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

Preview: Assassins, Menier Chocolate Factory


“Angry men don’t write the rules and guns don’t right the wrongs”

The season to be jolly is fast approaching but if the idea of Christmas cheer in the theatre leaves you, well, less than cheerful, then the Menier Chocolate Factory’s festive offering this year may well be up your street. The highly prolific director Jamie Lloyd is taking on Stephen Sondheim’s Assassins, which sees Sondheim’s music and lyrics coiled around John Weidman’s book exploring the men and women who tried (whether successfully or not) to assassinate a President of the United States.

It’s hardly the most Christmassy of shows and I think that is pretty much the point. And Sondheim’s enduring popularity (especially at this venue) makes it a safe bet even before the luxurious quality of the cast and company comes into the equation. I saw the first preview on Friday, my booking radar having gone a little awry as I was away when the tickets were released, so instead of reviewing the production, I’m offering you 10 things to look forward to and look out for and if I get to see the show later in the run, I’ll review it ‘properly’ then. Here be mild production spoilers (all hidden behind links).

Continue reading “Preview: Assassins, Menier Chocolate Factory”

Film Review: Les Misérables


“Life has dropped you at the bottom of the heap”

For many people, myself included, it is nigh on impossible to approach a film version of stage behemoth Les Misérables with a blank slate. It’s been a mainstay of the musical theatre world since its 1985 London debut – it is most likely the show I have seen the most times throughout my lifetime – and after celebrating its 25th anniversary with an extraordinarily good touring production, has been riding high with a revitalised energy. So Tom Hooper’s film has a lot to contend with in terms of preconceptions, expectations and long-ingrained ideas of how it should be done. And he has attacked it with gusto, aiming to reinvent notions of cinematic musicals by having his actors sing live to camera and bringing his inimitable close-up directorial style to bear thus creating a film which is epic in scale but largely intimate in focus.

In short, I liked it but I didn’t love it. I’m not so sure that Hooper’s take on the piece as a whole is entirely suited to the material, or rather my idea of how best it works. Claude-Michel Schönberg’s score has a sweeping grandeur which is already quasi-cinematic in its scope but Hooper never really embraces it fully as he works in his customary solo shots and close-ups into the numbers so well known as ensemble masterpieces.  ‘At The End Of The Day’ and ‘One Day More’ both suffer this fate of being presented as individually sung segments stitched together but for me, the pieces never really added up to more than the sum of their parts to gain the substantial power that they possess on the stage. Continue reading “Film Review: Les Misérables”