Not-a-Review: Hair, Vaults

“No more falsehoods or derisions”

I went into Hair with as open a mind as I could muster but it really isn’t my cup of (herbal) tea at all, particularly in a production like this one which felt overly concerned in making sure we were all having ‘a good time’.  That may be in keeping with the hippy schtick but doesn’t cut to the core of any of the many more serious issues which it ends up skating over rather too thinly. Plus the score (still) doesn’t do anything for me. That’s just the way it goes sometimes.

Running time: 2 hours 10 minutes (with interval)
Booking until 13th January

Album Review: USHERS: The Front Of House Musical – (2014 Original London Cast Recording)

“I’ll be an inspiration
A musical sensation”

 The cast recording for USHERS: The Front Of House Musical was released in advance of its 2014 run at the Charing Cross Theatre but ever the trail-blazer ;-), I saw the show a few months before when it played at the then newly inaugurated Hope Theatre. There, its homespun charms won me over, with its tales of drama in the theatre but not the onstage kind, rather it is the Front of House staff in the spotlight here.

Written by Yiannis Koutsakos, James Oban and James Rottger, and simply orchestrated for Lee Freeman on the piano, it is a short and sweet cast recording but one which wisely makes a virtue of it. These aren’t particularly epic songs or grand stories but intimate pieces and personal tales of love and betrayal, audience members and interval ice-creams, and so they suit the smaller focus that they’re given here. Continue reading “Album Review: USHERS: The Front Of House Musical – (2014 Original London Cast Recording)”

Review: Ushers: The Front of House Musical, Hope Theatre

“No-one moves to London with the dream of becoming an usher”

A Britney Spears jukebox musical with Marti Pellow as Kevin Federline and Michael Ball as Britney’s mum? Stranger things have happened on a West End stage but this is the (as yet fictional) set-up for Ushers: The Front of House Musical which follows the hope and dreams and frustrations and failures of a front of house team on a busy night at a West End theatre. And naturally it is playing at a fringe theatre, London’s newest in the form of The Hope Theatre, perched atop The Hope and Anchor pub on Upper Street and the only such theatre to be committed exclusively to new writing.

And with Ushers, it has alighted on something of a little delight. The story may be slight but it manages to pack a lot in in covering the travails of four long-standing ushers, a newcomer into their ranks and their overwrought supervisor. The new girl and the hot guy immediately fancy each other, the cute gay couple are struggling with one of their’s decision to take an acting job in Austria, another girl can’t keep from tweeting pictures of the cast and the supervisor has gone power-mad at the prospect of schmoozing with a major new potential investor. Continue reading “Review: Ushers: The Front of House Musical, Hope Theatre”

Review: The Baker’s Wife, Union Theatre

“Cake in the oven, champagne on ice
Much as I hate to I may even shave twice”

The Baker’s Wife with music and lyrics by Stephen Schwartz and book by Joseph Stein is a musical that managed to develop something of a cult following despite flopping in the West End in 1989 and never actually having run on Broadway. Director Michael Strassen has now given it a rare outing at the small-scale powerhouse that is the Union Theatre. Based on the Marcel Pagnol and Jean Giano film La Femme Du Boulanger, the show is all about what happens in a rural French community when Geneviève the young wife of the village baker leaves her husband Aimable for a sexy piece of rough. He loses his baking mojo which sufficiently outrages the villagers to put aside their multifarious squabbles to come together and try to reunite the couple.

There is usually a reason that shows are left on the shelf and true to form, The Baker’s Wife pretty shows us why. Schwartz’s score is largely strong with some genuinely sublime moments but the book is stolid, unimaginative and fatally fragmented. Too much time is spent on the villagers around the love triangle but there’s so many of them, all contributing to the larger metaphor of the show, that none get a fair crack of the whip. And consequently, there’s not enough room to really focus on the main protagonists either. Indeed, Geneviève’s story doesn’t come across as particularly sympathetic at all, it is so hurried: it is revealed that she married Aimable on the rebound from being rejected by her married lover but she’s going to put up with him. Having left him shortly after singing this, she then dumps her new paramour after five minutes on the run and a roll in the hay – one can’t help but feel the baker is better off without her! Matters are not helped by an additional horribly overdone metaphor of her cat running away and returning contemporaneously, subtle it is not. Continue reading “Review: The Baker’s Wife, Union Theatre”