Festive news #3 – West End Sings for Childline

And because things come in threes, here’s the news about West End Sings’ Christmas single ‘If We Only Have Love’ by Jacques Brel. Released to celebrate the 30th Anniversary of Childline and all proceeds will go to the charity. The track can be pre-ordered from Friday 2nd December and will be released on Friday 9th December.

The song features stars from several West End Musicals plus the Sylvia Young Choir, with music by the producers of two out of the last three Christmas number 1s. Just some of the people singing are Dean John-Wilson, Cassidy Janson, Lucy St Louis, Davina Perera, Dylan Turner, Daniel Boys, Ben Forster, Rachelle Ann Go, Caroline Sheen, and Claire Sweeneymore details can be found on their website.

Review: Geek! A New Musical, Tristan Bates

“We’re sorry that there wasn’t much plot”

I cannot lie to you, when I came out of Geek! A New Musical at the Tristan Bates, I thought (and tweeted) that it was one of the most puerile and offensively bad shows I had seen in quite some time. A few days distance has mellowed that viewpoint a little, but mainly to replace indignation with frustration at the choices in both play and production. Writer Scott Morgan has put together a pretty bog-standard American high school drama – when Queen Bee Flissy Joy has her plans to win the school beauty pageant derailed by Daddy cutting her off, she and her clique of plastics turn to new girl plain Jane to makeover her into a prize-winning stooge and catch the eye of handsome jock Billy-Bob into the bargain. But it is such a saturated genre that every plot point, twist and gag can be traced back to Glee, Cruel Intentions, She’s All That, Mean Girls, etc etc… and with little sense that anything new has been added here.

Musically, Morgan’s score is functional rather than distinguished, Benjamin Holder’s over-amplified musical direction far too heavy on the drums (on this night at least) though it is sung proficiently. But dramatically, it suffers from trying to be too clever in self-referencing as a pastiche of both the high school genre (‘don’t run down the corridor, douchebag’) and of musical theatre itself (‘”where were you?” just singing a song outside…’), without having the requisite sharp-edged wit or dramatic chops to carry it off throughout the whole show. Perhaps to overcompensate for this, directors Porl Matthews (who also designs) and Jamie Chapman Dixon throw everything, the kitchen sink AND the blow-up doll at the show with a key note of the lewder and cruder the better which batters away with an unrelenting persistence which may well be to your tastes. It wasn’t to mine. Continue reading “Review: Geek! A New Musical, Tristan Bates”

Review: South Pacific, Barbican

“You can’t light a fire when the wood is all wet”

It will be interesting to see how many, if any, of the print critics make reference to one of the most significant aspects of the Barbican’s import of the Lincoln Center production of South Pacific: the ticket prices. The majority of the stalls is priced at £85, making the slightly restricted view seats a whopping £65 and you have to go up to the upper circle before prices start to drop. Not willing to spend so much, we went for the second-cheapest option, up in the balcony / gallery – £20 seats which were reduced to £16 with my membership – rather disgracefully the membership discount only being applicable to the first four performances, thus this is a preview being reviewed here. But credit where it’s due, the seats were just like the normal ones, comfortable with lots of leg room and you really are not that far away from the stage at all: it is so nice to find a venue with cheap seats that don’t take the p*ss out of the audience member and their comfort.

But to the show. This was an extremely well-received production in New York, winning a handful of Tonys and running for 2 years, and so Bartlett Sher has sought to recreate its success for this engagement at the Barbican ahead of a UK tour, even bringing over three members of the original cast. There’s apparently 40 people in the cast (though I counted a few less) and an orchestra of 25 so words like lavish and breathtaking are being thrown around, presumably to mitigate for the pricing, though it is not evident that much investment has gone into the set design… It is one of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s most well known musicals, last seen in London ten years ago at the National Theatre but that was before my time here. Continue reading “Review: South Pacific, Barbican”