News: Iris Theatre’s Xmas Factor All Stars album is released

The weather outside might be frightful but new musical theatre is always delightful, especially when it is festive-themed. Following a target-smashing Kickstarter campaign this October, Iris Theatre’s Xmas Factor All Stars album is released today, just in time for the holiday season. Featuring performances by Olivier Award-winner Rebecca Trehearn, Jon Robyns, Tori Allen-Martin, the Italia Conti School Choir and many more, the album is packed full of music by selected winners and runners-up of Iris Theatre’s Xmas Factor from 2013-16.


Xmas Factor is Iris Theatre’s annual showcase of the very best new musical theatre, around the theme of Christmas. Writers are invited to send in a song which is selected by the programming team to continue in the competition, culminating in a Panel Award and Audience Award at the concert. This year’s event, All Stars, features the best of those finalists from across the last four years, including winners and runners up of the two awards – all of which feature on the album. Songs cover an eclectic mix of themes from Korean festivities in ‘Christmas in Pyongyang’ to the best Yuletide movies in ‘Christmas Films Again’ and the thoughts of Jesus’s dad himself in ‘Joseph’s Lullaby’.
And as an Advent treat, you can listen to Trehearn’s gorgeous contribution to the album right here – ‘The Little Match Girl’ written by Darren Clark.

The album rounds off Iris Theatre’s 10th anniversary year, which began with the award for Best Production for Young People (8+) for Treasure Island (2016). This summer, Iris presented Macbeth and Hansel & Gretel, and 2018’s summer season will be announced soon.
You can buy the album here and it will be released digitally tomorrow (Saturday 2nd December) and to further whet the appetite, the full tracklisting is below.
1. All the Angels Sang
Music & Lyrics by Joanna Karselis
Lead Vocals: Tori Allen-Martin
Ensemble: Philippa Rose, Emma Morgan,David Fearn & Alvaro Flores
Additional Musical Arrangement, Musical Direction & Piano: Adam Gerber · 
Violin: Hannah Morgan
Cello: Rosalind Ford
2. The Angel at the Top of the Tree
Music & Lyrics by Darren Clark
Lead Vocals: Annabel King
Musical Direction & Piano: Michael Baxter
3. Joseph’s Lullaby
Music & Lyrics by Sandy Callaghan-Hooks
Lead Vocals: Jon Robyns
Ensemble: Philippa Rose, Emily Jane Kerr,
David Fearn & Oliver Stanley
Musical Direction & Piano: Adam Gerber

4. Christmas Swapping
Music by Luke Bateman · Lyrics by Mary Evans
Lead Vocals: Stephen Oliver-Webb & Emma Sewell
Musical Direction & Piano: Candida Caldicot
5. The Snow Goose Song
Music & Lyrics by Ben Heneghan & Ian Lawson
Lead Vocals: Kate Hume
Backing Vocals: Emma Morgan, Philippa Rose & Laura Wickham 
Musical Direction & Piano: Candida Caldicot
6. Christmas in Pyongyang
Music by Joanna Taylor · Lyrics by Al Muriel
Lead Vocals: Lucy Park
Musical Direction: Joanna Taylor · Piano: Tania Park ·
Violin: Maria Oguren
7. The Endless Song
Music by Marc Folan· Lyrics by Adey Grummet
Childrens’ Choir: Italia Conti School Choir
Adult Ensemble: Emma Morgan, Philippa Rose, Laura Wickham, David Fearn, Alvaro Flores & Guido Garcia Lueches
Musical Direction & Piano: Adam Gerber 
Flute: Liv Spence
8. The Little Match Girl
Music & Lyrics By Darren Clark
Lead Vocals: Rebecca Trehearn
Musical Direction & Piano: Adam Gerber · Violin: Hannah
Morgan · Cello: Rosalind Ford
9. The Christmas Table
Music by Luke Bateman · Lyrics by Mary Evans
Lead Vocals: Emma Sewell
Musical Direction & Piano: Candida Caldicot
Cello: Rachel Dawson
10. January Roars
Music by Stu Barter · Lyrics by Louise Ainsley
Lead Vocals: Richard Lowe
Backing Vocals: Annabel King & Jamie Lee Pike
Musical Direction & Piano: Michael Baxter
11. Holiday Hook Up
Music & Lyrics by Eden Tredwell
Additional Musical Arrangement by Gus Tredwell
Lead Vocals: Jamie Lee Pike
Musical Direction & Piano: Michael Baxter
12. The Beautiful Game
Music By Darren Clark· Lyrics by Richy Hughes
Lead Vocals: Nigel Richards, Oliver Stanley, David Fearn
Musical Direction & Piano: Adam Gerber
Violin: Hannah Morgan · Cello: Rosalind Ford · French Horn: Josh Sneesby
13. At Christmas
Music and Lyrics by Julie Das
Lead Vocals: Ruby Campbell
Backing Vocals: Emily Jane Kerr & Tiffany Parker
Musical Direction & Piano: Candida Caldicot
Cello: Rachel Dawson
14. Christmas Films Again
Music & Lyrics by Richard & Carol Campbell
Lead Vocals: Carol Campbell & Richard Campbell
All instruments performed & arranged by Richard Campbell

The Barricade Boys announce a Christmas Cabaret season with an amazing guest cast

As Mrs Merton might have asked, what first attracted you to musical theatre supergroup The Barricade Boys…?

Clearly, it was their cumulative musical talent – between them, Scott Garnham, Simon Schofield, Craig Mather and Kieran Brown have racked up credits in pretty much every major musical from The Phantom of The Opera, Wicked and Billy Elliot to Jersey Boys, The Sound Of Music and Les Misérables. And now they’re bringing their cabaret show to The Other Palace’s Studio for a Christmas season which is enough to bring festive cheer to even the most Scrooge-like of hearts.

But not content with filling our stockings thus, they’ve gone through their contact lists to find a frankly astonishing array of guest stars to accompany them across the entire run, making it nigh-on impossible to choose just one night to go along.

The full line up of guest stars:
Tuesday 5 December Gary Trainor (Dewey Finn in Andrew Lloyd Webber’s School of Rock at the New London Theatre)
Wednesday 6 Oliver Savile (Fiyero, Wicked, Apollo Victoria Theatre)
Thursday 7 Michael Xavier (two-time Olivier Award nominee, Joe Gillis in Sunset Boulevard; The Prince of Broadway)
Friday 8 Nadim Naaman (Raoul, The Phantom of the Opera, Her Majesty’s Theatre; Anthony Sweeney Todd, Harrington Pie & Mash Shop)
Saturday 9 (matinee) Rachel Tucker (Elphaba in Wicked in the West End and Broadway; Sting’s The Last Ship, Broadway)
Saturday 9 (evening) Simon Bailey (Tommy DeVito, Jersey Boys, West End; Raoul, The Phantom of the Opera, Her Majesty’s Theatre)
Monday 11 Liam Tamne (Frank N Furter, The Rocky Horror Show; Raoul, The Phantom of The Opera, Her Majesty’s Theatre) & Andy Coxon (Berger in Hair, The Vaults; Mitch, Yank, Charing Cross Theatre)
Tuesday 12 Jon Robyns (Princeton/Rod in Avenue Q, Noel Coward Theatre; Robbie Hart, The Wedding Singer, UK Tour)
Wednesday 13 Caroline Sheen (Alaura/Carla City of Angels, Donmar Warehouse; Mary Poppins in Mary Poppins, US Tour) & George Stiles and Anthony Drewe (award-winning composers of Half a Sixpence, Betty Blue Eyes, Honk! and The Wind in the Willows)
Thursday 14 (matinee) Killian Donnelly (currently Valjean in Les Misérables, Queen’s Theatre; Deco, The Commitments, Palace Theatre; Huey, Memphis, Shaftesbury Theatre, Charlie, Kinky Boots, West End & Broadway)
Thursday 14 (evening) Sabrina Aloueche (Scaramouche, We Will Rock You, Dominion Theatre; Eponine, Les Misérables, Queen’s Theatre)
Friday 15 Emily Tierney (Glinda in the first UK &Ireland tour of Wicked, Glinda, The Wizard of Oz, London Palladium)
Saturday 16 (matinee) Shona White (Florence Vassy in Craig Revel Horwood’s award winning UK touring production of Chess)
Saturday 16 (evening) Sophie Louise Dann (Celia The Girls, Phoenix Theatre; Barbara Castle, Made in Dagenham, Adelphi; Paula, Bend It Like Beckham the Musical, Phoenix Theatre)
Monday 18 David Shannon (The Phantom, The Phantom of the Opera, Her Majesty’s Theatre; Valjean in Les Misérables, Queen’s Theatre) & Rob Houchen (Marius, Les Misérables, Queen’s Theatre; Fleet, Titanic, Charing Cross Theatre)
Tuesday 19 Luke Kempner (Comedian, impressionist, actor and singer, The Only Way Is Downton, West End; Marius in Les Misérables) 
Wednesday 20 special TV and Film star guest to be announced 
Thursday 21 (matinee) Laura Pitt-Pulford (Olivier Award nominated as Milly Bradon, Seven Brides For Seven Brothers, Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre; Side Show, Southwark Playhouse; Barnum, Menier Chocolate Factory)
Thursday 21 (evening) David Thaxton (Javert, Les Misérables, Queen’s; Pilate, Jesus Christ Superstar, Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre; Giorgio, Passion, Donmar Warehouse, Olivier Award for Best Actor in a Musical)
Friday 22 Jacinta Whyte (Eponine, Les Misérables, Palace Theatre; Linda, Blood Brothers, Phoenix Theatre; Ellen, Miss Saigon, Theatre Royal, Drury Lane)
AAAAAAND YOU COULD BE IN THE SHOW!
Two lucky people will win the chance to appear on stage with The Barricade Boys at the two shows on Saturday 23 December. All you need to do to be in with a chance is tweet a youtube video link singing a Christmas song to @BarricadeBoys. The Barricade Boys will decide the winners by Monday 11 December.

Album Review: Memphis (2014 Original London Cast Recording)

“Open your eyes, I got a surprise!”


It was fascinating to revisit Memphis, a show that I enjoyed on seeing but in all honesty, isn’t one I’ve given much thought to since it left the West End after just over a year at the Shaftesbury Theatre (I went back once). I remarked then that David Bryan’s score was “highly tuneful if not instantly catchy” so was surprised that a fair few of the songs had managed to work their way into my subconscious and so provided that ‘ping’ of recognition which is always nice.
It was also interesting to listen to the songs in isolation from the show, as more of them than I remembered felt somewhat disconnected from the narrative, just happy in their sprightly pop song-ness. And thanks to the quality of the cast assembled here – leads Beverley Knight and Killian Donnelly, supported by the likes of Jason Pennycooke, Tyrone Huntley and Rolan Bell plus Claire Machin, it is a consistently enjoyable record to listen to.
Whether it is Knight busting her soul chops on ‘Ain’t Nothing’ But A Kiss’ or nailing the righteous anger of ‘Coloured Woman’, Donnelly running the gamut of emotion from the fun of ‘Music of my Soul’ to the scorching ‘Memphis Lives In Me’ (I’d forgotten just how good that track is), or Huntley raising the roof and bringing the curtain down in Act 1 with ‘Say A Prayer’, the music of Memphis is bright and bold and sounds like a charm under Tim Sutton’s musical direction.
Pennycooke probably wins the honours for the personality that shines through his ‘Big Love’ but all in all, this is a strong album which still sounds fresh and, dare I say it, makes me wish I could see the show again. A genuine surprise!

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: 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.
The more stirring emotional moments came from those performers talking about their more personal connection to the tragedy. Musician Earl Okin spoke movingly about living in the shadow of the tower itself before a stunning version of Billie Holiday’s ‘God Bless The Child’, polymath Rikki Beadle-Blair turned his experience of being evicted from his own tower block into something akin to performance art before an impassioned ‘Change Is Gonna Come’, Mark Thomas had us in tears of laughter with his comedy set before expertly twisting the knife with his fervent defence of public servants, particularly the firefighters whom he had visited just to say thank you.
Musical numbers were interspersed with powerful extracts of verbatim testimony from some of the survivors of the fire, read by the likes of Nikki Amuka-Bird, Rakhee Thakrar and Vikesh Bhai, even Dame Judi Dench got in on the action with a recording. But for me, the most memorable part of the evening came with Noma Dumezweni’s recital of this Facebook post from a firefighter who attended Grenfell. Gently asking us to close our eyes and to consider this a radio play, it was a sobering reminder of exactly what we ask of our much beleaguered emergency services and of the scale of the tragedy which should not, can not, must not be forgotten.
It was also instructive and inspirational to hear from Eartha Pond, the Queens Park councillor who set up this GoFundMe page to help provide a focal point for support and whose tireless efforts on the ground to help those affected by the fire are being fitted around the responsibilities of her day job. In the words of Heather Small, a surprise addition to the bill, ‘what have you done today to make yourself feel proud?’ Well, you can still donate money and if you are quick, you can also still participate in the silent auction (entries close on Friday 30th). 

Programme
Had I A Golden Thread – Alexia Khadime
Total Praise – West End Gospel Choir
We’ve Lost Everything – Vikesh Bhai
True Colors – Tyrone Huntley and Jon Robyns
I Said Listen, We Have To Go Back – Nikki Amuka-Bird
Natural Woman – Cassidy Janson
Extract from The Hotel Cerise and Still I Rise by Maya Angelou – Bonnie Greer 
God Bless The Child – Earl Okin
Your Face – The Olai Collier Company feat. Caitlin Taylor and Ayden Morgan
Mark Thomas
Change Is Gonna Come – Rikki Beadle-Blair, accompanied by Jami Reid Quarrell
Ol’ Man River – Giles Terera
She Moved Through The Fair – Rachel Tucker
Wind Beneath My Wings – Rachel Tucker

A Little Bit of Nothing On A Big White Plate – Stiles & Drewe
One Thing I’ll Say, I’m Proud Of The Young People – Rakhee Thakrar
Don’t Worry About Me – Clare Foster
It’s Not About Muslim Or Christian – Nikki Amuka-Bird
Redemption Song – Tyrone Huntley
Indiscriminate Acts Of Kindness – Julie Atherton, accompanied by Curtis Volp
The Fire Fighter – Noma Dumezweni
Life Is Just A Bowl Of Cherries – Claire Sweeney
Sweet Thing – David McAlmont accompanied by Curtis Slapper
Proud – Heather Small
You’ve Got A Friend – Cassidy Janson and Company

News: Songs and Solidarity – a concert for those affected by the Grenfell Tower fire

Adding to the fundraising efforts already established, actor Giles Terera and producer Danielle Tarento have put together a theatrically inclined evening of song, dance and comedy in aid of those affected by the Grenfell Tower fire.

Songs and Solidarity takes place on Sunday 25 June at 7.30pm, and will feature performances from West End stars including Olivier Award-winner Noma Dumezweni, Rachel Tucker (Wicked), Tyrone Huntley (Dreamgirls), Clare Foster (Travesties), Cassidy Janson (Beautiful) and Alexia Khadime (The Book of Mormon).

They will be joined by a host of performers and comedians including Julie Atherton, Nikki Amuka-Bird, Jon Robyns, Jason Manford, Mark Thomas, Stiles and Drewe, Rikki Beadle-Blair, Vikash Bhai, Bonnie Greer, David McAlmont, Omar F Okai Company, Earl Okin, Claire Sweeney, Rakhee Thakrar, Gok Wan and the West End Gospel Choir.

The concert will also feature contributions from Dame Judi Dench, and Hamilton creator Lin-Manuel Miranda.


Talking about the event, Terera said:

“I’m sure for all of us our immediate response is to want to try and reach out and help, either as an individual or collectively. The community that has suffered this horror has always been a strong, close knit, diverse, creative one. As an artistic community we aim for those same values. 

“At the same time it is a community which has been marginalised and ignored for a very long time. So as well as the vital response of trying to contribute financially and materially we have an opportunity to come together stand in solidarity with those directly affected and say this should not have happened.”



Proceeds from the concert, which will also feature a silent auction with theatre-related lots, will go to
the Grenfell Tower Fire Fund set up by Eartha Pond.

Songs and Solidarity takes place at Trafalgar Studios on Sunday 25 June at 7.30pm

Winners announced for the #AlsoRecognised Awards 2017

Several shows in the running for this year’s Olivier Awards, announced next Sunday 9 April, are also recognised this week in the third-annual Also Recognised Awards – in some notably different categories. The full list of winners is announced today in this audience-voted, industry accolade set up by theatre commentators Mark Shenton and Terri Paddock to celebrate lesser-known but equally worthy talent in fields overlooked by other awards bodies.

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, nominated for a record-breaking eleven Oliviers including Best New Play, wins in two further fields in the Also Recognised Awards: Theatre Event of the Year and, for its online activity, Best Twitter Engagement.

Groundhog Day, trying to convert eight Olivier Award nominations, bags an Also Recognised award for composer Tim Minchin for Best Original Music.

Another two-time Also Recognised winner is the musical revival Half a Sixpence, which wins both Best Show Trailer and London Newcomer of the Year for Charlie Stemp, who is Olivier nominated for Best Actor in a Musical.

Five-time Olivier nominee Dreamgirls wins the Also Recognised award for Best Musical Direction for Nick Finlow for his work on the show. At their inauguration in 2015, the Also Recognised became the first UK awards to include Best Musical Direction, launched with the backing of industry lobbyists, director Andrew Keates and musical director Mike Dixon.

Elsewhere in the 2017 Also Recognised Awards: A Midsummer Night’s Dream, directed by outgoing Globe artistic director Emma Rice, is named Best Shakespearean Production; Sheffield Crucible’s vibrant artwork for new musical Flowers for Mrs Harris wins in another of marketing categories, Best Show Poster; Sophie Melville wins Best Solo Performance for her critically acclaimed turn in Gary Owen’s Iphigenia in Splott for Sherman Cymru at the National Theatre; the cast of Thom Southerland’s revival of Titanic at Charing Cross Theatre win Best Ensemble Performance; and one-time Avenue Q co-stars Jon Robyns, Simon Lipkin and Giles Terera take the prize for Best Musical Cabaret for their charity fundraiser reunion at the Orange Tree Theatre (they also submit an amusing three-part video acceptance!)

Acceptance videos and winners’ ‘certificate selfies’ can be found on www.mytheatremates.com and full results are after the cut.

Best Ensemble Performance


• Belarus Free Theatre – Burning Doors at Soho Theatre & Tomorrow I Was Always a Lion at the Arcola Theatre
• Boy – Almeida Theatre
• Donmar’s Shakespeare Trilogy – Donmar at King’s Cross
• Our Ladies of Perpetual Succour – National Theatre
• Steel Magnolias – Hope Theatre
• Titanic – Charing Cross Theatre WINNER

Best Musical Direction

• Jordan Li-Smith – Ragtime, Charing Cross Theatre
• Laura Bangay – Our Ladies of Perpetual Succour, National Theatre
• Michael Bradley – Grey Gardens, Southwark Playhouse
• Michael Reed – Sunset Boulevard, London Coliseum
• Nick Finlow – Dreamgirls, Savoy Theatre WINNER
• Tom Deering – Jesus Christ Superstar, Open Air Theatre


Best Original Music

• David Bowie – Lazarus, King’s Cross Theatre
• Dougal Irvine – The Buskers Opera, Park Theatre
• Richard Taylor – Flowers for Mrs Harris, Sheffield Crucible
• Scott Frankel – Grey Gardens, Southwark Playhouse
• Tim Minchin – Groundhog Day, Old Vic Theatre WINNER
• Tim Phillips & Marc Teitler – The Grinning Man, Bristol Old Vic


Best Shakespearean Production

• A Midsummer Night’s Dream – Shakespeare’s Globe WINNER
• Donmar’s Shakespeare Trilogy – Donmar at King’s Cross
• Hamlet – RSC, Royal Shakespeare Theatre
• Henry V – Open Air Theatre
• King Lear – Old Vic Theatre
• Kings of War – Toneelgroep Amsterdam at the Barbican

Best Musical Cabaret

• Ann Hampton Callaway & Amanda McBroom – The Pheasantry
• Barb Jungr & John McDaniel, That’s Life – Brasserie Zedel
• Ceili O’Connor – The Understudy, Century Club
• Sally Ann Triplett – The Pheasantry
• Shoshana Bean – Pizza Express, St Martin’s Lane
 Simon Lipkin, Jon Robyns & Giles Terera – Orange Tree Theatre WINNER

Best Show Poster

• A Raisin in the Sun – Albany Theatre
• Flowers for Mrs Harris – Sheffield Crucible WINNER
• Hand to God – Vaudeville Theatre
• Parade – Hope Mill Theatre, Manchester
• The Maids – Trafalgar Studios
• They Drink It In the Congo – Almeida Theatre


Best Show Trailer

• Half a Sixpence – Chichester Festival & Noel Coward Theatre WINNER
• Hedda Gabler – National Theatre
• Nice Fish – Harold Pinter Theatre
• This House – Headlong, Garrick Theatre
• Trainspotting – King’s Head Theatre & The Vaults
• Unreachable – Royal Court Theatre

Best Solo Performance

• Cush Jumbo – White Rabbit Red Rabbit, Southbank Centre & Good Chance Theatre
• James Cartwright – Raz, Trafalgar Studios
• Luke Wright – What I Learned From Jonny Bevan, Soho Theatre
• Ruby Wax – Sane New World, Arts Theatre
• Sean Michael Verey – Tonight with Donny Stixx, The Bunker
• Sophie Melville – Iphigenia in Splott, National Theatre WINNER

Theatre Event of the Year

• Emma Rice’s departure announcement from Shakespeare’s Globe
• Shakespeare Live! at the RSC as part of Shakespeare 400th birthday celebrations
• The premiere of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child WINNER
• Three-show day for the Donmar’s Shakespeare Trilogy
• Understudy Natasha J Barnes stepping in – triumphantly – for Sheridan Smith in Funny Girl
• Understudy Ria Jones stepping in – triumphantly – for Glenn Close in Sunset Boulevard


Best Twitter Engagement

• @ChichesterFT – Chichester Festival Theatre
• @HPPlayLDN – Harry Potter and the Cursed Child WINNER
• @NationalTheatre – National Theatre
• @SchoolOfRockUK – School of Rock
• @TheRSC – Royal Shakespeare Company
• @WickedUK – Wicked

London Newcomer of the Year

• Anthony Boyle – Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, Palace Theatre
• Charlie Stemp – Half a Sixpence, Chichester Festival & Noel Coward Theatre WINNER
• Frankie Fox – Boy, Almeida Theatre
• Samuel Thomas – Floyd Collins, Wilton’s Music Hall
• Sarah Snook – The Master Builder, Old Vic Theatre
• Zoe Cooper (playwright) – Jess and Joe Forever, Orange Tree Theatre & tour

News: #AlsoRecognised Awards shortlists announced


Shortlists for the third annual Also Recognised Awards have been announced by MyTheatreMates, founded by Mark Shenton and Terri Paddock. These audience-voted industry accolades celebrate talent in fields often overlooked by other award bodies. Voting is now open for all categories and closes on Sunday 26th March 2017. Cast your vote at: www.mytheatremates.com/AlsoRecognisedAwards-2017/
The aim of the awards is to recognise some of those categories that are sometimes overlooked in other awards – for example, Best Musical Direction is one that is sadly unique to the Also Recognised roster. There’s also a nod to the behind-the-scenes folk with awards for Best Twitter Engagement, Show Trailer and Show Poster recognising the invaluable part that marketing, especially digitally, has to play in the industry.
So find the shortlists below and head over to My Theatre Mates to cast your vote. I helped to draw up these lists along with Mark and Terri, Andrew Keates and Mike Dixon, and the rest of the My Theatre Mates collective, and I think the blend of West End, Off-West End, fringe and regional nominees reflects that, so I’ll be most interested to see how the results pan out.

Best Ensemble Performance

• Belarus Free Theatre – Burning Doors at Soho Theatre & Tomorrow I Was Always a Lion at the Arcola Theatre
Boy – Almeida Theatre
Donmar’s Shakespeare Trilogy – Donmar at King’s Cross
Our Ladies of Perpetual Succour – National Theatre
Steel Magnolias – Hope Theatre
Titanic – Charing Cross Theatre

Best Musical Direction

• Jordan Li-Smith – Ragtime, Charing Cross Theatre
• Laura Bangay – Our Ladies of Perpetual Succour, National Theatre
• Michael Bradley – Grey Gardens, Southwark Playhouse
• Michael Reed – Sunset Boulevard, London Coliseum
• Nick Finlow – Dreamgirls, Savoy Theatre
• Tom Deering – Jesus Christ Superstar, Open Air Theatre


Best Original Music

• David Bowie – Lazarus, King’s Cross Theatre
• Dougal Irvine – The Buskers Opera, Park Theatre
• Richard Taylor – Flowers for Mrs Harris, Sheffield Crucible
• Scott Frankel – Grey Gardens, Southwark Playhouse
• Tim Minchin – Groundhog Day, Old Vic Theatre
• Tim Phillips & Marc Teitler – The Grinning Man, Bristol Old Vic


Best Shakespearean Production

A Midsummer Night’s Dream – Shakespeare’s Globe
Donmar’s Shakespeare Trilogy – Donmar at King’s Cross
Hamlet – RSC, Royal Shakespeare Theatre
Henry V – Open Air Theatre
King Lear – Old Vic Theatre
Kings of War – Toneelgroep Amsterdam at the Barbican

Best Musical Cabaret

• Ann Hampton Callaway & Amanda McBroom – The Pheasantry
• Barb Jungr & John McDaniel, That’s Life – Brasserie Zedel
• Ceili O’Connor – The Understudy, Century Club
• Sally Ann Triplett – The Pheasantry
• Shoshana Bean – Pizza Express, St Martin’s Lane
 Simon Lipkin, Jon Robyns & Giles Terera – Orange Tree Theatre

Best Show Poster

A Raisin in the Sun – Albany Theatre
Flowers for Mrs Harris – Sheffield Crucible
Hand to God – Vaudeville Theatre
Parade – Hope Mill Theatre, Manchester
The Maids – Trafalgar Studios
They Drink It In the Congo – Almeida Theatre


Best Show Trailer

Half a Sixpence – Chichester Festival & Noel Coward Theatre
Hedda Gabler – National Theatre
Nice Fish – Harold Pinter Theatre
This House – Headlong, Garrick Theatre
Trainspotting – King’s Head Theatre & The Vaults
Unreachable – Royal Court Theatre

Best Solo Performance

• Cush Jumbo – White Rabbit Red Rabbit, Southbank Centre & Good Chance Theatre
• James Cartwright – Raz, Trafalgar Studios
• Luke Wright – What I Learned From Jonny Bevan, Soho Theatre
• Ruby Wax – Sane New World, Arts Theatre
• Sean Michael Verey – Tonight with Donny Stixx, The Bunker
• Sophie Melville – Iphigenia in Splott, National Theatre

Theatre Event of the Year

• Emma Rice’s departure announcement from Shakespeare’s Globe
Shakespeare Live! at the RSC as part of Shakespeare 400th birthday celebrations
• The premiere of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child
Three-show day for the Donmar’s Shakespeare Trilogy
• Understudy Natasha J Barnes stepping in – triumphantly – for Sheridan Smith in Funny Girl
• Understudy Ria Jones stepping in – triumphantly – for Glenn Close in Sunset Boulevard


Best Twitter Engagement

• @ChichesterFT – Chichester Festival Theatre
• @HPPlayLDN – Harry Potter and the Cursed Child
• @NationalTheatre – National Theatre
• @SchoolOfRockUK – School of Rock
• @TheRSC – Royal Shakespeare Company
• @WickedUK – Wicked

London Newcomer of the Year

• Anthony Boyle – Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, Palace Theatre
• Charlie Stemp – Half a Sixpence, Chichester Festival & Noel Coward Theatre
• Frankie Fox – Boy, Almeida Theatre
• Samuel Thomas – Floyd Collins, Wilton’s Music Hall
• Sarah Snook – The Master Builder, Old Vic Theatre
• Zoe Cooper (playwright) – Jess and Joe Forever, Orange Tree Theatre & tour

Review: The Wedding Singer, Curve

“Pour a double gin,
here’s to your double chin”

Back when Adam Sandler was, you know, tolerable, he did rom-coms like 1998’s The Wedding Singer and where even moderately successful films go, musical theatre adaptations surely follow. Tim Herlihy adapts his own screenplay along with lyricist Chad Beguelin, and original music comes from Matthew Sklar, and the result is a perfectly competent piece of musical theatre which is fun without ever really being fantastic.
Opening at Leicester’s Curve ahead of a 8 month long UK tour (dates and venue at the end of this review), you can see where Nick Winston’s production has made its key decisions – Francis O’Connor’s set has its eye on quick get-outs and so Jack Henry’s video projections do a lot of the heavy lifting in setting the 80s milieu. And the casting mixes West End reliability with TV name recognition, the cherry on the cake of course being Ruth Madoc.
But for all its way with a one-liner and any number of 80s references, there’s no denying the slightness of the plot and its lack of anything approaching dramatic tension or genuine characterisation. So the production has to rely on the fortunately immense acres of charm that Jon Robyns has as his disposal as the heart-sore Robbie, and Cassie Compton as his sweet colleague Julia are able to generate against the odds.
I still can’t look at Ray Quinn without seeing his murdering Scouse schoolboy from Brookside so his physicality now is even more disturbing, although suited here to his love rat Glen, and Roxanne Pallett does her best with flimsy writing as Julia’s best friend. Ruth Madoc as Robbie’s grandmother appears to be having the time of her life but only Samuel Holmes as one of Robbie’s bandmates manages to really break through in the supporting cast.
The Wedding Singer is undoubtedly cheesy and it is fun in its best moments, Winston’s choreography having a lot to do with this. And Jon Robyns makes for the kind of leading man it’s hard to resist, his approachable everyman appeal perfect for the role here. His performance certainly elevates the material and it is for him, rather than the show at large, that you’ll say ‘I do’.
Running time: 2 hours 30 minutes (with interval)
Booking until 18th February then touring: 
Tuesday 21 – Saturday 25 February 2017, Sunderland Empire; 
Monday 27 February – Saturday 4 March 2017, Cardiff, New Theatre; 
Tuesday 7 – Saturday 11 March 2017, Dublin, Bord Gáis Energy Theatre; 
Tuesday 14 – Saturday 18 March 2017, Bristol Hippodrome; 
Tuesday 21 – Saturday 25 March 2017, Dartford, Orchard Theatre; 
Tuesday 28 March – Saturday 1 April 2017, Cambridge Corn Exchange; 
Tuesday 4 – Saturday 8 April 2017, Southampton, Mayflower Theatre; 
Tuesday 11 – Saturday 15 April 2017, Belfast, Grand Opera House; 
Tuesday 18 – Saturday 2 April 2017, Glasgow, King’s Theatre; 
Tuesday 25 – Saturday 29 April 2017, Bradford Alhambra; 
Tuesday 9 – Saturday 13 May 2017, Nottingham, Theatre Royal; 
Monday 15 – Saturday 20 May 2017, Manchester, Opera House; 
Tuesday 23 – Saturday 27 May 2017, Birmingham, Alexandra Theatre; 
Tuesday 30 – Saturday 3 June 2017, Liverpool Empire; 
Tuesday 6 – Saturday 10 June, Edinburgh, King’s Theatre; 
Tuesday 20 – Saturday 24 June 2017, Aberdeen, His Majesty’s Theatre; 
Tuesday 27 June- Saturday 1 July 2017, Inverness, Eden Court; 
Tuesday 4 – Saturday 8 July 2017, Blackpool Opera House; 
Tuesday 11 – Saturday 15 July 2017, High Wycombe, Swan Theatre; 
Tuesday 25 – Saturday 29 July 2017, Llandudno, Venue Cymru; 
Tuesday 1 – Saturday 5 August 2017, Bromley, Churchill Theatre; 
Tuesday 8 – Saturday 12 August 2017, Theatre Royal, Plymouth; 
Tuesday 22 – Saturday 26 August 2017, Leeds Grand Theatre; 
Tuesday 29 August – Saturday 2 September 2017, Leeds Grand Theatre; 
Tuesday 5 – Saturday 9 September 2017, Tunbridge Wells, Assembly Hall Theatre; 
Tuesday 12 – Saturday 16 September 2017, Shrewsbury, Theatre Severn; 
Tuesday 19 – Saturday 23 September 2017, Swansea, Grand Theatre; 
Tuesday 26 – Saturday 30 September 2017, Portsmouth, King’s Theatre

Review: Legally Blonde, Curve

“I may be in love but im not stupid”


To the tune of ‘Legally Blonde’

Legally Blonde as a musical 

Has worked before on and off-West-End 
Now it’s gone to the East Midlands 
To Leicester’s Curve, and just go. 

Nikolai Foster’s directing it, 
He’s changed some things that you may approve 
Others are not so successful 
But what do I know? 

Lucie Jones good, Lucie Jones strong 
Lucie Jones following on 
Icons like this, Sheridan Smith, Reese Witherspooooon

Her Elle Woods is a fun surprise 
You can see it in her eyes 
That’s fine with me, 
should make you see Legally Blonde 

Jon Robyns is a gorgeous Emmett 
Danny Mac makes Warner seem ok 
They make their characters so charming 
You’ll fall for them, no problem / Well what’s the issue? 

Its meant to be kinda feminist / It is in its way 
Doesn’t show through though they try their best / More of a fairytale 
And attitudes t’wards sexuality 
Are not ok 

What about fun? 
Is it ok if its fun? 
It means well, this I know 
But perhaps, if you don’t take it to heart 
You’ll find its humour pretty smart 
You may find it is so 
Cause you know that its frothy and fuuuun

Yes its bright pink, sometimes bizarre 
Tupele Dorgu’s a star 
Nick Winston’s cho-, reography 
Fills the stage well 
‘What You Want’s’ rap, now Bollywood, 
doesn’t quite work all the same 

That said I feel, this musical, is charming regardless of all 

It’s not up to me 
If you go and see 
Legally Blonde.

European or gay. 

But I think maybe 
You should go and see 
Legally Blonde.

Running time: 2 hours 25 minutes (with interval)
Booking until 14th May
NB: I’ve touched on it just lightly here but I do have to say that it was the first time in seeing the show umpteen times, that I felt queasy about its LGBT issues. Quite why that is I couldn’t really say but I’m just being honest