Review: Godspell 50th anniversary concert

Ruthie Henshall, Darren Day, Sam Tutty and more star in an online 50th Anniversary concert of Stephen Schwartz’s Godspell 

“Some men are born to live at ease, doing what they please”

We’ve all had to adjust our plans one way or another but not even a global pandemic is going to get in the way of Godspell celebrating its 50th anniversary with this online tribute concert. Conceived and directed by Michael Strassen, it reunites stars like Ruthie Henshall, Darren Day and John Barr with a show for which they made a studio cast recording in 1993, and also features a host of additional musical theatre talents.

The musical, score by Stephen Schwartz and book by John-Michael Tebelak, draws on the Gospel of Matthew as it moves towards the Passion of the Christ. But this adaptation points a little more towards inspirational optimism than outright spirituality, whilst introducing a creatively interesting way of presenting the songs which sets it apart from many of the other online offerings of the last few months.  Continue reading “Review: Godspell 50th anniversary concert”

News: A Song For Our Time winner is announced

After the announcement of the search for ‘A Song For Our Time’, an original song to be written in response the the effect of the global pandemic and the following lockdown, organisers Danielle Tarento and Paul Wilkins are delighted to unveil the chosen song, ‘Looking At The Moon’ by Amir Shoenfeld and Caitlyn Burt.

They said “We were absolutely overwhelmed at the response to this search, with over 260 submissions from across six continents. The standard was incredibly high, with new songs from world-class songwriters from all four corners of the globe. Narrowing them down to a shortlist of three was unbelievably difficult and we are so grateful to Tony Award-winning composer Jason Robert Brown for helping us to make the final decision. We are delighted with the chosen song, ‘Looking At The Moon’ and thank Amir and Caitlyn for sharing their message of hope with us.” Continue reading “News: A Song For Our Time winner is announced”

News: Godspell to receive the 50th Anniversary concert treatment

Ruthie Henshall, Darren Day, Sam Tutty and more star in Godspell 50th Anniversary concert

Prepare ye the way of Godspell in concert! Theatrical legends will come together to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Godspell in an exciting online concert experience. Ruthie Henshall (Chicago; Billy Elliot), and Darren Day (Joseph and the Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat; Priscilla, Queen of the Desert) will return to reprise their roles from the 1993 cast recording; they will be joined by Sam Tutty (Dear Evan Hansen), Ria Jones (Sunset Boulevard; High Society), and Jenna Russell (The Bridges of Madison County; Fun Home). Continue reading “News: Godspell to receive the 50th Anniversary concert treatment”

News: cast of The Prince of Egypt announced

Full casting has been announced for the arrival of The Prince of Egypt at the Dominion Theatre next year.

Joining the previously announced Luke Brady (Moses), Liam Tamne (Ramses), Christine Allado (Tzipporah), Alexia Khadime (Miriam), Joe Dixon (Seti), Debbie Kurup (Queen Tuya), Gary Wilmot (Jethro), Adam Pearce (Hotep), Tanisha Spring (Nefertari) and Silas Wyatt-Barke (Aaron) will be Mercedesz Csampai (Yocheved), Simbi Akande, Casey Al-Shaqsy, Joe Atkinson, Danny Becker, Felipe Bejarano, Pàje Campbell, Adam Filipe, Soophia Foroughi, Natalie Green, Jack Harrison-Cooper, Rachael Ireson, Kalene Jeans, Christian Knight, Jessica Lee, Oliver Lidert, Jay Marsh, Scott Maurice, Carly Miles, Sam Oladeinde, Alice Readie, Christopher Short, Ricardo Walker, Danny Williams, Niko Wirachman and Sasha Woodward.

The Prince of Egypt has music and lyrics by Stephen Schwartz and a book by Philip LaZebnik and is based on the DreamWorks Animation film of the same name. It will have direction by Scott Schwartz and is choreographed by Sean Cheesman with set design by Kevin Depinet, costume design by Ann Hould-Ward, lighting design by Mike Billings, sound design by Gareth Owen, projection design by Jon Driscoll and illusion design by Chris Fisher. Orchestrations are from August Eriksmoen with musical supervision and arrangements by Dominick Amendum, musical direction by Dave Rose and casting by Jim Arnold.

Review: Hair, Palace Theatre Manchester

This 50th anniversary tour of Hair the Musical does more than any to make me like the show, at the Palace Theatre Manchester

“Grab your blankets, and something to suck”

True story, I’m no real big fan of Hair. I’ve seen it a couple of times now and it just doesn’t grab me in the way that so many other classic musicals do. But when looking for a Wednesday matinée to complete my trip to Manchester, it was the only show in town. And given that this Aria Entertainment, Senbla and Hope Mill Theatre production was born here in Manchester, it seemed only right to give it another shot.

And I have to say, in its 50th anniversary year, it is beginning to win me over. The music (by Galt MacDermot) may not occupy a special place in my soul and the book (by Gerome Ragni and James Rado) remains chronically weak but there’s something so persuasive about Jonathan O’Boyle’s production that is entirely seductive, and feels even more so in the grander theatres in which it is now touring, as opposed to the more intimate spaces it has previously occupied. Continue reading “Review: Hair, Palace Theatre Manchester”

Not-a-Review: Hair, Vaults

“No more falsehoods or derisions”

I went into Hair with as open a mind as I could muster but it really isn’t my cup of (herbal) tea at all, particularly in a production like this one which felt overly concerned in making sure we were all having ‘a good time’.  That may be in keeping with the hippy schtick but doesn’t cut to the core of any of the many more serious issues which it ends up skating over rather too thinly. Plus the score (still) doesn’t do anything for me. That’s just the way it goes sometimes.

Running time: 2 hours 10 minutes (with interval)
Booking until 13th January

Review: The Fix, Union Theatre

“Is it possible to be drunk and have a hangover at the same time”

Staged and directed at the Union Theatre by Michael Strassen, whose award-winning production of Assassins played here in 2010, the plot of The Fix follows the Chandlers, a Kennedy-esque dynasty of political players. When presidential hopeful Senator Reed Chandler pops his clogs in flagrante with a lady other than his wife, the family’s attention turns to Cal, his layabout playboy son. Mother Violet, a gin-sozzled matriarch, and uncle Grahame, a crippled gay Machiavelli, groom him to take up the family mantle but Cal is a reluctant politico, seeking refuge in drugs and extra-marital affairs. And as the stakes get higher the further into government he rises, the more dangerous it gets for those skeletons in the closet.  

Composed by Dana P Rowe and with book and lyrics from John Dempsey, the 1997 show unfortunately occupies an uneasy middle ground between trying to tell the story above, yet simultaneously make satirical digs at the political classes, and I am not sure that it does either particularly well. It is therefore to their credit that the lead players, under Strassen’s careful direction, manage to tease as much out of their characters as they do.  Continue reading “Review: The Fix, Union Theatre”

Review: Parade, Southwark Playhouse

“It means the journey ahead might get shorter, I might reach the end of my rope”

Hardly the sunniest of topics for a musical, Jason Robert Brown’s Parade is based on the true 1910s story of Leo Frank, a Jewish businessman who is accused of the rape and murder of Mary Phagan, a 13 year old employee in his factory. How the trial unfolds in Atlanta, Georgia and its impact ripples out, characterises a Deep South rife with virulent anti-Semitism, whipped up by a sensationalist media and fomented by opportunistic politicians and Leo, with his wife Lucille, are swept along with the inescapable tide. This new production is presented in the Vault at Southwark Playhouse, a dark spare space of shadowy arches and echoing sound.

It is a beautifully complex score – one which would reward repeated listening I imagine – pulling in influences from a diverse range of sources, evoking emotion well but more crucially constantly pushing the story forward. Because if there’s a weakness it is that the central premise is fairly limited, the same points are made repeatedly in lieu of much by the way of actual drama. But directed by Thom Southerland, the show really sparkles when it centres on the marriage between Brooklynite Leo and Southern gal Lucille, his bookish dullness captured well by Alistair Brookshaw and contrasted by the openness of Laura Pitt-Pulford’s stunningly-voiced wife whose relentless drive to clear his name wakens a new, deeper love between the two. Continue reading “Review: Parade, Southwark Playhouse”