Winners of the 2020 Olivier Awards

Best Actor in a Supporting Role in a Musical                                          
David Bedella for & Juliet at Shaftesbury Theatre – WINNER
Stewart Clarke for Fiddler On The Roof at Playhouse Theatre
Jack Loxton for Dear Evan Hansen at Noël Coward Theatre
Rupert Young for Dear Evan Hansen at Noël Coward Theatre                          

Best Actress in a Supporting Role in a Musical
Lucy Anderson for Dear Evan Hansen at Noël Coward Theatre
Petula Clark for Mary Poppins at Prince Edward Theatre
Cassidy Janson for & Juliet at Shaftesbury Theatre – WINNER
Lauren Ward for Dear Evan Hansen at Noël Coward Theatre                

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News: Michelle Collins fundraises #ForTheLoveOfArts

A new series of monologues, curated and produced by Michelle Collins alongside the Equity Benevolent Fund, has been released online for charity. Entitled “#FortheLoveofArts”, the scheme sees acting talent come together to raise funds for beleaguered artists and individuals during the ongoing pandemic.

Appearing in the series are Lesley Manville, Ian McKellen, Adjoa Andoh, Miriam-Teak Lee, Derek Jacobi, Layton Williams, Sue Johnston, Jason Watkins, Sanjeev Bhaskar, Pearl Mackie and more. Some of the monologues are brand new works penned especially for the series.

The monologues can be viewed on the Equity Benevolent Fund’s YouTube channel.

Lockdown theatre review: Curtains

The curtains are lifted once again for Curtains as it is available to watch online again

“I’m sorry but this theatre is in quarantine”

I enjoyed the Kander & Ebb musical Curtains when it made its long-awaited West End debut over the festive period, and was saddened when its ambitious UK tour had to be curtailed once lockdown was enforced. The producers had filmed a performance from early in the run though for their archive and have generously made it available to watch through their website here. And for the completist in me, it has turned out well as it meant I have the opportunity now to see Ore Oduba in the role that Andy Coxon covered for the West End stint.

Paul Foster’s production is great fun, full of wryly comic performances (Samuel Holmes is a standout here), stunning dance (Alan Burkitt – swoon!) and musical theatre gloriousness (you’ll wonder how Rebecca Lock isn’t a bigger name). And I don’t know about other people, but I’ve been craving escapist entertainment much more than anything too serious and Curtains certainly fits the bill (it’s all the more impressive considering it was indeed early in the run for them). Move quickly and watch it tonight!

Album Review: #ZoologicalSociety

New musical #ZoologicalSociety, written by Vikki Stone and Kate Mulgrew, gets a well-timed concept album release

“You’ve been here for one day mate, I’ve been here for years”

With a sense of impeccable timing, new musical #ZoologicalSociety launches with a concept album. The plan was to accompany the digital release with a live concert performance at BEAM 2020, the UK’s leading showcase of new British musical theatre but whilst that obviously isn’t happening, the album is now available for our delectation, thanks to Joe and Nikki Davison at Auburn Jam Music who produced, recorded, mixed and mastered the music.

The first of a series of entirely original musical commissions from Northampton’s Royal & Derngate, Vikki Stone and Katie Mulgrew’s #ZoologicalSociety takes its simple concept – animals going through the same societal pressures as humans – and fashions a rather winning musical comedy out of it. Continue reading “Album Review: #ZoologicalSociety”

Review: Curtains, Wyndham’s Theatre

A Kander & Ebb premiere in the West End you say? Curtains makes its bow at the Wyndham’s Theatre and I had an arrestingly good time with it

“Shall we all observe a moment of silence…
to match the audience’s response to Jessica’s first number”

There’s no denying that theatre loves shows about theatre and on the Charing Cross Road right now, you’ve got a play within a play at the Garrick right next to a musical about a musical at the Wyndham’s. Curtains ups the ante though by throwing in a murder mystery as well for good measure and the result is a something of a good old-fashioned romp, blessed with that rarest of things, a barely-known Kander & Ebb score. Having only received a few drama school productions (I saw it at Arts Ed

The show dates back to 2006 but had a tricky road to completion as original book writer Peter Stone died before finishing it, Rupert Holmes stepping in to rewrite, and Fred Ebb also passed away a year later, with Kander and Holmes completing the lyrical content. Curtains managed a relatively successful run on Broadway but for whatever reason, it never made the leap across the Atlantic (into the West End at least) until now, as Paul Foster’s touring production steps neatly into a scheduling gap to provide an alternative cup of Christmas cheer. Continue reading “Review: Curtains, Wyndham’s Theatre”

10 questions for 10 years – Paul Foster

Director Paul Foster (no relation, honest!) takes on the 10for10 challenge

Paul Foster has two major projects in the near future – diving into The Deep Blue Sea with the glorious Nancy Caroll and opening a UK tour of Curtains with Jason Manford. And it is surely in no small part to his revelatory work on A Little Night Music (featuring a career-best Josefina Gabrielle) at the Watermill in 2017 that his star is rising so.

I asked him to recall a little of that time:

“A testament to truly brilliant creative colleagues and a matchless cast that we pulled it off in four weeks!. The quality of that material is so apparent and to get to know Sondheim a little as we prepared for it was incredible. I’d got his autograph when I worked the cloakroom at the National but left it on the 91 bus, so the emails and calls squared the circle!”

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Midlife Crooner Crisis Album Reviews

With Top of the Pops cruelly taken away from us, I’ve rarely much of a clue as to what in the charts. But I doubt even the most knowledgable of experts could have predicted that one of 2016’s biggest albums would come from the presenter of The Chase. Chasing Dreams ended the year as the second biggest UK debut and perhaps unsurprisingly given his key demographic, achieved that with predominantly physical sales.

So the arrival of a follow-up was never in doubt but it brings with it competition, from a whole raft of middle-aged white male presenters seeking to tap into those CD sales. And me being the kind soul that I am, I’ve listened to some of them, mainly so that you don’t have to…as it’s not a field overflowing with the kind of music that floats my boat. Each to their own though.  Continue reading “Midlife Crooner Crisis Album Reviews”

Album Review: Jason Manford – A Different Stage

 “I’ll gather up my past, and make some sense at last”

Unless you’ve caught him in tours of The Producers or Chitty Chitty Bang Bang or in occasional TV performances, you might not know that comedian Jason Manford can sing. He’s even tackled Sondheim, stepping into the role of Pirelli in the Staunton/Ball Sweeney Todd for a while back in 2011, and so it is little surprise that his debut album A Different Stage should turn out be one of showtunes and standards.

Manford’s voice emerges as a solid and mannered instrument and clear as a bell, his singing veers towards the precise. This is most effective on the likes of Chitty’s ‘Hushabye Mountain’, sung sweetly with former co-star Rosanna Bates and And much of the material tends towards the booming inspirational anthems beloved of his friend Alfie Boe – ‘This Is My Life’, ‘This Is The Moment’, ‘The Impossible Dream’, all effective if a little similar. Continue reading “Album Review: Jason Manford – A Different Stage”

Review: Songs and Solidarity, Trafalgar Studios

“We could see this was a bad one immediately. The sky was glowing.”
 
Touted as an evening of song, dance and poetry, Songs and Solidarity was a remarkable event indeed. A fundraising gala evening pulled together in the space of a week by the superhuman efforts of actor Giles Terera and producer Danielle Tarento, it was a concert for the hundreds of families made homeless and the relatives of those who lost their lives in the Grenfell Tower fire. Hosted by Claire Sweeney, musically directed by the enormously talented Tim Sutton, 
 
The balance of the programme was just right too. From pure musical loveliness like the gentle harmonies of Tyrone Huntley and Jon Robyns on Cyndi Lauper’s ‘True Colors’ and the simplicity of Rachel Tucker’s acapella take on ‘She Moved Through The Fair’, to the more intense emotion of Terera’s own ‘Ol’ Man River’ and a visibly moved Clare Foster’s ‘Don’t Worry About Me’ (a song with which I wasn’t familiar but rather destroyed me). From the much-needed comic relief of Stiles & Drewe skipping through ‘A Little Bit of Nothing On A Big White Plate’ to the soul-warming ‘Indiscriminate Acts Of Kindness’ performed by the ever excellent Julie Atherton.

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DVD Review: Ripper Street Series 3

“In Whitechapel, they die every day”

When low ratings for series 2 of Ripper Street saw the BBC decide to pull the plug on it, it was something of a surprise to hear Amazon Video would be taking it over (this was 2014 after all) in a deal that would see episodes released first for streaming, and then shown on the BBC a few months later. And thank the ripper that they did, for I’d argue that this was the best series yet, the storytelling taking on an epic quality as it shifted the personal lives of its key personnel into the frontline with a series-long arc to extraordinary effect.

And this ambition is none more so evident than in the first episode which crashes a train right in the middle of Whitechapel, reuniting Reid with his erstwhile comrades Drake and Jackson four years on since we last saw them. A catastrophic event in and of itself, killing over 50 people, it also set up new villain Capshaw (the always excellent John Heffernan) and brilliantly complicated the character of Susan, promoting her to a deserved series lead as her keen eye for business, and particularly supporting the women of Whitechapel, throws her up against some hard choices. Continue reading “DVD Review: Ripper Street Series 3”