Re-review: A singalong Bat out of Hell, Dominion

We go back to the singalong Bat out of Hell at the Dominion Theatre but find diminishing returns

“Can’t you hear the choir now?
Listen to the animals sing”

Just a quickie for this repeat visit to Bat out of Hell, as the allure of the singalong performance was once again too strong. I don’t know if Tuesday night was the best choice though, as the Dominion Theatre was lacking in bodies and in atmosphere, at least in our part of the stalls, which kind of detracted from the communal spirit which was so enjoyable last time around.

I wonder too if the news of the show’s closure has dampened some of the enthusiasm. As D-day (5th January) draws closer, some of that intensity might return but for me, the performance level was weaker than I’ve previously seen. Rob Fowler and Sharon Sexton carry the show even more now and that means you only feel their absence all the more when they’re not on stage. Nothing really rocks, nothing really rolls…

Running time: 2 hours 45 minutes (with interval)
Photo: Specular
Bat out of Hell is booking at the Dominion Theatre until 5th January, one more singalong performance is scheduled for 31st December 

Review: A singalong Bat out of Hell, Dominion

Baby baby BABY! For better or worse, Bat out of Hell introduces the singalong musical into the West End 

“You got the kind of lips that do more than drink
You got the kind of mind that does less than think”

Although it might feel like every night is singalong night at some musicals (cough Motown cough), Bat out of Hell have gone the extra step and made one night a month an actual sing-along performance. So if you get down to the Dominion Theatre on these selected dates, then you can live your dream of singing in a West End theatre, just, you know, not on the actual stage…!

If you’re pondering whether this is a good idea, I’ve answered a few questions below.

“I know you’re lookin’ for a ruby in a mountain of rocks
But there ain’t no Coupe de Ville hidin’ at the bottom of a Cracker Jack box”

1. What if I don’t know all the words?

Never fear – there are screens dotted around the theatre, and above the stage, which show the lyrics. And it’s not every song we’re invited to sing along to, which I was particularly gutted for for “What Part of My Body Hurts the Most”. Seeing the lyrics like this has the additional amusing bonus of showing how batshit crazy some of them are…! Continue reading “Review: A singalong Bat out of Hell, Dominion”

Review: Bat Out of Hell, Dominion

Serving up more Meatloaf, Bat Out of Hell returns to London at the Dominion with a new-found subtlety…

“Some nights you’re like nothing I’ve ever seen before or will again”

I jest of course – there ain’t nothing subtle about Bat Out of Hell, apart from the slight price rises on the merchandise stall. Newly installed at the Dominion Theatre, after runs in Manchester, Toronto and at the Coliseum last year, it has lost little of the bizarre, baffling energy that saw it find a very devoted audience.

And they’ll be pleased that leads Andrew Polec and Christina Bennington return, the new cast members slot in effortlessly, and the inimitable vocal prowess of all is still ear-splittingly breathtaking, under Michael Reed’s musical supervision. Rob Fowler and Sharon Sexton remain the show’s secret weapon, stealing the thunder like a punked-up Jack and Karen. Continue reading “Review: Bat Out of Hell, Dominion”

Review: Elegies for Angels, Punks and Raging Queens, Criterion

“Learning to let go”

Just a quickie for this one-off – a fundraiser for the Make A Difference Trust of this late 1980s song cycle inspired by the AIDS memorial quilt. The original London production of Elegies for Angels, Punks and Raging Queens actually transferred to the Criterion – where tonight’s show was – from the King’s Head but it’s a little difficult to see how this production with its nearly 50-strong company could ever have been scaled down to fit into that Islington pub theatre. But given how the show is made up of individual songs and monologues, each inspired by a different panel on the quilt representing the life of someone who has died from HIV/AIDS, its inherent flexibility shows how it can take whatever form is needed.

Here, Stephen Whitson’s production takes on a new 21st century version of the book by Bill Russell, the updating of which has mixed results. Contemporary references clang a little awkwardly but there’s more of a problem in that neither the fast-moving world of medical advancements nor the changing nature of the epidemic itself are really reflected – the show is already a period piece in so many ways that it perhaps would be better to leave it that way rather than trying to chase a relevance that would be better served by a completely separate part two. Continue reading “Review: Elegies for Angels, Punks and Raging Queens, Criterion”

Film Review: Les Misérables

“Life has dropped you at the bottom of the heap”

For many people, myself included, it is nigh on impossible to approach a film version of stage behemoth Les Misérables with a blank slate. It’s been a mainstay of the musical theatre world since its 1985 London debut – it is most likely the show I have seen the most times throughout my lifetime – and after celebrating its 25th anniversary with an extraordinarily good touring production, has been riding high with a revitalised energy. So Tom Hooper’s film has a lot to contend with in terms of preconceptions, expectations and long-ingrained ideas of how it should be done. And he has attacked it with gusto, aiming to reinvent notions of cinematic musicals by having his actors sing live to camera and bringing his inimitable close-up directorial style to bear thus creating a film which is epic in scale but largely intimate in focus.

In short, I liked it but I didn’t love it. I’m not so sure that Hooper’s take on the piece as a whole is entirely suited to the material, or rather my idea of how best it works. Claude-Michel Schönberg’s score has a sweeping grandeur which is already quasi-cinematic in its scope but Hooper never really embraces it fully as he works in his customary solo shots and close-ups into the numbers so well known as ensemble masterpieces.  ‘At The End Of The Day’ and ‘One Day More’ both suffer this fate of being presented as individually sung segments stitched together but for me, the pieces never really added up to more than the sum of their parts to gain the substantial power that they possess on the stage. Continue reading “Film Review: Les Misérables”

CD Review: Love Story – Original London Cast Recording

“What can you say about a girl who seemed to run before she walked”

New musicals are sometimes difficult things, audiences don’t always respond straightaway and in the cut-throat world of the West End, there’s little tolerance for something that isn’t an instant hit. Though it was amazingly well received in Chichester, Howard Goodall’s Love Story suffered such a fate in its brief run at the Duchess late last year. There’s not much more to be said about this much-missed show whose run in London was sadly curtailed than to say how grateful I am that they were able to make a cast recording as it really was one of those scores with which I fell in love straight away. My reviews of the show can be read here and here, I probably would have gone again had it continued to run.

Howard Goodall’s luxurious string and piano music stretches elegantly over the story, little riffs and motifs repeating so that a sense of familiarity is gained with just one listen. Emma Williams is just perfect as the strident Jenny, fiercely independent but unable to resist the entirely charismatic Michael Xavier as Oliver, and together they make such sweet music. Continue reading “CD Review: Love Story – Original London Cast Recording”

Re-review: Love Story, Duchess

“Life is molto bene when your pesto’s mixed with penne”

Coming in as one of my favourite shows of 2010, and in the top 2 musicals I saw all year long, it was no surprise that a return visit to Love Story was booked in order to introduce someone new to the wonders of this show. You can read my (something of a rave) review from my previous visit here: I don’t really have much more to add to it to be honest, other than I really do believe this to be one of the strongest and most beautiful new British musicals of recent years.

I cried more this time round, knowing what to expect and when to expect it usually does that to me, but having seen it before meant that I had much more sympathy for Michael Xavier’s Olly throughout the show. He is a rather bullish and brash character at first glance but Xavier brings much more depth to the character which for me, simply heightened the emotion in the moments when he cracks and sure enough, every single time his handsome face crumpled, my eyes welled up. Emma Williams delivered another sensational performance, even dealing with wayward pasta most professionally, singing all the while. Continue reading “Re-review: Love Story, Duchess”

Review: Love Story, Duchess

“What can you say…”

Where do I begin, to tell the story of how great a love can be? Well, by heartily recommending that you go and see Love Story at the Duchess Theatre. The musical version of the well-known film (and novel) by Erich Segal which premiered at the Minerva in Chichester earlier this year, it has transferred into London with the help of Michael Ball who has joined the creative team as an above-the-title producer. The show sees a welcome return to the West End for Howard Goodall as the composer and co-lyricist with Stephen Clark, who wrote the book. Things started off well as we entered the Duchess to see Stephen Ridley’s onstage band of a piano, guitar and string quintet, instantly indicating that this is going to be a classier affair with Peter McKintosh’s simple white column-based design adding to the dignified air.

It is the story of a rich blue-blood Harvard law graduate, Oliver Barrett IV and a less-well-off piano-playing Italian-American Radcliffe College woman, Jenny Cavilleri, who fall passionately for each other and are swiftly married despite their differences and opposition from their parents. We follow their young love as they start to build a life together, but fate has other plans… Directed by Rachel Kavanaugh with a remarkably restrained emotion, the focus really is on the love story rather than dwelling on the tragic ending, Jenny is only diagnosed with about 20 minutes to go as Stephen Clark’s heart-warming and tender book navigates sentiment without resorting to too much of the saccharine. Continue reading “Review: Love Story, Duchess”

Review: Les Misérables, Barbican

“Will you join in our crusade? Who will be strong and stand with me?”

When I first started this blogging lark, I thought that what I wanted was to be ‘respected’ as a ‘serious’ theatregoer and whilst I’ve never been ashamed of being a huge fan of musical theatre amongst many other things, I’d always been uneasy about demonstrating that too much. But after great conversations with so many of my new friends in the online reviewing community, I’ve come to fully appreciate that integrity really does come from being truly honest about things that I see and the things that I love and this could not have been better illuminated than in the last two days: an obscure Sondheim revival at the Donmar and the umpteenth time of seeing Les Misérables, albeit in a new production and I can proudly say that it was Les Mis that came out as a clear winner for me despite what my inner snob may have wanted me to say!

Based on Victor Hugo’s novel, Alain Boublil and Claude-Michel Schönberg adapted it for the stage in 1980, and it first played in London at the Barbican, produced by Cameron Mackintosh and directed by Trevor Nunn, transferring to the Palace and then the Queen’s Theatre where it is still running after 25 years. And to mark that 25th anniversary, Mackintosh conceived this touring version of the show, directed by Lawrence Connor and James Powell (a decision which sadly left Nunn’s nose out of joint) and after touring the country, it has now arrived back at its original home at the Barbican for 22 performances only. Continue reading “Review: Les Misérables, Barbican”