Lockdown Review: Take Me to the World: A Sondheim 90th Birthday Celebration

On the one hand, so much to love with such an inordinate array of talent assembled to mark Sondheim’s 90th birthday. But on the other, where’s the editor, there’s a real sense of the rambling here too. Fortunately as this has been put together in lockdown (and very well too) it is easier than ever to skip to the bits you want (in the spirit of these times, I ain’t telling you who disappointed me).

For me, I loved the unexpectedness of Katrina Lenk’ ‘Johanna’, the cuteness of Beanie Feldstein & Ben Platt’s ‘It Takes Two’, and the energy of Alexander Gemignani’s ‘Buddy’s Blues’. And of the heavy hitters in the finale, Donna Murphy and Patti LuPone nailed ‘Send in the Clowns’ and ‘Anyone Can Whistle’ respectively, and there’s huge fun (if not finesse) in Christine Baranski, Meryl Streep & Audra McDonald giving us their ‘Ladies Who Lunch’. Continue reading “Lockdown Review: Take Me to the World: A Sondheim 90th Birthday Celebration”

News: Sondheim’s 90th birthday concert line-up announced

Legendary Broadway composer Stephen Sondheim will be toasted with an all-star birthday concert, streaming live on Sunday 26th April. Hosted by Raúl Esparza, with musical direction by Mary-Mitchell Campbell, and coinciding with the 50th Broadway anniversary of Sondheim’s CompanyTake Me to the World: A Sondheim 90th Birthday Celebration can be seen for free on YouTube. 

This once-in-a-lifetime event, benefiting ASTEP (Artists Striving to End Poverty), will include a range of songs from the Sondheim catalogue performed by many of the artists who delivered iconic turns in his musicals, including Meryl Streep, Bernadette Peters, Patti LuPone, Mandy Patinkin, Audra McDonald, Christine Baranski, Donna Murphy, Kristin Chenoweth, Sutton Foster, Brian Stokes Mitchell, Kelli O’Hara, Aaron Tveit, Maria Friedman, Katrina Lenk, Michael Cerveris, Brandon Uranowitz, Elizabeth Stanley, Chip Zien, Alexander Gemignani, Iain Armitage, Stephen Schwartz and, from the cast of Pacific Overtures at Classic Stage Company, Ann Harada, Austin Ku, Kelvin Moon Loh and Thom Sesma.

TV Review: The Good Fight Series 3

Michael Sheen does his best to destabilise Series 3 of The Good Fight but Christine Baranski and Audra McDonald just about pull it back

“Don’t get in the way of someone kicking ass”

For a season that contains the wonder that is Christine Baranski and Audra McDonald casually duetting on ‘Raspberry Beret’, Series 3 of The Good Fight ends up being something of a challenge. The presence of Michael Sheen’s Mephistophelian Roland Blum was clearly meant to shake things up but that chaotic energy ends up being destabilising.

Which is a shame, as so much of what makes The Good Fight click so well is present here. Topics ripped from up-to-the-minute headlines, including voter suppression, racial profiling, Karens calling the polices, troll farms, historic sexual harassment cases, Kim and Kanye… And they’re all treated sensitively but still daringly in some bold storytelling. Continue reading “TV Review: The Good Fight Series 3”

TV Review: The Good Fight Series 1

“In my experience, whenever somebody says ‘the truth is’ that usually means it’s not”

Lots to love in The Good Fight, not least its very existence as a female-led, POC-heavy US drama, unafraid to tackle the most modern of issues, as its parent show The Good Wife did in its prime. And over the 10 episodes of its first season, it has proved an engaging and entertaining watch in the midst of finding its feet about the kind of show it actually wants to be. (You can read my thoughts about Episodes 1 and 2 here).

The Good Fight tried to achieve a lot – establishing a large new ensemble, delivering enough storyline for three lead characters, paying adequate but not overbearing fan service to Good Wife devotees, and coming up with up-to-the-minute cases-of-the week. And I think we can say it did most this fairly successfully. Christine Baranski’s Diane Lockhart and her statement necklaces remaining a shining beacon of light in our cold, dark world. Continue reading “TV Review: The Good Fight Series 1”

Album Review: An American Victory (2016 Concept Album)

“No way to change that now”

The art of the concept album can be a tricky one, as is evidenced on An American Victory, an album of 21 songs from a new musical written by first-time composer Louis R Bucalo. The show is set in 1801 in a time of lawlessness on the seas, Thomas Jefferson’s government struggling to deal with the piracy that continually holds their ships to ransom at a time when money is scarce and the US navy is not yet fully in existence.

At least that’s what the detailed synopsis tells us. One of the crucial problems with An American Victory is that you’d be hard-pressed to work out what is happening from these songs alone, they lack any kind of narrative impetus which is close to a fatal flaw when it comes to storytelling in musical theatre. Too little drama emerges from both music and lyrics, which leaves vast swathes of it feeling inert despite its occasionally stirring nature. Continue reading “Album Review: An American Victory (2016 Concept Album)”

fosterIAN awards 2014

 WinnerRunner-upOther nominees
Best Actress in a PlayGillian Anderson, A Streetcar Named Desire Chris Nietvelt & Halina Reijn, Maria Stuart (Toneelgroep Amsterdam) Linda Bassett, Visitors
Susannah Fielding, The Merchant of Venice (Almeida)
Denise Gough, Adler and Gibb
Imelda Staunton, Good People
Best Actor in a PlayCary Crankson, The Saints Jack Holden, Johnny Get Your Gun Jonathan Broadbent, My Night With Reg
Chris Connel, Wet House
Harry Melling, peddling
Mark Strong, A View From The Bridge
Best Supporting Actress in a PlayVanessa Kirby, A Streetcar Named DesirePhoebe Fox & Nicola Walker, A View From The Bridge Blythe Duff, The James Plays
Liz White, Electra
Lydia Wilson, King Charles III
Best Supporting Actor in a PlayJoe Caffrey, Wet House Hans Kesting, Maria Stuart (Toneelgroep Amsterdam) Patrick Godfrey, Donkey Heart
Julian Ovenden, My Night With Reg
Hugh Skinner, Thérèse Raquin (Theatre Royal Bath)
Geoffrey Streatfeild, My Night With Reg
Best Actress in a MusicalImelda Staunton, Gypsy Gemma Arterton, Made in Dagenham Charlotte Baptie, Free As Air
Natalie Mendoza, Here Lies Love
Christina Modestou, In The Heights
Sophie Thompson, Guys and Dolls
Best Actor in a MusicalSam Mackay, In The Heights Benjamin Scheuer, The Lion Adrian der Gregorian, Made In Dagenham
Killian Donnelly, Memphis
Jon Robyns, The Last Five Years
Jeremy Secomb, Sweeney Todd (Tooting Arts Club)
Best Supporting Actress in a MusicalJenna Russell, Urinetown Lara Pulver, Gypsy Samantha Bond, Dirty Rotten Scoundrels
Victoria Hamilton-Barritt, In The Heights
Kiara Jay, Sweeney Todd (Tooting Arts Club)
Zoe Rainey, The Return of the Soldier
Best Supporting Actor in a MusicalJason Pennycooke, Memphis Aaron Tveit, Assassins Damian Buhagiar, In The Heights
Tyrone Huntley, Memphis
Nadim Naaman, Sweeney Todd (Tooting Arts Club)
Jonathan Slinger, Urinetown

2014 Best Supporting Actor in a Play + a Musical

Best Supporting Actor in a Play

Joe Caffrey, Wet House
One of the most painfully believable portrayals of alcoholism you could ever wish to see and just brutal in its tragedy, even if the audience around laughed merrily away

Honourable mention: Hans Kesting, Maria Stuart (Toneelgroep Amsterdam)
As the charismatic Leicester, loved by two queens, Kesting was a silkily seductive presence but one with steel at its very core. The kind of actor you can’t keep your eyes off (and if you ever see a show at the Stadschouwberg, nip upstairs to look at the very fetching portrait of him!).

Patrick Godfrey, Donkey Heart
Julian Ovenden, My Night With Reg
Hugh Skinner, Thérèse Raquin (Theatre Royal Bath)
Geoffrey Streatfeild, My Night With Reg

7-10
Sam Crane, Eternal Love; John Hodgkinson, Love’s Labours Lost/Won (RSC); Luke Norris, A View From The Bridge; Mark Rowley, The James Plays

 

Best Supporting Actor in a Musical

Jason Pennycooke, Memphis
Twinkle-eyed and twinkle-toed, Pennycooke is a sheer delight in Memphis as Bobby, the cleaner who becomes an unexpected television star, and just edges colleagues Rolan Bell and Tyrone Huntley who altogether make a superbly strong supporting line-up for this show.

Honourable Mention: Aaron Tveit, Assassins
The arrival of this square-jawed Broadway import was much heralded and certainly didn’t disappoint as he bolstered the tip-top ensemble that Jamie Lloyd assembled for Assassins with some fierce commitment and sheer quality.

Damian Buhagiar, In The Heights
Tyrone Huntley, Memphis
Nadim Naaman, Sweeney Todd (Tooting Arts Club)
Jonathan Slinger, Urinetown

7-10
Dean John-Wilson, Here Lies Love; John Marquez, Dirty Rotten Scoundrels; Michael Matus, The Return of the Soldier; Cedric Neal, Porgy and Bess