The finalists of The Offies 2019

Some decisions that reflect my own nominations for the year, many others for plays I haven’t seen and as ever, some curious choices too.

DESIGN
COSTUME DESIGN
Gabriella Slade for Six at the Arts Theatre
Jonathan Lipman for Harold & Maude at the Charing Cross Theatre
Pam Tait for Rothschild & Sons at the Park Theatre

SET DESIGN
Bethany Wells for Distance at the Park Theatre
Francis O’Connor for Harold & Maude at the Charing Cross Theatre
Simon Daw for Humble Boy at the Orange Tree Theatre Continue reading “The finalists of The Offies 2019”

The Barricade Boys announce a Christmas Cabaret season with an amazing guest cast

As Mrs Merton might have asked, what first attracted you to musical theatre supergroup The Barricade Boys…?

Clearly, it was their cumulative musical talent – between them, Scott Garnham, Simon Schofield, Craig Mather and Kieran Brown have racked up credits in pretty much every major musical from The Phantom of The Opera, Wicked and Billy Elliot to Jersey Boys, The Sound Of Music and Les Misérables. And now they’re bringing their cabaret show to The Other Palace’s Studio for a Christmas season which is enough to bring festive cheer to even the most Scrooge-like of hearts. Continue reading “The Barricade Boys announce a Christmas Cabaret season with an amazing guest cast”

Review: School of Rock, New London

“Wreck your room and rip your jeans.
Show ‘em what rebellion means”

The 2003 Jack Black-starring film School of Rock was a big success, trading off its stock talent show plot device with genuine rock music credentials in a soundtrack full of the likes of AC/DC, Led Zeppelin and The Doors. So it was a little bit of a surprise to find that Andrew Lloyd-Webber decided to adapt it into an original musical – his version of rock is certainly not the same as that espoused by Dewey Finn, School of (Pop-)Rock perhaps.

But one sticky moment aside (where a snippet of Stevie Nicks’ Edge of Seventeen sits awkwardly alongside a rock ballad ‘Where Did the Rock Go?’ exposing the contrast between the two kinds of rock), this School of Rock is a cheerily appealing slice of musical theatre. And with a seemingly endless role call of talented youngsters who, as we’re reminded at the beginning and the end of the show, play all their own instruments live, shows off a wealth of emerging British musical theatre talent. Continue reading “Review: School of Rock, New London”

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”

Preview: Beautiful – The Carole King Musical, Aldwych Theatre

“An everlasting vision of the ever-changing view”

I can’t really pinpoint the moment when I first discovered Carole King’s music, and specifically the long-player Tapestry, but it has long been a personal favourite, ever since I was a kid really. I’m sure my parents would have had a copy of the original by the record player but perhaps appropriately for someone who initially came to fame as a songwriter rather than a singer, it is covers of her work that stand out as the earliest memories – Martika taking on ‘I Feel The Earth Move’, Dina Carroll lending her chocolate-smooth vocal to ‘It’s Too Late’…, the slightly odd tribute album featuring the Bee Gees, Aretha Franklin, Céline Dion and Eternal amongst others.

In this day and age it is but a natural progression that someone should fashion a musical from King’s back catalogue and in Beautiful – The Carole King Musical, due to arrive at the Aldwych Theatre in February 2015 fresh from its Tony-winning success on Broadway, we have the very thing. Starring 2-time fosterIAN award nominee Katie Brayben as Carole King (a casting decision that I think is pretty much perfect, a great chance for Brayben to get deservedly more notice) and with a supporting cast that includes Glynis Barber, Alan Morrissey, Lorna Want, Gary Trainor and Ian McIntosh, it looks set to take the West End by storm.

Review: I Can’t Sing, Palladium

“It’s a no, it’s a yes, it’s a no from me”

One of the most profitable television franchises in the UK, a much-loved comedian writing the book, a £6 million budget…there’s clearly considerable heft behind the latest musical to establish itself in the London Palladium. But the marriage of Harry Hill’s bizarre comic sensibility, Steve Brown’s bright if hollow score and the ITV juggernaut that is the X-Factor makes for uneasy bedfellows, Sean Foley’s garish production eschewing any kind of subtlety for the broadest kind of populist swoop.

I Can’t Sing is a show that constantly wants to have its cake and eat it. Faux-Dermot presenter Liam O’Deary gets a laugh by exasperating at one point “I don’t know why you might be charged” when the phone lines have closed, presumably the response “because they continue to make money for the production company” was mixed in previews. The TV show’s heavy reliance on tear-jerking backstories is a running gag yet nothing dispels the myth that that is the way to get noticed on a talent show. Likewise the qualifications of the panel to be judges of a popular music contest are skewered yet they remain feted as a special brand of celebrity. Continue reading “Review: I Can’t Sing, Palladium”