Lockdown theatre review: Curtains

The curtains are lifted once again for Curtains as it is available to watch online again

“I’m sorry but this theatre is in quarantine”

I enjoyed the Kander & Ebb musical Curtains when it made its long-awaited West End debut over the festive period, and was saddened when its ambitious UK tour had to be curtailed once lockdown was enforced. The producers had filmed a performance from early in the run though for their archive and have generously made it available to watch through their website here. And for the completist in me, it has turned out well as it meant I have the opportunity now to see Ore Oduba in the role that Andy Coxon covered for the West End stint.

Paul Foster’s production is great fun, full of wryly comic performances (Samuel Holmes is a standout here), stunning dance (Alan Burkitt – swoon!) and musical theatre gloriousness (you’ll wonder how Rebecca Lock isn’t a bigger name). And I don’t know about other people, but I’ve been craving escapist entertainment much more than anything too serious and Curtains certainly fits the bill (it’s all the more impressive considering it was indeed early in the run for them). Move quickly and watch it tonight!

Review: Curtains, Wyndham’s Theatre

A Kander & Ebb premiere in the West End you say? Curtains makes its bow at the Wyndham’s Theatre and I had an arrestingly good time with it

“Shall we all observe a moment of silence…
to match the audience’s response to Jessica’s first number”

There’s no denying that theatre loves shows about theatre and on the Charing Cross Road right now, you’ve got a play within a play at the Garrick right next to a musical about a musical at the Wyndham’s. Curtains ups the ante though by throwing in a murder mystery as well for good measure and the result is a something of a good old-fashioned romp, blessed with that rarest of things, a barely-known Kander & Ebb score. Having only received a few drama school productions (I saw it at Arts Ed

The show dates back to 2006 but had a tricky road to completion as original book writer Peter Stone died before finishing it, Rupert Holmes stepping in to rewrite, and Fred Ebb also passed away a year later, with Kander and Holmes completing the lyrical content. Curtains managed a relatively successful run on Broadway but for whatever reason, it never made the leap across the Atlantic (into the West End at least) until now, as Paul Foster’s touring production steps neatly into a scheduling gap to provide an alternative cup of Christmas cheer. Continue reading “Review: Curtains, Wyndham’s Theatre”

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”

Review: The Secret Garden, The Barn Theatre Cirencester

A lively and emotional actor-musician production of The Secret Garden marks a fantastic debut for the brand new Barn Theatre in the Cotswolds

“I heard someone crying…
Maybe it was me”

After three years renovation and development work, the Barn Theatre in Cirencester opens its doors with a fresh and spirited actor-musician take on The Secret Garden. A passion project of artistic director Iwan Lewis (who once appeared in a youth production of the musical in the town), the 1991 Tony-winning musical adaptation of Frances Hodgson Burnett’s 1911 children’s novel (book and lyrics by Marsha Noman, music by Lucy Simon) has been curiously under-served in terms of major revivals (I saw a fringe version back in 2013) and so proves a canny choice for a new venue seeking to attract an audience. 

It is clear to see that time and thought, and resources, has been invested into the Barn to make it to help it succeed. So Sam Rowcliffe-Tanner’s lighting design, with all its delightful hidden surprises, benefits from a properly swanky lighting rig that would be the envy of pretty much any off-West-End theatre; so too PJ McEvoy’s projections looking highly professional as they move us around Misselthwaite, from dusty, disused ballrooms to briar-filled nooks.

But for all the technical strength, this Secret Garden blooms because of the creative work that has been ploughed into it. The physical aspects of McEvoy’s design have a deliberately rustic feel, suiting time and place well, reflected in the nature of Elliot Ditton’s puppets. The evocation of an inquisitive robin is gorgeously done but it is the way in which Simon’s score has been thoroughly reinvented that reinforces how this production, and the venture at large, is about about mimicking the Great White Way than creating a new Cotswolds Way. Continue reading “Review: The Secret Garden, The Barn Theatre Cirencester”

Review: As You Like It, Southwark Playhouse

“Ay sir, I have a pretty wit”

There’s a huge amount to enjoy in Derek Bond’s cheerful interpretation of Shakespeare’s As You Like It, not least the multifarious showers of confetti from the sky, Audrey as you’ve never seen her before and a beautiful score by Jude Obermüller that is performed live onstage by the cast. Set loosely in the early part of the twentieth century and somewhere in the English countryside, this is a production to put a smile on the face of audiences of all ages at the Southwark Playhouse.

It takes a little while to get there though. The opening of the play grinds through the set-up of the key personnel – Duke Frederick has kicked out his brother Duke Senior and then latterly his niece Rosalind, Oliver has kicked out his brother Orlando who has the serious hots for Rosalind who is now disguised as a man, and everyone is roaming around the Forest of Arden. There’s something a little perfunctory about the way this first act plays out – the pieces are all there but they don’t quite click in the way they should yet. Continue reading “Review: As You Like It, Southwark Playhouse”