News: line-up for week 10 of Leave A Light On

The lineup has been announced for the 10th and final week of Leave A Light On

West End stars Joel Harper-Jackson, Adam Bailey, Scott Hunter and David O’Reilly will perform live-streamed concerts from their own homes. And then to finish the series, multi-award winning artist Beverley Knight will perform an exclusive live show.

The festival presented by Lambert Jackson Productions in association with The Theatre Café was started as a way to keep the West End in people’s minds during the lockdown. The initiative aims to not only to provide financial support for the performers involved, but also to provide entertainment for people in self-isolation. Stars including Cassidy Janson, Louise Dearman and Jordan Luke Gage have already performed to viewers in their own homes via the live-streaming service.  Continue reading “News: line-up for week 10 of Leave A Light On”

Review: Pieces of String, Mercury Theatre online

Finally, a show I haven’t seen before being streamed! And what a beauty Pieces of String turned out to be. 

“Sometimes it’s good to remember
‘Sometimes it’s good to forget'”

For all that I’ve been recommending many of online theatre options to all and sundry, I haven’t actually partaken in many of them myself. In many cases, it has been shows I’ve seen before that are being featured and there’s an element of not wanting to sully their memory there; there’s also a sadness that theatregoing as we knew it might not be returning for the longest time.

But then Colchester’s Mercury Theatre came up with the VE Day treat I was actually waiting for, a showing of their 2018 hit musical Pieces of String. I had a ticket for this, and a train ticket come to think of it but for the life of me, I can’ remember why I ended up not making it, so this rare opportunity to finally see a show that I hadn’t seen and wanted to see was much welcomed. Continue reading “Review: Pieces of String, Mercury Theatre online”

Lockdown review: Some Enchanted Evening – Hope Mill Theatre

The Hope Mill Theatre crack open their address book to gather a great guest-list for this Rodgers & Hammerstein tribute concert, raising much needed funds

“Night after night, as strange as it seems…”

By rights, the Hope Mill Theatre should have been opening the UK premiere of Rodgers & Hammerstein’s Cinderella next month but ever pragmatic, its very own William Whelton and Joseph Houston have turned their hand to the theatre’s first online concert. Some Enchanted Evening still pays tribute to the iconic composing duo albeit in a different form, with friends and patrons gathering to take us through this wondrous songbook and an illustrious company bringing the songs to life.

From the incomparable Maria Friedman with a King & I medley to the ever-witty Sophie-Louise Dann relishing Allegro’s ‘The Gentleman is a Dope’, Joel Harper-Jackson (who was very good in Little Women) crooning through ‘If I Loved You’ to Louise Dearman#s shimmering star quality in ‘Edelweiss’, there’s a strong set of performances here. Standout of the night for me though was The Prince of Egypt‘s Simbi Akande, whose gorgeous soprano perfectly soared in Flower Drum Song‘s ‘Love Look Away’. Continue reading “Lockdown review: Some Enchanted Evening – Hope Mill Theatre”

Review: Little Women the Musical, Hope Mill

“Somethings are meant to be”

Finally made my first trip to the Hope Mill Theatre, Manchester’s fringe powerhouse which has been firing transfers down to London with quite the regularity. I wanted to experience the theatre for itself though and having heard great things about Little Women the Musical, didn’t want to miss out in case this is the one that doesn’t actually make its way south (although it should, it really should!).

With a book by Allan Knee, music by Jason Howland and lyrics by Mindi Dickstein, this musical version of Louisa May Alcott’s much-loved novel is a wonderful piece of adaptation. Streamlining plot whilst simultaneously enriching character, it translates the travails of the four March sisters into a warm and witty couple of hours and naturally makes you cry just as much it gladdens the heart. Continue reading “Review: Little Women the Musical, Hope Mill”

Review: Jesus Christ Superstar, Open Air Theatre

“Could you ask as much from any other man?”

Andrew Lloyd Webber sure doesn’t make it easy – for his support of new musical theatre in taking over the St James Theatre to making a transatlantic dash to the House of Lords to vote in support of tax credit cuts for the working poor, it’s hard to know where to stand. His status in the British theatrical establishment remains largely unchallenged though and it is to the 46-year-old Jesus Christ Superstar that the Open Air Theatre in Regents Park have turned for their big summer musical, directed this year by Timothy Sheader. 

And how do you play a 70s rock opera for today? You bring onboard shit-hot creatives like Tom Scutt and Drew McOnie to reinvent it for 2016. Scutt’s design choices make a virtue of the timeless iron structure that edges the stage. The company arrive in luxury sportswear, its loose silhouettes and muted earth tones akin to a Kanye West fashion show with which McOnie’s contemporary choreography meshes perfectly. Later scenes feature the glitter-covered muscularity of something like a late night Brighton Pride, a smattering of Xerxes from the film 300 and all out Sink the Pink excess during the whipping sequence. Continue reading “Review: Jesus Christ Superstar, Open Air Theatre”

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”

Review: Pacific Overtures, Union

“Reviewing it from where we sit, the facts are irrefutable” 

Many of Stephen Sondheim’s musicals instantly gain the sobriquet ‘ambitious’ and so early productions suffered short runs. But where several have been revised and reworked into modern classics, 1976’s Pacific Overtures has remained one of his least produced works, languishing in relative obscurity. Which makes it ideal fodder for the musical theatre powerhouse of the Union Theatre to take on and revive, with Michael Strassen’s production garnering massive ticket sales before the run had even begun.

The show is set in mid-nineteenth century Japan where their isolationist policy has meant no visitors have been received to the country for hundreds of years. When an American ship arrives boisterously demanding an audience with the emperor and unwilling to have their colonial ambitions easily appeased, the Far Eastern nation is sucked slowly into the coils of Westernisation and opened up to ‘civilisation’. Based on John Weidman’s original play to which Sondheim added 12 melodically sophisticated songs, it isn’t too hard to see why it isn’t more often on our stages.  Continue reading “Review: Pacific Overtures, Union”