News: Uncle Vanya to receive broadcast release

Sonia Friedman Productions has announced that Ian Rickson’s highly acclaimed production of Conor McPherson’s new adaptation of Uncle Vanya has been filmed on stage at the Harold Pinter Theatre in partnership with Angelica Films. The new film version of the production will be shown in cinemas ahead of broadcast on the BBC (date tbc) with further distribution details to be announced soon. This makes it the first UK stage production closed by the Coronavirus pandemic to have been filmed and produced for the screen.

Directed for screen by Ross MacGibbon, the film reunites nearly all of the original cast of the production that was in its final weeks (read my review here) when the country went into lockdown in March and theatres were forced to close. Only Ciarán Hinds was unavailable and his role has now been taken by Roger Allam. Continue reading “News: Uncle Vanya to receive broadcast release”

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”

Winners of 2018-2019 Outer Critics Circle Awards

John Gassner Playwriting Award
Charly Evon Simpson, Behind the Sheet
WINNER – Jeremy Kareken, David Murrell and Gordon Farrell, The Lifespan of a Fact
Donja R. Love, Sugar in Our Wounds
Ming Peiffer, Usual Girls
Jeremy O. Harris, Slave Play

Outstanding Actor in a Musical
Brooks Ashmanskas, The Prom
Reeve Carney, Hadestown
Damon Daunno, Oklahoma!
WINNER – Santino Fontana, Tootsie
Steven Skybell, Fiddler on the Roof (in Yiddish) Continue reading “Winners of 2018-2019 Outer Critics Circle Awards”

Nominations for 2018-2019 Outer Critics Circle Awards

John Gassner Playwriting Award
Charly Evon Simpson, Behind the Sheet
Jeremy Kareken, David Murrell and Gordon Farrell, The Lifespan of a Fact
Donja R. Love, Sugar in Our Wounds
Ming Peiffer, Usual Girls
Jeremy O. Harris, Slave Play

Outstanding Actor in a Musical
Brooks Ashmanskas, The Prom
Reeve Carney, Hadestown
Damon Daunno, Oklahoma!
Santino Fontana, Tootsie
Steven Skybell, Fiddler on the Roof (in Yiddish) Continue reading “Nominations for 2018-2019 Outer Critics Circle Awards”

Nominations for 2019 Lucille Lortel Awards

Outstanding Play
Mlima’s Tale Produced by The Public Theater. Written by Lynn Nottage
Pass Over Produced by Lincoln Center Theater/LCT3. Written by Antoinette Nwandu
Slave Play Produced by New York Theatre Workshop. Written by Jeremy O. Harris
Sugar In Our Wounds Produced by Manhattan Theatre Club. Written by Donja R. Love
What The Constitution Means To Me Produced by New York Theatre Workshop. Written by Heidi Schreck

Outstanding Musical
Be More Chill Produced by Gerald Goehring, Michael F. Mitri, Jennifer Ashley Tepper, Marc David Levine, Marlene and Gary Cohen, 42nd.club, The Baruch Frankel Viertel Group, Alisa and Charlie Thorne, Jenny Niederhoffer, Chris Blasting/Simpson & Longthorne, Brad Blume/Gemini Theatrical, Jonathan Demar/Kim Vasquez, Ben Holtzman and Sammy Lopez, Koenigsberg/Federman/Adler, Ashlee Latimer and Jenna Ushkowitz, Jenn Maley and Cori Stolbun, Robert and Joan Rechnitz, Fred and Randi Sternfeld, YesBroadway Productions, in association with Two River Theater
Music and Lyrics by Joe Iconis, Book by Joe Tracz 
Girl from the North Country  Produced by The Public Theater. Book by Conor McPherson, Music and Lyrics by Bob Dylan
Midnight at The Never Get Produced by The York Theatre Company by arrangement with Visceral Entertainment and Mark Cortale Productions, Nathaniel Granor, Jeff G. Peters, Daryl Roth, Megan Savage. Book, Music, and Lyrics by Mark Sonnenblick, Co-Conceived by Sam Bolen
Miss You Like Hell Produced by The Public Theater. Book and Lyrics by Quiara Alegría Hudes, Music and Lyrics by Erin McKeown
Rags Parkland Sings The Songs Of The Future Produced by Ars Nova. Written by Andrew R. Butler Continue reading “Nominations for 2019 Lucille Lortel Awards”

Re-review: Girl From The North Country, Noël Coward

Poster for the transfer of Girl from the North Country at the Noel Coward Theatre

“What did you expect?”

After a hugely successful run at the Old Vic, Girl From The North Country transfers to the Noël Coward with the majority of its cast and all of its melancholy soul intact. Seeing Sheila Atim transform ‘Tight Connection To My Heart’ into the most heartfelt of laments was one of my highlights of 2017 and seeing it once again made me feel like it could easily be one of the highlights of 2018 as well.

Her performance is symptomatic of what makes this show so fantastic. The secret weapon in Conor McPherson’s production is the arrangement of the Bob Dylan songs by Simon Hale, an interpretative masterstroke which weaves the music into the very fabric of these people’s lives. (Though whether that makes this a musical remains anyone’s guess.)

Continue reading “Re-review: Girl From The North Country, Noël Coward”

The Curtain Up Show Album of the Year 2017 nominees

Best UK Cast Recording
42nd Street – 2017 London Cast Recording
Bat Out Of Hell The Musical – Original Cast Recording
Dreamgirls – Original London Cast Recording
Everybody’s Talking About Jamie – Original Concept Recording
Girl From The North Country – Original London West End Cast Recording
The Wind in the Willows – Cast Recording

Best American Cast Recording
Anastasia – Original Broadway Cast Recording
Come From Away – Original Broadway Cast Recording
Dear Evan Hansen – Original Broadway Cast Recording
Hello, Dolly! – New Broadway Cast Recording
Spongebob Squarepants – Original Cast Recording
Sunday in the Park with George – 2017 Broadway Cast Recording

Best Solo Album/Non Cast Recording
Collabro – Home
Leading Ladies – Songs From The Stage
Marisha Wallace – Soul Holiday
Patti LuPone – Don’t Monkey With Broadway
Rachel Tucker – On The Road
Sheridan Smith – Sheridan

Re-review: Girl From The North Country, Old Vic

“There’s something I’ve got to do tonight”

I’m going to call it taking one for the team. Faced with the prospect of Girl From The North Country disappearing into the ether (albeit having left an excellent cast recording behind), I took the plunge and booked myself back into the Old Vic in the show’s final week. So of course, a West End transfer has now been announced, which is great news for something which (spoilers) is likely to figure highly in my end-of-year round-up. It will open at the Noël Coward Theatre in December (casting news still to be announced though) and will be well worth the trip.

Running time: 2 hours 30 minutes (with interval)
Booking until 7th October

Album Review: Girl From The North Country (Original London Cast Recording)

The pure quality of the Original London Cast Recording of Girl From The North Country means it is almost as good as the show itself

“And I wait for them to interrupt
Me drinkin’ from my broken cup”

The very notion of a Bob Dylan musical was one about which I couldn’t help but be sceptical but the Old Vic’s Girl From The North Country completely confounded me, emerging as a powerfully moving piece of musical theatre (even if it is determined to label itself a play with songs). And whether that success had been predicted or not, we have been given the gift of a cast recording to tide us over while we queue for returns and/or pray for a West End transfer.

For myself, I’d argue that Bob Dylan songs are best sung by other people anyway, so I should have maybe clocked that this show would be right up my street. And it remains the case here – listening to the original of ‘Tight Connection to My Heart’ suggests nothing of the transcendent beauty that Sheila Atim’s interpretation lends it, the spine-tingling ache in her voice supported with skill and sensitivity by some perfectly arranged backing vocals from the ensemble. Continue reading “Album Review: Girl From The North Country (Original London Cast Recording)”

Review: Girl From The North Country, Old Vic

“Everything’s a little upside down
As a matter of fact the wheels have stopped”

I’m no great fan of Bob Dylan, heretical as it may be to certain elements of the theatre clique. But I don’t mind his songs when they’re sung by other people, so a musical featuring his work seems just the ticket. Or is it a musical? Girl From The North Country comes attached with that most tiresome of sobriquets, ‘a new play by Conor McPherson with music and lyrics by Bob Dylan’, as if musical is a dirty word.

Semantics to one side though, I absolutely adored this. Within a couple of songs I had already made a mental note to work out who to invite when I go again; within three, I had decided who was going to get next year’s Olivier for Best Actress in a Musical (Sheila Atim); by the interval, I was texting all and sundry to get themselves booked in whilst half-decent seats are still available. And all to see a Bob Dylan musical!

Continue reading “Review: Girl From The North Country, Old Vic”