Re-review: Follies 2019, National Theatre

Follies 2019 remains the show that I need right now

“I’m so glad I came”

Just a quickie for this revisit to Follies, which remains as perfect a piece of musical theatre as I could hope for. I loved it then but I really love it now, Joanna Riding is just heartbreakingly perfect as Sally, she really brings something to the role that somehow eluded Imelda Staunton (for me at least), Alexander Hanson is superb in tracing Ben’s tragic fall, and Janie Dee and Peter Forbes maintain their stellar work as Phyllis and Buddy (seriously, Dee is a proper showstopper).

And as is surely appropriate in Dominic Cooke’s production, ghosts of the past interplay with what we’re seeing from top to bottom. It was great to see Dame Felicity Lott as Heidi, a different but no less affecting proposition than Dame Josephine Barstow (there truly ain’t nothing like a…). And the young talents of Gemma Sutton, Ian McIntosh, Harry Hepple and Christine Tucker are eloquently elegant as the younger incarnations of the central quartet. Continue reading “Re-review: Follies 2019, National Theatre”

Review: Follies 2019, National Theatre

The Olivier Award-winning Follies returns to the National Theatre in richer, deeper, more resonant form and just blows me away

“It’s the cat’s pyjamas”

Like the ghosts of their younger selves that haunt the characters in Follies so beautifully in this production, for those who were lucky enough to catch its superlative Olivier Award-winning 2017 run, so too do our memories interplay with what we’re seeing, inducing some soul-shiveringly exceptional moments that are almost metatheatrical in the feelings they provoke. 

The tingle of anticipation is never far away but the show somehow feels richer, deeper, more resonant in the note of melancholy it strikes as it exposes nostalgia for the rose-tinted self-delusion it so often becomes. Janie Dee’s Phyllis somehow feels more desolate, especially in her bitterly brilliant ‘Could I Leave You’; Tracie Bennett scorches the roof once more in ‘I’m Still Here’ in what feels like a more internal performance now; we’re all at least a year older… Continue reading “Review: Follies 2019, National Theatre”

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”

fosterIAN awards 2018

 WinnerRunner-upOther nominees
Best Actress in a PlayLeah Harvey, Clare Perkins & Vinette Robinson, EmiliaSarah Gordy, JellyfishPatsy Ferran, Summer and Smoke
Marieke Heebink, Oedipus
Elinor Lawless, To Have To Shoot Irishmen
Carey Mulligan, Girls and Boys
Sarah Niles, Leave Taking
Best Actor in a Play
Kyle Soller, The InheritanceHans Kesting, OedipusPaapa Essiedu, The Convert
Ben Batt, The York Realist
Ian Bonar, Jellyfish
Richard Harrington, Home I'm Darling
Shubnam Saraf, An Adventure
Best Supporting Actress in a PlayCecilia Noble, Nine NightMartha Plimpton, SweatAdjoa Andoh, Leave Taking
Eva Feiler, A Midsummer Night's Dream (Watermill)
Penny Layden, Jellyfish
Lashana Lynch, ear for eye
Charity Wakefield, Emilia
Best Supporting Actor in a PlayPaul Hilton, The InheritanceForbes Masson, Summer and SmokeLouis Bernard, Much Ado About Nothing (Antic Disposition)
Demetri Goritsas, ear for eye
Wil Johnson, Leave Taking
Nicky Priest, Jellyfish
Sam Troughton, Stories
Best Actress in a MusicalRosalie Craig, CompanyKaisa Hammarlund, Fun HomeBonnie Langford, 42nd Street
Eva Noblezada, Hadestown
Caroline O'Connor, The Rink
Gemma Sutton, The Rink
Adrienne Warren, Tina the Musical
Best Actor in a MusicalSteven Miller, Sunshine on LeithAndrew Finnigan, DripPaul-James Corrigan, Sunshine on Leith
Arinzé Kene, Misty
Michael Mather, Mythic
Leon Scott, Midnight
Zubin Varla, Fun Home
Best Supporting Actress in a Musical
Patti LuPone, CompanyAmber Gray, HadestownNaana Agyei-Ampadu, Caroline or Change
Vivien Carter, Sweet Charity (Watermill)
Genevieve McCarthy, Mythic
Hilary McLean, Sunshine on Leith
Seyi Omooba, Christina Modestou & Renée Lamb, Little Shop of Horrors
Best Supporting Actor in a MusicalJonathan Bailey, CompanyPatrick Page & André de Shields, HadestownAlex Cardall, Sweet Charity (Watermill)
Alex James Ellison, The Secret Garden Albion
Richard Fleeshman, Company
Matt Willis, Little Shop of Horrors

2018 Best Actress in a Play + in a Musical

Best Actress in a Play

Leah Harvey, Clare Perkins, Vinette Robinson, Emilia
For the second year running, this award goes three ways as apparently I’m a sucker for a women-heavy production (who knew!). But there’s something more here, it wasn’t just about how Harvey, Perkins and Robinson shared the role of the title character in Emilia, its how they supported each other through it as well, reinforcing the play’s cry for the necessity of solidarity. Everyman? Every-Emilia! 

Honourable mention: Sarah Gordy, Jellyfish
A deeply empathetic performance from Gordy underscored the undersung importance of this production – her searingly honest Kelly opened the eyes and touched the hearts of surely everyone who saw Jellyfish

Patsy Ferran, Summer and Smoke
Marieke Heebink, Oedipus
Elinor Lawless, To Have To Shoot Irishmen
Carey Mulligan, Girls and Boys
Sarah Niles, Leave Taking

8-10
Sophie Okonedo, Antony and Cleopatra; Lia Williams, The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie; Ria Zmitrowicz, Dance Nation

 

Best Actress in a Musical

Rosalie Craig, Company
Crowding us with love, forcing us to care…Craig’s initial casting as Bobbie garnered all sorts of headlines but once Marianne Elliott’s production opened, that attention was more than justified by a sterling turn from this most versatile of actors (don’t forget she’d only just finished a run in The Ferryman). A strikingly contemporary figure, she both integrated Bobbie better into the ensemble than ever before and made her stand out at just the right moments, ie making sure she got hers from Andy!

Honourable mention: Kaisa Hammarlund, Fun Home
Given some of the things that transferred into the West End, especially now the Ambassador’s has been freed up, it’s a travesty that Fun Home didn’t get to further its journey (for now at least), especially since it was anchored by a finely nuanced performance from the excellent Hammarlund. A small saving grace is that she’s now free to lead the cast of Violet in the New Year.

Bonnie Langford, 42nd Street
Eva Noblezada, Hadestown
Caroline O’Connor, The Rink
Gemma Sutton, The Rink
Adrienne Warren, Tina the Musical

8-10
Jocasta Almgill, Sunshine on Leith; Jemima Rooper, Little Shop of Horrors; Rebecca Trehearn, Sweet Charity (Nottingham Playhouse)/Gemma Sutton, Sweet Charity (Watermill)

Review: Sweet Charity, Watermill

Fun, laughs and yes, a good time. You’ll sure get a tingle in your feet for this Sweet Charity at the Watermill Theatre, Newbury

“I don’t pop my cork for every guy I see”

You can never have too much charity it would seem, and as Rebecca Trehearn prepares to take on the role of Charity Hope Valentine in Nottingham next month, Gemma Sutton tackles it here at the beautiful Watermill Theatre in Newbury. Sweet Charity, the 1966 musical by Cy Coleman, Dorothy Fields and Neil Simon is a curious choice for the constant revival it receives. Its sexual politics are askew, its dialogue cheesily dated, and these are issues that Paul Hart’s modernised take has to occasionally battle to address.

Setting it in contemporary New York has its pros and cons. Notions of metropolitan isolation and the trials of working in a gig economy are more resonant than ever. But without lyrical updating, ideas of female aspiration remain rooted in the last century – you win some, you lose some. The casting of Sutton (so very good recently in The Rink) is a definite win though, a bright splash of colour in a mostly monochrome world and it is nigh on impossible not to be enchanted by her determination to find love in a cruel world. Continue reading “Review: Sweet Charity, Watermill”

Review: The Rink, Southwark Playhouse

Get your roller-skates on and over to the Southwark Playhouse for a croking revival of Kander & Ebb’s The Rink with a stonkingly good Caroline O’Connor

“Noisy boys, long and lean.
Giggles of girls in the mezzanine”

All sorts of thoughts pass through your mind as you watch The Rink, at least they do if you’re me. Wouldn’t Gemma Sutton be perfect casting in the lead of the inevitable Lindsay Lohan: The Musical; does Jason Winter have the longest legs in musical theatre; does Caroline O’Connor have any trace of a Lancashire accent at all; didn’t Kander and Ebb write fricking fantastic songs for women; and does an ability to roller-skate in a musical make you a quadruple threat?

That’s not to say I was distracted whilst sweltering in the Southwark Playhouse during this preview on Saturday, but rather that my mind was entirely stimulated (not least when Winter does some kind of windmill move on the floor…😃). The Rink is one of those musicals that history hasn’t treated too kindly, despite a premiere that starred Chita Rivera and Liza Minnelli but with Adam Lenson’s expert hand at the tiller, this is a revival to treasure. Continue reading “Review: The Rink, Southwark Playhouse”

Album Review: Wit and Whimsy – Songs by Alexander S Bermange

“If only I were famous from the telly”

Across its two discs and twenty-three tracks, there’s an awful lot of whimsy to Alexander S Bermange’s latest compilation album Wit and Whimsy and not quite enough wit to sustain it. Bermange is a composer who has had as much success writing comic songs for radio as he has in straight-up musical theatre (the two shows of his that I’ve seen – The Route to Happiness and Thirteen Days were both part of festivals).

That said, he has an impressive contacts list as evidenced by the range of people who have joined in on the action here – Laura Pitt-Pulford, Tracie Bennett, David Bedella, Cassidy Janson, Emma Williams, even Christopher Biggins. And with a guest list of this quality, naturally there are moments that shine here. Continue reading “Album Review: Wit and Whimsy – Songs by Alexander S Bermange”

TV Review: Cilla

“The Black bird has landed”

It’s only taken me, ooh, a couple of years to get round to watching Cilla, a 2014 ITV miniseries written by Jeff Pope, in which time the small matter of Cilla Black’s passing has made it a more poignant piece. My main reason for watching though, its arrival on Netflix aside, was to finally catch up with Sheridan Smith’s portrayal of the Liverpudlian light entertainment behemoth, back in the days when she was just a Scouse lass called Priscilla White.

Pope’s script definitely has a touch of the rose-tinted about it but there’s no denying the amazing energy of Liverpool’s music scene in the 1960s that comes across in the first two episodes. Though she has a job as a typist – her mother proudly proclaims “the first in the family to be considered suitable for office work” – Cilla dreams of being a singer and is making quite the name for herself on the club circuit, building a following through club performances with upcoming bands such as a quartet called The Beatles. Continue reading “TV Review: Cilla”