TV Review: The Split / The Good Fight

If female-fronted lawyer shows are your bag (and why wouldn’t they be!), the twin joys of The Split and The Good Fight have marvellous to behold

“Kill all the lawyers”

If I’m completely honest, Abi Morgan’s The Split did leave me a tad disappointed as it veered away from its legal beginnings to something considerably more soapy over its six episodes. The personal lives of the Defoe clan well and truly took over at the expense of any of the cases they were looking after and even if that family includes Nicola Walker, Annabel Scholey and Deborah Findlay, it’s still a bit of a shame that it ended up so schlocky. Continue reading “TV Review: The Split / The Good Fight”

Album Reviews: Audra McDonald – Sing Happy / Louise Dearman – For You, For Me / Everybody’s Talking About Jamie cast recording

Casting my eye over some recent musical theatre album releases: Audra McDonald’s live album Sing Happy, Louise Dearman’s latest collection For You, For Me and the long-awaited cast recording for Everybody’s Talking About Jamie 

There are few things as well-designed as Audra McDonald’s thrilling soprano to make you happy, so the title of her new album Sing Happy is apt indeed. Her first live album and her first backed by an orchestra (the New York Philharmonic). the gig was recorded  just a few days ago on 1st May and no wonder they were so quick to turn it around.

Whether shimmering through Porgy and Bess‘ timeless ‘Summertime’, proudly getting her life in La Cage aux Folles’ ‘I Am What I Am’ or absolutely nailing She Loves Me’s ‘Vanilla Ice Cream’, McDonald’s velvety textured voice is always so exciting to listen to. And the drama of songs like ‘Never Will I Marry’ sound glorious with the richness of the orchestral backing (conducted by Andy Einhorn).

An affinity for Sondheim comes into play twice, a medley of ‘Children Will Listen’ with South Pacific’s ‘You’ve Got To Be Carefully Taught’ and in a showstopping take on ‘Being Alive’, still manages to surprise with the heights to which she lifts the song. An unalloyed, absolute pleasure. Continue reading “Album Reviews: Audra McDonald – Sing Happy / Louise Dearman – For You, For Me / Everybody’s Talking About Jamie cast recording”

2018 Laurence Olivier Awards nominations

An interesting set of nominations have been announced for the 2018 Laurence Olivier Awards. Perhaps predictably, the headline grabbers are Hamilton with their record 13 nominations, and The Ferryman which received 8. I’m pleased to see Follies and Angels in America represent a strong showing for the National with 10 and 6 respectively, and also lovely to see Everybody’s Talking About Jamie close behind with 5. Beyond delighted for The Revlon Girl too, my play of the year.

Naturally, not everything can get nominated and for me, it was most disappointing to see Barber Shop Chronicles miss out on any recognition. And with Hamilton crowding out the musicals categories, there was sadly no room for The Grinning Man, Romantics Anonymous and The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole (although I’m unsure of the Menier’s eligibility with regards to SOLT). And I think Victoria Hamilton (Albion). Philip Quast (Follies) and Louis Maskell and Julian Bleach (The Grinning Man)  are entitled to be a bit miffed.

How do you feel about these nominations? And what do you think should have been nominated instead?

Continue reading “2018 Laurence Olivier Awards nominations”

11 of my top moments in a theatre in 2017

As ever, the wait for the end-of-year lists of favourite plays and performances has to continue until I’ve actually stopped seeing theatre in 2017. But in the meantime, here’s a list of 11 of my top moments in a theatre in 2017, the things that first pop into my mind when someone says ‘what did you enjoy this year’. For reference, here’s my 2016 list, 2015 list and 2014 list.

Continue reading “11 of my top moments in a theatre in 2017”

Nominees for The Stage Debut Awards 2017

The Joe Allen Best West End Debut
John Boyega for Woyzeck at the Old Vic~
Anthony Boyle for Harry Potter and the Cursed Child at the Palace Theatre
Andy Karl for Groundhog Day at the Old Vic
Audra McDonald for Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar and Grill at Wyndhams Theatre
Andrew Polec for Bat Out of Hellat the London Coliseum
Imogen Poots for Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? at the Harold Pinter Theatre
Amber Riley for Dreamgirls at the Savoy Theatre
Charlie Stemp for Half a Sixpence at the Noel Coward Theatre

Best Actor in a Play
Jack Archer for Nivelli’s War at the Lyric Theatre, Belfast
TJ Jones for The Seven Acts of Mercy at the Swan Theatre, Royal Shakespeare Company
Kenneth Omole for Assata Taught Me at the Gate Theatre, London
Abraham Popoola for Othello at Tobacco Factory Theatres, Bristol

Best Actress in a Play Sponsored by Pauline Quirke Academy at PQA Studios London
Anya Chalotra for Much Ado About Nothing at Shakespeare’s Globe, London
Kellan Frankland for The House of Bernarda Alba at the Royal Exchange, Manchester
Grace Molony for The Country Girls at the Minerva Theatre, Chichester
Jess Peet for Alice in Wonderland at the Royal Lyceum Theatre, Edinburgh

Best Actor in a Musical Sponsored by Encore Radio
Adam J Bernard for Dreamgirls at the Savoy Theatre, London
Ben Hunter for The Girls at the Phoenix Theatre, London
Samuel Thomas for Allegro at Southwark Playhouse, London
Daniel Urch for 110 in the Shade at Ye Olde Rose and Crown, London

Best Actress in a Musical Sponsored by The Other Palace
Chloe Carrington for Hair at Hope Mill Theatre, Manchester
Emily Hughes for Fiddler on the Roof at Everyman Theatre, Liverpool
Siena Kelly for On the Town at Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre, London
Miriam-Teak Lee for On the Town at Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre, London

Best Composer Sponsored by Trafalgar Entertainment Group
Jonah Brody for Removal Men and This Beautiful Future at the Yard, London
Ruth Chan for Snow in Midsummer at the Swan Theatre, Royal Shakespeare Company, Stratford-upon-Avon
Dan Gillespie Sells for Everybody’s Talking About Jamie at the Crucible Theatre, Sheffield
MJ Harding for Removal Men at the Yard, London
Stephen Jackson for Roller Diner at the Soho Theatre, London

Best Designer Sponsored by Robe
Rosie Elnile for The Convert at the Gate Theatre, London
Joshua Gadsby for Dreamplay at the Vaults, London and Still Ill at the New Diorama, London
Simon Spencer for The Tempest at the Royal Shakespeare Company, Stratford-upon-Avon
Jessica Staton for Extra Yarn at the Orange Tree Theatre, London

Best Director Sponsored by See Tickets
Sean Aydon for Richard III at the Rosemary Branch, London
Alexander Lass for 46 Beacon at Trafalgar Studios 2, London
Lekan Lawal for Betrayal at Derby Theatre, Derby
Lynette Linton for Assata Taught Me at the Gate Theatre, London

Best Writer
Titas Halder for Run the Beast Down at the Marlowe Theatre, Canterbury and Finborough Theatre, London
Asif Khan for Combustion at Tara Arts, London
Katherine Soper for Wish List at the Royal Exchange, Manchester, and Royal Court Theatre, London
Victoria Willing for Spring Offensive at the Clapham Omnibus, London

 

Review: Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar and Grill, Wyndham’s

“Nothing rates above you”

Sometimes the hype is entirely justified. Six-time Tony Award-winner Audra McDonald has the incredible record of winning in all possible categories whether lead or supporting, play or musical, the only actor to ever do so, and so it is a little appropriate that her long-awaited UK stage debut comes in the form of Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar and Grill, a play where she gets to do a whole lotta singing. Read my 5 star review for Official Theatre here.

Running time: 90 minutes (without interval) 
Booking until 9th September

Review: Ordinary Days, London Theatre Workshop

“If everyone’s got a big picture
How come my picture’s something that I still have yet to see?”

I saw Adam Gwon’s 2008 musical Ordinary Days downstairs at the Trafalgar Studios back in 2011 with a grand cast that included Julie Atherton, Alexia Khadime and Daniel Boys and enjoyed it a fair bit, so news of a new production by Streetlights, People! at the transplanted London Theatre Workshop (now in the City) was glad tidings indeed. Directed by Jen Coles on the simplest of sets, decorated with a Manhattan skyline by Samantha Cates, the show’s relatable charms shine through once again.

The four-hander is a deceptively simple show – a quartet of 20-something New Yorkers are spiritually lost, swept up in what should be the romance of the city but finding that adulting isn’t quite as easy as all that. Jason is sacrificing everything for the woman he loves but Claire’s previously broken heart just won’t heal properly; grad student Deb has lost months of valuable thesis research but when struggling artist Warren finds it, she stubbornly resists any attempt at connection that he makes. Continue reading “Review: Ordinary Days, London Theatre Workshop”

News: Olivier Awards presenters revealed

The Olivier Awards 2017 has announced the list of people who’ll be handing out awards at the ceremony, hosted by Jason Manford of all people, on Sunday 9th April in the august surroundings of the Royal Albert Hall.

Presenters this year include – deep breath – David Baddiel, Alfie Boe, John Boyega, Michaela Coel, Leanne Cope, Julian Clary, Robert Fairchild, Ben Forster, Phoebe Fox, Andrew Garfield, Denise Gough, Matt Henry, Ruthie Henshall, Amanda Holden, Rufus Hound, Cush Jumbo, Nathan Lane, Rose Leslie, Maureen Lipman, Danny Mac, Audra McDonald, Lin-Manuel Miranda, Laura Mvula, Paul O’Grady, Tracy-Ann Oberman, Sophie Okonedo, Charlotte Ritchie, Mark Rylance and Russell Tovey. Continue reading “News: Olivier Awards presenters revealed”

Film Review: Beauty and the Beast (2017)

“Tale as old as time”

It’s taken me a little time to get round to writing this review, which is rarely a good sign, as I was struggling for anything entirely constructive to say about this film. The 1991 animated Beauty and the Beast was Disney close to its best but these days, nothing is left alone if it has even the merest hint of cash cow about it. So it has previously hit the stage as a musical and following the success of Kenneth Branagh’s Cinderella, it now has a cinematic live-action remake.

Which is all fine and good but just because you can do something doesn’t mean you should. And at no point does Bill Condon’s film ever convince us that the world needed this version of Beauty and the Beast, there’s rarely any sense of it bringing something new and insightful to the story. Plus the contortions it (and star Emma Watson) has had to make to try and convince of its feminist credentials scarcely seem worth it in the final analysis. Continue reading “Film Review: Beauty and the Beast (2017)”

Album Review: Beauty and the Beast (2017) – Original Motion Picture Soundtrack

“How could anyone be gloomy and depressed?
We’ll make you shout ‘encore!'”

The live action remake of Beauty and the Beast will be arriving in cinemas on 17th March but should you be so inclined, you can listen to the film’s soundtrack here on YouTube, other digital platforms or buy the album from wherever it is that records are sold near you. Alan Menken and Howard Ashman’s music and lyrics will be intensely familiar to fans of the original Disney film but after director Bill Condon decided not to include any of the songs that were written for the musical with Tim Rice, Menken composed a number of new songs for this film which ought to pique the interest of any right-thinking musicals fan.

None of the old-school classic feel of the music has been lost in this recording, which was a great relief to me, and its new twists on these old songs are certainly interesting. I really enjoyed Josh Gad and Luke Evans’ freshly comic take on ‘Gaston’ and though Emma Watson is no out-and-out singer, she gives a sweetly decent account of herself. Emma Thompson has perhaps a trickier job in tackling the iconic legacy of Angela Lansbury’s Mrs Potts, her accent choice is somewhat distracting but once you’re accustomed to it, the lushness of the orchestrations make the title track spine-tingling and ‘Be My Guest’ is immense fun as Ewan McGregor, Gugu Mbatha-Raw and Ian McKellen chip in too. Continue reading “Album Review: Beauty and the Beast (2017) – Original Motion Picture Soundtrack”