Re-review: The Lorax, Old Vic

Two winters ago if you went to the Old Vic,
Your life would have been filled with something fantastic.
A musical treat fit for all of the fam’ly,
The Lorax is as good as such a show could be.

Returning for half-term with some new cast members,
The musical’s just as good as I remember.
It’s heartfelt and funny and really quite moving,
A powerful message but not too reproving. Continue reading “Re-review: The Lorax, Old Vic”

Review: One Love: The Bob Marley Musical, Birmingham Rep

“Let’s get together and feel all right”

There’s much to enjoy in One Love: The Bob Marley Musical, not least the joyous celebration of some of the most enduringly famous music in the world. And writer and director Kwame Kwei-Armah does a decent job at balancing the populist demands of a jukebox musical with something more dramatically satisfying. The result has been a sell-out success for the Birmingham Rep and I only just managed to squeak this into the schedule before it closes at the weekend,

Using 20 or so of Marley’s songs, Kwei-Armah takes us through an eventful few years in the singer’s life as the success of his artistry launches him from an accomplished reggae musician to international icon, pushing his concerns from simply getting records out to matters of national diplomacy as he finds himself intertwined in Jamaican politics. He also has internal conflicts with his band and a turbulent personal life to deal with, as well as converting to Rastafarianism. Continue reading “Review: One Love: The Bob Marley Musical, Birmingham Rep”

Re-review: Jane Eyre, National Theatre

“I remember when, I remember, I remember when I lost my mind”

I hadn’t intended to go back to Jane Eyre, having already spent a day in Bristol watching it in its original two-part format, but after a rather revelatory experience at Hetty Feather of all places, my new-found appreciation for director Sally Cookson demanded a revisit. Cookson’s adaptation of Charlotte Brontë’s well-loved novel has been conflated into one single performance now, stretching out to three hours and thirty minutes but bursting with theatrical invention that just shimmers with freshness.

To carp about this or that being lost from the novel seems to be to spectacularly miss the point of what is being done here. Cookson and the company devised this production themselves and so it is clearly an interpretation of the material to suit a different medium but also one to carefully avoid any connotations of dourly faithful period drama. Iconoclastic music springs from its very soul (Melanie Marshall remaining as wonderful as I remembered), its spirit delightfully free from start to finish. Continue reading “Re-review: Jane Eyre, National Theatre”

Review: Little Shop of Horrors, Royal Exchange

“That thing went bang, kaboom. And he’s havin’ some fun now”

There are shows I love and then there are shows I LOVE and Little Shop of Horrors most definitely falls into that latter category. I fell for its undeniable charms when I was 11 or 12 I think, when my mum was involved in her school production of it, letting me wander backstage, and the MD, who was also my piano teacher, snuck out a copy of Alan Menken’s most tuneful of scores to enliven my lessons for a good few weeks. Combined with the cult classic that is the movie version, I was utterly hooked and have remained so ever since. So I was most delighted to see the Royal Exchange announcing it as their festive fare and with the ever-exciting Derek Bond directing, who in recent years has delivered a bewitching As You Like It, the hugely under-rated Many Moons and Lost in Yonkers, through which I cried pretty much non-stop.

The gloriously rich vocal harmonies of Ibinabo Jack, Ellena Vincent and Joelle Moses as Chiffon, Crystal and Ronnette, the girl-group Greek chorus who doo-wop their premonitions of doom, are an ever-present and magnificent hook into the action and never more so than in the stellar one-two that opens the show. ‘Little Shop of Horrors’ is a stone-cold classic theme tune with its shang-a-langs and throaty comma comma commas but ‘Skid Row’ – one of my all-time favourite songs from a musical, I should add – blooms into resplendent life, benefitting from a slightly slowed tempo and some sympatico choreography to really nail the air of quiet desperation that lies at the song’s heart as we’re introduced to this classic “boy-meets-girl-feeds-plant-her-boyfriend-gets-famous-kills-boss-sacrifices-girl-and-dies” story. Oh yeah, spoiler alert đŸ˜‰ Continue reading “Review: Little Shop of Horrors, Royal Exchange”

Review: Avenue Q, Greenwich Theatre

“You gotta go after the things you want while you’re still in your prime…”

Since co-writing Avenue Q in 2002 with Jeff Marx and book-writer Jeff Whitty, Robert Lopez’s career has sky-rocketed with the mega-musical The Book of Mormon and Disney behemoth Frozen so the opportunity to revisit life with the puppets in the less salubrious parts of New York is a welcome one. Sell A Door’s production opens at the Greenwich Theatre and then will go an extensive tour of the UK, visiting 19 more theatres across the country to spread its often outrageous but always warm-hearted tales of the trials of day-to-day living in the big city.

So we follow fresh young graduate Princeton as his idealism gets slowly crushed by temp jobs and mounting bills and relief can only be found in booze and casual sex. Told in the style of an adult version of Sesame Street, the show is blessed with a brilliant witty score from Lopez and Marx which keeps a welcome edge to the show’s gooey heart and songs like ‘The Internet is for Porn’, ‘Everyone’s A Little Bit Racist’ and ‘If You Were Gay’ are instantly memorable classics which sit easily next to the bittersweet emotion of ‘It’s A Fine Fine Line’ and ‘Fantasies Come True’.  Continue reading “Review: Avenue Q, Greenwich Theatre”