Album Review: The Grinning Man (2018 London Cast Live Recording)

I thoroughly enjoy getting to revisit the dark delights of new British musical The Grinning Man

“Laughter is the best medicine”

I loved The Grinning Man in both its incarnations – from Bristol’s Old Vic to the West End – and so I was most pleased to hear that it would be immortalised in vinyl, or whatever the digital equivalent is… A new British musical (book by Carl Grose, music by Tim Phillips and Marc Teitler, lyrics by all three plus Tom Morris) is always a thing to cherish, even when it is a queerly dark a thing as this. 

It’s a live recording which has its pros and cons. Personally, I like hearing the response of a live audience, particularly in response to the devilishly dark humour of Julian Bleach’s Barkilphedro. And the raw passion you hear in the voices of Louis Maskell and Sanne den Besten as tragic lovers Grinpayne and Dea feels all the more urgent for not having that studio polish to rub off some of the more emotional edges. Continue reading “Album Review: The Grinning Man (2018 London Cast Live Recording)”

2017 Best Supporting Actress in a Play + in a Musical

Best Supporting Actress in a Play

Bríd Brennan, The Ferryman

Thinking about this most well-received of plays, it is the role of Aunt Maggie Faraway who lingers most in my mind, the elegiac beauty of her speeches an elegant way of folding in traditions of Irish storytelling and emphasising the deep bonds of family. Breathtaking work from Brennan.

Honourable mention: Kate Kennedy, Twelfth Night (Royal Exchange)
When done well, Olivia is one of my favourite Shakespearean roles and the statuesque Kennedy didn’t disappoint with a highly-sexed take on the character which embraced all the physical potential of her height.

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

8-10
Susan Brown, Angels in America; Jessica Brown Findlay, Hamlet; Denise Gough, Angels in America

Best Supporting Actress in a Musical

Tracie Bennett, Follies

All I have to say is ‘I’m Still Here’. I’M STILL HERE!

Honourable mention: Rachel John, Hamilton
Only the tiniest of margins separated these two and it’s only really the fact that she’s not Renée Elise Goldsberry that held John back from the title.

Christine Allado, Hamilton
Julie Atherton, The Grinning Man
Sharon D Clarke, The Life
Joanna Riding, Romantics Anonymous
Lucie Shorthouse, Everybody’s Talking About Jamie


8-10
Nicola Hughes, Caroline or Change ; Cathy Read, Little Women; Sharon Sexton, Bat Out of Hell

Review: The Grinning Man, Trafalgar Studios

A great transfer for a great British musical, The Grinning Man impresses in this transfer to the Trafalgar Studios

“A tale so tragic it could only be true”

I’m no real fan of the Trafalgar Studios to be honest – its seating can be cramped, its angles severe, the toilet situation far from ideal, plus the coffee machine there takes an inordinate amount of time to produce a drink. But credit where it is due, director Tom Morris and designer Jon Bausor have done a fantastically inventive job in reconceiving the space to suit the anarchic energy of The Grinning Man, first seen in Bristol last year (and my favourite musical of the year, too).

A new British musical (book by Carl Grose, music by Tim Phillips and Marc Teitler, lyrics by all three plus Morris) based on a Victor Hugo novel, it’s a macabre tale to be sure, but one suffused with a real magic too. And Morris gives it an immediacy which scrubs away much of the distance that audiences can feel in the old Whitehall Theatre as cellists appear through walls, performers clamber into the stalls to sing, couples walk as if on air…

Continue reading “Review: The Grinning Man, Trafalgar Studios”

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.

Continue reading “Review: Songs and Solidarity, Trafalgar Studios”

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). Continue reading “News: Songs and Solidarity – a concert for those affected by the Grenfell Tower fire”

Review: Ordinary Days, London Theatre Workshop

“If everyone’s got a big picture
How come my picture’s something that I still have yet to see?”

I saw Adam Gwon’s 2008 musical Ordinary Days downstairs at the Trafalgar Studios back in 2011 with a grand cast that included Julie Atherton, Alexia Khadime and Daniel Boys and enjoyed it a fair bit, so news of a new production by Streetlights, People! at the transplanted London Theatre Workshop (now in the City) was glad tidings indeed. Directed by Jen Coles on the simplest of sets, decorated with a Manhattan skyline by Samantha Cates, the show’s relatable charms shine through once again.

The four-hander is a deceptively simple show – a quartet of 20-something New Yorkers are spiritually lost, swept up in what should be the romance of the city but finding that adulting isn’t quite as easy as all that. Jason is sacrificing everything for the woman he loves but Claire’s previously broken heart just won’t heal properly; grad student Deb has lost months of valuable thesis research but when struggling artist Warren finds it, she stubbornly resists any attempt at connection that he makes. Continue reading “Review: Ordinary Days, London Theatre Workshop”

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”

Round-up of summer album reviews

To cover the holiday period, you may have noticed an album review or three – here’s a round-up of them, including my top ten.

Recommended titles
Close To You – Bacharach Reimagined (2016 Original London Cast Recording)
Hamilton (2015 Original Broadway Cast Recording)
Kelli O’Hara – Always 
Leslie Odom Jr – Leslie Odom Jr 
Matt Doyle – Uncontrolled
Samantha Barks – Samantha Barks
Thérèse Raquin (2014 Original London Cast Recording)
The Last Five Years (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)
The Scottsboro Boys (2014 Original London Cast Recording)
Waitress (Original Broadway Cast Recording)


And the rest!
Alison Jiear – Inspirational
Allegro (2009 First Complete Recording)
An American Victory (2016 Concept Album)
Annie (1995 London Studio Cast Recording)
Annie (2014 Film Cast)
Bad Girls (2007 Original London Cast)
Billy Porter – At The Corner of Broadway and Soul
Billy Porter – Billy’s Back On Broadway
Brian Stokes Mitchell – Simply Broadway
Bright Star (Original Broadway Cast Recording)
Bring It On: The Musical (2012 Original Broadway Cast Recording)
Caroline Sheen – Raise the Curtain 
Cheyenne Jackson – I’m Blue, Skies
Cheyenne Jackson – Renaissance
Cool Rider (Original Studio Recording)
Departure Lounge (Original London Cast Recording)
Elf the Musical (2015 Original London Cast Recording)
From Here To Eternity (2014 Live Cast Recording)
Funny Girl (2016 London Cast Recording)
Ghost The Musical (Original London Cast Recording)
In The Heights (2008 Original Broadway Cast Recording)
Jane Krakowski – The Laziest Gal in Town
John Owen-Jones – Unmasked 
Kimberley Walsh – Centre Stage
Kinky Boots (Original Broadway Cast Recording)
Kristin Chenoweth – Coming Home 
Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar & Grill (2014 Cast Recording)
Lord of the Rings (2008 Original London Cast Recording)
Louise Dearman – Here Comes The Sun 
Louise Dearman – You and I 
Love Birds (Original Edinburgh Cast Recording)
Mamma Mia (Original Cast Recording 1999)
Mrs Henderson Presents (Original London Cast Recording)
Natasha, Pierre and the Great Comet of 1812
Oliver Tompsett –Sentimental Heart
Our First Mistake – The Songs of Kerrigan and Lowdermilk
Out Of Context: The Songs Of Michael Patrick Walker
Patti LuPone – Far Away Places
Patti LuPone – Matters of the Heart
Prodigy (Original Cast Recording)
Promises, Promises (2010 New Broadway Cast Recording)
Rebecca Caine – Leading Ladies 
Renée Elise Goldsberry – Beautiful EP 
Richard Beadle – Songs 
Ruthie Henshall – The Ruthie Henshall Album
Sally Ann Triplett – Anything Goes
She Loves Me (1994 London Cast Recording)
She Loves Me (2016 Broadway Cast Recording)
Stephen Ward (2013 Original Cast Recording)
Shuffle Along, Or…
The Bodyguard – The Musical (World Premiere Cast Recording)
The Color Purple (2006 Original Broadway Cast Recording)
The Color Purple (2015 Broadway Revival Cast Recording)
The Fix (1997 Original London Cast)
The Gershwins’ Porgy and Bess (2012 New Broadway Cast Recording)
The Mystery of Edwin Drood (2012 Broadway Cast Recording)
Thirteen Stories Down – The Songs of Jonathan Reid Gealt
Tony Yazbeck – The Floor Above Me
Tuck Everlasting (2016 Original Broadway Cast Recording)
Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown (2011 Original Broadway Cast Recording)
Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown (2015 Original London Cast Recording)
Xanadu (2007 Original Broadway Cast)

Album Review: Richard Beadle – Songs (2012)

“If we make it through together”

Songs was the debut album from Richard Beadle, a songwriter, composer and conductor of television and production music, as well as a well-established musical supervisor/director on a wide range of West End shows from Betty Blue Eyes, The Bodyguard to the forthcoming The Girls. I actually attended a concert showcasing Beadle’s music back in 2013 but it has taken me a little time to get round to properly listening to the album.

His style seems to sit somewhere equidistant between ‘traditional’ and ‘new’ musical theatre writing – the nervy angst of ‘The Wedding Song’, sung perfectly by Julie Atherton, owes a debt to Jason Robert Brown whereas Rachael Wooding’s beautiful declaration of love in ‘Here We Are’ has a much more classic feel to it. And what comes across these 12 tracks is a pleasing sense of confidence in musicality, these are songs that stand as well individually as in the musicals from which they come. Continue reading “Album Review: Richard Beadle – Songs (2012)”

CD Review: Thérèse Raquin (2014 Original London Cast)

“You are not still, you are not still Thérèse”

There are times when listening to cast recordings can sometimes feel like a chore, and others when they are a glorious reminder of shows gone by. For me, hearing the utterly gorgeous waterfall of voices on ‘You Are Not Still Thérèse’ from Craig Adams’ Thérèse Raquin is very much in the latter category, one of those moments of musical theatre perfection that work as music, as drama, as theatre, as pure art.
Adams and Nona Shepphard’s adaptation of Zola’s novel played at the Finborough in 2014 and then transferred to the larger Park in one of those really sensible moments theatreland sometimes has. Musically complex and dramatically interesting as a radical interpretation of the book, it delved deep into Thérèse’s psychology and aided by a stunning performance from Julie Atherton, worked beautifully.

The score stands up well on disc, its through-sung narrative clear as a bell and really assisted by the introduction of a sonorous Greek chorus of Claire Greenway, Ellie Kirk and Lucy O’Byrne who provide commentary and alternative takes on the tragic events. Atherton connects viscerally with illicit love Laurent, a virile Greg Barnett and contemptuously with husband Jeremy Legat’s Camille to bring real fire to their love triangle and its consequences, the climactic ‘If I Had Known’ is just devastatingly good.
But it’s the combination of them with the complex choral work of the company that really makes this an extraordinary musical, rich and evocative in a way that is all too rarely seen in new musicals, certainly on larger stages, and so it’s a real boon to have this recording to remember the show by and hopefully spearhead a fine set of revivals to come.