Review: Soho Cinders, Charing Cross Theatre

This amiable revival of Soho Cinders makes for an alternative festive treat at the Charing Cross Theatre

“Hoping for the hum-drum,
Is that aiming high”

I have great affection for Stiles & Drewe’s musical Soho Cinders, from its concert beginnings to a starry Soho Theatre production to a warm revival at the Union Theatre, its escapist fun nature and tuneful score remain quietly appealing. And it is that last Union production that has been reconceived for a new run at the Charing Cross Theatre, featuring some of the same cast members and beefed up with newcomers from Six and Jamie.

The show is a loose LGBT+ adaptation of the Cinderella story, updated to a contemporary London setting, albeit an improbably affordable and innocent pre-smartphone age. Robbie is a young man struggling to make ends meet with his Old Compton Street laundrette and consequently dallying with a sugar daddy, despite simultaneously hooking up with prospective mayoral candidate James Prince, who just happens to have a fiancée. It’s a daft plot but amiable, even if it doesn’t bear too much close scrutiny (clandestine meetings in Trafalgar Square?!). Continue reading “Review: Soho Cinders, Charing Cross Theatre”

Review: Brass the Musical, Union Theatre

Brass the Musical at the Union Theatre is a powerfully moving celebration of sacrifices made, of service offered, of music itself – beautifully done

“Just until our lads come back”

There’s a neat symmetry to the life of Brass the Musical thus far. Originally commissioned by the National Youth Music Theatre to commemorate the centenary of the outbreak of the First World War, its professional London premiere now marks the Armistice Centenary. Benjamin Till’s musical, with additional lyrics from Nathan Taylor and Sir Arnold Wesker, thus serves as a powerful tribute to those who served, both at home and on the frontline.

What is particularly gorgeous about Brass is how it is suffused with the joy of music. Its power to bring people together (as in the characterful ‘Forming a Band’), its potential to lift spirits (the marvelous storytelling of ‘Whistle Billy’), its ability to express something deeper beyond just words (the haunting vocalese at the trenches). And as an expression of the musical theatre form, it works beautifully in deepening an already profoundly moving piece of history.  Continue reading “Review: Brass the Musical, Union Theatre”

Album Review: Janie Dee at the BBC

“Je veux changer d’atmosphère”

30 years or so into a career that has seen her win two Olivier awards (so far – I’d watch out for her to be at least nominated for Follies, if not more), it seems remarkable that Janie Dee at the BBC is actually Dee’s debut album. But though there may not be recorded evidence, she is a highly accomplished and experienced cabaret performer among her many skills, and it is from these shows that the material has been drawn for this record.

Recorded at BBC Maida Vale Studios with Auburn Jam Records, the track-listing thus embraces a broad array of songs and styles, all connected by the smooth consummate skill of one of our more under-rated Dames-in-the-making. From Kander and Ebb to Bacharach and David, Stevie Wonder to Spike Milligan, Dee takes us on a journey of hugely sophisticated charm that proves mightily hard to resist, marshalled by MD Steve Clark.

Continue reading “Album Review: Janie Dee at the BBC”

Review: La Cage aux Folles, New Wimbledon

“It’s rather gaudy but it’s also rather grand”

 
It doesn’t feel like that long since La Cage aux Folles was strutting its stuff in London as I made several visits to the Playhouse as it rotated its main cast on a regular basis (Douglas Hodge and Denis Lawson, Philip Quast and Roger Allam, John Barrowman and Simon Burke) but it has a good few years. So the time is clearly ripe for a revival and Kenwright and co clearly agree as they’ve mounted the show’s first ever UK tour.

And with John Partridge and Adrian Zmed at the helm, it remains as gloriously entertaining and heart-warmingly lovable as ever. A story about love and acceptance always has things to teach us, gay or straight, now more than ever and the story of St Tropez nightclub owners Georges and Albin is a touching one as through dealing with Georges’ son’s fiancée’s parents’ homophobia, they learn more about themselves and their own identities. Continue reading “Review: La Cage aux Folles, New Wimbledon”

Review: Soho Cinders, Union Theatre

“Why don’t handsome princes
Practice what they preach”

Though there’s nothing ostensibly Christmassy about Stiles + Drewe’s Cinderella remake Soho Cinders, it was still a little odd to see the show debut at the Soho Theatre in the height of summer in 2012. This revival at the Union Theatre is a little more festively timed and through Will Keith’s direction and Joanne McShane’s choreography, provides a level of entertainment to rival even the best of pantomimes.

The book, by Drewe and Elliot Davis, puts a gay spin on the story – fresh-faced escort Robbie is our Cinderella, closeted bisexual London mayoral candidate James Prince his Prince Charming, and older gay man (and client) Lord Bellingham just one of the flies in the ointments of their happy ever after. But though we’re in the world of contemporary London politics, there’s also a pair of ‘ugly’ sisters and a ball that everyone wants to attend to ensure some of that Cinderella magic sticks. Continue reading “Review: Soho Cinders, Union Theatre”

Review: Sweet Charity in concert, Cadogan Hall

“You’re a blockbuster buster”

It’s been five years since the Menier’s glorious revival of Sweet Charity so London has been waiting a wee while for the misadventures of Charity Hope Valentine to return to our stages but with this semi-staged concert version at Cadogan Hall, it’s been largely worth the wait. A cast led by Denise Van Outen, the Royal Philharmonic Concert Orchestra, and an ensemble of bright young things from ArtsEd Ensemble combine to joyous effect and with barely a week’s rehearsal, it’s all the more impressive for that.

Van Outen makes a great Charity, infusing a wonderfully wry sense of humour into her demeanour which cleverly reinforces her indefatigable spirit. Supremely confident vocals and a smooth move or two in Matt Flint’s choreography make her a constant joy to watch and one could well imagine her nailing the role in a full-blown production too, especially if she were joined by Michael Xavier as the various men she encounters. Never mind the frozen peaches and cream, HE’S the stuff of dreams whether the appealing nerdishness of Oscar or the hapless lothario that is Vittorio, his lusciously rich voice undoubtedly one of the best in British musical theatre. Continue reading “Review: Sweet Charity in concert, Cadogan Hall”