Someone to hold you too close – 10 takes on Being Alive to celebrate Company’s opening

My top 10 Losing My Minds post has been one of the most popular on the site (the most recent spike sadly being because of Marin Mazzie’s untimely passing – RIP), so I thought I would repeat the exercise with what is arguably Company’s most iconic song ‘Being Alive’. 

“Somebody make me come through”

1. Alice Fearn
An unexpected favourite mainly due to the combination of its achingly beautiful strings (arranged by Ben Goddard) and the delicacy of Fearn’s beautiful delivery.

2. Raúl Esparza
This. In all its ferocious power, I just can’t imagine it being better done by a man.

Continue reading “Someone to hold you too close – 10 takes on Being Alive to celebrate Company’s opening”

Review: Flowers for Mrs Harris, Chichester Festival Theatre

Some of the beauty of Flowers for Mrs Harris gets lost at Chichester Festival Theatre but it remains a striking new musical

“It’s a work of art… something not real, made to make you feel”

I had much love for Flowers for Mrs Harris when it premiered in Sheffield a couple of years ago, and so I was delighted to see Daniel Evans deciding to revive it at his new abode over in Chichester. My only cavil came with the placing of this most heartfelt musical in the vast space of the Festival Theatre rather than the intimacy of the Minerva where it might perhaps have been better served.

So much of the beauty of the show (book by Rachel Wagstaff from Paul Gallico’s novel, music & lyrics by Richard Taylor) comes from the fact that it isn’t a bells and whistles epic. It is something far more subtle that truly celebrates the ordinary in extraordinary, as Clare Burt’s charlady Ada Harris dares to dream of owning a Christian Dior dress and in working to achieve that dream, illuminates the lives of those around her.

Continue reading “Review: Flowers for Mrs Harris, Chichester Festival Theatre”

Album Reviews: Audra McDonald – Sing Happy / Louise Dearman – For You, For Me / Everybody’s Talking About Jamie cast recording

Casting my eye over some recent musical theatre album releases: Audra McDonald’s live album Sing Happy, Louise Dearman’s latest collection For You, For Me and the long-awaited cast recording for Everybody’s Talking About Jamie 

There are few things as well-designed as Audra McDonald’s thrilling soprano to make you happy, so the title of her new album Sing Happy is apt indeed. Her first live album and her first backed by an orchestra (the New York Philharmonic). the gig was recorded  just a few days ago on 1st May and no wonder they were so quick to turn it around.

Whether shimmering through Porgy and Bess‘ timeless ‘Summertime’, proudly getting her life in La Cage aux Folles’ ‘I Am What I Am’ or absolutely nailing She Loves Me’s ‘Vanilla Ice Cream’, McDonald’s velvety textured voice is always so exciting to listen to. And the drama of songs like ‘Never Will I Marry’ sound glorious with the richness of the orchestral backing (conducted by Andy Einhorn).

An affinity for Sondheim comes into play twice, a medley of ‘Children Will Listen’ with South Pacific’s ‘You’ve Got To Be Carefully Taught’ and in a showstopping take on ‘Being Alive’, still manages to surprise with the heights to which she lifts the song. An unalloyed, absolute pleasure. Continue reading “Album Reviews: Audra McDonald – Sing Happy / Louise Dearman – For You, For Me / Everybody’s Talking About Jamie cast recording”

The 2017 Manchester Theatre Awards nominations

New play
Gypsy Queen by Rob Ward, Hope Mill
How My Light Is Spent by Alan Harris, Royal Exchange
Narcissist in the Mirror by Rosie Fleeshman, Greater Manchester Fringe Festival
Narvik by Lizzie Nunnery, Home

Opera
Cendrillon, Royal Northern College of Music, RNCM
La Cenerentola, Opera North, the Lowry
The Little Greats, Opera North, the Lowry
The Snow Maiden, Opera North, the Lowry

Actress
Karen Henthorn, Spring and Port Wine, Oldham Coliseum
Lisa Dwyer Hogg, People, Places and Things, Home
Nina Hoss, Returning to Reims, Manchester International Festival
Janet Suzman, Rose, Home Continue reading “The 2017 Manchester Theatre Awards nominations”

The Barricade Boys announce a Christmas Cabaret season with an amazing guest cast

As Mrs Merton might have asked, what first attracted you to musical theatre supergroup The Barricade Boys…?

Clearly, it was their cumulative musical talent – between them, Scott Garnham, Simon Schofield, Craig Mather and Kieran Brown have racked up credits in pretty much every major musical from The Phantom of The Opera, Wicked and Billy Elliot to Jersey Boys, The Sound Of Music and Les Misérables. And now they’re bringing their cabaret show to The Other Palace’s Studio for a Christmas season which is enough to bring festive cheer to even the most Scrooge-like of hearts.

But not content with filling our stockings thus, they’ve gone through their contact lists to find a frankly astonishing array of guest stars to accompany them across the entire run, making it nigh-on impossible to choose just one night to go along.

The full line up of guest stars:
Tuesday 5 December Gary Trainor (Dewey Finn in Andrew Lloyd Webber’s School of Rock at the New London Theatre)
Wednesday 6 Oliver Savile (Fiyero, Wicked, Apollo Victoria Theatre)
Thursday 7 Michael Xavier (two-time Olivier Award nominee, Joe Gillis in Sunset Boulevard; The Prince of Broadway)
Friday 8 Nadim Naaman (Raoul, The Phantom of the Opera, Her Majesty’s Theatre; Anthony Sweeney Todd, Harrington Pie & Mash Shop)
Saturday 9 (matinee) Rachel Tucker (Elphaba in Wicked in the West End and Broadway; Sting’s The Last Ship, Broadway)
Saturday 9 (evening) Simon Bailey (Tommy DeVito, Jersey Boys, West End; Raoul, The Phantom of the Opera, Her Majesty’s Theatre)
Monday 11 Liam Tamne (Frank N Furter, The Rocky Horror Show; Raoul, The Phantom of The Opera, Her Majesty’s Theatre) & Andy Coxon (Berger in Hair, The Vaults; Mitch, Yank, Charing Cross Theatre)
Tuesday 12 Jon Robyns (Princeton/Rod in Avenue Q, Noel Coward Theatre; Robbie Hart, The Wedding Singer, UK Tour)
Wednesday 13 Caroline Sheen (Alaura/Carla City of Angels, Donmar Warehouse; Mary Poppins in Mary Poppins, US Tour) & George Stiles and Anthony Drewe (award-winning composers of Half a Sixpence, Betty Blue Eyes, Honk! and The Wind in the Willows)
Thursday 14 (matinee) Killian Donnelly (currently Valjean in Les Misérables, Queen’s Theatre; Deco, The Commitments, Palace Theatre; Huey, Memphis, Shaftesbury Theatre, Charlie, Kinky Boots, West End & Broadway)
Thursday 14 (evening) Sabrina Aloueche (Scaramouche, We Will Rock You, Dominion Theatre; Eponine, Les Misérables, Queen’s Theatre)
Friday 15 Emily Tierney (Glinda in the first UK &Ireland tour of Wicked, Glinda, The Wizard of Oz, London Palladium)
Saturday 16 (matinee) Shona White (Florence Vassy in Craig Revel Horwood’s award winning UK touring production of Chess)
Saturday 16 (evening) Sophie Louise Dann (Celia The Girls, Phoenix Theatre; Barbara Castle, Made in Dagenham, Adelphi; Paula, Bend It Like Beckham the Musical, Phoenix Theatre)
Monday 18 David Shannon (The Phantom, The Phantom of the Opera, Her Majesty’s Theatre; Valjean in Les Misérables, Queen’s Theatre) & Rob Houchen (Marius, Les Misérables, Queen’s Theatre; Fleet, Titanic, Charing Cross Theatre)
Tuesday 19 Luke Kempner (Comedian, impressionist, actor and singer, The Only Way Is Downton, West End; Marius in Les Misérables) 
Wednesday 20 special TV and Film star guest to be announced 
Thursday 21 (matinee) Laura Pitt-Pulford (Olivier Award nominated as Milly Bradon, Seven Brides For Seven Brothers, Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre; Side Show, Southwark Playhouse; Barnum, Menier Chocolate Factory)
Thursday 21 (evening) David Thaxton (Javert, Les Misérables, Queen’s; Pilate, Jesus Christ Superstar, Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre; Giorgio, Passion, Donmar Warehouse, Olivier Award for Best Actor in a Musical)
Friday 22 Jacinta Whyte (Eponine, Les Misérables, Palace Theatre; Linda, Blood Brothers, Phoenix Theatre; Ellen, Miss Saigon, Theatre Royal, Drury Lane)
AAAAAAND YOU COULD BE IN THE SHOW!
Two lucky people will win the chance to appear on stage with The Barricade Boys at the two shows on Saturday 23 December. All you need to do to be in with a chance is tweet a youtube video link singing a Christmas song to @BarricadeBoys. The Barricade Boys will decide the winners by Monday 11 December.

Album Review: Wit and Whimsy – Songs by Alexander S Bermange

“If only I were famous from the telly”
 
Across its two discs and twenty-three tracks, there’s an awful lot of whimsy to Alexander S Bermange’s latest compilation album Wit and Whimsy and not quite enough wit to sustain it. Bermange is a composer who has had as much success writing comic songs for radio as he has in straight-up musical theatre (the two shows of his that I’ve seen – The Route to Happiness and Thirteen Days were both part of festivals).
 
That said, he has an impressive contacts list as evidenced by the range of people who have joined in on the action here – Laura Pitt-Pulford, Tracie Bennett, David Bedella, Cassidy Janson, Emma Williams, even Christopher Biggins. And with a guest list of this quality, naturally there are moments that shine here.

Continue reading “Album Review: Wit and Whimsy – Songs by Alexander S Bermange”

Review: Side Show, Southwark Playhouse

“If you don’t say yes I’ll have a heart attack that will kill us both”
 
In what I thought was a serendipitous move, I just finished watching American Horror Story: Freak Show before going to see Side Show, but it turned out to be most unhelpful. For not only the connection (seemingly by dress) of conjoined twins Daisy and Violet Hilton with the twin heads of Sarah Paulson’s Bette and Dot pales by comparison, but the darkness of representing a ‘freak’ show is far more suited to the horror genre than this rather anaemic musical.
 
With book and lyrics written by Bill Russell and music by Henry Krieger (whose Dreamgirls finally arrives in London next month), Side Show has managed two abortive runs on Broadway since premiering in 1997, so it makes sense for Southwark Playhouse to take it on with their sterling record for reinvigorating musical theatre of varying reputations. But despite director Hannah Chissick and producer Paul Taylor-Mills’ best efforts, I’m not sure it is rehabilitated.

Continue reading “Review: Side Show, Southwark Playhouse”

Review: Flowers for Mrs Harris, Crucible

“There is more to life than you ever knew, than you ever dreamed,”

Sheffield feels the right place for Flowers for Mrs Harris to come into bloom, its delicately understated charm and musicality making this a world away from the brash, cut-throat commercialism of West End musicals. That’s not to say I wouldn’t love to see this show come down to the capital, for it does deserve such wider attention, but rather to celebrate the creation and nurturing of musical theatre from all parts of the country, a recognition of a theatrical ecology that thrives far beyond the M25.

Daniel Evans’ artistic directorship of Sheffield Theatres, which ends with this production, has been a key part of that over the last few years and it is pleasing to see that his presence in the overall picture will continue as he departs for Chichester Festival Theatre. As for now, we get a gorgeous piece of unmistakably British musical theatre that is as heart-warming and tear-jerking as they come, a tenderly sentimental exploration of far-fetched dreams and earthily real friendships. Continue reading “Review: Flowers for Mrs Harris, Crucible”

CD Review: MS. A Song Cycle

“I wish you didn’t have to be in pain” 
 
Multiple Sclerosis affects over 100,000 people in the UK alone. 

 

One of the accusations often levelled by detractors of musical theatre is that it is fanciful, frivolous stuff, unable of taking subjects seriously. And whilst the form undoubtedly can have its lighter moments, I’d challenge anyone to listen to this new song cycle inspired by women living with multiple sclerosis and remain unmoved. MS. A Song Cycle is the brainchild of lyricist Rory Sherman, who has worked with SimG Productions, musical supervisor Ellie Verkerk and 14 different teams of composers and performers to create a delicately but undeniably powerful collection of stories, that gain in that power from being sung so beautifully as they are here.
 
More than two to three times more women are affected than men
 

2016 Laurence Olivier Awards nominations

Best New Play 
Farinelli and the King by Claire van Kampen – Duke of York’s
Hangmen by Martin McDonagh – Jerwood Downstairs, Royal Court / Wyndham’s
People, Places and Things by Duncan MacMillan – National Theatre Dorfman
The Father by Florian Zeller, translated by Christopher Hampton – Wyndham’s

Best New Musical
Bend It Like Beckham – Phoenix
In the Heights – King’s Cross
Kinky Boots – Adelphi
Mrs Henderson Presents – Noël Coward

Best Revival 
Hamlet – Barbican
Les liaisons dangereuses – Donmar Warehouse
Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom – National Theatre Lyttelton
The Winter’s Tale – Garrick Continue reading “2016 Laurence Olivier Awards nominations”