“For what are we men without a ship to complete?”
The logic of theatre being what it is, an original musical by Sting about the decline of the shipbuilding industry in the north-east of England opened on Broadway in 2014 and has still yet to be seen here in the UK. I saw it at the Neil Simon Theatre and whilst The Last Ship didn’t have the strongest book, I did think the brooding melancholy of the folk-inflected score would carry it further than the four months it managed.
Its primary delight is Rachel Tucker’s Meg, a dynamic vocal presence who can’t help but stand out in everything she sings, whether the delicacy of ‘August Winds’, the tearjerking ‘It’s Not The Same Moon’, or the bawdy fun of ‘If You Ever See Me Talking to a Sailor’. Along with the excellent Michael Esper (now familiar to us in the UK thanks to Lazarus and The Glass Menagerie), she makes a real highlight out of ‘When We Dance’ (a re-purposed track from Sting’s back catalogue). Continue reading “Album Review: The Last Ship (2014 Original Broadway Cast Recording)”
“Dashed hopes and good intentions. Good, better, best, bested”
“It’s an honour just to be nominated…” Come award season, these words are often heard but you do have to wonder what it feels like to be the only member of a four person ensemble that isn’t up for an Olivier Award. Such is the fate for Michael Esper in The Glass Menagerie just now, as Cherry Jones, Kate O’Flynn and Brian J Smith all find themselves deservedly up for acting prizes on Sunday while he’s had to put his game face on. Continue reading “Re-review: The Glass Menagerie / Who’s Afraid Of Virginia Woolf”
“The future becomes the present, the present the past, and the past turns into everlasting regret if you don’t plan for it”
John Tiffany might well be taking over the West End by stealth. His Critic’s Circle-winning Harry Potter and The Cursed Child is still maintaining its extraordinarily successful run, currently booking until April 2018, and now his production of Tennessee Williams’ The Glass Menagerie, previously seen in the US and last year in Edinburgh, arrives at the Duke of York’s. And though Tiffany’s gift for direction may be taking fantastical flight over at the Palace Theatre, rest assured it is no less magical here. Kate O’Flynn’s Laura first appears like a spirit, passing right through the furniture as she is evoked by her brother, likewise Cherry Jones’ Amanda arrives out of thin air.
Yet for all this, including movement largely governed by long-time collaborator Steven Hoggett so that the eating of dinner becomes as finely choreographed as a ballet, the production’s magic comes from the humanity with which its characters are treated. As narrated from the future by her estranged son Tom, Amanda Wingfield is often overplayed, the faded Southern belle craving the limelight, but here she is a mother first and foremost and Jones never lets us forget that. She’s incredibly expansive and inextricably lost in memories of her youth but here she is deeply caring and self-aware too, it is a beautifully judged performance from an actress finally making her London debut after an illustrious Broadway career. Continue reading “Review: The Glass Menagerie, Duke of York’s”
2017 is only just over a week away now and the reviewing diary is already filling up! All sorts of headline-grabbing West End shows have already been announced (The Glass Menagerie, Who’s Afraid Of Virginia Woolf, Don Juan In Soho, The Goat, Or Who Is Sylvia) and the National look to continue a sensational year with another (Twelfth Night, Consent, the heaven-sent Angels in America), so this list is looking a little further afield to the London fringe and some of the UK theatres I hope to get to throughout the year.
After hearing Elizabeth Newman speak passionately on a panel discussion about women’s theatre, I kinda have a big (intellectual) crush on her, so I’m very keen to see her tackle a new adaptation by Deborah McAndrew of the classic Anne Bronte novel in a theatre that is very close to my heart.
Continue reading “20 shows to look forward to in 2017”
“A man lost in time”
It’s no secret that I’m a big Ivo van Hove fan, I’ve been to New York and Amsterdam several times to see his work as regular readers will know, so booking for his latest show to hit London – Lazarus – was a no-brainer. At the same time though, I have to say that the music of David Bowie has played little part in my life, so a musical continuing the story of his 1976 film The Man Who Fell To Earth and based on his songs doesn’t actually carry the same appeal that I might normally have with a van Hove show.
Of course, the shock news of Bowie’s passing as the show opened in New York this past winter lends Lazarus an especial charge, featuring as it does songs from his later albums and songs that were written for this project, among some of the last he ever penned. To an outsider though, it makes for strange experience with a strong sense of mood prevailing over a defined narrative progression, Enda Walsh co-writing a book with Bowie that is labyrinthine in its own fractured, hallucinatory way. Continue reading “Review: Lazarus, King’s Cross”
On 6th November 2016, Rodgers and Hammerstein’s ever popular State Fair will be performed for the first time on the London stage as a symphonic concert by the London Musical Theatre Orchestra under award winning director and Evening Standard Awards nominee Thom Southerland (currently doing amazing work with Ragtime) at Cadogan Hall.
In a double first for the LMTO, this is also the first full scale public performance by the company which debuted its inaugural gala, in June of this year, to a packed house at Bishopsgate Institute where the orchestra is in residence. Continue reading “Round-up of news and treats and other interesting things”
“And when you become a woman of a certain age
You’ll find it’s difficult to trust a man”
The signs for The Last Ship were not good even before I boarded – Sting stepping into a key role to shore up ticket sales over Christmas – and just days after I saw it, the producers decided to cut their losses and it posted closing notices for the end of the month. Indeed, this review comes too late to even persuade a last few people to visit as Saturday saw the final performance. And whilst I’d love to be able to say that it is a huge loss to the Broadway stage, to me it really didn’t feel like the complete package.
First things first – Sting’s score is genuinely excellent, binding together influences like Celtic folk and sea shanties to the more standard driving anthems and heartfelt balladry that one might expect from a big musical. Real emotion and a strong sense of character come flooding out of songs like ‘Autumn Winds’, the title song and ‘If You Ever See Me Talking To A Sailor’ and it is little surprise that the soundtrack made a strong concept album when released in 2013. Continue reading “Review: The Last Ship, Neil Simon Theatre”