Review: Hairspray Live (The Show Must Go On)

A joyous production of Hairspray Live gives you hope that the show will go on with The Show Must Go On

“You can wonder i you wanna but I never ask why”

I assumed that since The Show Must Go On went with The Sound of Music Live last week that they would be working their way through the series of live TV musicals that NBC had aired in the US. In going with Hairspray Live this weekend though, it seems that we’ve skipped Peter Pan and The Wiz (maybe due to rights issues?), though it’s not necessarily the worst thing as Hairspray is such a joyous show it should perk up many a flagging spirit.

It proves far superior to The Sound of Music and you have to believe that it stems from a far more successful casting policy. Heading out for a national casting call for Tracy works because she’s such an everywoman character but even then, newcomer Maddie Baillio is thoroughly charming. Having Harvey Fierstein reprise his Edna is a masterstroke and then roping in Tony winners Kristin Chenoweth and Jennifer Hudson indicates that the right strengths were being looked for. Continue reading “Review: Hairspray Live (The Show Must Go On)”

News: Sondheim’s 90th birthday concert line-up announced

Legendary Broadway composer Stephen Sondheim will be toasted with an all-star birthday concert, streaming live on Sunday 26th April. Hosted by Raúl Esparza, with musical direction by Mary-Mitchell Campbell, and coinciding with the 50th Broadway anniversary of Sondheim’s CompanyTake Me to the World: A Sondheim 90th Birthday Celebration can be seen for free on YouTube. 

This once-in-a-lifetime event, benefiting ASTEP (Artists Striving to End Poverty), will include a range of songs from the Sondheim catalogue performed by many of the artists who delivered iconic turns in his musicals, including Meryl Streep, Bernadette Peters, Patti LuPone, Mandy Patinkin, Audra McDonald, Christine Baranski, Donna Murphy, Kristin Chenoweth, Sutton Foster, Brian Stokes Mitchell, Kelli O’Hara, Aaron Tveit, Maria Friedman, Katrina Lenk, Michael Cerveris, Brandon Uranowitz, Elizabeth Stanley, Chip Zien, Alexander Gemignani, Iain Armitage, Stephen Schwartz and, from the cast of Pacific Overtures at Classic Stage Company, Ann Harada, Austin Ku, Kelvin Moon Loh and Thom Sesma.

Album Reviews: Kristen Chenoweth – For The Girls / Idina Menzel – Christmas: A Season of Love

A pair of album reviews for the OG Wicked stars – Kristen Chenoweth’s For The Girls and Idina Menzel’s Christmas: A Season of Love

“You know the Queen of hearts is always your best bet”

No matter how they’ve diverged now, the careers of Kristen Chenoweth and Idina Menzel will forever be connected by Wicked and so you wonder whether their respective 2016 albums being released at the same time was ‘just’ a coincidence. And those ties just won’t quit as late 2019 sees them both dropping records, albeit with a month or two inbetween this time.

Chenoweth’s album is For The Girls, a concept album of sorts, produce by Steve Tyrell and Jon Allen, focusing on tracks either written or performed by female artists. She might not exactly reinvent the wheel with her covers, but there’s something impressive about the way in which she draws the connecting line between the country pop of her upbringing – ‘Desperado’, ‘Crazy’ – to the standards for which she’s now famed – a glorious ‘The Man That Got Away’, ‘The Way We Were’. As diverse a collection it gets, it always coheres effectively.  Continue reading “Album Reviews: Kristen Chenoweth – For The Girls / Idina Menzel – Christmas: A Season of Love”

2018 BroadwayWorld UK Awards Shortlist

Best Actor in a New Production of a Musical
Alex Wadham, The Full Monty: The Musical, Old Joint Stock Theatre, Birmingham
Giles Terera, Hamilton, Victoria Palace Theatre
Jamal Kane Crawford, Fame, UK Tour
Jamie Muscato, Heathers The Musical, The Other Palace/Theatre Royal Haymarket
Louis Maskell, The Grinning Man, Trafalgar Studios
Marc Antolin, Little Shop of Horrors, Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre

Best Actor in a New Production of a Play
Aidan Turner, The Lieutenant of Inishmore, Noël Coward Theatre
Ben Batt, The York Realist, Donmar Warehouse/Crucible Theatre, Sheffield
Ian McKellen, King Lear, Chichester Festival Theatre
Matthew Tennyson, A Monster Calls, Old Vic
Reed Birney, The Humans, Hampstead Theatre
Tyrone Huntley, Homos, Or Everyone in America, Finborough Theatre Continue reading “2018 BroadwayWorld UK Awards Shortlist”

Review: Speech and Debate, Trafalgar Studios 2

“Please don’t riff”

An opportunity to see this play in dress rehearsal was snaffled away from me at the last minute so stubbornly, I’d opted not to see it. But the offer of a friend’s spare ticket and the good notices that Patsy Ferran’s performance seemed to be universally receiving eventually got me along to the Trafalgar Studios’ smaller space.

Stephen Karam’s Speech and Debate dates from 2006 (his most recent play The Humans took the 2016 Tony Award for Best Play) and though this is the UK premiere, the drama is also getting a film adaptation which arrives later this month. It’s a curiously American thing – in the same way that spelling bees have been celebrated, Karam extols the virtues of the titular debating society.  Continue reading “Review: Speech and Debate, Trafalgar Studios 2”

The Curtain Up Show Album of the Year 2016 nominees

Best UK Cast Recording
American Psycho – Original London Cast Recording
Close To You: Bacharach Reimagined – Original London Cast Recording
Funny Girl – Original London Cast Recording
Half A Sixpence – 2016 London Cast Recording
Kinky Boots – Original West End Cast Recording
Mrs Henderson Presents – Original London Cast Recording

Best American Cast Recording
Allegiance – Original Broadway Cast Recording
The Color Purple – New Broadway Cast Recording
Fiddler On The Roof – 2016 Broadway Cast Recording
Lazarus – Original Cast Recording
On Your Feet! – Original Broadway Cast Recording
Waitress – Original Broadway Cast Recording

Best Solo Album / Non Cast Recording
Cheyenne Jackson – Renaissance
Lin-Manuel Miranda – The Hamilton Mixtape
Idina Menzel – idina.
Kristin Chenoweth – The Art of Elegance
Nadim Naaman – Sides
Samantha Barks – Samantha Barks

Album Review: Idina Menzel – idina. / Kristin Chenoweth – The Art of Elegance

“I get along without you very well”

Whether through coincidence or design, the paths of original Elphaba and Glinda have intertwined once again as Idina Menzel and Kristin Chenoweth released new albums on the same day. And it is interesting to see how their paths have diverged, both navigating the worlds of film and TV, music and of course theatre but in completely different ways, as reflected by this pair of records here. 

The largely self-penned idina. sees mine a confessional singer/songwriter route, utilising the pain of her divorce to present an emotive set of pop songs, more varied than perhaps you might expect from the power ballads for which she’s become known. To my mind, the country-ish tinge to tracks like Nothin’ In This World succeed more than the dance-oriented ‘Everybody Knows’ and the rockier edge of some tracks suits the emotional turmoil from whence they came. It’s a solid collection but I have to admit it isn’t one that particularly grabbed my attention as one that I want to return to any time soon. Continue reading “Album Review: Idina Menzel – idina. / Kristin Chenoweth – The Art of Elegance”

CD Review: Promises, Promises (2010 New Broadway Cast Recording)

“What do you get when you fall in love?
A guy with a pin to burst your bubble”
One of the criticisms levelled at Close To You: Bacharach Reimagined was that it, well, reimagined Burt Bacharach’s songs. Well for those who prefer a more traditional approach to his music, his one foray onto Broadway Promises, Promises will be making its way to the Southwark Playhouse early next year, following on from the successful Broadway revival of 2010, which was the show’s first since being written in the late 1960s.
And I suppose if traditional is what you are looking for, then you won’t be disappointed here. Neil Simon’s adaptation of The Apartment sits loosely on a collection of Bacharach and David songs, augmented by the inclusion here of some of their other hits to beef up the recognisability quota, and it’s all rather cutesy and undemanding and depending on your viewpoint, either nicely retro or insufferably twee.
Kristin Chenoweth and Sean Hayes try their best as the love interests and leads, particularly on a beautiful duet version of ‘I’ll Never Fall In Love Again’ and Katie FInneran makes a striking impact on ‘A Fact Can Be A Beautiful Thing’. But for me, the very fact that these interpretations of the music are closer to the ‘originals’ makes them harder to believe as part of a musical theatre score. I’ll still await seeing the show proper with interest but I can’t say I’ll be rushing back to listen to this recording. 

Album Review: Kristin Chenoweth – Coming Home (2014)

“A most unusual coloring book”

Kristin Chenoweth has been delighting audiences across musical theatre, television shows and concert tours for many years now and so one can forgive her the indulgence of a live album. Coming Home was recorded in her hometown of Broken Arrow, Oklahoma and covers the widest range of musical influences that have shaped her life and career.

So we get songs from her Broadway hits, wish fulfilment of songs she’s always wanted to perform, a dip into the country and Christian music of her upbringing, not to mention some disco and Dolly Parton too. It’s an eclectic mixture but one which proves revelatory, not just because of the many spoken interludes included here but because of the sheer joy of Chenoweth’s extraordinary soprano voice.

And that is in evidence right from the start of this 15 track collection. You might not think you need to hear another version of ‘I Could Have Danced All Night’ or ‘Maybe This Time’ but she soars magnificently through both, exercising the full heft of her upper register to glorious effect and bringing particularly new life to the latter track. 

  

Phantom’s ‘Wishing You Were Somehow Here Again’ similarly shines and she thoroughly owns Les Misérables ‘Bring Him Home’, a surprising but effective choice. And she pays nice tribute to Wicked with an amusingly multilingual version of ‘Popular’ and a duet on ‘For Good’ with a local singer named Axyl Langford (who sadly might not be too keen to preserved this way…).

The swerves away from musical theatre offer up some lovely moments too. Parton’s ‘Little Sparrow’ is beautifully done and the folkier songs ‘Fathers and Daughters’ and ‘Hard Times Come Again No More’ have a charming unaffected directness to them, offering up a fascinating balance to a record that feels like a real insight into Chenoweth as a performer and indeed, as a person.