Review: Death Takes A Holiday, Charing Cross

“I’m Death. 
‘And you’re on holiday?’”

The ways in which the titles of shows are worked into the script are a source of endless amusement and new musical Death Takes A Holiday is no exception, pointing up as it does the ridiculousness of the show’s conceit. Based on the 1924 Italian play La Morte in Vacanza, which has been adapted for the silver screen a few times, most recently in the Brad Pitt stinker Meet Joe Black, Peter Stone and Thomas Meehan’s book tells the story of what happens when Death falls head over heels for an Italian duke’s daughter and so decides to take a couple of days annual leave to follow through,

Posing as a Russian prince, he joins the aristocratic family at their Lake Garda country pile, ostensibly to learn about human emotions but truth is, there’s only one he’s that keen on. And given that the main object of his study, Grazia, is a fan of the moody gothic look – despite being engaged to someone else – there’s little doubt as to whether will be alone when he returns to the day job at the end of the weekend. It’s a curious lack of dramatic imperative for a show running over two hours, especially since there’s the potential to have a proper love triangle, instead Maury Yeston’s expansive score is left to fill the gaps.  Continue reading “Review: Death Takes A Holiday, Charing Cross”

Review: Miss Saigon, Prince Edward Theatre with TodayTix

“I’ll do my dance, I’ll make them drink”
 

I’m pretty there’s a clause in the gay contract that means it is illegal to turn down the offer of drinks in the Julie Andrews room so who was I to resist when the folks at TodayTix invited me to try out their mobile ticketing app by coming along to see Miss Saigon. Founders Merritt Baer and Brian Fenty have had big success on Broadway with their service, offering tickets for a range of shows one week to one hour before showtime and boasting of enabling tickets to be purchased in 30 seconds or less.

And I have to say that they’ve pretty much nailed it. The interface of the app is bright and easy to use (certainly it was on my iPhone6), there’s a wide range of West End shows available and the process of choosing and booking tickets at all price levels is simple and speedy with a little seatmap showing you where in the theatre your selected seats are. It really does streamline the ticket-buying process so that making any last minute decisions to see a show that much easier. Continue reading “Review: Miss Saigon, Prince Edward Theatre with TodayTix”

CD Review and Competition: Beautiful – The Carole King Musical soundtrack

“I know I can’t express

This feeling of tenderness”

 

With beautifully fortuitous timing, the soundtrack to Beautiful: The Carole King Musical won the Grammy for Best Musical Theatre on Sunday night, just as the West End production of this Broadway hit opens for previews at the Aldwych Theatre. And it just so happens that I have a copy of said soundtrack on CD to give away as a competition prize to a lucky winner.

I’ve already written a little about my love for Carole King’s music in this preview piece and I promised to review this soundtrack soon after – it’s only taken me three months to get around to it. It is a slightly odd musical theatre record to listen to in that coming from a biopic, it plays like a cross between a Carole King Greatest Hits and a compilation of hits from the 60s. There’s no sense of narrative propelling the score and the tracklisting isn’t strictly chronological either – in some ways, it’s just a bunch of songs stuck together on one album.

But what songs! From girl-group classics co-written with then-husband Gerry Goffin like ‘One Fine Day’ and ‘Will You Love Me Tomorrow?’, to hits from her friends and contemporaries Cynthia Weill and Barry Mann like ‘He’s Sure The Boy I Love’, ‘You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feeling’ and ‘We Gotta Get Out Of This Place’ and the extraordinarily successful and mainly solo-written album Tapestry which casually features such classics as ‘You’ve Got A Friend’, ‘It’s Too Late’, ‘So Far Away’ and ‘(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman’ – it’s an undeniably stellar collection.

And in Steve Sidwell’s often gorgeously brass-heavy orchestrations, with additional arrangements from Jason Howland (also the MD), the music soars beautifully both in a manner you’ll recognise and also in unexpected ways, the earthiness of the demo-style tracks are particularly strong, revealing the musical integrity that is sometimes hidden beneath the sheen of the production of the time. Jessie Mueller’s vocal as Carole King is a thing of characterful beauty and supported by Jake Epstein, Anika Larsen and Jarrod Spector along with the rest of the company, there’s a lovely sense of understatement about the whole affair – no big Broadway belting but rather a real appreciation for the quality of the music.

So the UK production has a job to live up to but I have every faith in director Marc Bruni and his decision to employ an all-British cast led by the some kind of wonderful Katie Brayben. Previews start from 10th February, opening night is 25th February, tickets can be gotten hereand more show information can be found here. And if you want to win the soundtrack on CD, please answer the below question by 9pm on Sunday 15th February.

What is Carole King’s most famous album called?
A) Carpet
B) Wall hanging
C) Tapestry
Send your answer to ianfoster32@gmail.com (UK entries only please) and the winner will be notified on Monday 16th February. Terms and conditions are for losers, just be cool.