Not-a-review: Sylvia, Old Vic

I’m opting not to review Sylvia but rather to haul the Old Vic over the coals for a bit of a shambolic handling of the situation

“Time’s up, there’ll be no more waiting”

Hindsight is a great thing but the team at the Old Vic will have to look back at how they handled the difficult genesis of Sylvia and take some severe lessons. Some things were unquestionably out of their control, like the disruption of cast illness, but others were not. The apparent development of the show from a dance-led piece to a full-blown musical did not happen overnight and so to cite that as an excuse for the piece not being ready, to reclassify the production as a work-in-progress midway through the run is disingenuous to say the least, especially when people are still being charged £45 to see it.

It is a piece that is bounding with potential, clicking into a theatre landscape in London which feels unusually switched on at the moment (Misty and Emilia to name but two kicks up its backside), but we do still feel like we’re in rough draft territory here, hence my decision not to review. (It has provoked some strange reactions in the press though – four stars from Billers? Time Out showing their ass about colour-blind casting?) The music by Josh Cohen and DJ Walde and the book by Kate Prince and Priya Parmar both need substantial refinement from its baggy three hours plus, but you can see the work being put in, and which will continue to be put in until Sylvia re-emerges (next year apparently) better equipped to smash that patriarchy.

 

How to solve a problem like a compilation – my alternative Unmasked

Andrew Lloyd Webber, Unmasled

I make my own suggestions about interpretations of Andrew Lloyd Webber songs that could have been included on his new compilation album Unmasked

“They must have excitement, and so must I”

In a world of Spotify and iTunes and other online music services, compilation albums ought to have died a death. But the enduring success of the Now That’s What I Call Music series puts the lie to that, showing that while the idea of curating your own content is tempting, many of us prefer to let someone else do it for us.

So Andrew Lloyd Webber’s decision to release new anthology Unmasked is a canny one in that respect (read my review here), tapping into the desire to have a nicely pleasant set of musical theatre tunes to pop on in the car. And as with any compilation, it’s as much about what hasn’t been included as what has, that stands out. Continue reading “How to solve a problem like a compilation – my alternative Unmasked”

Album Review: Leading Ladies – Songs From The Stage

“Lock the door and stop complaining
Gather ’round and listen well”

Between them, Amber Riley, Beverley Knight and Cassidy Janson have racked up Olivier Awards and accolades aplenty and their mutual respect has led to them joining forces to create musical supergroup Leading Ladies. And working with producers Brian Rawling and Paul Meehan through East West Records (Warner), their debut album Songs From The Stage is about to be released.

Across the 14 tracks of the collection, there’s a variety of approaches as they tackle songs from a wide range of musicals. Each singer gets a couple of solo numbers, and they all chip in with backing vocals on some of those, but the highlights come when the trio sing together. And none more so than on an utterly transcendent version of Carole King’s ‘Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow’ whose close harmonies are goosebump-inducingly extraordinary, the marriage of their voices a perfect alchemy. Continue reading “Album Review: Leading Ladies – Songs From The Stage”

Round-up of news and treats and other interesting things

So much news, about so many exciting women, that I had to put together a second bulletin for this week…

Chief among them is the confirmation of Marianne Elliott’s reworking of Company, featuring the return of the glorious Patti LuPone to the London stage, playing Joanne to Rosalie Craig’s gender-swapped Bobbi. Initial reports suggest less of an interesting queering of the material and more of a straight gender-flip but it still seems set to be a highlight of next autumn. Continue reading “Round-up of news and treats and other interesting things”

Album Review: Memphis (2014 Original London Cast Recording)

“Open your eyes, I got a surprise!”

It was fascinating to revisit Memphis, a show that I enjoyed on seeing but in all honesty, isn’t one I’ve given much thought to since it left the West End after just over a year at the Shaftesbury Theatre (I went back once). I remarked then that David Bryan’s score was “highly tuneful if not instantly catchy” so was surprised that a fair few of the songs had managed to work their way into my subconscious and so provided that ‘ping’ of recognition which is always nice.

It was also interesting to listen to the songs in isolation from the show, as more of them than I remembered felt somewhat disconnected from the narrative, just happy in their sprightly pop song-ness. And thanks to the quality of the cast assembled here – leads Beverley Knight and Killian Donnelly, supported by the likes of Jason Pennycooke, Tyrone Huntley and Rolan Bell plus Claire Machin, it is a consistently enjoyable record to listen to. Continue reading “Album Review: Memphis (2014 Original London Cast Recording)”

Album Review: The Halcyon (Original Music From The 2017 Television Series)

“We knew the excitement was bound to begi
When Laura got blind on Dubonnet and gin

And scratched her veneer with a Cartier pin
And I couldn’t have liked it more”

The main reason for getting your hands on the soundtrack to the ITV series The Halcyon is for Beverley Knight’s highly spirited and hugely seductive take on Noël Coward’s ‘Marvellous Party’. I start with this, lest you think that I’m recommending Jamie Cullum to you (he has two tracks on here, specially recorded for the show) – his appeal having long eluded me. 

The rest of the album is filled with Kara Tointon’s rather lovely voice sliding over classics from the first half of the twentieth century and Samuel Sims’ original compositions for the 1940s drama. You might not think it’s particularly worth searching out if you didn’t see the show but in all honesty, even if you’re just a bit a fan of the era then it is worth a listen and a download or three. Continue reading “Album Review: The Halcyon (Original Music From The 2017 Television Series)”

TV Review: The Halcyon Series 1

“Ladies and gentlemen, please remain calm. I’m sure it’s just another false alarm”

Oh The Halcyon – shafted by the overwhelming desire for it to be the new Downton, or maybe the unfriendly Monday evening slot, or maybe the fact that Charlotte Jones’ serial never quite honed in on what it wanted to be. Following the fortunes of a luxury London hotel during the first couple of years of the Second World War, it took all possible opportunities to explore a society on the cusp of major change. But between the aristocrats who owned it, the aristocrats who stayed there, the lower classes who work there, and the multitudes of people affiliated to all these lives, the canvas was far too wide.

The hints were there right from the off in episode 1 which struggled to introduce even just its leading players in its running time, whilst still proving most tantalising, due to its cracking cast and its sumptuous design (those costumes!). At the heart of The Halycon lay the antagonistic relationship between Olivia Williams’ Lady Hamilton and Steven Mackintosh’s Mr Garland, owner versus manager as they butted heads over practicalities in the face of an ensuing Blitz but though their scenes were electric, they were given too little too late together to exploit this to its fullest.  Continue reading “TV Review: The Halcyon Series 1”

Round-up of news and treats and other interesting things


Ahoy sailors, if what you thought the world of musical theatre was missing was the opportunity to be trapped on a boat for four days with a load of wealthy musical theatre fans, then worry no more. Stages – the Musical Theatre Festival at Sea has now been announced, a four night cruise from Southampton to Amsterdam and back, with entertainment from the likes of Michael Ball, Beverley Knight, Lee Mead, Christina Bianco, Sophie Evans, John Owen-Jones and the Showstopper guys.

It looks like it could be hilariously good fun – red carpet arrival onto the ship, masquerade balls and workshops and Q&As with the performers. But it sure ain’t cheap, prices starting at £609 with the taxes added on, though as it doesn’t set sail until 15th October 2018, there’s time to start saving those pennies. For me though, you can consider this my not-so-subtle hint to Floating Festivals that they obviously need a blog review of their cruise and that I am the one for the job.


The Young Vic has announced the rest of the cast of Wings directed by Natalie Abrahami, playing in the Main House from 14 September. Joining Juliet Stevenson is Lorna Brown, Kelle Bryan, David Emmings, Nicholas Gasson, Richard James-Neale, Emily Mytton, Mary Sheen and Emily Wachter. Find out more about them below. 
Lorna Brown 2Lorna Brown makes her Young Vic debut in Wings.Recent theatre credits include:  Bodies, Torn (Royal Court); Things of Dry Hours (The Gate); The Oresteia (Almeida / West End); Little Light (The Orange Tree); Medea, Blurred Lines, Damned by Despair (National Theatre); Crowning Glory(Stratford East); Fear (The Bush); Clybourne Park (Royal Court / West End); Short Fuses (BOV) and Once on this Island (Hackney Empire / Tour).
Film credits include: The Lady in the Van, Taking Stock and Les Miserables.Television credits include: Chewing Gum, Holby City, True Love and Outnumbered.
Kelle Bryan makes her Young Vic debut in Wings.Kelle Bryan BW
Recent theatre credits include: 
 The Exonerated (Charing Cross Theatre); Cinderella (PHA); Rebellion (ODAC Ltd); The Extra Factor (No. 1 Tour); Torn by Femi Oguns (Arcola Theatre); Cinderella (Catford Broadway Theatre); The Brothers (The Drum Theatre / Hackney Empire); Bouncers by John Gober (Berkley Players); Jack and the Beanstalk (Channel Theatre) and My Fair Lady (Manchester Palace).
Film credits include: The Naked Poet, In the Mix and The Virus.Television Credits include: Me & Mrs Jones, The Knot, The National Lottery, The Brothers and Glitter Ball.
David Emmings BWDavid Emmings makes his Young Vic debut in Wings.Recent theatre credits: The Missing Light (The Old Vic); Emily Rising (Little Angel Theatre); Sleeping Beauty (Bristol Old Vic);The Elephantom (National Theatre / West End); Something Very Far Away (Unicorn Theatre / International Tour); A Midsummer Night’s Dream (Bristol Old Vic / Spoleto Festival USA),  Father Christmas (Lyric Hammersmith); The Confetti Maker (New Diorama Theatre) and War Horse (National Theatre / West End). Film credits: The Homeless Polar Bear, Sherlock Holmes and Alice. Short Film credits: Brilliant and Mime Poker.
Nicholas GassonNicholas Gasson makes his Young Vic debut in Wings.Recent theatre credits include: Entertaining Mr Sloane, The Caretaker and  Someone Who’ll Watch Over Me (London Classic Theatre / Tour); The Dumb Waiter, The Lover, The Picture of Dorian Gray (European Arts Company Tour); Talking Heads (Theatre Royal Bury St Edmunds); James and the Giant Peach (No. 1 Tour); Season’s Greetings (Mill Theatre) and Pink for a Boy (Oldham Coliseum). Television credits include: Merlin, EastEnders, Doctors, Shadow in the North and Private Life of an Easter Masterpiece.
Richard James - Neale BWRichard James-Neale makes his Young Vic debut in Wings.Recent theatre credits include: The Taming of the Shrew, Romeo and Juliet, A Midsummer Night’s Dream (Globe); Watership Down (Watermill Theatre); Peter Pan (Regent’s Park Open Air); Othello (Frantic Assembly / UK Tour); Emil and the Detectives (National Theatre); A Midsummer Night’s Dream (Tooting Arts Club); Charlotte’s Web (Derby Theatre); Pygmalion (Old Vic) and In Doggerland (Theatre 503). Film credits include: The Legend of Tarzan, Dragon, When I’m Gone, Nadya’s Circus and The Situation.Television credits include:  Thanks For The Memories, Atlantis and The Insiders.
Emily Mytton 2 BWEmily Mytton makes her Young Vic debut in Wings.Recent theatre credits include:  My Brilliant Friend (Rose Theatre);  Magic Flute(ENO);  Medea (Almeida Theatre); From Morning to Midnight, Every Good Boy Deserves Favour, WarHorse  and His Dark Materials (National Theatre); The Empress and The Lion The Witch and the Wardrobe (RSC); The Drowned Man and Tunnel 228 (PunchDrunk); World Cup 1966 and The Creation of the Violin (BAC); The Lesson (Theatre O); Beasts and Beauties (Hampstead Theatre); The Chimp that Spoke (David Glass Ensemble) and Red Ladies (Clod Ensemble).
Mary-Sheen BWMary Sheen makes her Young Vic debut in Wings. 
Recent theatre credits include: The Importance of Being Earnest (Politiker Productions); The Sonnet Walk (Globe); Losing It, A Fine Line and Courting Disaster (Soho Theatre); The Fastest Clock in the Universe (Sweetspot Theatre); Hyacinth Blue (Clean Break Theatre); 84 Charing Cross Road  and She Stoops to Conquer (both which she won Derby Evening Telegraph Actress of the Year, Derby Playhouse). Television credits include: Foyle’s War, Southcliffe, The Last Note, The Innocence Project and Dirty Filthy Love. Film credits include: United Strong Alone, The Last Upper, Barley Sugar and Skin Deep.
Emily Wachter BWEmily Wachter makes her Young Vic debut in Wings.Recent theatre credits include: My Brilliant Friend (Rose Theatre); Swallow (Traverse Theatre); Britain’s Best Recruiting Sergeant, Caucasian Chalk Circle (Unicorn Theatre); Bedroom Farce (Salisbury Playhouse); The Humans (Avignon Festival); From Morning to Midnight (National Theatre); Rats’ Tales (Manchester Royal Exchange); Pride and Prejudice (Theatre Royal Bath); Doctor Foster (Menier Chocolate Factory) and Julius Caesar (RSC).
Television credits include: Pyschoville, Compulsion and Judge John Deed.Radio credits include: Maiden’s Trip, Sagrasso, The Way We live Right Now and High Table, Low Orders.
Wings by Arthur Kopit, direction by Natalie Abrahami runs in the Main House of the Young Vic from 14 Sept – 28 Oct. Tickets available to book now

WE ARE NOW PRESENT A DYNAMIC FESTIVAL EXPLORING NEW METHODS OF PERFORMANCE-MAKING THAT CREATIVELY USE TECHNOLOGY 


Featuring work and performances from emerging creative talent and established names, We Are Now Festival will explore brand new methods of immersive experience at Rich Mix, Shoreditch

Date: 1st – 2nd September
Location: Rich Mix, Shoreditch
Info: www.wearenowfestival.com


  
We Are Now – Open Senses @ Juju’s Bar & Stage 2017
We Are Now festival takes place at Rich Mix Shoreditch 1st and 2nd of September, exploring the creative use of technology in performing arts to create sensory experiences. The two day event will host a dynamic programme of boundary pushing theatre, interactive installations, 1-1 virtual reality performance, interactive audio theatre and a late night show harnessing the sonic capabilities of the Tesla Coil. Performing over the course of the weekend will be the likes of Circa69, XFRMR by Robbie Thomson, Silvia Mercuriali, Tit4Twat Theatre, Produced Moon and exhibits from graduates of Digital Art Computing at Goldsmiths. Tickets are £55 for the full weekend with day passes starting at £25, and individual shows starting at £5. For info visit www.wearenowfestival.com


This one of a kind event will highlight emerging creative talent alongside established names with the aim of offering artists a platform to push the boundaries of their specialism, whether it be art, theatre or performance, that showcase the endless creative possibilities of technology in performing arts.

Internationally renowned Circa69 will be premiering their groundbreaking VR theatre experiences to enthral festival goers in London, whilst Tit4Twat will perform their critically acclaimed ‘Losers’ show – one of the highlights of the Camden fringe this year. A main highlight of the event, Cryptic’s Robbie Thomson will explore the possibilities of harnessing the Tesla Coil as a musical instrument with his XFRMR show. We Are Now kicks off with the opening theatre show on the Friday, a work in development from Sleight Of Hand supported by Pervasive Media Studio, Bristol and Theatre Delicatessen. This will be paired with a post-show Salon Talk led by academics, psychologists and theatre makers which will explore the use of technology as a tool for empathy and creativity.

We Are Now was established by Megan Kieran; a creative producer with a passion for exploring the use of technology to connect to other people and the world in general. She says 
“We are very excited to present this year’s programme for We Are Now. The work is incredibly strong and truly represents where we can go with this sensational next wave of performance. We hope to immerse audiences, to invite new sensations and experiences and to provoke thought and discussion around how we can reclaim our use of technologies and harness their creative potential.”

We Are Now is supported by Arts Council England and is a winner of the DBACE Awards for Creative Enterprise 2017. For more info visit www.wearenowfestival.com

Review: The Bodyguard, Dominion

“Makes you go left, right, up, down

Got you spinning round and round”

For the longest time, Beverley Knight was most notable to me for being on the radio when Rachel from Cold Feet died (and also having this old-school jam which was a favourite of mine and my big sister way back when). So when it was announced that she would be taking over the role of Rachel Marron in The Bodyguard in the show’s original West End run, I have to say I was sceptical and having already seen the show, felt little need to return.
But I saw Knight do very good work in Memphis and felt suitably admonished and as the fates would have it, she has returned to the role of Marron for The Bodyguard’s return to the West End at the Dominion. And I’m mightily glad that she has, for it really is a stonking performance from her and a role that suits her to the ground – belting out classic Whitney hits in peerless style and camping up the thinness of the drama with an almighty amount of sass.

I did actually end up going back to the West End show, along with a friend or two and a drink or three, so it was fun to be reminded of aspects of the show that were perhaps a little hazy. And for all that it is occasionally quite daft, it is also a huge amount of fun to watch. Thea Sharrock’s slimmed-down production has learned things on its UK tour and now feels more concentrated, more punchy, Karen Bruce’s choreography excelling at delivering glorious visuals.
Knight’s powerful vocal is well-exercised but crucially doesn’t indulge in too much self-indulgent riffing which was Alexandra Burke’s major crime, and the fact that she’s a little older adds heft to the story – she’s not just a diva but a believable mother and a flirtatious woman too (her ‘karaoke’ scene is fantastic). Against her, Ben Richards does everything he’s supposed to in the thankless role of Frank – looking good in a suit, looking good in bed, and sending himself up on the mike. 
Once again, it’s Nicki Marron, Rachel’s sister, who comes close to stealing the show whether soaring through ‘Saving All My Love For You’ or nailing the show’s funniest moment with her jealous response to ‘what’s got into her’. And it feels nice that it is Rachel John, Knight’s original alternate on Memphis, playing this role, a neat example of circularity in the West End. So a welcome return to The Bodyguard, an entirely enjoyable night out and the affirmation – if needed – of Beverley Knight as a bona fide musical theatre star. 


Running time: 2 hours 20 minutes (with interval)
Photos: Alessandro Pina
Booking until 7th January

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