“The future’s ripe for those who mix
Their artistry with politics”
John Gay’s The Beggar’s Opera has already inspired one musical adaptation – Brecht and Weill’s The Threepenny Opera, a new production thereof opening later this month at the National – and finds another in Dougal Irvine’s The Buskers Opera, receiving its world premiere here at the Park Theatre. And if its timing might be slightly off in that regard, it couldn’t be more bang on the money on the London mayoral election day, featuring as it does, corrupt politicians and ruthless media magnates seeking to advance their agenda on an unsuspecting populace.
Set in the strange potential-filled moment that was the 2012 Olympics, Jeremiah Peachum is said mogul with Mayor Lockitt in his pocket, determined to milk it for all it is worth – the only thing standing in their way is half-social justice warrior, half-street busker Macheath, strutting at the head of protest group The Ninety-Nine Percenters. That said, getting one over the fat cats isn’t always as satisfying as getting one’s leg over and as he plays off his wife Polly against the mayor’s daughter Lucy and a few more besides, a thrill-seeking society is encouraged to make judgement. Continue reading “Review: The Buskers Opera, Park”
“For your love I pray you, wrong me not”
Any filmed adaptation of The Merchant of Venice is up against it for me as I adore the Al Pacino version from 2004 which makes so much sense of so many of the difficulties of the play. This Trevor Nunn production was a big success for the National Theatre, transferring from the then-Cottesloe to the Olivier, winning all sorts of awards and then filmed for the US’s Masterpiece Theatre.
And as is often the case with these stage-to-screen adaptations, it’s a little flat and disappointing, little concession made to the change in medium and so the abiding feeling is that one is left wishing one could have seen it onstage. Which is a shame, as Henry Goodman makes an excellent Shylock, viciously vengeful but clearly victimised too in this adroit resituating of the play to the 1930s. Continue reading “DVD Review: The Merchant of Venice (2001)”
“I’ll show my noble stuff by being bright and cheerful!”
They don’t make ‘em like they used to. Both in terms of writing, Leonard Bernstein’s operetta Candide (with its multiple literary contributors from Voltaire’s novella) dates back to 1956 and an entirely different age, and in terms of production too, Trevor Nunn’s National Theatre liked its big, grand musicals and this 1999 adaptation – co-directed by Nunn and John Caird – was lavishly done with its lush orchestrations fortunately recorded for posterity.
My only previous experience of Candide is with the Menier Chocolate Factory’s production in 2013 so I can’t really comment on the different versions of the show (although having done a little reading, I realise that this is something people have strong opinions about!). Instead, I’m listening to it with pretty much fresh ears, revelling in Bruce Coughlin’s orchestrations and Mark W Dorrell’s musical direction which sound utterly gorgeous, especially with a cast of this calibre. Continue reading “CD Review: Candide (1999 Royal National Theatre Recording)”
“Give me hope
Give me all your love”
Everything is better with Frances Barber in it, it’s kind of a mantra for life. The Union Theatre’s recent production of Closer to Heaven shifted its entire allocation of tickets before it had even started but I wonder if that would have been the case if people had had a sneak preview of it. Despite its hard-working cast, it didn’t quite hit all the bases that would have warranted a sell-out success from after press night but you can’t begrudge them for that, the producers clearly tapped into a desire to see the show revived.
Its original run at the Arts Theatre was not a runaway hit, being curtailed after lacklustre sales (blamed in part on 9/11 affecting tourism) but an original cast recording of the soundtrack, featuring studio versions of the songs, was released, helping the show to maintain and even build on its cult status. And listening to the album, you can see why people were keen for it to return. Shorn of most of Jonathan Harvey’s lumpen book, the focus falls squarely on the cracking score by Neil Tennant and Chris Lowe and the real depth of feeling that the cast bring to the material. Continue reading “Album Review: Closer to Heaven (Original Cast Recording)”
“But when the thermometer goes right up, and the weather is sizzling hot…”
So confident in their run of successful summer musicals is Chichester Festival Theatre that the transfer for Kiss Me, Kate (it will play at co-producers London’s Old Vic from 20th November to 2nd March) was announced before it had even opened at its native theatre. But with experienced hands Trevor Nunn directing and Stephen Mears choreographing, Cole Porter’s ever-spry music and a cast headed up by leading light of the British musical theatre scene Hannah Waddingham, it was a reasonably safe bet.
And unsurprisingly, it is one that has paid off. The show follows a theatre company putting on a musical version of Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew, where the feisty relationship between Petruchio and Katherine is echoed by the conflict between director and leading man Fred and his ex-wife Lilli who is playing opposite him. As the offstage drama threatens to overwhelm the onstage, some shenanigans from another member of the company in a gambling room throws matters further into disarray. Continue reading “Review: Kiss Me, Kate, Chichester Festival Theatre”
|Best Actress in a Play||Eve Best, Much Ado About Nothing (Globe)||Ruth Wilson, Anna Christie||Rosie Wyatt, Bunny
Siân Brooke, Ecstasy
Lisa Palfrey, The Kitchen Sink
Geraldine James, Seagull
|Best Actor in a Play||Benedict Cumberbatch, Frankenstein||Andrew Scott, Emperor and Galilean||Trevor Fox, The Pitmen Painters
Dominic West, Othello
Jude Law, Anna Christie
Charles Edwards, Much Ado About Nothing (Globe)
|Best Supporting Actress in a Play||Alexandra Gilbreath, Othello||Sheridan Smith, Flare Path||Sinéad Matthews, Ecstasy
Billie Piper, Reasons to be Pretty
Kirsty Bushell, Double Feature 1
Esther Hall, Many Moons
|Best Supporting Actor in a Play||Ryan Sampson, The Kitchen Sink||Harry Hadden-Paton, Flare Path||Robert Hands, The Comedy of Errors (Propeller)
Edward Franklin, Many Moons
Craig Parkinson, Ecstasy
Adam James, Much Ado About Nothing (Wyndhams)
|Best Actress in a Musical||Imelda Staunton, Sweeney Todd||Adrianna Bertola, Josie Griffiths, Cleo Demetriou, Kerry Ingram, Eleanor Worthington Cox & Sophia Kiely, Matilda||Laura Pitt-Pulford, Parade
Beverley Klein, Bernarda Alba
Jemima Rooper, Me and My Girl
Scarlett Strallen, Singin’ in the Rain
|Best Actor in a Musical||Bertie Carvel, Matilda||Michael Ball, Sweeney Todd||Daniel Evans, Company
Daniel Crossley, Me and My Girl
Alastair Brookshaw, Parade
Vincent Franklin, The Day We Sang
|Best Supporting Actress in a Musical||Samantha Spiro, Company||Kate Fleetwood, London Road||Josefina Gabrielle, Me and My Girl
Josie Walker, Matilda
Rosalind James, Ragtime
Ann Emery, Betty Blue Eyes
|Best Supporting Actor in a Musical||Daniel Crossley, Singin’ in the Rain||Nigel Harman, Shrek the Musical||Connor Dowling, Guys and Dolls
Jack Edwards, Betty Blue Eyes
David Burt, Crazy For You
Nick Holder London Road
Best Supporting Actor in a Play
Ryan Sampson, The Kitchen Sink
An absolute gem of a performance from Sampson here, coming late in the year but leaving no doubt as to how good he was – though not “too good to be gay” as a notorious critic put it most distastefully. Tom Wells excels at his non-metropolitan gay characters and there is so much refreshing, recognisable normality here, that transcends sexuality too – God knows everyone has felt awkward at one point or another – that made Sampson’s portrayal irresistible. Throw in some wicked jokes, perfectly delivered, a love for Dolly Parton and facial expressions that speak absolute volumes, Sampson is a worthy winner.
Honourable mention: Harry Hadden-Paton, Flare Path
As part of the central love triangle at the heart of Flare Path, Hadden-Paton displayed the kind of acting performance that should ensure he remains one to watch for many years to come, whether onstage or on film. The personal side paled though in comparison with the battle he faced to conquer his private desolation at the prospect of war in order to appear as the fearless leader of men his soldiers needed him to be: wonderfully appealing.
Best Supporting Actor in a Musical
Daniel Crossley, Singin’ in the Rain
I am a little bit in love with Daniel Crossley, and yes I know he’s taken, darn you Evans. But a man who can sing well, dance like an absolute dream and play the wise-cracking sidekick role of Cosmo without seeming like a constant third wheel has to be worth it. On top of an excellent turn in Me and My Girl at the beginning of the year, 2011 was a great year for Crossley and whilst I’m sad I won’t get to see him in a new role for the foreseeable future, I am delighted that the West End will get to see him in all his puddle-splashing glory when Singin’ in the Rain transfers.
Honourable mention: Nigel Harman, Shrek the musical
If you haven’t seen Shrek the musical yet, then I am about to spoil something for you here but I can’t explain the genius of Nigel Harman’s performance as the diminutive Lord Farquaad without saying something about how he does it. Spending the whole show on his knees, he is show-stealingly hilarious and provides a much welcomed injection of pure comedy into the musical.
BEST ACTOR IN A PLAY
James Corden – One Man, Two Guvnors at the National, Lyttelton & Adelphi
Benedict Cumberbatch – Frankenstein at the National, Olivier
Jude Law – Anna Christie at the Donmar Warehouse
Kevin Spacey – Richard III at the Old Vic
David Tennant – Much Ado About Nothing at Wyndham’s
James Earl Jones – Driving Miss Daisy at Wyndham’s
BEST ACTRESS IN A PLAY
Vanessa Redgrave – Driving Miss Daisy at Wyndham’s
Eve Best – Much Ado About Nothing at Shakespeare’s Globe
Kristin Scott Thomas – Betrayal at the Comedy
Ruth Wilson – Anna Christie at the Donmar Warehouse
Samantha Spiro – Chicken Soup with Barley at the Royal Court Downstairs
Tamsin Greig – Jumpy at the Royal Court Downstairs Continue reading “2012 What’s On Stage Award nominations”