Album Review: The Prince of Egypt (Original Cast Recording)

There’s two songs I could listen to for ages on the Original Cast Recording of The Prince of Egypt but I could easily leave the rest

“No power on earth can change that, brother”

There was a moment in the last couple of days as I listened to ‘Make It Right’ for the umpteenth time that I wondered whether I’d been a bit harsh to The Prince of Egypt when it opened in late February. I’d made the note ‘lovely duet’ at the time and on record, the sweet/strong combination of Liam Tamne and Luke Brady’s voices is an absolute winner as their fraternal connection is tested over soaring contrapuntal melodies and an orchestral backing that flows as effortlessly as the Red Sea

So too, the show’s most famous song (so much so that the publicity campaign basically centred on it) ‘When You Believe’ has a choral majesty that is undeniable. Alexia Khadime and Christine Allado lead the company with real style – the interplay of their voices in the middle chorus is spine-tingingly lovely – and the incorporation of the Hebrew-sung bridge (led by Mia Lakha) is a rare graceful moment of geo-specificity that works. Continue reading “Album Review: The Prince of Egypt (Original Cast Recording)”

Review: Austentatious, Fortune Theatre

The ever-hilarious Austentatious return to the West End with a Monday night residency at the Fortune Theatre

“Forgive me, I did not know a mouth baby should be addressed so”

It’s been a moment since I’ve seen Austentatious. Their rise has been sure and steady over the last few years, graduating from monthly residencies at the Leicester Square Theatre to the Savoy Theatre and then on to a weekly booking at the Fortune Theatre, whilst also finding time for highly successful national tours and seasons at the Edinburgh Fringe. And that’s also not to mention that this is a side hustle for this company of very-much-in-demand comedians.

I’ve seen them just a few times over the years but weekly visits at West End prices are beyond even my devotion (that said, there is a loyalty card scheme…). But I couldn’t resist a visit to welcome them back to the bijou surroundings of the Fortune where we were treated to the surreal delights of Northanger Crabby. For the uninitiated, Austentatious is a show entirely improvised in Jane Austen-style and costume from a title suggested by the audience. Continue reading “Review: Austentatious, Fortune Theatre”

Review: Pretty Woman – the Musical, Piccadilly Theatre

Aiimie Atkinson is good but deserves far better than Pretty Woman: the Musical, the blatant cash grab at the Piccadilly Theatre

“Somebody pinch me, this can’t be true”

The publicity for Pretty Woman – the Musical invites, nay begs, you to invoke one of the movie’s iconic catchphrases so let’s have it. Mounting a show in 2020 in which the only roles for women are prostitutes or bitches? Big mistake. Huge. Charging £175 to sit on your front row? Big mistake. Huge. Encouraging the use of a grand piano for anything besides playing? Big mistake. Huge.  

The 1990 film directed by Garry Marshall from J F Lawton’s screenplay scored massive success for a rom-com but much like Grease, it is hard to view the story with a contemporary lens. Determined to view itself as a fairytale (of sorts), it takes the worlds of asset stripping and sex work and whisks them together without taking anything seriously. And Marshall and Lawton’s book for this musical adaptation does the same except with added songs by Bryan Adams (yes, that one) and Jim Vallance. Continue reading “Review: Pretty Woman – the Musical, Piccadilly Theatre”

Winners of the 20th What’s On Stage Awards

A relatively controversy-free set of results for once, though sad not to see Waitress get any love at the 20th What’s On Stage Awards

Publicly voted awards often end up rewarding celebrity and/or social media pull rather than any sense of theatrical merit, so it is nice to see a more balanced set of results emerging from this year’s What’s On Stage Awards. & Juliet and Come From Away could both claim to have ‘won big’ with Dear Evan Hansen also nicking a couple of prize acting awards. This did sadly mean Waitress went home empty handed and I thought Mary Poppins might have scored at least another one award to go with Best Musical Revival.

On the plays side of things, the lack of a clear front-runner in terms of nominations resulted in a nice spread of recognition, topped off with Life of Pi nabbing the best new play and representing well for the regions, ahead of its West End debut in June. The only bum note comes with the continued lack of engagement with the concerns raised around Jewish representation in the recent production of Falsettos. Rewarding the show without recognising any of these issues (I don’t think WoS has published anything about it at all) feels like a thoughtless compounding of something which shouldn’t be swept under the carpet. We can all do better.

Best Actor in a Play, sponsored by Edwardian Hotels

Tom Hiddleston – Betrayal – Harold Pinter Theatre
WINNER – Andrew Scott – Present Laughter – The Old Vic
Matt Smith – Lungs – The Old Vic
Wendell Pierce – Death of a Salesman – Young Vic / Piccadilly Theatre
Laurie Kynaston – The Son – Kiln Theatre / Duke of York’s Theatre

Best Actress in a Play, sponsored by Tonic Theatre

WINNER – Claire Foy – Lungs – The Old Vic
Zawe Ashton – Betrayal – Harold Pinter Theatre
Hayley Atwell – Rosmersholm – Duke of York’s Theatre
Sharon D Clarke – Death of a Salesman – Young Vic / Piccadilly Theatre
Juliet Stevenson – The Doctor – Almeida Theatre Continue reading “Winners of the 20th What’s On Stage Awards”

Review: The Prince of Egypt, Dominion Theatre

Despite an excellent cast, The Prince of Egypt might be in need of a miracle at the Dominion Theatre

“For the rest of my life I’ll have to live with this”

Way way back, many centuries ago, but a little bit more after the Bible began, someone decided that Old Testament justice really was the way forward for musical theatre. And so here we have a musical that features two ethnic massacres of children but it’s all OK if you sing a ballad afterwards to atone (even if you’ve sanctioned the murder of your de facto nephew) and others will then tell you it’s ok “when you believe”.

The Prince of Egypt picks up a few generations after Joseph and co set up shop in the land of the Nile, where the Hebrew population is now spiralling out of control for the Egyptian authorities. Enlightened thinking about immigrants hasn’t quite reached these shores, so the Hebrews find themselves enslaved and upon the order of the slaughter of all their newborn boys by a grumpy Pharoah Seti, an intrepid Yocheved pops her baby into a basket and hopes that he’ll get picked up by a queen rather than a crocodile.  Continue reading “Review: The Prince of Egypt, Dominion Theatre”

News: the National Theatre announces 9 new productions for 2020-21

Lots of exciting news coming out of the National Theatre today, including actors Nicola Walker, Giles Terera and Kristin Scott Thomas, directors Simon Stone, Lynette Linton and Nicole Charles, and returns for Small Island, Beginning and The Ocean at the End of the Lane

The National Theatre has today announced nine productions that will play on the South Bank in 2020-2021 alongside previously announced shows. These run alongside their international touring productions, three plays that will tour to multiple venues across the UK and a West End transfer. The NT also announces today that it will increase the quantity of low-price tickets on the South Bank by 25%, with 250,000 available across the year at £20 or less.

© Brinkhoff-Moegenburg

In the Olivier Theatre the critically acclaimed production of Andrea Levy’s epic novel Small Island directed by Rufus Norris returns following a sold-out run in 2019. Adapted for the stage by Helen Edmundson, the revival will run from late October 2020 with casting to be announced. Continue reading “News: the National Theatre announces 9 new productions for 2020-21”

Critics’ Circle Awards 2019: the winners in full

The Jack Tinker Award for Most Promising Newcomer 
Sam Tutty for Dear Evan Hansen 
Noël Coward Theatre

The Trewin Award for Best Shakespearean Performance
Hammed Animashaun for A Midsummer Night’s Dream
Bridge Theatre 

Most Promising Playwright
Jasmine Lee-Jones for seven methods of killing kylie jenner
Royal Court

The Peter Hepple Award for Best Musical
Come From Away
Phoenix Theatre

Best Designer
Tom Scutt for A Very Expensive Poison
Old Vic 

Best Director
Jamie Lloyd for Evita, Betrayal & Cyrano de Bergerac
Open Air Theatre, Harold Pinter Theatre & Playhouse Theatre

Best Actress
Juliet Stevenson for The Doctor
Almeida Theatre 
and
Sharon D Clarke for Death of a Salesman
Young Vic & Piccadilly Theatre

Best Actor
Andrew Scott for Present Laughter
Old Vic

The Michael Billington Award for Best New Play
A Very Expensive Poison
Old Vic 

Special Award
Paule Constable for services to theatre

Review: Sara Bareilles and Gavin Creel in Waitress, Adelphi Theatre

It’s impossible to resist another visit to Joe’s Diner as Sara Bareilles and Gavin Creel begin their limited run in Waitress at the Adelphi Theatre

“I’ll slice and serve my worries away”

I wasn’t going to go back to Waitress, having enjoyed both my previous visits to the Adelphi Theatre where I was blown away by Katharine McPhee and then Lucie Jones in the leading role of Jenna. But then a genius casting move (surely this doesn’t count as stunt casting? who knows…🤷) saw the show’s composer and lyricist Sara Bareilles and Olivier and Tony Award winner Gavin Creel announced for a limited run and so I couldn’t help but book myself in for another slice of pie.

Both of them appeared in the show on Broadway so they’re clearly au fait with their roles but more significantly, they clearly share a special connection and so their electricity as Jenna and Dr Pomatter is off the charts. The shenanigans in the doctor’s surgery are always fun but here, they’re fricking hilarious as Creel and Bareilles bounce off each other while having the time of their lives and almost, almost, making you forget the slight ickiness of the boundaries that their incipient relationship crosses. Continue reading “Review: Sara Bareilles and Gavin Creel in Waitress, Adelphi Theatre”

Review: 9 to 5 The Musical, Savoy Theatre

As 9 to 5 The Musical announces its closing dates and forthcoming cast changes, I go along because I can’t resist Bonnie Langford

“Respected and high class,
I don’t have to kiss ass
For the first time since I’ve been employed”

The pictures above should give you an indication as to who the real star of 9 to 5 The Musical is, no matter how red the trunks (or surprisingly long the legs) of David Hasselhoff. I first saw this cinematic adaptation in 2012 on its UK tour and loved Bonnie Langford’s performance so much it ranked in that year’s best. So her return to the show in its West End debut last year was great to behold (even if it didn’t quite tempt me along to see it again).

It’s a curious one, Patricia Resnick’s adaptation of her own film sprinkles the story with the rhinestone glitter of Dolly Parton’s songbook, far beyond the iconic title track and is possessed of a huge spirit of fun. But the tale itself, of the struggle for women’s equality in the workplace, demands a little more gravity than it ultimately gets here. How seriously are we meant to take sexual harassment when it is accompanied by the Colgate smile and eye twinkle of the Hoff. Continue reading “Review: 9 to 5 The Musical, Savoy Theatre”

Review: Uncle Vanya, Harold Pinter Theatre

Conor McPherson’s adaptation of Uncle Vanya featuring Toby Jones and Richard Armitage at the Harold Pinter Theatre is so good you can forgive the “wanging on”

“I mean what I mean when I say what I say”

Above everything, the thing that stands out most about Conor McPherson’s adaptation of Chekhov’s evergreen Uncle Vanya is his use of the phrase “wanging on”, twice. It’s such a random thing but it rings out like a bell, both times, more so than any of the usages of contemporary language that pepper the script. Running it a close second though, is just how vital and vibrant Ian Rickson’s production proves.

From stacking his cast with real, proper talent (imagine your bit players being of the ilk of Anna Calder-Marshall, Peter Wight and Dearbhla Molloy) to reuniting with Rosmersholm designer Rae Smith, this is a finely tuned piece of theatre which ultimately, doesn’t do too much that is radical (though the fourth wall breaking-bits are smashing), but rather distils its Chekhovian spirit just so. Or maybe that it’s the first production of the play I’ve seen since turning 40 and its midlife crises suddenly have new resonance…! Continue reading “Review: Uncle Vanya, Harold Pinter Theatre”