Review: Chicago, Phoenix

Chicago returns to the West End at the Phoenix Theatre but is this the ideal 21st birthday present?

“He had it coming”

There’s a lot to like in this revival of Chicago (Josefina Gabrielle, Sarah Soetaert) but not quite enough to get the heart pounding (an ill-at-ease Cuba Gooding Jnr). Take a read of my 3 star review for Official Theatre here.

Running time: 2 hours 25 minutes (with interval)
Photos: Tristram Kenton
Chicago is currently booking at the Phoenix Theatre until 23rd June

fosterIAN awards 2017

 WinnerRunner-upOther nominees
Best Actress in a PlayHattie Morahan/
Kate O'Flynn/
Adelle Leonce,
Anatomy of a Suicide
Victoria Hamilton, Albion
Shirley Henderson, Girl From the North Country
Cherry Jones, The Glass Menagerie
Justine Mitchell, Beginning
Mimi Ndiweni, The Convert
Connie Walker, Trestle
Best Actor in a Play
Ken Nwosu, An OctoroonAndrew Scott, HamletAndrew Garfield, Angels in America
Gary Lilburn, Trestle
Ian McKellen, King Lear
Cyril Nri, Barber Shop Chronicles
Sam Troughton, Beginning
Best Supporting Actress in a PlayBríd Brennan, The FerrymanKate Kennedy, Twelfth Night (Royal Exchange)Sheila Atim, Girl From the North Country
Laura Carmichael, Apologia
Romola Garai, Queen Anne
Lashana Lynch, a profoundly affectionate, passionate devotion to someone (-noun)
Kate O'Flynn, The Glass Menagerie
Best Supporting Actor in a PlayFisayo Akinade,
Barber Shop Chronicles
Brian J Smith, The Glass MenageriePhilip Arditti, Oslo
Gershwn Eustache Jnr, a profoundly affectionate, passionate devotion to someone (-noun)
Fra Fee, The Ferryman
Patrice Naiambana, Barber Shop Chronicles
Nathan Stewart-Jarrett, Angels in America
Best Actress in a MusicalJanie Dee, Follies AND
Josefina Gabrielle, A Little Night Music
AND Josie Walker,
Everybody's Talking About Jamie
Amie Giselle-Ward, Little WomenSharon D Clarke, Caroline or Change
Kelly Price, The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole Aged 13 ¾
T'Shan Williams, The Life
Best Actor in a MusicalGiles Terera, HamiltonScott Hunter/Andy Coxon, Yank! A WWII Love StoryJohn McCrea, Everybody's Talking About Jamie
Philip Quast, Follies
Michael Rouse, Superhero
Jamael Westman, Hamilton
Best Supporting Actress in a Musical
Tracie Bennett,
Follies
Rachel John, HamiltonChristine Allado, Hamilton
Julie Atherton, The Grinning Man
Sharon D Clarke, The Life
Joanna Riding, Romantics Anonymous
Lucie Shorthouse, Everybody's Talking About Jamie
Best Supporting Actor in a MusicalJason
Pennycooke,
Hamilton
Mark Anderson, The Grinning ManFred Haig, Follies
Cornell S John, The Life
Chris Kiely, Yank! A WWII Love Story
Gareth Snook, Romantics Anonymous
Obioma Ugoala, Hamilton

The 2017 fosterIAN award winners

2017 Theatre

Best Actress in a Play
Hattie Morahan/Kate O’Flynn/Adelle Leonce, Anatomy of a Suicide

Best Actress in a Musical
Janie Dee, Follies AND Josefina Gabrielle, A Little Night Music AND Josie Walker, Everybody’s Talking About Jamie

Best Actor in a Play
Ken Nwosu, An Octoroon

Best Actor in a Musical
Giles Terera, Hamilton

Best Supporting Actress in a Play 
Bríd Brennan, The Ferryman

Best Supporting Actress in a Musical
Tracie Bennett, Follies

Best Supporting Actor in a Play 
Fisayo Akinade, Barber Shop Chronicles

Best Supporting Actor in a Musical
Jason Pennycooke, Hamilton

And my top 10 plays of the year:
1. The Revlon Girl, Park
2. A Little Night Music, Watermill
3. Barber Shop Chronicles, National
4. Hamilton, Victoria Palace
5. Everybody’s Talking About Jamie, Crucible/Apollo
6. An Octoroon, Orange Tree
7. Follies, National Theatre
8. Romantics Anonymous, Sam Wanamaker Playhouse
9. Hamlet, Almeida
10. The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole Aged 13 ¾, Menier Chocolate Factory
.

2017 Best Actress in a Play + in a Musical

Best Actress in a Play

Hattie Morahan/Kate O’Flynn/Adelle Leonce, Anatomy of a Suicide

How to split these three? Why would you even want to. Their effortless grace, their ferociously detailed complexity, their heart-breaking connectivity, all three will live long in my mind.

Honourable mention: Victoria Hamilton, Albion

Not far behind in the fierceness stakes was this epic role of near-Chekhovian proportions, tailored by Mike Bartlett for one of his frequent collaborators. Quite why this hasn’t followed Ink into the West End I’m not sure. 

Shirley Henderson, Girl From the North Country
Cherry Jones, The Glass Menagerie
Justine Mitchell, Beginning
Mimi Ndiweni, The Convert
Connie Walker, Trestle

8-10
Laura Donnelly, The Ferryman; Imelda Staunton, Who’s Afraid Of Virginia Woolf; Rosie Wyatt, In Event of Moone Disaster 

Best Actress in a Musical

Janie Dee, Follies AND Josefina Gabrielle, A Little Night Music AND Josie Walker, Everybody’s Talking About Jamie

A second three-way tie? Hey, it’s my blog and my rules! From Dee thoroughly owning the Olivier through song and dance, to Gabrielle making me feel like I was hearing ‘Send in the Clowns’ for the first time, to the sheer beauty of Walker’s uncompromising love for her son, this was only way I could reward a banner year for leading female musical performances.

Honourable mention: Amie Giselle-Ward, Little Women

Sadly ineligible to win since her name doesn’t begin with J…, Giselle-Ward nevertheless blew me away at the heart of this gorgeous musical which, if there’s any justice, should continue the Hope Mill’s admirable record of London transfers. 

Sharon D Clarke, Caroline or Change
Kelly Price, The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole Aged 13 ¾
T’Shan Williams, The Life

8-10
Carly Bawden, Romantics Anonymous; Sandra Marvin, Committee; Marisha Wallace, Dreamgirls

 

Review: The Box of Delights, Wilton’s Music Hall

“The wolves are running, Kay Harker”

There’s a wonderfully rough magic to Justin Audibert’s production of The Box of Delights that makes it the perfect choice for Wilton’s Music Hall’s festive show. And it is one that will have extra resonance for those of a generation similar to my own, whose childhood TV watching centred on a VHS copy of the 1984 TV adaptation, whose use of graphics and green screen hasn’t necessarily aged all that well (see around 14.30)…

The nods to the occasional naffness of that design (a car that turns into an aeroplane!) were much appreciated but such is the warmth and wit of the theatrical invention here, that it is hard not to be won over by Piers Torday’s adaptation of John Masefield’s 1935 fantasy novel whether you’re familiar with it or not. And though it flirts with the odd sinister undertone, the abiding feel is one of adventurous derring-do and festive cheer, fit for whatever family you have around you.

Set in the depths of Christmas 1938, we’re in the world of plum puddings and hot possets, where schoolboy Kay Harker finds his journey home from boarding school disrupted by falling into the middle of a battle between two mighty magicians. Given the precious Box of Delights by one of them, he’s charged with protecting it – and by extension, the very future of Christmas itself – but little can prepare him for the magical power that is contained within. Continue reading “Review: The Box of Delights, Wilton’s Music Hall”

Round-up of news and treats and other interesting things

National treasure Matthew Kelly and West End superstar Josefina Gabrielle are to star in the brand-new stage adaptation of The Box of Delights, possibly the creepiest children’s tv show ever and one which is indeliby etched on my psyche. This original production is the first time Poet Laureate John Masefield’s festive classic has been reimagined for the stage, and will be brought to life by an ensemble cast in the gloriously Christmassy surroundings of Wilton’s Music Hall.
 
Joining Kelly and Gabrielle as part of the stellar cast will be Mark Extance, Safiyya Ingar, Tom Kanji, Samuel Simmonds, Rosalind Steele and Alistair Toovey.

Continue reading “Round-up of news and treats and other interesting things”

Album Review: Carousel (1993 London Cast Recording)

“The feelin’ is gettin’ so intense”

Nick Hytner’s production of Carousel began life at the National Theatre at 1992 and was such a success that it transferred into the West End the next year, albeit without its entire original cast. So this recording does not feature the likes of Patricia Routledge and Janie Dee which is sad, but it did retain the incomparable Joanna Riding who delivers the kind of performance as Julie Jordan that should rightfully be lauded for aeons.

Frankly, it pisses all over Katherine Jenkins’ efforts (Michael Hayden’s Billy isn’t particularly fantastic but I’d still take him over Alfie Boe), speaking as it does to the darker side of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s musical, which Hytner was one of the first to really emphasise. Riding is superb from start to finish and in a treasure trove of riches, it is the rendition of ‘What’s the use of Wond’rin” that really blows you away. Continue reading “Album Review: Carousel (1993 London Cast Recording)”

Album Review: Fame (1995 Original London Cast Recording)

“These are my emotions 
Mine alone to keep”

Some things age well. Music produced in the 90s is not often one of them, and so it is true of the Original London Cast Recording of Fame The Musical. The musical was actually written in the 80s, premiering in Miami before getting its first major production in the West End at the Cambridge Theatre in 1995. Following the hopes and dreams of a scrappy group of drama school brats at the New York High School of Performing Arts, and between the film and TV show, it’s a well-worn story but one told well.

The main problem is that Steve Margoshes’ score really isn’t that strong, failing to come up with anything that is polished and assured as the Michael Gore-penned title song which, to be fair, is a solid-gold pop banger. The Paula Abdul-tinged ‘Let’s Play A Love Scene’ comes closest for me and elsewhere, there’s not much in the way of memorable music, plus Jaques Levy’s lyrics have dated badly, always a problem when trying to be au courant, and David Beer’s musical direction also can’t help but show its age in aiming for a contemporary rock sound. Continue reading “Album Review: Fame (1995 Original London Cast Recording)”

Review: A Little Night Music, Watermill

“It’s but a pleasurable means
To a measurable end”

Sondheim’s reputation as one of our finest living composers rests not only on the delicious complexity of his music but also on the superlative performances that it draws from actors who must delve extraordinarily deep to rise to its challenges. Not every performer is able to ascend these heady heights but it gives me enormous pleasure to report that Josefina Gabrielle delivers one of those utterly transcendent moments with a nigh-on perfect interpretation of Desiree Armfeldt at the Watermill. 

As a once-famed actress not quite getting the gigs she believes she should, she presents the facade of ‘The Glamourous Life’ beautifully – a touch self-deprecating, two touches self-assured, she knows how to rule a room. But try as she might, she can’t always rule the hearts of others as evinced in the bittersweet ‘Send In The Clowns’ which is made to feel brand new here, Gabrielle finding fresh textures and feeling (the startled emotion of ‘I thought that you’d want what I want’ seems to surprise even her) to completely and utterly break the heart (the song’s final line has never been delivered more affectingly, and I’m including the Dench in there!). 

Given the name of this blog, it should come as little surprise that I find it hard to resist productions of A Little Night Music, even when they’re in deepest Berkshire. But Paul Foster is a director I admire and actor-musician productions are often superb in their ingenuity. And so it proves here, Sarah Travis’ arrangements for this company of 13 (playing piccolos to double basses) are meticulously done, losing none of the music’s majesty even as it is considerably reconfigured in some parts. Continue reading “Review: A Little Night Music, Watermill”

Review: Stepping Out, Vaudeville

“I just popped into Pineapple for this”

There may be few real surprises to be had at Stepping Out but what Maria Friedman’s production here at the Vaudeville does, is to conjure a marvellously congenial atmosphere which is ideally suited to the play. Written in 1984 by Richard Harris and set the year before, to call this period comedy dated is beyond stating the obvious, its female characters wafer-thin, its gender politics non-existent.

But if it isn’t feminist with a capital F, there’s certainly lower-case feminism at work here, not least in the fact that it offers up 8 out of its 9 roles to women – bucking the male:female ratio that is stubbornly persistent in the West End. We follow this group of women, and the solitary man, as they muddle their way through a weekly tap class, building to the inevitable performance that they have to pull off. Continue reading “Review: Stepping Out, Vaudeville”