical, and you’ll soon be in its mesmeric grip. You’ll be taken away from the daily humdrum for a few hours and royally entertained. It’s an experience which, if you combine with the range of London Theatre breaks on offer, will live long in your memory.

Into the West End

Head to the West end of London, and you’ll soon discover you’ve entered theatreland. On every street, down every side avenue, you’ll find a theatre. Its lights and signs are vying for your attention. You’re in the entertainment district of London, so enjoy, and make the most of it! 

As you’re visiting the capital, it makes sense to combine your show with an overnight stay. Just think, you’ll have seen a show, why make the long journey home? Stay, take in some night scenes of London, knowing a centrally located hotel bed is close by to return too. You want to make the most of your London visit, right? Continue reading “Create A Magic Memory With A London Theatre Break”