Review: Dusty, Lowry / Aspects of Love, Hope Mill

2 quickies from a flying visit up north to Manchester to Dusty the Musical at the Lowry and Aspects of Love at the Hope Mill Theatre

“Left alone with just a memory”

Does the world really need another Dusty Springfield musical? I avoided the car crash at the Charing Cross a few years back, and wish I had avoided Son of a Preacher Man last year. But still they come and now we have Dusty the Musical which at least boasts a better pedigree than most, with Jonathan Harvey writing, Maria Friedman directing and Katherine Kingsley starring.

And with that level of quality, particularly from the mega-wattage of Kingsley’s titanic performance, it certainly emerges as the best of the bunch, relatively speaking. It is far from a great show though, its book weighed down with the tension between meticulously researched facts and figures and the greater freedom that comes from invented characters who allow story to flow. If it is to make it into the West End, more tinkering needed and Kingsley locked down. Continue reading “Review: Dusty, Lowry / Aspects of Love, Hope Mill”

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

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 Secret Diary of Adrian Mole Aged 13 ¾, Menier Chocolate Factory


“You may be 13 but you’re still an adolescent boy”

After premiering at the Curve Theatre in 2015, Pippa Cleary and Jake Brunger’s musical adaptation of Sue Townsend’s tale of Leicester’s most famous teenager has undergone its own version of puberty, re-emerging at the Menier Chocolate Factory for the summer. And those growing pains seem to have been worth it as The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole Aged 13 ¾ has matured beautifully, a powerful example of how musicals need to be allowed to develop, resulting in this case in a fantastic new British musical.

Luke Sheppard’s production certainly benefits from the intimacy of the South London venue but where it now excels is in its emotional intensity. The scenes between Adrian (played by Ilan Galkoff at this performance) and his mother Pauline, an achingly superb Kelly Price, are just heart-breaking, as he struggles to realise just how far her women’s lib-inspired independence will take her from him. I was reminded that reading this book was in fact was one of the main ways I learned about divorce and that scarce comprehension is captured perfectly here. Continue reading “Review: The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole Aged 13 ¾, Menier Chocolate Factory”

fosterIAN awards 2015

 WinnerRunner-upOther nominees
Best Actress in a PlayLia Williams, Oresteia Letitia Wright, EclipsedThusitha Jayasundera, My Eyes Went Dark
Marianne Jean-Baptiste, hang
Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Nell Gwynn
Lara Rossi, Octagon
Best Actor in a Play
John Heffernan, Oppenheimer David Morrissey, HangmenChiwetel Ejiofor, Everyman
Jamie Samuel, Plastic Figurines
Eelco Smits, Glazen Speelgoed
Angus Wright, Oresteia
Best Supporting Actress in a PlayDaisy Haggard, You For Me For You T’Nia Miller, EclipsedPriyanga Burford, The Effect
Estella Daniels, Octagon
Rosalind Eleazor, Plaques and Tangles
Sally Rogers, Hangmen
Best Supporting Actor in a PlayJohn Simm, The Homecoming David Moorst, Violence and SonHarm Duco Schut, Glazen Speelgoed
Johnny Flynn, Hangmen
James Garnon, As You Like It (Globe)
David Sturzaker, Nell Gwynn
Best Actress in a MusicalNatalie Dew, Bend It Like Beckham Katie Brayben, BeautifulTracie Bennett, Mrs Henderson Presents
Jennifer Harding, The Clockmaker's Daughter
Debbie Kurup, Anything Goes
Kelly Price, Little Shop of Horrors
Best Actor in a MusicalGiles Terera, Pure Imagination Matt Henry, Kinky BootsIan Bartholomew, Mrs Henderson Presents
Killian Donnelly, Kinky Boots
Scott Garnham, Grand Hotel
Alex Gaumond, Seven Brides for Seven Brothers
Best Supporting Actress in a MusicalEmma Williams, Mrs Henderson Presents Amy Lennox, Kinky BootsAnita Dobson, Follies
Anna Francolini, wonder.land
Lauren Samuels, Bend It Like Beckham
Lorna Want, Beautiful
Best Supporting Actor in a MusicalEmmanuel Kojo, Show Boat Ako Mitchell, Little Shop of HorrorsMatthew Malthouse, Mrs Henderson Presents
Ian McIntosh, Beautiful
Jamie Parker, High Society
George Rae, Grand Hotel

2015 Best Actress in a Play + in a Musical


Best Actress in a Play

Lia Williams, Oresteia
Could it have been anyone else? Finally given the opportunity to present Klytemnestra’s story from the beginning, from the advent of her ferocious rage that is too often taken for granted, Williams gave us a strikingly modern politician’s wife and mother who couldn’t sit idly by if she tried. With live video giving her nowhere to hide, it was us to shrank away from the intensity of her emotions.

Honourable mention: Letitia Wright, Eclipsed
I’m not one to play favourites but short of inventing a new category of Best Ensemble, there was little else I could do for this most favourite drama. The expression on Wright’s face at the end still haunts me to this very day, clearly an actress to watch for the great things she’s bound to deliver.

Thusitha Jayasundera, My Eyes Went Dark
Marianne Jean-Baptiste, hang
Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Nell Gwynn
Lara Rossi, Octagon

7-10
Kate Fleetwood, Medea (Almeida); Ophelia Lovibond, The Effect; Chris Nietvelt, Glazen Speelgoed; Gemma Whelan, Radiant Vermin

 

Best Actress in a Musical

Natalie Dew, Bend It Like Beckham
Redefining the triple threat to singing, acting and scoring, Dew proved to be an effortlessly charming leading player in this film adaptation. Guileless, appealing and wonderfully warm, her performance was quite the surprise and a welcome anchor for a show that is still holding on to its place in the West End.

Honourable mention: Katie Brayben, Beautiful – The Carole King Musical
Cassidy Janson may have stepped into her shoes now but there was real joy for me in watching Brayben graduate to this leading role, having admired her work for a long time. And if the show itself isn’t the strongest in the West End, the sheer conviction of her performance level ensured it worked.

Tracie Bennett, Mrs Henderson Presents
Jennifer Harding, The Clockmaker’s Daughter
Debbie Kurup, Anything Goes
Kelly Price, Little Shop of Horrors

7-10
Laura Pitt-Pulford, Seven Brides for Seven Brothers; Jenna Russell, Songs For A New World; Zizi Strallen, Mary Poppins; Lauren Ward, Bat Boy

Album Review: Desperately Seeking Susan (London Cast)


“One way or another I’m gonna lose ya”

There’s something perverse about wanting to have been there for shows that have been deemed a flop, to see if it really was that bad (in Too Close To The Sun’s case, it really was, and worse) or more often than not, just discover that they’re not really working that well (c.f. any number of big title musicals of recent years). Arriving late 2007, Desperately Seeking Susan came at a time when I still only saw a couple of shows a month and so I didn’t get witness its full glory before it closed a scant month after opening.

Much like double denim, its twin hit of 80s classics was a lot to take: an adaptation of the 1985 film starring Rosanna Arquette and Madonna with a soundtrack of Blondie songs bolted on for good measure. By all accounts it was a troubled mixture, as evidenced by its early closure but listening to the soundtrack, there is at least the bonus of not having to figure out how the book (by Peter Michael Marino) fits in. What’s left is the jukebox selection of Debbie Harry’s band’s finest tracks (plus a few others), performed by a well-meaning cast. Continue reading “Album Review: Desperately Seeking Susan (London Cast)”

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”

Review: Little Shop of Horrors, Royal Exchange


“That thing went bang, kaboom. And he’s havin’ some fun now”

There are shows I love and then there are shows I LOVE and Little Shop of Horrors most definitely falls into that latter category. I fell for its undeniable charms when I was 11 or 12 I think, when my mum was involved in her school production of it, letting me wander backstage, and the MD, who was also my piano teacher, snuck out a copy of Alan Menken’s most tuneful of scores to enliven my lessons for a good few weeks. Combined with the cult classic that is the movie version, I was utterly hooked and have remained so ever since. So I was most delighted to see the Royal Exchange announcing it as their festive fare and with the ever-exciting Derek Bond directing, who in recent years has delivered a bewitching As You Like It, the hugely under-rated Many Moons and Lost in Yonkers, through which I cried pretty much non-stop.

The gloriously rich vocal harmonies of Ibinabo Jack, Ellena Vincent and Joelle Moses as Chiffon, Crystal and Ronnette, the girl-group Greek chorus who doo-wop their premonitions of doom, are an ever-present and magnificent hook into the action and never more so than in the stellar one-two that opens the show. ‘Little Shop of Horrors’ is a stone-cold classic theme tune with its shang-a-langs and throaty comma comma commas but ‘Skid Row’ – one of my all-time favourite songs from a musical, I should add – blooms into resplendent life, benefitting from a slightly slowed tempo and some sympatico choreography to really nail the air of quiet desperation that lies at the song’s heart as we’re introduced to this classic “boy-meets-girl-feeds-plant-her-boyfriend-gets-famous-kills-boss-sacrifices-girl-and-dies” story. Oh yeah, spoiler alert 😉 Continue reading “Review: Little Shop of Horrors, Royal Exchange”

The 2013 Manchester Theatre Awards nominations


Best Actor
David Birrell, Sweeney Todd, Royal Exchange
Kenneth Branagh, Macbeth, Manchester International Festival, St Peter’s Church
Nigel Cooke, To Kill A Mockingbird, Royal Exchange
Paul Webster, Sugar Daddies, Oldham Coliseum
Jack Wilkinson, David Copperfield, Oldham Coliseum

Best Actress
Marianne Benedict, Chicago, Oldham Coliseum
Cush Jumbo, A Doll’s House, Royal Exchange
Gillian Kearney, Educating Rita, Library at The Lowry
Alex Kingston, Macbeth, Manchester International Festival, St Peter’s Church
Maxine Peake, Masque Of Anarchy, Manchester International Festival, Albert Hall
Shannon Tarbet, To Kill A Mockingbird, Royal Exchange Continue reading “The 2013 Manchester Theatre Awards nominations”