Review: The Addams Family, New Wimbledon

“Hold your decaying
Hear what we’re saying”

Sad to say, what I’m saying is that I was not a fan of The Addams Family at all. After a cracking opening number which promises oh so much, Marshall Brickman and Rick Elice’s book grinds to a juddering halt in a first half which does nothing but interminably set the scene. And Andrew Lippa’s score offers little respite as it fails to really nail any definitive sense of identity and ends up really rather forgettable. Things do pick up a tad post-interval but it’s too little too late by then.

It all could have been so much better. The Addams Family are an iconic set of characters, previously immortalised on cartoon strip, on television and on film, a legacy which goes some way to explaining the commercial success of the show on Broadway in the face of a scathing critical reception. But classic characters need classic storytelling and here, they’re marooned in a schmaltzy neverland which captures nothing of the golden age, nor has anything to say to audiences today. Continue reading “Review: The Addams Family, New Wimbledon”

Review: Into The Woods, Royal Exchange

“Let the moment go, don’t forget it for a moment though”

As with Shakespeare, plenty of people have strong ideas about how Sondheim ‘should’ be done, so I’m always interested to see a director striking out a little to establish their own vision. Inspiration often comes from the local surroundings – memorably so with Into the Woods at the Open Air Theatre a few years back and intriguingly so with Matthew Xia’s production of the same show for the Royal Exchange in Manchester. Taking Sondheim and James Lapine’s conflation of well-known fairytales and their unseen epilogues and relocating it to a contemporary here and now, this enchanted forest may have lost a little of the overtly magical but gains plenty in an evocation of Mancunian community spirit.

It may not have been the most precisely sung version of the show I’ve ever seen but the depth of performance here with all its colour and heart more than made up for it, rooting these characters perfectly in Xia’s landscape. ‘Agony’ has indeed been camper but Marc Elliott and Michael Peavoy’s modern-day Princes make you listen to the intricacy of the lyrical references like never before, Gillian Bevan’s Witch – a woman truly released from her curse – grows in impressive vocal stature throughout the show, and Natasha Cottriall (who in the interests of full disclosure, is my mother’s cousin’s wife’s sister’s daughter) brings real pathos as well as petulance to her Little Red Riding-hood. Continue reading “Review: Into The Woods, Royal Exchange”

Review: Peter Pan – A Musical Adventure in Concert, Adelphi

“There’s something in the air tonight”

Just a quickie for this semi-staged concert version of Stiles + Drewe’s Peter Pan as my afternoon was pretty much ruined by the young family next to me, two toddlers quite literally running amok, uncontrolled by a mother who didn’t care that her children were repeatedly climbing over me. I’m all for theatres being more inclusive and welcoming to young’uns but the other side of that is that you have to prepare your children for the practicalities of sitting down for a couple of hours along with everyone else.

Which is a shame, as this is a rather sweet musical version of JM Barrie’s evergreen story of the boy who never grew up. Even with weird man-boy Ray Quinn in the lead role and the pantomimish Bradley Walsh as Captain Hook, there’s something really quite affecting about the child-like wonder of Stiles + Drewe’s interpretative skill, which still simultaneously offers up a more mature worldview – it’s easy to forget the deep sadness that lies at the heart of the story, Sheila Hancock’s Narrator providing some deeply moving moments. Continue reading “Review: Peter Pan – A Musical Adventure in Concert, Adelphi”

Review: Sue Townsend’s The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole Aged 13 ¾ The Musical, Curve

Reviewed by Ian Foster Aged 35 ¾ 

“I’m a Mole and not a mouse”

Pre-show
7pm
Just seen the director Luke Sheppard, urgh he’s way too much younger than me.


7.10pm

Just seen the writers Pippa Cleary and Jake Brunger, they’re practically children too. Apparently they all met at uni – they may be winning now but I reckon I did more pub crawls than them though.


7.18pm

I LOVE that the programme is attached to the book itself so for just £5, you get both. You get the feeling Sue Townsend would definitely have approved. (And she did approve of the show, being an active part of the creative process until the sad news of her death last year.) 


7.27pm

There’s four kids sharing the role of Adrian, and three for the other three major kids’ roles. Tonight we’ve got
Adrian – Joel Fossard-Jones 
Barry – Harrison Slater 
Nigel – Samuel Small 
Pandora – Imogen Gurney 
I bet they’re ridiculously talented. I hate young people. Why didn’t my parents put me on the stage as a child, I could have been Wigan’s answer to Bonnie Langford.
Showtime – First half
7.33pm
Aw man, there’s a puppet dog. Why puppets, why? Don’t they know I don’t like ’em and am only pretending to be halfway ok with them now…


7.45pm

Those schoolkids! Rofl as the kids might say. 


7.47pm

I really do love Rosie Ashe.


7.58pm

Unsurprisingly, the young actors really are very good. Gurney’s sauntering self-entitlement as Pandora is cracking and Samuel Small as Nigel will definitely be one to look out for.


8.04pm

Tim Rogers’ fold-out set design works really well, I bet he was born in the 90s or something, urgh. 


8.20pm

Just remembered, Kirsty Hoiles (Adrian’s mum) sang a seriously lovely song by Elliot Davis called Still, I should put it on a playlist when I get in. She’s good here too. 
Interval

8.40pm

Aw, I’m rather enjoying this. Whether deliberate or not, the echoes of other musicals play really nicely – I got affectionate hints of Billy Elliot’s ‘The Letter’, Matilda’s ‘Loud’ and Les Mis’ barricades but the old-school Hollywood charm, via lacrosse, of ‘Look At That Girl’ was probably the best bit thus far. 


8.48pm

I want an ice-cream but I’m too cheap to get one. I never get one these days. Where’s your mum when you need her?
8.56pm
Spot-check on the audience around me, they’re all liking the show. They’re also loving the ice-cream, I knew I should have splashed out, grr.

Second half
 

9,03pm

Am loving Amy Booth-Steel’s work, as always and especially with this vivacious multi-roling, but I’d love to see her take a dramatically different choice of role next. I’m excited to see her show her versatility.


9.12pm

The lighting by Howard Hudson is particularly good, taking us in and out of the moments in Adrian’s mind – these diary-writing moments are possibly too few and far between though, Adrian’s voice really is one of the most iconic bits about the character and it’s not always front and centre in the show here. 
But without making it a one-boy-show, how to fix it? 
Good question, we’ll come back to this later. 
No we won’t, it’s too hard.


9.46pm

Can’t help but feel the second half isn’t quite living up to the first. The episodic nature of the show, borrowing from the episodic nature of the book natch, seems to have lost a little of the energy that propelled us to the interval. I hope they’ve got something up their sleeve.


9.50pm

They do, the nativity scene. I would happily pay just to see this sequence again. 


10.00pm

Well there you have it, a show with lots of lovely moments in it and a lot of potential. Fossard-Jones makes a great bespectacled leading man but too often it feels like he’s a bystander in what is meant to be his story. But there’s something apt about seeing a show so connected to Leicester here at the Curve, with its admirable record of nurturing new musical theatre writing, and I’m glad to have been a part of it. Even if so any talented young people were involved. 😉
Running time: 2 hours 30 minutes (with interval)
Booking until 4th April

Looking ahead to 2015

I realise I’m just adding (belatedly) to the plethora of 2015 features already published but so many of them trod the boringly familiar ground of forthcoming West End shows (and in the Evening Standard’s case, managed to recommend booking for three shows already sold out from their list of six). So I’ve cast my net a little wider and chosen a few random categories for just some of the shows I’m recommending and looking forward to in 2015.

Continue reading “Looking ahead to 2015”

Theater Aid – Do They Know It’s Christmas 2013

It appears to be the year of theatrical covers of Do They Know It’s Christmas? and this one certainly ramps up the star wattage (and seems weirdly specifically designed for RevStan!) with its cast. Put together by current Les Mis stars Anton Zetterholm and Rob Houchen as part of their Room9 fundraising campaign for WaterAid. They’ve had an Advent calendar of videos (which can be viewed here) and today’s clip pulled together an incredible roster of performers from major theatre shows from across Europe and the USA. Watch the video below to see who you can spot, and then please visit their fundraising page to give what you can for this great cause.
 

DVD Review: Les Misérables in concert: The 25th Anniversary

“There’s a reckoning to be reckoned”

Forming the culmination of the 25th Anniversary celebrations of Les Misérables was a pair of concert versions of the show taking place at the O2 centre in Greenwich which brought together the company of companies, over 500 actors and musicians joining forces to pay tribute to this enduing classic of a show. The cast and companies of the touring production and the West End production joined with a massive choir and orchestra and a hand-picked international cast performed the lead roles in this concert presentation which was also relayed live into cinemas and later released on DVD to be enjoyed by those who chose not to go (or couldn’t get tickets).

Concert versions of shows are always a bit funny, performers singing songs to each other but looking straight out at audiences and limited opportunity for acting so they can often feel a little constrained in their presentation. Here, the cast were in full costume and projections and clips from the show used to fill in some of the gaps that the songs could not fill. And it is all really rather good if not quite the self-proclaimed “musical event of a lifetime”. Continue reading “DVD Review: Les Misérables in concert: The 25th Anniversary”