Review: Shit-faced Showtime – Oliver with a Twist, Leicester Square Theatre

My first time getting Shit-faced…Shit-faced Showtime’s Oliver with a Twist is raucous if unfocused affair at the Leicester Square Theatre

“You’re a rather high-breasted boy”

Just a quick write-up for my first time getting shit-faced… Shit-faced Showtime’s USP is that they perform shows with a whopper of a wildcard, one of their company getting “genuinely inebriated” beforehand and then being encouraged to drink more as the performance goes on. It’s an intriguing set-up and one which has proved endlessly flexible (they’ve just announced Hamlet as their new summer production).  

Their current show at Leicester Square Theatre is Oliver with a Twist, which I caught last week early in its run and I have to say, though I was sceptical to start with, it won me over with the beery-breath charm and close-to-the-knuckle humour that Alan McHale’s Artful Dodger brought to proceedings. Perhaps inevitably, initially it felt there was an element of the performatively drunk but as the hour progressed, it was impossible to resist the chaos he wrought as Fagin was renamed Vegan, Oliver’s body shape was called into question and wayward dogs threatened to derail all. Continue reading “Review: Shit-faced Showtime – Oliver with a Twist, Leicester Square Theatre”

Album Review: The Clockmaker’s Daughter (2019 Studio Cast Recording)

Webborn and Finn’s cracking new musical The Clockmaker’s Daughter receives a delectable Cast Recording treatment that features the likes of Ramin Karimloo, Hannah Waddingham, Christine Allado and Fra Fee

“Come gather round!
Come gather young and old
Tall and small…
Come gather all!”

I was a huge fan of Michael Webborn and Daniel Finn’s musical The Clockmaker’s Daughter when it premiered at the Landor back in 2015, and loved getting to revisit the show when Trinity Laban’s final year students mounted the show a year later. So news of a cast recording was excitedly received in the Clowns household, especially once the company was revealed, featuring the likes of Ramin Karimloo, Hannah Waddingham, Christine Allado and Fra Fee. 

And with those stalwart supporters of new musical theatre Auburn Jam at the helm (Joe Davison producing) and David Ball Productions executive producing, the album sounds like an absolute dream. The show describes itself as “a musical faerytale” and the richness of the score reflects the considerable folk heritage of the British Isles, utilising Celtic influences as it is set in the fictional Irish village of Spindlewood but widening out its focus to produce something joyously universal. Continue reading “Album Review: The Clockmaker’s Daughter (2019 Studio Cast Recording)”

Review: The Hired Man in concert, Cadogan Hall

“We are worth your shillings”

Marking the first major concert presentation of the show in over 20 years, The Hired Man in concert saw Howard Goodall and Melvyn Bragg’s 1984 musical take over the elegant surroundings of Cadogan Hall, for a glorious evening celebrating one of the all-time greats of British musical theatre writing. With a boutique orchestra conducted by Andrew Linnie, an ensemble of over 20 singers and a lead cast of bona fide West End and Broadway stars, it was a powerfully effective treatment of the material.

The Hired Man is based on Bragg’s 1969 novel, part of his Cumbrian Trilogy, following the lives of labourer and miner John Tallentire and his wife Emily as they battle first the hardship of agricultural life in a fast-industrialising world and then the impact of the First World War on their whole community. And supporting it, Goodall’s music and lyrics draws on English folk tradition, as well as his own melodious style, to create a soulful, stirring score that lingers long in the mind with its hummability and heartbreak. Continue reading “Review: The Hired Man in concert, Cadogan Hall”

Review: The Clockmaker’s Daughter, Landor

“They try to figure out what makes her tick”

Described as a musical faerytale, Michael Webborn and Daniel Finn’s The Clockmaker’s Daughter aims to create the feeling of a story from the Brothers Grimm but in actual fact, has come up with an astonishingly assured piece of original musical theatre. Set in the fictional Irish town of Spindlewood, the story delves into the myth behind the statue of a young girl in the town square – a tale of grieving inventor Abraham and of Constance, a girl not like the others, and how she touches the lives of the townspeople around her despite their pettiness and prejudices. 

David Shields’ remarkable design work is some of the best the Landor has ever seen, an all-encompassing vision that properly transforms the theatre and transports the audience to a different, magical, place. Cleverly conceived and carefully constructed, its various pieces work…well…like clockwork. And this ambition is matched in the scope of the writing and the score, combining the epic with the intimate, the emotional with the entertaining, the folkloric with the universal in what emerges as a deeply moving tale. Continue reading “Review: The Clockmaker’s Daughter, Landor”

Review: The Beautiful Game, Union

“I’m an atheist and an internationalist – I don’t believe in God or country”

Andrew Lloyd Webber and Ben Elton’s The Beautiful Game managed a run of just under a year at the turn of the millennium. It was then rewritten and retitled The Boys in the Photograph for a 2009 North American premiere in Canada, and it is that version which now makes its London fringe debut at the Union Theatre, but under the original title of The Beautiful Game. Got it? The endless tinkering of musicals is nothing new – ‘Our Kind of Love’, the best known song in the original was filleted out and repurposed as the title song for Love Never Dies – but the clumsiness with which the ending has been redone here is ridiculously clunky.

Which is a shame, as there is much good work here in Lotte Wakeham’s production. David Shields’ simple design makes clever use of benches and Tim Jackson’s choreography finds a remarkably effective middle ground between soccer and soft shuffle in bringing the football sequences to vibrant life on the limited traverse stage. An appealingly fresh-faced cast, spearheaded by an excellent Niamh Perry, deliver performances of spirited energy and graceful enthusiasm. And musically, MD Benjamin Holder introduces an interesting range of textures to enhance the score and alleviate some of its repetitive longueurs. Continue reading “Review: The Beautiful Game, Union”

Review: The Boys from Syracuse, Union Theatre

“Keep your fingers under control”

As a Rodgers and Hart musical from the late 1930s, The Boys from Syracuse is naturally full of songs you didn’t know you knew – ‘Sing for Your Supper’, ‘This Can’t Be Love’, ‘Falling in Love with Love’ – but it is also a story that you may very well be familiar with. George Abbott’s book relocates the action to Ancient Greece and refocuses it firmly onto the romantic entanglements therein but the tale is Shakespeare’s story of identical Antipholi and Dromios let loose in Ephesus – it’s a rom-Comedy of Errors, with tunes.

Ben De Wynter’s production plays to the typical strengths of the Union Theatre – pulling together a sizeable ensemble full of youthful freshness, stripping back musical arrangements to their innate simplicity and creating choreography that pushes the intimate boundaries of this fringe venue. And it mostly succeeds in these three as mistaken identities abound with the arrival of Antipholus and Dromio of Syracuse into the town of Ephesus, where their long-lost twins are in residence, causing mayhem with friends and family alike. Continue reading “Review: The Boys from Syracuse, Union Theatre”