Review: Footloose, Peacock

“Been working so hard

I’m punching my card
Two hours for what?”
Jeez Louise, it gives me no pleasure to report this production of Footloose is among the worst things I’ve seen this year. Jukebox musicals are fine in their place, movie adaptations likewise are ever increasingly the norm but they need love and inspiration to elevate them, rather than the workaday effort and dead-eyed calculation they get here.
Perhaps its the result of coming at the tail end of over a year’s touring, perhaps it was a crowd not quite as enthused as the audience of a feel-good show need to be to give it that lift, perhaps it’s just not very good. There’s a real sense of mechanical action about the production, everything moves in the correct way but there’s zero spontaneity here, little sense of the precious ‘liveness’ of great theatre.
If you can’t get a Strallen, then book a Nolan – Maureen is the show’s strongest asset as the only cast member to really try and bring any heart to her performance. The rest just make you wish that the ban on dancing was more strictly enforced, as well as mugging as if this was a panto. By the time Gareth Gates is wheeled out to strip down to hotpants, you’ll long be wishing that you could cut loose.
Running time: never has 2 hours 30 minutes felt so much like a lifetime
Booking until 30th September, then playing Royal Court, Liverpool 30 October-3 November

Album Review: The Three Little Pigs

“The world is perfect, perfect, perfect for a pig!”

Listening to their newly released cast recording of Goldilocks And The Three Bears, I was reminded that I have had Stiles and Drewe’s The Three Little Pigs on my ‘to listen to’ pile for ages now and with a theatrical production about to start at the Palace Theatre, what better time than now to finally get round to it. 

A response to a commission from Singapore Repertory Theatre’s Little Company, The Three Little Pigs is the first in Stiles & Drewe’s fairytale-based Trilogy of Trios – the bears are the second instalment and next year should see The Three Billy Goats Gruff receive the same family-friendly treatment. Continue reading “Album Review: The Three Little Pigs”

CD Review: Somewhere in the Audience

“You feel the urge, you think you can’t help it”

Eric Woolfson may be better known as the creator, songwriter and lyricist of The Alan Parsons Project but as a writer of musical theatre, in the great tradition of David Hasselhoff, he was big in Germany (and other parts of Europe and Asia). He passed away in 2009 but a compilation of music from four of his musicals – Gaudi, Gambler, Poe and Dancing Shadows – has been put together with the hope of resuscitating interest in his work either side of the Atlantic.

Somewhere in the Audience is a curious CD – on first listen, one is smacked over the head with the dated feel of the material. Not necessarily in a bad way but rather that the arrangements are so definitively of their time (the late 80s and 90s) that they distract from everything else. Take a number like ‘Too Late’ – sung with charisma and verve by Tim Howar, Louise Dearman and James Fox, it has a magnificently stirring drive to its structure but given the arrangement it gets here, it calls to mind a Central European power pop number with a jerky shoulder dance routine.  Continue reading “CD Review: Somewhere in the Audience”

Review: Legally Blonde The Musical, New Wimbledon

“You need to see me in a brand new domain” 

Legally Blonde The Musical turned out to be something of a surprise: a show that I grew to really love over my three visits during its West End run (review#1, review#2, review#3), whilst making a bona fide star out of its leading lady Sheridan Smith. I may not have been blown away by it on first viewing, but it worked its way into my heart and its soundtrack is one that I listen to quite often even now. Capitalising on its finish in London, a national tour of the show has taken up shop in the New Wimbledon Theatre, giving Londoners another chance to dip into the world of Elle Woods, if they’re willing to go to zone 3 that is.

Revisiting something that was so enjoyed though can have its pitfalls, as comparisons are invariably drawn. Some of it is about the realities of seeing a touring version of a show – the set will never be as impressive as in a West End house, but the design here really does come up short on a couple of occasions and the sound quality was shocking in parts. Elsewhere, some performances left me disappointed especially as the casting decisions don’t always seem to have hit the mark. It feels a little churlish to criticise Faye Brookes for not being Sheridan Smith, but her Elle doesn’t capture the loveability that is needed to keep the show swinging through its slower parts and to keep the audience invested. Gareth Gates takes on the thankless role of Warner very much against type and I’m not sure I bought him as the heartbreaker. Both sounded excellent though. Continue reading “Review: Legally Blonde The Musical, New Wimbledon”

Review: A Very Musical Evening, Wilton’s Music Hall

A Very Musical Evening, at Wilton’s Music Hall was an event in aid of the Teenage Cancer Trust, compered by Aled Jones and a really rather lovely way to spend a Sunday evening (and it had to be, given that Dame Maggie Smith was on offer on TV!) A star studded cast worked their way through an entertaining programme stuffed full of Stiles & Drewe’s witty and powerful songs but also featuring a wide range of other musical theatre and pop offerings in the world’s oldest working music hall and one of London’s most atmospheric venues.

We learned a lot: Hannah Waddingham was announced as the Wicked Witch of the West in Andrew Lloyd Webber’s forthcoming Wizard of Oz; the way to get ahead in musical theatre is to live in the same building as a composer, the UK is a world leader in looking after teenagers with cancer, Joanthan Groff visited Brighton for the first time last week and loved it (quelle surprise!) and Cameron Mackintosh is the most excited he has been since Les Mis about upcoming Stiles & Drewe musical Betty Blue Eyes, based on Alan Bennett’s A Private Function. Continue reading “Review: A Very Musical Evening, Wilton’s Music Hall”

Review: Les Misérables, Barbican

“Will you join in our crusade? Who will be strong and stand with me?”

When I first started this blogging lark, I thought that what I wanted was to be ‘respected’ as a ‘serious’ theatregoer and whilst I’ve never been ashamed of being a huge fan of musical theatre amongst many other things, I’d always been uneasy about demonstrating that too much. But after great conversations with so many of my new friends in the online reviewing community, I’ve come to fully appreciate that integrity really does come from being truly honest about things that I see and the things that I love and this could not have been better illuminated than in the last two days: an obscure Sondheim revival at the Donmar and the umpteenth time of seeing Les Misérables, albeit in a new production and I can proudly say that it was Les Mis that came out as a clear winner for me despite what my inner snob may have wanted me to say!

Based on Victor Hugo’s novel, Alain Boublil and Claude-Michel Schönberg adapted it for the stage in 1980, and it first played in London at the Barbican, produced by Cameron Mackintosh and directed by Trevor Nunn, transferring to the Palace and then the Queen’s Theatre where it is still running after 25 years. And to mark that 25th anniversary, Mackintosh conceived this touring version of the show, directed by Lawrence Connor and James Powell (a decision which sadly left Nunn’s nose out of joint) and after touring the country, it has now arrived back at its original home at the Barbican for 22 performances only. Continue reading “Review: Les Misérables, Barbican”

Album Reviews: Elena Roger – Vientos del Sur + A Spoonful of Stiles and Drewe

Now for something a little different. Whilst on holiday, I listened to a lot of music whilst lying by the pool, and I’ve been raving about much of it since my return so I thought I’d pop a couple of brief cd reviews on here, mainly musical theatre records or at least cds by musical theatre people. And if it’s well received, I’ll work my way through my cd collection!

Continue reading “Album Reviews: Elena Roger – Vientos del Sur + A Spoonful of Stiles and Drewe”

Review: Joseph and the Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat (again), Adelphi

If there was going to be any play or musical that appeared twice on this blog, it had to be Joseph and the Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat. As clearly explained in my first entry, this is probably my favourite musical (certainly in my top three) and so when I was offered a free ticket to the press night of the relaunch with Gareth Gates in the title role, there was no chance of me resisting!

Gareth Gates has been slotted into the gap left by Lee Mead with seemingly no major changes that I could ascertain. The only real difference that I could see was due to Gates’ relative youth, and also his youthful appearance. He plays the early scenes with Jacob and the brothers as more of an obnoxious brat, which kind of makes sense in terms of driving them to “fratricide” and so in this way his youth worked for him. The other time it was noticeably different was in the reunion scene when Joseph plants the golden cup. As Gareth Gates sings “Benjamin, you nasty youth…”, it was hard to suppress a smile as the actor playing Benjamin looks a good few years older than him. Continue reading “Review: Joseph and the Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat (again), Adelphi”

Review: Joseph and the Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat, Adelphi

For me, there’s no doubt about what the first theatre post would be about. I have probably seen Joseph and the Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat something like 20 times, played piano for one production, percussion for another, and sung in it twice (both times in the chorus 🙁 ). It occupies such a special place in my heart, and that of most of my families’ too, that I doubt I could ever grow tired of it. That said, the most recent production of this before the latest reboot, came pretty close to ruination, Stephen Gately has a lot to answer for!

Anyhow, that’s all in the past. Lee Mead won the much documented Any Dream Will Do BBC talent search and took the lead role in July 2007, and what a job he does! This was the second time I have seen this production and it still surprised me with the energy that is brings to what is such familiar material. Lee Mead really does have the air of a superstar about him and commands the stage with such gravitas, it is hard to drag the eyes away from him, plus he can’t half hold a tune, injecting real emotion into Any Dream Will Do which is no small feat. Jenna Lee James as the Narrator does not please quite as much. She seems to auditioning for a lead in another musical and belts out her numbers with varying degrees of success and little care for her diction, she appears more interested in adlibbing than actually narrating the story. Continue reading “Review: Joseph and the Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat, Adelphi”