Lockdown Review: Take Me to the World: A Sondheim 90th Birthday Celebration

On the one hand, so much to love with such an inordinate array of talent assembled to mark Sondheim’s 90th birthday. But on the other, where’s the editor, there’s a real sense of the rambling here too. Fortunately as this has been put together in lockdown (and very well too) it is easier than ever to skip to the bits you want (in the spirit of these times, I ain’t telling you who disappointed me).

For me, I loved the unexpectedness of Katrina Lenk’ ‘Johanna’, the cuteness of Beanie Feldstein & Ben Platt’s ‘It Takes Two’, and the energy of Alexander Gemignani’s ‘Buddy’s Blues’. And of the heavy hitters in the finale, Donna Murphy and Patti LuPone nailed ‘Send in the Clowns’ and ‘Anyone Can Whistle’ respectively, and there’s huge fun (if not finesse) in Christine Baranski, Meryl Streep & Audra McDonald giving us their ‘Ladies Who Lunch’. Continue reading “Lockdown Review: Take Me to the World: A Sondheim 90th Birthday Celebration”

Lockdown review: Some Enchanted Evening – Hope Mill Theatre

The Hope Mill Theatre crack open their address book to gather a great guest-list for this Rodgers & Hammerstein tribute concert, raising much needed funds

“Night after night, as strange as it seems…”

By rights, the Hope Mill Theatre should have been opening the UK premiere of Rodgers & Hammerstein’s Cinderella next month but ever pragmatic, its very own William Whelton and Joseph Houston have turned their hand to the theatre’s first online concert. Some Enchanted Evening still pays tribute to the iconic composing duo albeit in a different form, with friends and patrons gathering to take us through this wondrous songbook and an illustrious company bringing the songs to life.

From the incomparable Maria Friedman with a King & I medley to the ever-witty Sophie-Louise Dann relishing Allegro’s ‘The Gentleman is a Dope’, Joel Harper-Jackson (who was very good in Little Women) crooning through ‘If I Loved You’ to Louise Dearman#s shimmering star quality in ‘Edelweiss’, there’s a strong set of performances here. Standout of the night for me though was The Prince of Egypt‘s Simbi Akande, whose gorgeous soprano perfectly soared in Flower Drum Song‘s ‘Love Look Away’. Continue reading “Lockdown review: Some Enchanted Evening – Hope Mill Theatre”

News: Sondheim’s 90th birthday concert line-up announced

Legendary Broadway composer Stephen Sondheim will be toasted with an all-star birthday concert, streaming live on Sunday 26th April. Hosted by Raúl Esparza, with musical direction by Mary-Mitchell Campbell, and coinciding with the 50th Broadway anniversary of Sondheim’s CompanyTake Me to the World: A Sondheim 90th Birthday Celebration can be seen for free on YouTube. 

This once-in-a-lifetime event, benefiting ASTEP (Artists Striving to End Poverty), will include a range of songs from the Sondheim catalogue performed by many of the artists who delivered iconic turns in his musicals, including Meryl Streep, Bernadette Peters, Patti LuPone, Mandy Patinkin, Audra McDonald, Christine Baranski, Donna Murphy, Kristin Chenoweth, Sutton Foster, Brian Stokes Mitchell, Kelli O’Hara, Aaron Tveit, Maria Friedman, Katrina Lenk, Michael Cerveris, Brandon Uranowitz, Elizabeth Stanley, Chip Zien, Alexander Gemignani, Iain Armitage, Stephen Schwartz and, from the cast of Pacific Overtures at Classic Stage Company, Ann Harada, Austin Ku, Kelvin Moon Loh and Thom Sesma.

News: Dame Vera Lynn unites with West End stars for ‘We’ll Meet Again’

Dame Vera Lynn will convey her personal message of love and best wishes to the theatre industry in an exclusive new online video. This unique production of ‘We’ll Meet Again’ features socially-distanced West End stars united in song, assuring the nation that West End and UK theatres shall once more rise and thrive – some sunny day.

Sharon D Clarke, Louise Dearman, Kerry Ellis, Maria Friedman, Cassidy Janson, Hannah Waddingham, Michael Xavier and choreographer Bill Deamer are amongst those appearing in the cinematically designed music video, with further musical theatre stars to be announced.  Continue reading “News: Dame Vera Lynn unites with West End stars for ‘We’ll Meet Again’”

Review: Dusty, Lowry / Aspects of Love, Hope Mill

2 quickies from a flying visit up north to Manchester to Dusty the Musical at the Lowry and Aspects of Love at the Hope Mill Theatre

“Left alone with just a memory”

Does the world really need another Dusty Springfield musical? I avoided the car crash at the Charing Cross a few years back, and wish I had avoided Son of a Preacher Man last year. But still they come and now we have Dusty the Musical which at least boasts a better pedigree than most, with Jonathan Harvey writing, Maria Friedman directing and Katherine Kingsley starring.

And with that level of quality, particularly from the mega-wattage of Kingsley’s titanic performance, it certainly emerges as the best of the bunch, relatively speaking. It is far from a great show though, its book weighed down with the tension between meticulously researched facts and figures and the greater freedom that comes from invented characters who allow story to flow. If it is to make it into the West End, more tinkering needed and Kingsley locked down. Continue reading “Review: Dusty, Lowry / Aspects of Love, Hope Mill”

Losing my mind over Losing My Mind – 10 top interpretations of the Sondheim classic

“Sometimes I stand in the middle of the floor”

With the National’s highly anticipated production of Follies (Dominic Cooke directing a cast of 37 and an orchestra of 21, lest you forget) about to start previews in a week’s time, I thought I’d listen to about a hundred different versions of perhaps its most famous song – ‘Losing My Mind’ – and try and decide on a top ten, with the assumption of course that whatever Imelda Staunton will do with the song will be completely, utterly, life-changingly extraordinary (no pressure Meldz).

Continue reading “Losing my mind over Losing My Mind – 10 top interpretations of the Sondheim classic”

Album Review: The Woman In White (2004 Original London Cast Recording)

“There’s only one thing one has to have
One has to have no shame”

Hitting the West End just before I moved to London and well before I started blogging, Andrew Lloyd Webber’s The Woman In White has the ignominy of being one of his less successful shows. With lyricist David Zippel and book-writer Charlotte Jones, this adaptation of Wilkie Collins’ novel failed to capture the ongoing attention of UK audiences, shuttering after 19 months, but downright flopped on Broadway where it lasted just 3. 

The Woman In White has now been announced as Thom Southerland’s major project over Christmas, running for 12 weeks at the Charing Cross Theatre with Laura Pitt-Pulford onboard, and it got me to thinking that I hadn’t actually ever listened to the show at all. The cast recording was made on the opening night and as the show underwent considerable redevelopment even whilst playing, the ending on this record does not reflect the ending that audiences saw in theatres. Continue reading “Album Review: The Woman In White (2004 Original London Cast Recording)”

Review: Stepping Out, Vaudeville

“I just popped into Pineapple for this”

There may be few real surprises to be had at Stepping Out but what Maria Friedman’s production here at the Vaudeville does, is to conjure a marvellously congenial atmosphere which is ideally suited to the play. Written in 1984 by Richard Harris and set the year before, to call this period comedy dated is beyond stating the obvious, its female characters wafer-thin, its gender politics non-existent.

But if it isn’t feminist with a capital F, there’s certainly lower-case feminism at work here, not least in the fact that it offers up 8 out of its 9 roles to women – bucking the male:female ratio that is stubbornly persistent in the West End. We follow this group of women, and the solitary man, as they muddle their way through a weekly tap class, building to the inevitable performance that they have to pull off. Continue reading “Review: Stepping Out, Vaudeville”

TV Review: The Sound of Music Live

“It’s quite different after you’ve grown up”

The hills are alive, with the sound of questions. Like, why. The UK’s first fully live musical theatre television broadcast saw ITV produce Rodgers and Hammerstein’s The Sound of Music though the result was a curious experiment that fell uneasily between two stools. Lacking the crucial energy that propels the best live theatre (which comes from an audience too), the production values (though often impressive) naturally fell short of the opportunities of filmed work

Which ultimately begs the question, what’s the point. Is the UK hankering for a new production of the show? It’s hardly as if we’re lacking for productions popping up regularly in theatres across the land. Is it showcasing the best of British musical theatre talent? In that case why cast someone like Strictly winner and former Eastender Kara Tointon as Maria and shunt the likes of Julie Atherton (one of the most outstanding performers we have, bar none) into the nun ensemble. Continue reading “TV Review: The Sound of Music Live”