Review: Violet, Charing Cross Theatre

Great design work from Morgan Large and a strong lead performance from Kaisa Hammarlund make Violet an intriguing proposition at the Charing Cross Theatre

“Who’s gonna heed your hullabaloos”

There’s much to like about this production of Jeanine Tesori and  Brian Crawley’s musical Violet, not least a winning performance from Kaisa Hammarlund and a striking set design from Morgan Large which makes the most of a cleverly reconfigured Charing Cross Theatre.

The stage has been moved to the centre of the long auditorium which dramatically ups the intimacy of the space. And Hammarlund – recently in another of Tesori’s musicals Fun Home – is a warmly magnetic presence as the central character Violet, a young woman who journeys from North Carolina to Oklahoma in the hope of a cure for the facial disfigurement that shapes her life. Continue reading “Review: Violet, Charing Cross Theatre”

Review: Ramin Karimloo with Seth Rudetsky , Leicester Square Theatre

Lots of fun at Leicester Square Theatre for Ramin Karimloo’s intimate concert with Seth Rudetsky and a whole load of special guests

“I knew where I needed to be”

The Broadway @ The Leicester Square brand is one which surfaces infrequently but always pays rich rewards when it does. Having attracted Patti LuPone, then Audra McDonald and John Barrowman into the intimate surroundings of an informal chat and sing-song arrangement with Seth Rudetsky, it is now Ramin Karimloo’s turn to deliver such a boutique concert.
 
The particular joy of these concerts is their slightly chaotic nature, the way in which no-one seems entirely sure what is going to happen, least of Karimloo and Rudetsky themselves. Tonight we all recorded a rendition of Happy Birthday for Jenna Russell and got an impromptu duet on ‘Confrontation’ with Jeremy Secomb who was dragged out of the audience – who knows what the next two shows will bring. 
 
And these are just the bonuses on top of a programme which dips in and out of Karimloo’s impressive career to date. Anecdotes about the awesome inspiration Colm Wilkinson provided sit alongside a haunting rendition of ‘Music of the Night’; memories of The Pirates of Penzance segue into a gloriously ripe ‘The Pirate King’; his recent forays into Evita represented by ‘High Flying Adored’.  

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Review: Mack and Mabel, Hackney Empire

“I’ll pull the greatest stunt this business has seen”

I can’t be doing with supermarkets who are already starting to stock mince pies but it was hard not to feel that Christmas had come early, such were the heady delights of the London Musical Theatre Orchestra’s latest venture Mack and Mabel, directed by Shaun Kerrison. Ostensibly, these are concert presentations of musicals but the joy in what you actually get, the bonuses that get incorporated into the creation of genuine one-off experiences makes LMTO one of the more valuable recent additions to the London theatre ecology.

So you’ve got your cast of West End names (David Bedella, Natasha J Barnes, Tiffany Graves headlining), you’ve got your orchestra of 32 (conducted by Freddie Tapner, led by Debs White), you’ve got a chorus of 16 too. And of course you’ve got the marvellous musical, written by Michael Stewart and composed by Jerry Herman, in the atmospheric surroundings of the Hackney Empire. But not content with such riches, we also get cream pies, chorus lines, and two properly gobsmacking coups de théâtre that brought the audience to their feet. Continue reading “Review: Mack and Mabel, Hackney Empire”

Review: Murder Ballad, Arts

“My nights are trash and vaudeville”

Director Sam Yates knows exactly what he is doing. Within seconds of the opening number of Murder Ballad finishing, Ramin Karimloo has got his t-shirt off and we’re treated to the sight of one of the finest physiques in the West End. A little light-heartedly lascivious you might think, but it is symptomatic of what this production finds it has to do in order to elevate the material to an intermittently striking piece of musical theatre.

A mostly sung-through rock musical, Murder Ballad follows the emergent love triangle between a trio of New Yorkers. Sara loves hard rock and hard drink and in bad boy bartender Tom, finds a passionate but unhealthy sexual connection. Poet Michael is about as different as they can get but it is to him that Sara eventually turns, but though a husband and then daughter has its conventional appeal, she can’t quite kick the habit of the violent Tom. And as we’re told from the beginning, someone’s gonna die. Continue reading “Review: Murder Ballad, Arts”

CD Review: Thérèse Raquin (2014 Original London Cast)

“You are not still, you are not still Thérèse”

There are times when listening to cast recordings can sometimes feel like a chore, and others when they are a glorious reminder of shows gone by. For me, hearing the utterly gorgeous waterfall of voices on ‘You Are Not Still Thérèse’ from Craig Adams’ Thérèse Raquin is very much in the latter category, one of those moments of musical theatre perfection that work as music, as drama, as theatre, as pure art.
Adams and Nona Shepphard’s adaptation of Zola’s novel played at the Finborough in 2014 and then transferred to the larger Park in one of those really sensible moments theatreland sometimes has. Musically complex and dramatically interesting as a radical interpretation of the book, it delved deep into Thérèse’s psychology and aided by a stunning performance from Julie Atherton, worked beautifully.

The score stands up well on disc, its through-sung narrative clear as a bell and really assisted by the introduction of a sonorous Greek chorus of Claire Greenway, Ellie Kirk and Lucy O’Byrne who provide commentary and alternative takes on the tragic events. Atherton connects viscerally with illicit love Laurent, a virile Greg Barnett and contemptuously with husband Jeremy Legat’s Camille to bring real fire to their love triangle and its consequences, the climactic ‘If I Had Known’ is just devastatingly good.
But it’s the combination of them with the complex choral work of the company that really makes this an extraordinary musical, rich and evocative in a way that is all too rarely seen in new musicals, certainly on larger stages, and so it’s a real boon to have this recording to remember the show by and hopefully spearhead a fine set of revivals to come.

Re-review: Thérèse Raquin, Park Theatre

“They are drawn by the inescapable promptings of their flesh!”

A well-deserved transfer for this hit Finborough musical although coming a few months after that original run, the production has had to be recast a bit along with being reconceived for the larger space of the Park Theatre. On a personal note, whilst I loved being able to listen to the pleasingly textured score once again, it was also interesting to come back to the show with a much greater knowledge of the story, having recently seen both a play and a film of Thérèse Raquin, thus enabling me to compare and contrast adaptations.

This version hedges its bets from the beginning by describing itself as a “radical adaptation” by Nona Shepphard but what is interesting is that Shepphard is the only one who tries to replicate something of Thérèse’s interior life, which is so richly portrayed in the novel, by using a chorus of three river women. It works both dramatically and musically, creating additional layers to the vocals and these hints of Greek tragedy with its chorus passing commentary is used effectively elsewhere, most notably in reporting the news of Camille’s tragic ‘accident’.

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