Broadway Album Reviews: The New Yorkers / Kiss Me, Kate! / Beetlejuice

I tackle a trio of  Broadway cast recordings in the shape of Cole Porter’s The New Yorkers, Kiss Me, Kate! and Beetlejuice 

“Most gentlemen can’t be profound”

As it only played a handful of performances, the release of Cole Porter’s The New Yorkers (2017 Encores! Cast Recording) is a welcome chance to revisit this rarely seen musical. The recording is certainly aided by the presence of such musical theatre stalwarts as Scarlett Strallen and Tam Mutu (scintillating together on ‘Where Have You Been?’), the revelation for me is jazz singer Cyrille Aimée, who delivers a slinkily devastating rendition of ‘Love for Sale’ that makes it feel like the song was written for her.

Photo © Caitlin Ochs

Aside from the songs written by Jimmy Durante (his comic stylings at their best on Act 1 closer ‘Wood’ delivered with panache by Kevin Chamberlin), the prevailing aesthetic is one of classic Cole Porter elegance, Rob Berman’s musical direction finding just the right level of sparkling verve to blow off any lingering cobwebs and infuse real life into the material. Ruth Williamson’s witty ‘The Physician’, Mylinda Hull’s just-as-funny ‘The Great Indoors’, Strallen leading the ecstatic finale ‘I Happen to Like New York’…the pleasures here abound.

Sticking with the glorious Cole Porter, and who wouldn’t!, this year has also seen the release of Kiss Me, Kate! (2019 Broadway Cast Recording). It’s a show that I have a little difficulty with, never having seen a production that managed to sufficiently square its period gender dynamics with (my) contemporary sensibilities. But there’s no denying a songbook that contains the likes of ‘Too Darn Hot’, ‘So In Love and ‘Always True To You In My Fashion’.

Photo © Joan Marcus

And when you have the likes of Kelli O’Hara and Will Chase singing them, you’re in the territory of dreamily good. Whether together on the oom-pah-pah of ‘Wunderbar’ or separately on their respective renditions of ‘So in Love’, they’re both exceptionally good and utterly listenable. Also great value for money are ‘B’ couple Stephanie Styles and Corbin Bleu, pulling focus brilliantly wherever they pop up.

And last but not least, even if Mr Porter isn’t involved here, we have Beetlejuice (Original Broadway Cast Recording). From its opening minutes, (“Holy crap! A ballad already?”), it is clear that there’s a properly anarchic spirit at play here and Eddie Perfect’s score, led by a highly charismatic Alex Brightman who clearly is having a ball as he repeatedly breaks through the fourth wall (if there is one when you’re listening…?)

Photo © Matthew Murphy

‘The Whole “Being Dead” Thing is a genius opening number, prologue aside, and sets the tone for the Perfect’s pop-rock tunes, several of which feel like they have the potential to earworm their way into your brain (the refrain of ‘Fright of Their Lives is currently stuck in mine). Supported by vibrant work from Kerry Butler and Rob McClure and a cleverly sung performance from Sophia Anne Caruso as the Winona-waif Lydia, if Beetlejuice struggles to find a new home on Broadway then I’ll happily welcome it into the West End!

Film Review: Wild Rose (2018)

A Brit-flick with a difference as Wild Rose serves up country music via Glasgow, with great performances from Jessie Buckley and Julie Walters

“No-one wants to see a convicted criminal up there.
‘Johnny Cash was a convicted criminal , you ball-bag’.”

There’s a fair bit of the archetypal Brit-flick to Wild Rose, written by Nicole Taylor and directed by Tom Harper, but enough of a distinct flavour to make it very much its own thing. And how could it not be, featuring a Glaswegian ex-con of a leading lady desperate to make it to Nashville and sing in the same room as the rather marvellous Kacey Musgraves.

Jessie Buckley plays Rose-Lynn, just having served 12 months inside and trying to put her life and her dreams back together. She has a prodigious voice and wants to make it as a country singer but she also has two kids, whom her mother has been looking her after, to think of. Possibilities rise up in the form of Susannah, the wealthy woman whose house Rose-Lynn cleans, but when you wear an electronic tag, dreams have to sit next to reality. Continue reading “Film Review: Wild Rose (2018)”

Broadway Album Reviews: Hadestown / Jagged Little Pill / Oklahoma!

Encouraged by their Curtain Up nominations, I take a quick look at the Broadway cast recordings for Hadestown, Jagged Little Pill and Oklahoma!

“I want you to know, that I am happy for you”

I’m not quite sure why I haven’t got around to reviewing the original Broadway cast recording of Hadestown since I listen to it at least once a week, such is the enduring strength of Anaïs Mitchell’s glorious score. I loved the show so much at the National, that I’d already booked to go and see it again before I got home that evening, and getting to dive deep into this recording is about as close as I’ll get to seeing it again (I doubt it’ll return here any time soon although the West End is crying out for its inventiveness).

Those of us who loved the show in London are blessed that the Broadway transfer retained its key cast. So the intense vitality of Amber Gray, the easy swing of André De Shields, the indie-pop sweetness of Reeve Carney and Eva Noblezada and the gravelly hotness of Patrick Page remain intact. And those tunes! The plaintive cries of ‘Wait for Me’, the slinkiness of ‘When the Chips Are Down’, the incredible prescience of ‘Why We Build The Wall’, the sheer glee of ‘Way Down Hadestown’, it is a winner from start to finish for me. Continue reading “Broadway Album Reviews: Hadestown / Jagged Little Pill / Oklahoma!”

The 2019 fosterIAN award winners

Best Actress in a Play
Sarah Niles/Natalie Simpson/Racheal Ofori, Three Sisters

Best Actress in a Musical
Audrey Brisson, Amélie the Musical

Best Actor in a Play
Lucian Msamati, ‘Master Harold’…and the boys

Best Actor in a Musical
Jamie Muscato, West Side Story (Curve Leicester)

Best Supporting Actress in a Play
Monica Dolan, All About Eve

Best Supporting Actress in a Musical
Cassidy Janson/Melanie La Barrie, & Juliet 

Best Supporting Actor in a Play
Nick Holder, Faith Hope and Charity

Best Supporting Actor in a Musical
David Bedella, & Juliet

And my top 10 plays of the year:
1. The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Southwark Playhouse
2. Call Me Fury, Hope Theatre
3. West Side Story, Curve Leicester
4. As You Like It, Queen’s Theatre Hornchurch
5. Islander, Southwark Playhouse
6. Amélie the Musical, Watermill Theatre/UK Tour/The Other Palace
7. & Juliet, Shaftesbury Theatre
8. Sexy Lamp, VAULT
9. Karaoke Play, Bunker Theatre
10. The Ocean at the End of the Lane, National Theatre

fosterIAN awards 2019

 WinnerRunner-upOther nominees
Best Actress in a PlaySarah Niles/Natalie Simpson/Racheal Ofori,
Three Sisters
Marieke Heebink,
Medea
Adjoa Andoh,
Richard II

Sharon D Clarke,
Death of a Salesman

Claire Foy,
Lungs

Leah Harvey,
Small Island

Chris Nietvelt,
De Kersentuin
Best Actor in a Play
Lucian Msamati, ‘Master Harold’…and the boysCary Crankson,
Country Music
Tobias Menzies,
The Hunt

Daniel Monks,
Teenage Dick

Wendell Pierce,
Death of a Salesman

Matt Smith,
Lungs

Zubin Varla,
Equus
Best Supporting Actress in a PlayMonica Dolan,
All About Eve
Jackie Pulford,
Karaoke Play
Ronkẹ Adékoluẹjo,
Three Sisters

Janni Goslinga,
De Kersentuin

Pippa Nixon,
The Ocean at the End of the Lane

Cecilia Noble,
Faith Hope and Charity

Gemma Whelan,
Pinter Seven
Best Supporting Actor in a PlayNick Holder,
Faith Hope and Charity
Hugo Koolschijn,
De Kersentuin
Rupert Graves,
Pinter Five

John Heffernan,
Pinter Seven

Martins Imhangbe/Natey Jones,
Death of a Salesman

Arinzé Kene/Sope Dirisu,
Death of a Salesman

Ken Nwosu,
Three Sisters
Best Actress in a MusicalAudrey Brisson,
Amélie the Musical
Kirsty Findlay/Bethany Tennick,
Islander
Lucie Jones/Katherine McPhee,
Waitress

Miriam-Teak Lee,
& Juliet

Samantha Pauly,
Evita

Joanna Riding,
Follies

Zizi Strallen,
Mary Poppins
Best Actor in a MusicalJamie Muscato,
West Side Story (Curve Leicester)
Keith Ramsay,
Preludes
Andy Coxon,
West Side Story (Royal Exchange)

Jordan Fox/Michael Vinsen,
[title of show]

David Hunter,
Waitress
,
Charlie Stemp,
Mary Poppins

Oliver Tompsett,
& Juliet
,
Best Supporting Actress in a Musical
Cassidy Janson/Melanie La Barrie,
& Juliet 
Jocasta Almgill/Emily Langham,
West Side Story (Royal Exchange)
Laura Baldwin/Marisha Wallace,
Waitress

Tiffany Graves/Gabrielle Lewis-Dodson,
The Boy Friend

Claire Machin/Claire Moore,
Mary Poppins

Rebecca McKinnis/Lauren Ward,
Dear Evan Hansen

Carly Mercedes Dyer/Victoria Hamilton-Barritt,
The View UpStairs
,
Best Supporting Actor in a MusicalDavid Bedella,
& Juliet
Jack Butterworth,
The Boy Friend
Ricardo Afonso,
Jesus Christ Superstar

Rob Houchen,
The Light in the Piazza

Samuel Holmes,
Curtains

Cedric Neal,
The View UpStairs

Jez Unwin,
Amélie the Musical

My 10 favourite shows of 2019

I barely saw 250 shows this year, quiet by my standards! And as is the way of these things, here’s a rundown of some of the productions that moved me most…

1. The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Southwark Playhouse
I haven’t lost it in a theatre as much as this in a good long while. I cry at all sorts but this superlative musical had me trying, and failing, to choke back huge, hacking sobs. And I can still sing some of the songs – it has to come back, surely. “It’s all just a matter of time…”

2. Call Me Fury, Hope Theatre
“This is the history we should be teaching, these are the stories we should be sharing”, this striking and soulful piece gave voice to so many whom history have ignored, and was bloody entertaining with it. 

3. West Side Story, Curve Leicester
A musical I love, in a production that I simply adored. Getting to see two WSSs in one year was a privilege and for me, it was the emotional heart of Nikolai Foster’s production that won out.

4. As You Like It, Queen’s Theatre Hornchurch
The second year of the Public Acts programme comes up trumps once again with this gorgeous musical version of the Shakespeare classic, community theatre at its finest.

5. Islander, Southwark Playhouse
The magic of musical theatre distilled into two voices and a loop pedal – a marvellously inventive and endlessly moving. 

6. Amélie the Musical, Watermill Theatre/UK Tour/The Other Palace
As sweet-sharp as a diabolo grenadine, something truly gorgeous emerges from this film adaptation that simply demands you come up with better words than quirky to describe it.

7. & Juliet, Shaftesbury Theatre
Tell me why… About as much fun as you can have in the West End right now, this is a particularly fine example of the jukebox model and I want it that way.

8. Sexy Lamp, VAULT
A standout piece in a standout festival, Katie Arnstein’s brutally honest monologue about navigating the patriarchy may be lightened with songs and sweets but is no less effective for it.

9. Karaoke Play, Bunker Theatre
Deeply confessional and subtly magical, Annie Jenkins’ inter-connected monologues combined to become so much more than the sum of their parts.

10. The Ocean at the End of the Lane, National Theatre
A magical family tale, perfect for kids of all ages. Not even reading the exit poll as I left could ruin the feeling! 

Shows 11-25 under the cut

Continue reading “My 10 favourite shows of 2019”

2019 Best Actor in a Play + in a Musical

Best Actor in a Play

Lucian Msamati, ‘Master Harold’…and the boys
Something about the National Theatre seems to bring out the best in the already prodigiously talented Msamati, here he captures the heart of anyone who has ever disappointed a parent as his Sam suffers such cruel indignities with an unimaginable grace,

Honourable mention: Cary Crankson, Country Music
If there’s any justice in the world, Crankson will be an actor we will be talking about for years to come. Don’t miss any chance to see him, especially when it is as intense and intimate as this was.

Tobias Menzies, The Hunt
Daniel Monks, Teenage Dick
Wendell Pierce, Death of a Salesman
Matt Smith, Lungs
Zubin Varla, Equus

8-10
Gershwyn Eustache Jnr, Small Island; Ethan Kai, Equus; Gijs Scholten van Aschat, De Kersentuin

 

Best Actor in a Musical

Jamie Muscato, West Side Story (Curve Leicester)
In the battle of the Tonys, Muscato won me over with the effortless ease in which he utilises his magnificent voice. Looking as casual as you like as this would-be lover, his rendition of ‘Maria’ left about 95% of the Curve’s audience wondering how to get their name changed so that it’s about them. OK, me, it was me thinking that!

Honourable mention: Keith Ramsay, Preludes
A show that deserved more attention than it got, Ramsay’s extraordinary performance in an extraordinary production was a showstopper in Southwark.

Andy Coxon, West Side Story (Royal Exchange)
Jordan Fox/Michael Vinsen, [title of show];
David Hunter, Waitress
Charlie Stemp, Mary Poppins
Oliver Tompsett, & Juliet

8-10
Andy Mientus, The View UpStairs; Trent Saunders, Evita; Sam Tutty, Dear Evan Hansen

2019 Best Actress in a Play + in a Musical

Best Actress in a Play

Sarah Niles/Natalie Simpson/Racheal Ofori, Three Sisters
It’s practically a tradition now to split this award three years (2018, 2017) but it feels like a no-brainer once again, this trio of performances utterly reinvigorating the Chekhovian archetypes to make their characters speak compellingly anew.

Honourable mention: Marieke Heebink, Medea
Second time’s the charm, Heebink’s ferocious performance has deepened over the years and remained just as heartbreaking as before, if not more so.  

Adjoa Andoh, Richard II
Sharon D Clarke, Death of a Salesman
Claire Foy, Lungs
Leah Harvey, Small Island
Chris Nietvelt, De Kersentuin

8-10
Gillian Anderson, All About Eve; Nancy Carroll, The Deep Blue Sea; Gwendoline Christie, A Midsummer Night’s Dream (Bridge)

 

Best Actress in a Musical

Audrey Brisson, Amélie the Musical
I’ve seen Brisson leading this gorgeous musical three times now and her performance has lost none of its magic, literally so in the case of how she flies into her bedroom and figuratively so, in the otherworldly charm she brings to the role. Don’t miss your chance to catch the show as it continues to tour in 2020. 

Honourable mention: Kirsty Findlay/Bethany Tennick, Islander
One of the most inventive musicals of the year was born out of the collaboration between these two fine performers. Stupidly I left it until the last show to visit cos I’d love to see it again!

Lucie Jones/Katherine McPhee, Waitress
Miriam-Teak Lee, & Juliet
Samantha Pauly, Evita
Joanna Riding, Follies
Zizi Strallen, Mary Poppins

8-10
Janie Dee, The Boy Friend; Gabriela Garcia, West Side Story (Royal Exchange); Adriana Ivelisse, West Side Story (Curve Leicester)

2019 Best Supporting Actor in a Play + in a Musical

Best Supporting Actor in a Play

Nick Holder, Faith Hope and Charity
Holder chooses his stage performances carefully and sparingly and in returning to Alexander Zeldin’s work, he impressed once again on the stage of the Dorfman.

Honourable mention: Hugo Koolschijn, De Kersentuin
Such a memorably heartbreaking performance, the final image of the prostrate Frits (Firs) lying across the stage is seared on my mind.

Rupert Graves, Pinter Five
John Heffernan, Pinter Seven
Martins Imhangbe/Natey Jones, Death of a Salesman
Arinzé Kene/Sope Dirisu, Death of a Salesman
Ken Nwosu, Three Sisters

8-10

Toby Jones, Glass. Kill. Bluebeard. Imp.; Ira Mandela Siobhan, Equus; Colin Morgan, All My Sons

 

Best Supporting Actor in a Musical

David Bedella, & Juliet
All about the accent, Bedella’s commitment to playing Lance entirely straight just adds to the delight that he brings to an already delightful production. 

Honourable mention: Jack Butterworth, The Boy Friend
Such dancing. SUCH DANCING!

Ricardo Afonso, Jesus Christ Superstar
Rob Houchen, The Light in the Piazza
Samuel Holmes, Curtains
Cedric Neal, The View UpStairs
Jez Unwin, Amélie the Musical

8-10
Jack McBrayer, Waitress; Caolan McCarthy, Amélie the Musical; Dale Rapley, Gypsy

2019 Best Supporting Actress in a Play + in a Musical

Best Supporting Actress in a Play

Monica Dolan, All About Eve
In a star-studded ensemble, it was Dolan’s no-nonsense pseudo-narrator Karen who ended up pulling focus with her every utterance. With Appropriate too, 2019 was a superb year for Dolan and those of us who are captivated by her work.

Honourable mention: Jackie Pulford, Karaoke Play
Scorchingly good in a doozy of a tragicomic role, this is one I wasn’t expecting and entirely typical that it emerged out of the brilliant Bunker. 

Ronkẹ Adékoluẹjo, Three Sisters
Janni Goslinga, De Kersentuin
Pippa Nixon, The Ocean at the End of the Lane
Cecilia Noble, Faith Hope and Charity
Gemma Whelan, Pinter Seven

8-10
Deborah Findlay, Glass. Kill. Bluebeard. Imp.; Jane Horrocks, Pinter Five; Sarah Niles, Richard II

 

Best Supporting Actress in a Musical

Cassidy Janson/Melanie La Barrie, & Juliet
There was just so much superlative work in this category that shortlisting was nigh on impossible. So I doubled up on nominations, recognising how much great work was going on and in that crowded field, the glories of Janson and La Barrie just about edged it. Cassidy belting Céline as if her life depended on it, Mel getting it on in fine fashion (just watch her hips go!) – f**kin’ perfect you might say!

Honourable mention: Jocasta Almgill/Emily Langham, West Side Story (Royal Exchange)
Anita is probably one of my favourite roles in all of musical theatre and Almgill absolutely nailed it with a whirlwind of charismatic personality and pitch-perfect vocals. Langham’s Anybodys was a real surprise though, a near-constant presence in the background but a masterclass in detailed character work. And when ‘Somewhere’ starts…ooff!

Laura Baldwin/Marisha Wallace, Waitress
Tiffany Graves/Gabrielle Lewis-Dodson, The Boy Friend
Claire Machin/Claire Moore, Mary Poppins
Rebecca McKinnis/Lauren Ward, Dear Evan Hansen
Carly Mercedes Dyer/Victoria Hamilton-Barritt, The View UpStairs

8-10
Melissa James/Kate O’Donnell, Gypsy; Rebecca Lock/Carley Stenson, Curtains; Carly Mercedes Dyer/Beth Hinton-Lever, West Side Story (Curve Leicester)