Album Review: Carrie Hope Fletcher – When The Curtain Falls

Featuring a pleasing amount of new musical theatre writing, Carrie Hope Fletcher releases her debut album When The Curtain Falls

“Who you are is how you’re feeling”

Fresh from winning her second What’s On Stage Award, racking up her third novel, vlogging regularly and quite possibly plotting world domination, Carrie Hope Fletcher has now released her debut album When The Curtain Falls. A pleasingly varied tracklisting sees her cover as much new musical theatre writing (shoutout for the brilliant Natasha, Pierre & The Great Comet of 1812) as age-old classics, combined with a few family favourites to make an engaging collection.  

There’s a innate prettiness to Fletcher’s voice that makes it extremely easy to listen to. And it is an over-riding characteristic across the album, which is fine when it comes to the likes of the sweetly lovely ‘Times Are Hard For Dreamers’ from the short-lived Amélie or the Disney tracks here, or smoothing the edges off of Jason Robert Brown’s ‘What It Means To Be A Friend’.  Continue reading “Album Review: Carrie Hope Fletcher – When The Curtain Falls”

Review: Moby Dick, Union

“The critics won’t like it”

Sometimes, returning to shows that might not have lived up to original expectations can reveal real treasures and several of London’s fringe theatres have built up a reputation in doing just that, notably the Finborough and the Union. And it is the latter who have opted to tackle notorious 90s flop musical Moby Dick, a frankly batshit meta-adaptation of the Herman Melville novel by Hereward Kaye and Robert Longden.
Moby Dick’s conceit is that it is a show-within-in-a-show, the students and staff of St Godley’s Academy for Girls putting on a performance in order to save their school, and what a frantically high-energy performance it is. So much so that it’s frightfully difficult to work out exactly what the hell is going on – a tongue-in-cheek synopsis of Moby Dick (the novel) is helpfully provided but there’s no guide to navigating the whirlpool of this production. 
Directed by noted choreographer Andrew Wright, it amps up the self-referential campery to wearying levels – there isn’t a joke which isn’t done to death, a visual reference that isn’t hammered home repeatedly, it’s a bit like being asked ‘do you get it yet?’ over and over. Musically it is heavy-handed too, giving a sense of overload and making you wonder if being swallowed by a whale might not be the worst way to go.
The cast are certainly committed though and in rare moments where the dial isn’t turned right up, manage some effective work. Brenda Edwards’ Esta stands out in an impassioned ‘A Man Happens’, so of course she rarely appears in the show again; Rachel Anne Rayham’s Ishmael manages to find some subtlety in her comedy; and Anton Stephans’ manic glint as headmistress Dame Rhoda playing Captain Ahab is characteristic of the show’s excesses, for better or for worse.
Though it wasn’t for me, this production does seem set to reinforce Moby Dick’s status as a cult classic – if you liked it before, you’ll probably love it now. I’m just not sure how many new fans it’ll win over.
Running time: 2 hours 10 minutes (with interval)
Photos: Pamela Raith 
Booking until 12th November

Review: Little Shop of Horrors, White Bear Theatre

“Seymour sweetheart, tell me darling, what’s been going on?”

Much like the plant at the heart of its story, Little Shop of Horrors has become something of a monster success rising from its Off-Broadway beginnings to cult classic to household name, thanks in no small part to Alan Menken’s sparkling score and Howard Ashman’s sharp lyrics and witty book. A spoof of 50s sci-fi films, it follows shy young Seymour, a florist with a huge crush on his colleague Audrey, trapped in an abusive relationship with a laughing-gas-guzzling dentist. When a mysterious plant lands on his doorstep offering him the solution to his problems in return for food, things seem like they might finally start to look up for this downtrodden couple, but Seymour fails to recognise the Faustian dangers of selling his soul as the plant, Audrey II, gets hungrier and hungrier.

It is silly and fun, but the show has endured due to its gigantic heart, one cannot help but root for this couple grasping at their chance of happiness and thwarted by a renegade flesh-eating vegetable, all to the tune of Motown-inspired ditties. This production at the White Bear Theatre in Kennington, South London has taken the unusual step of pulling together two teams of actors who will alternate performances, the key difference being that the three Ronettes who also double up as Audrey II between them are guys the one night, and girls the next meaning there’s different experiences to be had here from one night to the next.

Intriguing casting decisions aside, director Paul Taylor-Mills has taken a rather unconventional approach to the material which sometimes works and at other times leaves one a little taken aback at the frenetic energy being whipped up in the small space. The three powerfully-voiced women, Chloe Akam, Laura Mansell and Olga-Marie Pratt, had great fun as the girl-group chorus of the Ronettes and also brought an interesting new vocal dimension to Audrey II, especially in Suppertime. But there’s also a tendency towards overkill, with both the singing and the acting especially once Audrey II has grown as they pace around the stage, which works against them appearing as an ensemble (they are all meant to be part of the same plant…) where perhaps some more co-ordinated movement would work better.

The tendency to overplay also hit Ted McMillan’s sadistic Dentist whose way-over-the-top turn felt just too much for the small space, close to uncomfortable rather than keeping the spoof feel at the forefront. For when this is done, the production glides smoothly with great work by an ensemble of four covering all the minor roles and the two leads: Ross Barnes as the nerdishly appealing Seymour and Ceris Hine’s fragile Audrey both doing some fine work, Hine’s rendition of Somewhere That Green ending up tearfully slumped against the counter being one of the show’s highlights.

There is no faulting the energy on show here and one gets the feeling that a few kinks could well get ironed out – rehearsing two sets of performers can’t have been easy – though a couple of performers must learn to keep poker faces if stray watering cans and/or plant pots get loose, the intimacy of the venue means nothing escapes the audience. Menken’s score is so full of fantastic tunes that it is hard to resist and the overall feel is one of fun.

Running time: 2 hours (with interval)
Booking until 23rd April

Originally written for The Public Reviews