Shows I am looking forward to in 2012

Though the temptation is strong, and the actuality may well prove so, I don’t think I will be catching quite so much theatre in 2012 as I did last year. I could do with a slightly better balance in my life and also, I want to focus a little more on the things I know I have a stronger chance of enjoying.

So, I haven’t booked a huge amount thus far, especially outside of London where I think I will rely more on recommendations, but here’s what I’m currently looking forward to the most: Continue reading “Shows I am looking forward to in 2012”

Review: Little Women The Musical, LOST Theatre

“Mother says its going to be a hard winter for everyone”

With music and lyrics by Lionel Segal and book by Peter Layton, this version of Little Women The Musical bears no relation to the production that ran for a short while on Broadway and has only been seen before in a one night concert showcase in 2005, making this the UK premiere run at the LOST theatre in Wandsworth. The musical is based on Louisa May Alcott’s well-loved 1868 novel, following the fortunes of the four March sisters in New England during Civil War-time as family responsibilities are cast against personal ambition and lives and loves pass by as poverty and social change loom large.

Whereas Layton book remains largely faithful to the novel, it’s not a story that one would assume immediately lends itself to the musical treatment. Segal’s music does not overtly embrace the music of the time as far as I could perceive, but rather goes for a modern-sounding aesthetic which is extremely successful in parts and less so in others. Where the show is at its strongest is in elucidating the sisterly dynamic between the March girls and their songs together illuminate this perfectly, a real sense of familial bond emerging from their playful vitality and gorgeous harmonising. Charlotte Newton John’s characterful Jo leads the show extremely well, with sensitive support from Claire Chambers and Laura Hope London as Beth and Meg respectively and a sprightly turn from Caroline Rodgers as the young brattish Amy, who delivers her malapropisms perhaps a little too knowingly. Continue reading “Review: Little Women The Musical, LOST Theatre”

Re-Review: Oliver!, Theatre Royal Drury Lane

“Shut up and drink your gin”

When I first heard about this offer of tickets for 5 West End shows for £70 from the Groupon website, I thought it was too good to be true but after a twitter buddy convinced me to take the plunge, I can honestly say it is a great deal. I now have front centre stall tickets for 5 shows that I would not perhaps have ever gotten round to seeing for the princely sum of £14 each. So keep your eyes peeled for a similar offer if it comes up again. The first of my shows was a revisit to Oliver! as there’d been a substantial cast change since I last saw it and it has announced that it is closing, in order to make way for Shrek in the spring of next year.

The story of Oliver Twist, a workhouse orphan who ends up on the streets of Victorian London but soon finds a new life with Fagin and his group of pickpockets. When it turns out Oliver is pretty rubbish at crime and he gets caught, a wealthy man takes pity on him but his new compatriots including the vicious Bill Sikes, the chirpy Artful Dodger and the mothering Nancy set out to get him back with tragic consequences.

This production directed by Rupert Goold had two of its roles originally cast through the BBC1 reality show I’d Do Anything, Jodie Prenger as Nancy and three Olivers were ultimately selected and most have now moved on. But it remains much the same show with its highly impressive set with its ever-changing backdrops and layers providing a visual treat along with a huge cast, some nifty choreography and a freshness to the new orchestrations and arrangements of the songs we all know so well, like Consider Yourself, I’d Do Anything and Food Glorious Food and in the set pieces for these songs, this production is simply delightful, none more so than in my personal favourite, Who Will Buy.

This is probably quite naff, but I have a certain fondness for Russ Abbot as I have great memories of Saturday afternoons spent at my Aunty Jean and Aunty Mary’s house watching television and the Russ Abbot Show, with Bella Emberg as well, is something that sticks in my mind and reminds of those simpler times. I was quite shocked to see that he is only 63, as I was sure he was considerably older than my parents but apparently not, but he does a grand job here as a less creepy Fagin than Atkinson, more avuncular and unafraid of the broader comedic touches which went down a storm (there’s a Lady GaGa reference now). William Pearce made for a very sweet Oliver and we had Jacques Miché as Dodger who was good fun and a most enthusiastic dancer. And I was surprised at just how dark and brutal Steven Hartley’s Bill was, but it was most effective.

I have to admit to not really being a huge fan of Kerry Ellis, I’m not entirely sure why but there’s something a little clinical about her for me, and so it was here for me. Vocally she is very strong and secure but there wasn’t much lyrical precision in Oom Pah Pah and to be honest, up close, there didn’t seem to be much going on behind the eyes, not enough emotion in her performance to make you believe that Nancy really cares for her boys. Part of this is probably because I was a huge fan of Jodie Prenger, but others in the interval also commented on how it seemed like she was kind of going through the motions.

It was really nice to be able to revisit this show and from such amazing seats, it made a considerable difference from being up in the gods and very much added to the experience. When the oh-so-familiar songs are in full flow and the cast is in full voice and dancing around, this is a truly joyous production. There are moments when it drags, in the second half in particular, and it will be nice to welcome a new musical to this theatre next year, but I’d quite happily recommend this stalwart for a good old-fashioned musical treat.

Running time: 2 hours 30 minutes (with interval)
Programme cost: £3
Booking until 8th January 2011, Griff Rhys Jones rejoins the production as Fagin from 6th December
Note: some use of strobe lighting and a loud noise towards the end

Review: Oliver!, Theatre Royal Drury Lane

This review marks a momentous occasion as it features the first appearance of Aunty Jean, one of my most faithful theatre companions, despite living nearly 200 miles from me in Wigan. We try to see at least one thing every time she visits whether for pleasure or work, but it has been a while since she has been down so Oliver marked her first 2009 London theatrical trip.

Fortunately it was well worth it, as this show did not disappoint on any level (and many levels it did have!). The sets for this show were truly awe-inspiring: Fagin’s underground lair was cleverly constructed; the depth of the alleyway for the street scenes was huge so it gave a great sense of scale to the proceedings, one which has been sadly lacking in many large recent productions, cost-cutting I guess, and the lighting from scene to scene could not have been more different, yet still highly effective. This all combined to give great energy and movement to the show, which scarcely needs it due to the highly familiar and zippy score. Continue reading “Review: Oliver!, Theatre Royal Drury Lane”

Review: Acorn Antiques The Musical, Theatre Royal Haymarket

Some shows you just know are going to get bad reviews but these are quite often shows that certain people are going to love no matter what and so it was with me and Acorn Antiques The Musical. I loved Victoria Wood’s sketch show from the moment I remember seeing it (I’m northern, it is in the contract) and so when I heard that she was writing a musical based on it, there was no doubt what my request for a birthday present would be: tickets to see it at the Theatre Royal Haymarket.

Directed by Trevor Nunn, Wood took on sole responsibility for the show, writing book, music and lyrics and managed to persuade many of the original stars from the show to reprise their roles: Celia Imrie, Duncan Preston and of course, Julie Walters. And when the show focuses on recreating the hilarity that was Acorn Antiques the show as we remember it, this has to be one of the funniest nights I have ever had at the theatre, I was helpless with laughter for so much of it. Continue reading “Review: Acorn Antiques The Musical, Theatre Royal Haymarket”