Review: The Distance You Have Come, Cockpit

A Scott Alan song cycle promises much but The Distance You Have Come doesn’t quite deliver at the Cockpit Theatre, despite its excellent cast

“I deserve to be seen
This dream feels way overdue”

Scott Alan’s reputation as a songwriter is without question. Over a number of albums over the last decade (a fair few of which I’ve reviewed here), he’s been able to count on an extraordinary array of performers to bring his music to life, songs which are unafraid to chart the lows as well as the highs of living, loving, losing, dreaming… The Distance You Have Come sees him maintain that quality of guestlist in a live setting, as he entwines together over 20 of his compositions into a song cycle.

It proves a curious enterprise though, one which doesn’t quite cohere in a way that the quality of these songs deserves. Alan wrote the book for the show, as well as directing, and you do wonder whether an outside perspective might have helped. The book tries to do an awful lot in the space of a few snatched sentences between songs and its ambition feels somewhat unnecessary if the show is to be a song cycle rather than a fledgling musical. Continue reading “Review: The Distance You Have Come, Cockpit”

Review: Unexpected Joy, Southwark Playhouse

I have a gay old time with warm-hearted new musical Unexpected Joy at the Southwark Playhouse

“I wanna show you what a woman can do”

One way to assess whether we’re getting closer to true equality when it comes to telling LGBT+ stories is when we can safely say that there’s a diversity in those stories. I can fully appreciate why some might feel frustrated at the simple primary colours of this coming-out story, of its (relatively) uncomplicated emotion but at the same time, isn’t it great to see a lesbian take on a mainstream rom-com trope, aimed at the silver pound to boot.

The Joy of Unexpected Joy is a baby-boomer era who is marking the one year anniversary of the death of Jump, her creative and life partner. And as she prepares for a concert celebrating his music, she invites her estranged tele-evangelist daughter and grand-daughter to share in the moment. And also to break the news that she is getting married, to a woman – that’s the unexpected bit, testing the familial bonds between these three generations of women.  Continue reading “Review: Unexpected Joy, Southwark Playhouse”

Album Review: Surrounded by the Sounds – the music of Tim Prottey-Jones (2011)

“She screamed, I think – it was hard to hear”

Surrounded by the Sounds – the music of Tim Prottey-Jones is the second of actor/writer Prottey-Jones’ albums featuring a whole array of his West End pals, but the third that I’ve reviewed (see reviews of More With Every Line and To Do. To Be.) It features songs from two of Prottey-Jones musicals – Once Bitten and After The Turn – and has a decidedly more pronounced rock feel to it than either of his other collections.

As such, it didn’t quite tickle my fancy in the way that I might have liked, especially since To Do. To Be. had impressed me. And it’s not that this is a collection of bad songs, they’re just not my cup of tea. Such guitars, much rock, so not wow. Even when the tempo slows a little into ballad territory, as with Michael Xavier’s ‘Chance In A Lifetime’ or Jodie Jacobs’ ‘Colour Me’, it is still just too monotonely guitar-heavy for my liking.

 

 

Review: Lizzie, Greenwich Theatre

“In the house of Borden, there’s a lock on every door”

I’d be fibbing if I tried to claim that rock is my kind of music. Although even as I say that, I’ve a residual fondness for the big hair and tunes of Heart from my childhood, Skunk Anansie figured large in my teenage years, and seeing Peaches live at the Astoria is one of my all time live music highlights, so evidently I’m more partial to (female) rock than I instinctively realise. 

And maybe it’s just my frame of reference but elements of all three intermittently came to mind in Lizzie, written by Steven Cheslik-DeMeyer, Alan Stevens Hewitt and Tim Maner. The storytelling of opener ‘The House of Borden’ is rooted in melodious soft rock, Eden Espinisa’s extraordinary vocal can’t help but bring to mind Skin at her fiercest and the chants of Somebody Will Do Something’ felt but a breath away from ‘Fuck the Pain Away’. Continue reading “Review: Lizzie, Greenwich Theatre”

Festive news #1: West End Up Close… at Christmas

‘Tis the season for goodwill to all, and proving most generous with their time are various sets of musical theatre performers who are doing all sorts of charitable endeavours this December. First up are the guys at Relative Motion have just announced West End Up Close… at Christmas, their third concert in partnership with The House of St Barnabas, a charity and members’ club in the heart of Soho.

After sold-out concerts earlier this year with Jodie Jacobs and Julie Atherton, this festive concert will take place on Wednesday 14th December at 7.30pm feature the amazing talents of Madalena Alberto, Julie Atherton, Julie Jupp, Joshua LeClair, Nigel Richards and George Ure as they bring some of their favourite songs and seasonal classics to the Chapel of St Barnabas in an intimate, acoustic concert, musically directed by James Taylor. Continue reading “Festive news #1: West End Up Close… at Christmas”

Review: 27, Cockpit

“The public will like whatever I tell them to like”

If only the public were so gullible… New rock musical 27 has nearly completed a substantial run at the Cockpit Theatre so I took my time to see it, knowing that many a show that has described itself as a rock musical has proven not to be my cup of tea. And thus it turned out with Sam Cassidy and Matt Wills’ 27, a mishmash of classical and modern myths that ends up something of an unholy mess.

At the forefront, just about, is the story of Orpheus, reinterpreted here for the modern world as wannabe rocker Jason (with a band called the Argonauts…) who does a Faustian deal with the devil for instant fame (see what I mean about those influences…) but ends up chasing through the underworld to rescue his girlfriend who has succumbed to a drug overdose.  Continue reading “Review: 27, Cockpit”

CD Review: MS. A Song Cycle

“I wish you didn’t have to be in pain” 
 
Multiple Sclerosis affects over 100,000 people in the UK alone. 

 

One of the accusations often levelled by detractors of musical theatre is that it is fanciful, frivolous stuff, unable of taking subjects seriously. And whilst the form undoubtedly can have its lighter moments, I’d challenge anyone to listen to this new song cycle inspired by women living with multiple sclerosis and remain unmoved. MS. A Song Cycle is the brainchild of lyricist Rory Sherman, who has worked with SimG Productions, musical supervisor Ellie Verkerk and 14 different teams of composers and performers to create a delicately but undeniably powerful collection of stories, that gain in that power from being sung so beautifully as they are here.
 
More than two to three times more women are affected than men
 

Review: Legally Blonde, Upstairs at the Gatehouse

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

A bit of a change over at Upstairs at the Gatehouse has seen their customary Christmas musical take on a more modern bent after recent successes with classics such as Guys and Dolls, Crazy For You and Singin’ in the Rain. Over the past years, many a West End musical has been cleverly refashioned for this intimate space in Highgate, where fringe premieres of The Drowsy Chaperone, Buddy, and Avenue Q have previously been seen, and it is to the latest of these that the in-house Ovation Theatres have turned with Legally Blonde the Musical.

Like protagonist Elle Woods herself, the show might easily be dismissed on superficial grounds but it is worth remembering that it managed over three years at the Savoy in the cutthroat world of the West End musical and also took home the Olivier for Best New Musical. A good deal of that was due to the winning charms of Sheridan Smith but there’s also no denying that Laurence O’Keefe and Nell Benjamin’s ebullient score and Heather Hach’s adroitly pitched book from Amanda Brown’s novel and the Reese Witherspoon-starring film taps into something irresistible. Continue reading “Review: Legally Blonde, Upstairs at the Gatehouse”

Review: Jest End, Waterloo East

“Oh God I cannot stand this cow
But let’s act happy for now”

As with Forbidden Broadway, your enjoyment of Jest End relies heavily on a considerable familiarity with the theatrical landscape that it is poking fun at – the productions, the performers, the producers, the private in-jokes that make it tough to recommend for the uninitiated. Garry Lake’s musical revue premiered in 2007 and through a number of productions, updated each time, has adapted familiar showtunes and used them to parody the frolics and foibles of the West End and beyond.

So ‘Defying Gravity’ from Wicked becomes ‘Rely On Me The Lead’, Matilda’s ‘The Smell of Rebellion’ turns into ‘Jest End of Rebellion’, ‘Memphis Lives In Me’ from Memphis becomes ‘My Fans Believe In Me’ etc etc. And issues like celebrity casting, ticket prices and the business practices of certain West End (and off-West End) impresarios are raked over the coals, but always with a twinkle in the eye even in the satire’s sharpest barbs.  Continue reading “Review: Jest End, Waterloo East”