10 of my top moments of the decade

Ever behind the curve, I present 10 of my top moments in a theatre over the last ten years (plus a few bonus extra ones because whittling down this list was hard, and it will probably be different tomorrow anyway!)

© James Bellorini

Extraordinary Public Acts for a National Theatre

The establishment of the Public Acts programme at the National Theatre offered up something sensational in Pericles, an initiative designed to connect grassroot community organisations with major theatres, resulting in a production that swept over 200 non-professional performers onto the stage of the Olivier to create something that moved me more than 99% of professional productions.  A truly joyous and momentous occasion. 

Honourable mention: this year’s musical take on As You Like It proved just as heart-swellingly beautiful over at the Queen’s Theatre Hornchurch. Continue reading “10 of my top moments of the decade”

Re-review: All change on the Strand for Dreamgirls and Kinky Boots

All change on the Strand for Dreamgirls and Kinky Boots post closing notices at the Savoy Theatre and Adelphi Theatre respectively, and I revisit both.

“Never let ‘em tell you who you ought to be
Just be”

Come mid-January, the Strand will look a fair bit different for theatregoers as both Kinky Boots and Dreamgirls have posted advance closing notices, leaving the Adelphi and the Savoy respectively on the same date, Saturday 12th January.  As sad as it is to see any show close though, both of these musicals have had a fairly decent run (Kinky Boots opened in August 2015, making it nearly 3 and a half years; Dreamgirls in November 2016, reaching two) and given how merciless the commercial market can be, I think both productions can hold their head up high with their West End runs.

And getting ahead of the game with those closing notices means that people still have many the opportunity to catch either or both of these shows before the final curtain. (I should add too, that both shows have announced that they will be touring the UK going into 2019.) I’ve paid both a revisit relatively recently and am happy to report that they both remain well worth seeing, due to some mighty fine performance. Oliver Tompsett has only just stepped into the role of Charlie Price but he is nigh-on perfect casting and his majestic voice suits Cyndi Lauper’s score down to a T and he’s clearly getting on well with Simon-Anthony Rhoden’s impressive Lola. Continue reading “Re-review: All change on the Strand for Dreamgirls and Kinky Boots”

The Curtain Up Show Album of the Year 2017 winners

Best UK Cast Recording
42nd Street – 2017 London Cast Recording
Bat Out Of Hell The Musical – Original Cast Recording
WINNER: Dreamgirls – Original London Cast Recording
Everybody’s Talking About Jamie – Original Concept Recording
Girl From The North Country – Original London West End Cast Recording
The Wind in the Willows – Cast Recording

Best American Cast Recording
Anastasia – Original Broadway Cast Recording
Come From Away – Original Broadway Cast Recording
WINNER: Dear Evan Hansen – Original Broadway Cast Recording
Hello, Dolly! – New Broadway Cast Recording
Spongebob Squarepants – Original Cast Recording
Sunday in the Park with George – 2017 Broadway Cast Recording

Best Solo Album/Non Cast Recording
WINNER: Collabro – Home
Leading Ladies – Songs From The Stage
Marisha Wallace – Soul Holiday
Patti LuPone – Don’t Monkey With Broadway
Rachel Tucker – On The Road
Sheridan Smith – Sheridan

Re-review: Dreamgirls, Savoy

Falling in love with Marisha Wallace in Dreamgirls is far too easy!

“You want all my love and my devotion”

As Dreamgirls goes into its second year in the West End and has just welcomed a new cast into the Savoy, what better time to revisit this most glittering of musicals. I must admit to going in with something of a sceptical mindset last time around, both in trying to resist the hype and letting thoughts of ticket prices and imported US leading ladies play on my mind. But all such things aside, this really is a belter of a show, a glowing, full-throated roller-coaster of an experience.

Marisha Wallace, Moya Angela and Karen Mav now share the role for which Amber Riley has won pretty much every award going and tonight’s Effie was the delightful Wallace, a powerhouse of a presence who pretty much nails it from start to finish. Another visitor from Broadway Brennyn Lark’s Deena is well played but I really loved Asmeret Ghebremichael’s Lorrell, possibly becoming the brightest of the Dreams despite the way the script goes. And off the men, Joe Aaron Reid’s Curtis remains a villainous delight.

It’s always lovely to see ensemble members be rewarded for their hard work and both Tosh Wanogho-Maud and Kimmy Edwards have made the leap, now playing Jimmy Early and Michelle Martin respectively. And the production as a whole remains as slick and shiny as it did when it first opened – with all those crystals, how could it not! Keep your eyes peeled for deals on the off-chance they pop up, or take a chance on TodayTix’s daily lottery – it’s worth the shot. And if that weren’t proof enough, here’s some productions shots courtesy of Dewynters. Continue reading “Re-review: Dreamgirls, Savoy”

The Curtain Up Show Album of the Year 2017 nominees

Best UK Cast Recording
42nd Street – 2017 London Cast Recording
Bat Out Of Hell The Musical – Original Cast Recording
Dreamgirls – Original London Cast Recording
Everybody’s Talking About Jamie – Original Concept Recording
Girl From The North Country – Original London West End Cast Recording
The Wind in the Willows – Cast Recording

Best American Cast Recording
Anastasia – Original Broadway Cast Recording
Come From Away – Original Broadway Cast Recording
Dear Evan Hansen – Original Broadway Cast Recording
Hello, Dolly! – New Broadway Cast Recording
Spongebob Squarepants – Original Cast Recording
Sunday in the Park with George – 2017 Broadway Cast Recording

Best Solo Album/Non Cast Recording
Collabro – Home
Leading Ladies – Songs From The Stage
Marisha Wallace – Soul Holiday
Patti LuPone – Don’t Monkey With Broadway
Rachel Tucker – On The Road
Sheridan Smith – Sheridan

Scott Alan announces Live at Zédel residency with special guests in 2018

Live At Zédel, Soho’s unique live entertainment concept at The Crazy Coqs, will host a week-long residency by acclaimed international songwriter Scott Alan, who will be joined by a host of special musical theatre guests each evening. Audiences will be treated to Scott, along with his special guests singing tunes from all 7 of his recordings and brand new songs from his upcoming release, Lifeline.

The schedule for the special guests joining Scott Alan is:
Sunday, January 28th – Alice Fearn, Sophie Evans and Bradley Jaden
Monday, January 29th – Matt Henry and Amy Lennox
Wednesday, January 31st – Tyrone Huntley, Kayleigh McKnight and Tim Newman
Thursday, February 1st – Natasha Barnes, Shanay Holmes, Jodie Steele, Shona White and Emma Williams.
Sunday, February 4th – Marisha Wallace, Asmeret Ghebremichael and Joe Aaron Reid
Scott Alan says: 

“I’m honoured to have been asked to return for another residency at Zedel. Taking the stage at this beautifully, intimate venue is the perfect way to celebrate a brand new year and teaming up with some of the biggest names in the London theatre scene is just icing on the cake!”

Sunday, January 28th, 2018 at 7pm
Special guests include Wicked trio Alice Fearn, Sophie Evans and Bradley Jaden
Monday, January 29th, 2018 at 7pm
Special guests include Olivier Winning Actor Matt Henry (Kinky Boots), Olivier nominated actress Amy Lennox, who earned rave reviews for her role as Lauren in the original West End cast of Kinky Boots
Wednesday, January 31st, 2018 at 7pm 
Special guests include Olivier Nominated Actor Tyrone Huntley (Jesus Christ Superstar), Tim Newman (Memphis) and Kayleigh McKnight (Les Misérables), whom Huntley recently appeared with in the Regent Park Open Air Theatre production of Jesus Christ Superstar.
Thursday, February 1st, 2018 at 7pm 
“It’s Ladies Night” and special guests including Natasha Barnes (Funny Girl), Shanay Holmes (Rent), Jodie Steele (Wicked), Shona White (Mamma Mia!) and Emma Williams (Half a Sixpence).
February 4th, 2018 at 9pm
Special guests include Dreamgirls star Marisha Wallace along with her co-stars Joe Aaron Reid (Curtis Taylor Jr.) and Asmeret Ghebremichael (Lorrell Robinson). 
For full information on each evening and to book tickets please visit www.liveatzedel.com


Album Review: Dreamgirls Original London Cast Recording (2017)

“The time has come for my dreams to be heard”

That it took so long for the UK premiere of Dreamgirls to arrive (35 years after its original Broadway opening), it is little surprise to see that it has taken a mere few months for the Original London Cast Recording to appear, released by Sony Masterworks Broadway today (Friday 12th May). Capitalising on the show’s extraordinary success at the Savoy (read my review here) and the two Olivier Awards wins for Amber Riley (Best Actress in a Musical) and Adam J. Bernard (Best Actor in a Supporting Role in a Musical), this double-album was recorded live in the theatre over four performances in February 2017 with no additional studio re-recordings or musical overdubs.

The choice to go for a live recording is an interesting one. There’s an undoubted raw energy that comes from the material not just being sung but being performed that makes certain numbers really pop. And then there’s the double-edged sword that is the audience reception – on the one hand it can be spine-tingling effective to hear how enthusiastically the work is being received but on the other, it doesn’t always translate without the accompanying visual and let’s be honest, the recording doesn’t gain anything from having Amber Riley’s entrance applause so volubly present. Continue reading “Album Review: Dreamgirls Original London Cast Recording (2017)”

Review: Dreamgirls, Savoy

“In the morning this feeling will be gone”

 
There’s over one million Swarovski crystals incorporated into this production of Dreamgirls which presumably explains why ticket prices go unashamedly up to £125 – Daddy’s crystal curtains, all 3 of them, don’t come cheap. In many ways, I don’t deny Dreamgirls the extravagance, it’s good to have a huge rollercoaster blowout of a blockbuster musical every now and then, it helps to balance the slightly more serious-minded ones about suicide and cancer. But it helps to be wary about that creeping top line, no matter how many five star reviews this show may garner, surely such pricing cannot be allowed to become the norm in the West End.

Part of the reason Dreamgirls can get away with it is that it has had a 35 year build-up. With book and lyrics by Tom Eyen and music by Henry Krieger, the original Broadway production premiered in 1981 and was a big success and though it may not have crossed the ocean, much of its music has, including cabaret staples ‘And I Am Telling You I’m Not Going’ and ‘One Night Only’. So it is hardly the risk of a new musical, though that it how is will be categorised, and thus it has been priced accordingly. Fortunately, the Savoy is not so big a theatre that the Grand Circle ain’t a perfectly decent to watch the show from. Continue reading “Review: Dreamgirls, Savoy”

Review: In The Heights, King’s Cross Theatre

“Since when are Latin people scared of heat?”

There’s something about a really good musical that makes it a pleasure to go back and revisit and so it is with In The Heights, its fresh contemporary edge hugely exciting to witness and so full of visual and lyrical interest that re-viewing brings up many things that I missed first time round. My 5* review for Cheap Theatre Tickets can be read there and I urge you to book as soon as possible, if only because Victoria Hamilton-Barritt is getting increasingly pregnant (funny how that happens!) and she is unmissable in the role of Daniela (although equally, it will be interesting to see how whoever covers the role performs it once she leaves).

Running time: 2 hours 30 minutes (with interval) 
Photo: Robert Workman
Booking until 3rd January

Review: In The Heights, King’s Cross Theatre

“Well you must take the A Train
Even farther than Harlem 
To northern Manhattan and
maintain 
Get off at 181st, and
take the escalator 
I hope you’re writing this 
Down, I’m gonna test ya later” 

Lin-Manuel Miranda’s stock could not be higher with his new show Hamilton taking Broadway by storm so it’s an apposite time for this belated transfer of his earlier musical In The Heights, with book written by Quiara Alegría Hudes. Undoubtedly one of the best shows of 2014, Luke Sheppard’s production blew the roof off the Southwark Playhouse and is now poised to do the same at the King’s Cross Theatre with many of the original cast and creatives returning to give us a slice of life from the New York Hispanic community of Washington Heights. 

Nothing has been lost in the move, the whole production just sparks with vivid life. From takis’ effective sidewalk design (now with added movable fire escape) to the pure joy of Drew McOnie’s choreography, the reconfigured staging releases a newer, raw energy that blooms into the space. And with Gabriella Slade’s day-glo bright costumes, the vibrant splashes of Howard Hudson’s lighting and the crispness of Gareth Owen’s sound design, complemented well by Phil Cornwell’s musical direction, Sheppard keeps the show firing excitingly at full throttle throughout. Continue reading “Review: In The Heights, King’s Cross Theatre”