Review: Strictly Ballroom the Musical, Piccadilly

Baz Luhrmann’s Strictly Ballroom the Musical may not be the strongest musical in the world, but it’s a stronger piece of musical theatre, thanks to Drew McOnie’s choreography

“Pam Shortt’s broken both her legs, and I wanna dance with you”

It is fascinating to be able to follow the development of a show, particularly one that has morphed as much as Strictly Ballroom the Musical. I saw it at the West Yorkshire Playhouse the winter before last, where it didn’t quite set my world on fire, so I was intrigued to hear that its arrival in the West End at the Piccadilly would be accompanied by quite the overhaul, still directed and choreographed by Drew McOnie.

The major change to this adaptation of Baz Luhrmann’s 1992 cult hit movie comes with the introduction of bandleader Wally Strand, played by Will Young, an MC figure and human jukebox who takes on the vast majority of the evening’s singing. And as we skip from Grace Jones to Billy Idol, via Bowie, Whitney and Cyndi, it’s a real pleasure to hear him sing Marius De Vries’ brilliant new arrangements. Continue reading “Review: Strictly Ballroom the Musical, Piccadilly”

Round-up of news and treats and other interesting things

On 6th November 2016, Rodgers and Hammerstein’s ever popular State Fair will be performed for the first time on the London stage as a symphonic concert by the London Musical Theatre Orchestra under award winning director and Evening Standard Awards nominee Thom Southerland (currently doing amazing work with Ragtime) at Cadogan Hall.

In a double first for the LMTO, this is also the first full scale public performance by the company which debuted its inaugural gala, in June of this year, to a packed house at Bishopsgate Institute where the orchestra is in residence. Continue reading “Round-up of news and treats and other interesting things”

CD Review: MS. A Song Cycle

“I wish you didn’t have to be in pain” 
 
Multiple Sclerosis affects over 100,000 people in the UK alone. 

 

One of the accusations often levelled by detractors of musical theatre is that it is fanciful, frivolous stuff, unable of taking subjects seriously. And whilst the form undoubtedly can have its lighter moments, I’d challenge anyone to listen to this new song cycle inspired by women living with multiple sclerosis and remain unmoved. MS. A Song Cycle is the brainchild of lyricist Rory Sherman, who has worked with SimG Productions, musical supervisor Ellie Verkerk and 14 different teams of composers and performers to create a delicately but undeniably powerful collection of stories, that gain in that power from being sung so beautifully as they are here.
 
More than two to three times more women are affected than men
 

fosterIAN awards 2015

 WinnerRunner-upOther nominees
Best Actress in a PlayLia Williams, Oresteia Letitia Wright, EclipsedThusitha Jayasundera, My Eyes Went Dark
Marianne Jean-Baptiste, hang
Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Nell Gwynn
Lara Rossi, Octagon
Best Actor in a Play
John Heffernan, Oppenheimer David Morrissey, HangmenChiwetel Ejiofor, Everyman
Jamie Samuel, Plastic Figurines
Eelco Smits, Glazen Speelgoed
Angus Wright, Oresteia
Best Supporting Actress in a PlayDaisy Haggard, You For Me For You T’Nia Miller, EclipsedPriyanga Burford, The Effect
Estella Daniels, Octagon
Rosalind Eleazor, Plaques and Tangles
Sally Rogers, Hangmen
Best Supporting Actor in a PlayJohn Simm, The Homecoming David Moorst, Violence and SonHarm Duco Schut, Glazen Speelgoed
Johnny Flynn, Hangmen
James Garnon, As You Like It (Globe)
David Sturzaker, Nell Gwynn
Best Actress in a MusicalNatalie Dew, Bend It Like Beckham Katie Brayben, BeautifulTracie Bennett, Mrs Henderson Presents
Jennifer Harding, The Clockmaker's Daughter
Debbie Kurup, Anything Goes
Kelly Price, Little Shop of Horrors
Best Actor in a MusicalGiles Terera, Pure Imagination Matt Henry, Kinky BootsIan Bartholomew, Mrs Henderson Presents
Killian Donnelly, Kinky Boots
Scott Garnham, Grand Hotel
Alex Gaumond, Seven Brides for Seven Brothers
Best Supporting Actress in a MusicalEmma Williams, Mrs Henderson Presents Amy Lennox, Kinky BootsAnita Dobson, Follies
Anna Francolini, wonder.land
Lauren Samuels, Bend It Like Beckham
Lorna Want, Beautiful
Best Supporting Actor in a MusicalEmmanuel Kojo, Show Boat Ako Mitchell, Little Shop of HorrorsMatthew Malthouse, Mrs Henderson Presents
Ian McIntosh, Beautiful
Jamie Parker, High Society
George Rae, Grand Hotel

2015 Best Supporting Actress in a Play + in a Musical


Best Supporting Actress in a Play

Daisy Haggard, You For Me For You
There’s no way to describe Haggard’s performance that could do justice to just how accomplished it is. Ostensibly just gibberish, the precise nature of the gobbledygook becomes apparent as her speech slowly modulates into increasingly recognisable English. And all the while as she’s speaking what is essentially another language, she never forgets to extract every exquisite comic detail – just brilliant. 

Honourable mention: T’Nia Miller, Eclipsed

As with Wright for Best Actress, it’s a tad invidious to separate out the ensemble of what was my favourite play of the year but the extra dimension that she brought to the show, adding the thoughtful complexity of class division to the mix was an absolute highlight.

Priyanga Burford, The Effect
Estella Daniels, Octagon
Rosalind Eleazor, Plaques and Tangles
Sally Rogers, Hangmen

7-10
Adjoa Andoh, A Wolf in Snakeskin Shoes; Zawe Ashton, Splendour; Hélène Devos, Glazen Speelgoed; Ellie Piercey, As You Like It (Globe)

 

Best Supporting Actress in a Musical

Emma Williams, Mrs Henderson Presents

An actress who deserves to be much better known than she currently is, her latest superlative turn in a British musical might just be the one to push her through to the wider public consciousness, as deservedly so. At one point, a single sustained note from her brought tears to my eyes in seconds.

Honourable mention: Amy Lennox, Kinky Boots
This was probably the closest run of these choices as I loved Lennox’s haplessly quirky turn as Lauren is the very definition of a scene-stealer, none more so than in the glorious ‘The History of Wrong Guys’.

Anita Dobson, Follies
Anna Francolini, wonder.land
Lauren Samuels, Bend It Like Beckham
Lorna Want, Beautiful – The Carole King Musical

7-10

Liza Goddard, The Smallest Show on Earth; Preeya Kalidas, Bend It Like Beckham; Anastacia McClesky, Close to You; Victoria Serra, Grand Hotel

How-could-it-be-a-review: The National Theatre Theatre Quiz 2015


“It’s from that play with lots of words…”

My first ever trip to the institution that is the National Theatre Christmas Quiz saw teams of four from current shows Husbands and Sons and wonder.land doing battle for the honour of, well, several bottles of fizz as it turned out. With Emma Freud as Quizmistress and Angus Deayton keeping the scores, it was a light-hearted 45 minutes of festive fun.

Rounds varied from odd-one-out, working out song lyrics from a dry line reading by Deayton, guess which NT show the costume was from, to Taboo-style-guessing-games, and a surprising array of knowledge troves and hidden talents soon came to life – Anne-Marie Duff was very up on her theatrical knowledge, Julia Ford is clearly itching to do a musical and Anna Francolini bossed everything (apart from Katie Mitchell…). Continue reading “How-could-it-be-a-review: The National Theatre Theatre Quiz 2015”

Review: Hey, Old Friends, Theatre Royal Drury Lane


Stop worrying where you’re going—move on”

Theatreland does like to make sure every anniversary gets marked somehow and so following on from the celebrations around Les Misérables’ 30th birthday earlier this month is a similar hoohah for Stephen Sondheim’s 85th year on this planet. As is de rigueur for these events, a gala concert has been put on for the occasion with the kind of rollcall you could only normally dream of and naturally, Hey, Old Friends! had the price tag to go along with it.

As with Les Mis (which donated to Save The Children’s Syria Children’s appeal), the show benefitted charitable purposes, specifically The Stephen Sondheim Society and telephone helpline service The Silver Line, harnessing the major fundraising potential of such events. That said, these tickets tend to be so expensive that there’s a nagging feeling that they’re serving a limited audience with few opportunities for regular theatregoers to be a part of them. Continue reading “Review: Hey, Old Friends, Theatre Royal Drury Lane”

Album Review: Saturday Night (Original London Cast)


“I guess the man means more than the means”

For a still-living composer, Stephen Sondheim’s back catalogue has been mercilessly picked over and bastardised for many a cabaret and compilation show – a consequence perhaps of the chequered history of many of his shows as well as his increasing and enduring popularity over time. So even though a show like Saturday Night, written in 1954 yet not receiving its first production until 1997, remains something of an obscurity, many of its songs have become familiar due to inclusion elsewhere.

It would have been Sondheim’s debut production and in many ways, one can see the rawness of this composer. For one, there’s a gentleness to it, a romantic sense of fun that is very much atypical for a man much better known for his cynical view on the world. And for another, there’s a more direct tunefulness, the music lacking the complexity that has characterised his oeuvre but in all honesty, not much the worse for it. Continue reading “Album Review: Saturday Night (Original London Cast)”

CD Review: Company (1996 London Cast Recording)


 “It’s things like using force together,
Shouting till you’re hoarse together,
Getting a divorce together”

Sam Mendes’ production of Stephen Sondheim’s Company was a big success at the Donmar Warehouse in 1995 and subsequently transferred to the Albery Theatre (now the Noël Coward). A recording of the show can be found in full on YouTube at the moment but I restrained myself to just listening to the cast recording, which I have to say was something of a disappointment in the end despite seeming promising.

It’s quite an odd thing to listen to, often frustratingly inconsistent as in the normally reliable Anna Francolini’s ‘Another Hundred People’ in which a broad Noo Yoik accent fades in and out in a most distracting manner. Sophie Thompson battles gamely with ‘Getting Married Today’ but without the assured brilliance of her acting to complement it, the vocal alone doesn’t really pass muster. Continue reading “CD Review: Company (1996 London Cast Recording)”