Review: Sweet Charity, Donmar Warehouse

Nowhere near enough charm in this Sweet Charity for my liking. Josie Rourke’s farewell to the Donmar Warehouse is grey rather than silver

“I’m always looking for an emotional experience”

When the light lands just right on Robert Jones’ set for Sweet Charity at the Donmar Warehouse, it sparkles like silver; the rest of the time, it is rather grey. Sadly, that’s pretty much rather true as a whole for Josie Rourke’s production here, her farewell as Artistic Director here.

Those bright spots are dazzling. Debbie Kurup and Lizzie Connolly are superb as Charity’s pals and co-workers Helene and Nickie, dreaming their dreams with real circumspection. Martin Marquez’s velvety smoothness is charm personified as movie star Vittorio Vidal. Continue reading “Review: Sweet Charity, Donmar Warehouse”

Review: A singalong Bat out of Hell, Dominion

Baby baby BABY! For better or worse, Bat out of Hell introduces the singalong musical into the West End 

“You got the kind of lips that do more than drink
You got the kind of mind that does less than think”

Although it might feel like every night is singalong night at some musicals (cough Motown cough), Bat out of Hell have gone the extra step and made one night a month an actual sing-along performance. So if you get down to the Dominion Theatre on these selected dates, then you can live your dream of singing in a West End theatre, just, you know, not on the actual stage…!

If you’re pondering whether this is a good idea, I’ve answered a few questions below.

“I know you’re lookin’ for a ruby in a mountain of rocks
But there ain’t no Coupe de Ville hidin’ at the bottom of a Cracker Jack box”

1. What if I don’t know all the words?

Never fear – there are screens dotted around the theatre, and above the stage, which show the lyrics. And it’s not every song we’re invited to sing along to, which I was particularly gutted for for “What Part of My Body Hurts the Most”. Seeing the lyrics like this has the additional amusing bonus of showing how batshit crazy some of them are…! Continue reading “Review: A singalong Bat out of Hell, Dominion”

Album reviews: Working / Bat out of Hell / 42nd Street

A trio of West End cast recordings (well, one’s off-West-End…) show that it is sometimes hard to recapture the stage magic 

© Robert Workman

Starting off with the best of this bunch, the Southwark Playhouse’s production of Working might not have seemed like the obvious choice for a cast recording but maybe the lure of a couple of new Lin-Manuel Miranda tracks was a real sweetener.

Truth is, it is the quality of the cast’s performances that make this a fantastic addition to the list of albums you need to hear. From Siubhan Harrison’s impassioned ‘Millwork’ to Dean Chisnall’s gleeful ‘Brother Trucker’, and the highly charismatic Liam Tamne nails both of Miranda’s contributions – the wilful ‘Delivery’ and a corking duet (with Harrison) on ‘A Very Good Day’.

Experience pays though, as Gillian Bevan and Peter Polycarpou take the honours with some scintillating work. The latter’s ‘Joe’ is beautifully judged, as is the former’s ‘Nobody Tells Me How’, both demonstrating the uncertainty that can come at the end of a long career, when retirement doesn’t necessarily hold the joyful promise it once did. Highly recommended.  Continue reading “Album reviews: Working / Bat out of Hell / 42nd Street”

Review: Bat Out of Hell, Dominion

Serving up more Meatloaf, Bat Out of Hell returns to London at the Dominion with a new-found subtlety…

“Some nights you’re like nothing I’ve ever seen before or will again”

I jest of course – there ain’t nothing subtle about Bat Out of Hell, apart from the slight price rises on the merchandise stall. Newly installed at the Dominion Theatre, after runs in Manchester, Toronto and at the Coliseum last year, it has lost little of the bizarre, baffling energy that saw it find a very devoted audience.

And they’ll be pleased that leads Andrew Polec and Christina Bennington return, the new cast members slot in effortlessly, and the inimitable vocal prowess of all is still ear-splittingly breathtaking, under Michael Reed’s musical supervision. Rob Fowler and Sharon Sexton remain the show’s secret weapon, stealing the thunder like a punked-up Jack and Karen. Continue reading “Review: Bat Out of Hell, Dominion”

2018 What’s On Stage Award nominations

It’s that time of year again and getting in early with the announcement of their nominees is What’s on Stage. Voted for by the public, they’re often skewed a little towards the bigger ‘names’ but this year’s set of nominations are relatively controversy-free. There’s something a little odd about the way that regional theatre has its own separate category but its actors appear in the main ones – I feel like regional theatre productions should either be considered entirely in or out, rather than this halfway house.

Naturally, big shows rule the roost – 42nd Street and Bat out of Hell lead the lists with 8 nominations apiece – and they’ve even found a way to shoehorn in Hamilton by nominating it for the two new categories of Best Cast Recording (which somehow includes Les Mis??) and Best Show Poster, thus being able to get round it not actually being open yet and grabbing the requisite headlines once it does, inevitably, win.

BEST ACTOR IN A PLAY SPONSORED BY RADISSON BLU EDWARDIAN
Andrew Garfield, Angels in America
Andrew Scott, Hamlet
Bryan Cranston, Network
David Tennant, Don Juan in Soho
Martin Freeman, Labour of Love

BEST ACTRESS IN A PLAY
Eve Best, Love in Idleness
Imelda Staunton, Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?
Olivia Colman, Mosquitoes
Natalie Dormer, Venus in Fur
Tamsin Greig, Labour of Love Continue reading “2018 What’s On Stage Award nominations”

Bat Out Of Hell is coming back in 2018

“It’s so hard to believe but it’s all coming back to me now”

Sign-Up for more information on the rock’n’roll return of @BATtheMusical to London’s #West End 🤘 https://t.co/n7m60a0EG6 pic.twitter.com/WpMs3rM0yS

— Bat Out Of Hell (@BatTheMusical) August 22, 2017


There are (still) no words to say about Bat Out Of Hell that can really do it justice (here’s my attempt from the first viewing) and in any case, even if I wanted to I couldn’t, as it really is a show that demands to be seen having partaken of a beverage or seven. And believe me, last night I partook! So I guess I’ll see you at the Coliseum next year then, you can get the first round in 😉

Review: Bat out of Hell, London Coliseum

“Will you hose me down with holy water, if I get too hot?”

I think it is safe to say that Bat out of Hell is one of the most random things you’ll see in the West End this year, if not ever, whether you’re a fan of Meatloaf or not. It is a deliciously over-the-top production quite unlike the usual fare in the august surroundings of the London Coliseum but that’s part of its charm here – what would be sacrilegious is actually cheekily charming. Find production photos of the show here and read my 4 star review for Cheap Theatre Tickets here.

Running time: 2 hour 50 minutes (with interval)
Booking until 5th August

Re-review: Beautiful – The Carole King Story, Aldwych

“Remember when you used to play Mozart?”

I’ve been lucky enough to see Cassidy Janson in a number of productions over the years and I’ve been a fan from the start, from stepping into Julie Atherton’s not-inconsiderable shoes in Avenue Q onwards, so I was mightily pleased when she was announced as the replacement for Katie Brayben in the lead role in Beautiful – The Carole King Story. I really enjoyed the show when it opened last year and thought Janson would be a good fit but in finally getting to see her, I couldn’t have imagined how perfect a marriage of performer and material this would be.

As Carole King, one of the most successful songwriters of the last century, she thoroughly imbues the character with an engaging sense of life and vivid musicality that just bursts from the stage. Through a decade of huge change as this ebullient Manhattan teenager becomes a wife and mother as well as writing some of the biggest pop hits around, Janson keeps us thoroughly engaged with Douglas McGrath’s sometimes-a-bit-too-functional book whether acting, singing or acting through song – if she weren’t already a star, I’d say it’s a star-making performance.  Continue reading “Re-review: Beautiful – The Carole King Story, Aldwych”

Review: Beautiful – The Carole King Musical, Aldwych Theatre

“Everything seems to be
Some kind of wonderful”

Where Broadway leads, the West End will surely follow and so it is little surprise that Tony-winning Beautiful – The Carole King Musical found its way over here to the Aldwych Theatre. And I’m pleased to report that the transatlantic passage has gone most smoothly indeed to deliver an absolute treat of a show. When three of its four leading personnel are still very much alive and kicking, it is perhaps no surprise that Douglas McGrath’s book treads a rather respectable path through the first ten years of King’s career. But then she would be the first to say, with typical self-deprecating charm, that her life is hardly the most exciting, her dreams never the loftiest – it just so happens that beneath this veneer of ordinariness lay an absolute treasure trove of extraordinary music. 

And as musical gem follows musical gem – both from the collaborations of King and sometime partner Gerry Goffin, and also from their friends and writing rivals Cynthia Weil and Barry Mann – this feels utterly the point. Life isn’t always chock-a-block with drama, motivations don’t always have to spring from some momentous event, the cult of the tortured artistic soul is far from the be all and end all (Billington seems to suggest being “a shy, well-adjusted woman struggling to reconcile a career with a failing marriage” is something of a crime!) and I’d say that Beautiful is no weaker a biopic for not having such narrative peaks and troughs, reinventing personal history in the name of drama.  Continue reading “Review: Beautiful – The Carole King Musical, Aldwych Theatre”