Lockdown theatre review: Curtains

The curtains are lifted once again for Curtains as it is available to watch online again

“I’m sorry but this theatre is in quarantine”

I enjoyed the Kander & Ebb musical Curtains when it made its long-awaited West End debut over the festive period, and was saddened when its ambitious UK tour had to be curtailed once lockdown was enforced. The producers had filmed a performance from early in the run though for their archive and have generously made it available to watch through their website here. And for the completist in me, it has turned out well as it meant I have the opportunity now to see Ore Oduba in the role that Andy Coxon covered for the West End stint.

Paul Foster’s production is great fun, full of wryly comic performances (Samuel Holmes is a standout here), stunning dance (Alan Burkitt – swoon!) and musical theatre gloriousness (you’ll wonder how Rebecca Lock isn’t a bigger name). And I don’t know about other people, but I’ve been craving escapist entertainment much more than anything too serious and Curtains certainly fits the bill (it’s all the more impressive considering it was indeed early in the run for them). Move quickly and watch it tonight!

Review: Curtains, Wyndham’s Theatre

A Kander & Ebb premiere in the West End you say? Curtains makes its bow at the Wyndham’s Theatre and I had an arrestingly good time with it

“Shall we all observe a moment of silence…
to match the audience’s response to Jessica’s first number”

There’s no denying that theatre loves shows about theatre and on the Charing Cross Road right now, you’ve got a play within a play at the Garrick right next to a musical about a musical at the Wyndham’s. Curtains ups the ante though by throwing in a murder mystery as well for good measure and the result is a something of a good old-fashioned romp, blessed with that rarest of things, a barely-known Kander & Ebb score. Having only received a few drama school productions (I saw it at Arts Ed

The show dates back to 2006 but had a tricky road to completion as original book writer Peter Stone died before finishing it, Rupert Holmes stepping in to rewrite, and Fred Ebb also passed away a year later, with Kander and Holmes completing the lyrical content. Curtains managed a relatively successful run on Broadway but for whatever reason, it never made the leap across the Atlantic (into the West End at least) until now, as Paul Foster’s touring production steps neatly into a scheduling gap to provide an alternative cup of Christmas cheer. Continue reading “Review: Curtains, Wyndham’s Theatre”

Review: Sweet Charity, Nottingham Playhouse

A sparkling lead turn from Rebecca Trehearn, and brilliant choreography from Alistair David, enliven this Sweet Charity at Nottingham Playhouse

“Your game makes very good sense”

So pleased to have managed to squeak into Nottingham Playhouse’s Sweet Charity before it finished, this is what everyone uses their annual leave for, right…?! The second major production of the show in recent months following the Watermill’s strong actor-muso interpretation this summer, it is one which makes a bold move in introducing Alistair David’s choreography to give this 1966 musical a fresh lick of paint.

It’s the only real sense of updating that Bill Buckhurst’s production provides but it is an impactful one, David reimagining almost wholesale and invigorating the almost-too-familiar sounds of Cy Coleman’s classic score. In takis’ podium-based design, it looks a dream and more than justifies new AD Adam Lenson’s decision to reintroduce musicals to the programme here after an absence of more than a decade. Continue reading “Review: Sweet Charity, Nottingham Playhouse”

TV Review: Unforgotten Series 3

The third series of Chris Lang’s Unforgotten is another corker, and not just because of Nicola Walker, honest!

“We’ve all done things of which we are ashamed”

The cold cases of Unforgotten have rightly proved a success for their alternative tale on crime drama, putting a real focus on the victims rather than the crimes, a neat corrective to the sometimes exploitative gaze that can characterise this genre. And this third series maintained that strong record (quick review of episodes 1 and 2 here)

A measure of the regard in which Unforgotten is held is the sheer quality of its cast. With James Fleet, Alex Jennings, Kevin McNally and Neil Morrissey as its lead quartet, it added Sasha Behar, Emma Fielding, Indra Ové and Amanda Root as their partners, and then threw in Siobhan Redmond and Sara Stewart as exes as well.  Continue reading “TV Review: Unforgotten Series 3”

Film Review: Beauty and the Beast (2017)

“Tale as old as time”

It’s taken me a little time to get round to writing this review, which is rarely a good sign, as I was struggling for anything entirely constructive to say about this film. The 1991 animated Beauty and the Beast was Disney close to its best but these days, nothing is left alone if it has even the merest hint of cash cow about it. So it has previously hit the stage as a musical and following the success of Kenneth Branagh’s Cinderella, it now has a cinematic live-action remake.

Which is all fine and good but just because you can do something doesn’t mean you should. And at no point does Bill Condon’s film ever convince us that the world needed this version of Beauty and the Beast, there’s rarely any sense of it bringing something new and insightful to the story. Plus the contortions it (and star Emma Watson) has had to make to try and convince of its feminist credentials scarcely seem worth it in the final analysis. Continue reading “Film Review: Beauty and the Beast (2017)”

Review: Allegro, Southwark Playhouse

“We muffle all the undertones,
The minor blood-and-thunder tones;
The overtones are all we care to play”

Even Rodgers and Hammerstein can have a duff moment. Allegro is a rarity amongst their catalogue in that its 1947 debut was not the equal of the shows that they wrote before and after – you may have heard of them, Carousel and South Pacific… – and so has languished pretty much in obscurity ever since. But in these content-hungry, revisionist times, nothing lays untouched for too long and it is the expert hand of Thom Southerland who has brought us Allegro’s European premiere to the Southwark Playhouse.

I reviewed the 2009 first complete recording of the show in the summer and was surprised at how musically strong it was (helped of course by a stellar cast) so was intrigued to see how the book played out alongside it. And for me, it is not too hard to see why this is a show that has collected dust rather than accolades on the shelf. Telling the life and times of an ordinary American Joe, called Joe, from birth to childhood (told by puppets, eeesh!) through to mid-life crisis but so ordinary is Joe, so everyday the details of his life, that it is hard to get too excited by it. Continue reading “Review: Allegro, Southwark Playhouse”

Review: The Smallest Show on Earth, Mercury

“Forget this gateau, this means war”

When is a new musical a new musical, especially when it has music by Irving Berlin? The Smallest Show on Earth manages it by adapting the 1957 film of the same name and then sprinkling it with a selection of Berlin hits, both well-known and the not-so-much, to create something really rather adorable. Writers Thom Southerland and Paul Alexander have tailored this raw material beautifully, dovetailing the gently bittersweet humour of the British film with the instinctive melodiousness of Berlin’s songwriting into a heart-warmingly lovely new musical comedy. 

Struggling screenwriter Matthew Spenser and his new wife Jean are agog when they discovered a long-lost relative has bequeathed them the Bijou cinema but aghast when they discover it is a total flea-pit. In order to get a decent offer from the rivals at the Grand cinema across the way, they pretend to be doing it up to make it a going concern but as they restore and repaint and get to know the eccentric locals that work there, the couple soon find that the picturehouse offers more opportunities than just old movies and oddballs. Continue reading “Review: The Smallest Show on Earth, Mercury”

Review: Grand Hotel, Southwark Playhouse

“Come begin in old Berlin”

Finally, a traverse staging that feels properly justified. It’s still highly dependent on where you sit – despite being a little late, I was able to secure a great vantage point from the middle of the back row from where the full length of the stage for Grand Hotel was suitably visible and I was glad for it. Thom Southerland’s musicals at the Southwark Playhouse have become something of an annual fixture now, becoming big hits for them (Parade) even if they haven’t always floated my boat (Titanic…).

Based on Vicki Baum’s Grand Hotel, the book by Luther Davis swirls around the residents of this Berlin establishment in 1928 over one fateful weekend. A grande dame of a faded ballerina, a typist dreaming of Hollywood, an aristocrat who has lost his fortune, a businessman facing ruin, a man who has little time left to live, their stories and more intertwine elegantly and fluidly in a constantly moving state of flux which captures some of the unpredictability and increasing darkness of interwar Germany. Continue reading “Review: Grand Hotel, Southwark Playhouse”

Finalists of 2015 Stephen Sondheim Society Student Performer of the Year

Emily Onsloe (Guildhall School of Music & Drama)
Ewan Black (Bristol Old Vic Theatre School)
Lydia White (Hills Road Sixth Form College)
Luke Farrugia (Royal Central School of Speech & Drama)
Charlotte Vaughan (Royal Academy of Music)
Leah West (ArtsEd)
Corey Jones (South Gloucestershire and Stroud College)
Erin Doherty (Bristol Old Vic Theatre School)
Nick Shirm (Guildhall School of Music and Drama)
Amy Bridges (The MTA)
Grant McConvey (Guildford School of Acting)
Natalie Thorn (Performance Preparation Academy)

Host: Michael Xavier
Judges: Edward Seckerson (Chair), Julia McKenzie, Elaine Paige, Laura Pitt Pulford, John Wilson and Jamie Lloyd