Review: Brass the Musical, Union Theatre

Brass the Musical at the Union Theatre is a powerfully moving celebration of sacrifices made, of service offered, of music itself – beautifully done

“Just until our lads come back”

There’s a neat symmetry to the life of Brass the Musical thus far. Originally commissioned by the National Youth Music Theatre to commemorate the centenary of the outbreak of the First World War, its professional London premiere now marks the Armistice Centenary. Benjamin Till’s musical, with additional lyrics from Nathan Taylor and Sir Arnold Wesker, thus serves as a powerful tribute to those who served, both at home and on the frontline.

What is particularly gorgeous about Brass is how it is suffused with the joy of music. Its power to bring people together (as in the characterful ‘Forming a Band’), its potential to lift spirits (the marvelous storytelling of ‘Whistle Billy’), its ability to express something deeper beyond just words (the haunting vocalese at the trenches). And as an expression of the musical theatre form, it works beautifully in deepening an already profoundly moving piece of history.  Continue reading “Review: Brass the Musical, Union Theatre”

Album Review: Mary Poppins (2005 Original London Cast Recording)

“Children who refuse to learn will not return”

I only actually got round to seeing the ‘new’ musical version of Mary Poppins a couple of years ago at the Curve in Leicester, ahead of its mammoth tour, and so the novelty of finally seeing it onstage distracted me a little from the finer details of the score, which merged the original of Robert B Sherman and Richard M Sherman with new songs and arrangements from George Stiles and Anthony Drewe.

And listening to it a couple of times, I think I find myself slightly less enamoured of the interventions. That’s not to detract from the quality of the performances – Laura Michelle Kelly makes for a vibrant Mary, Gavin Lee a perky Bert, and the supporting cast is blessed by the likes of David Haig and Linzi Hateley as the Banks, Rosie Ashe as the nefarious Miss Andrew and Jenny Galloway, Melanie La Barrie, and Claire Machin too. Continue reading “Album Review: Mary Poppins (2005 Original London Cast Recording)”

Review: Naked Boys Singing, Charing Cross Theatre

“There’s only one reason you’re here tonight”

The rebranding of the New Players Theatre as the Charing Cross Theatre has to be one of the least effective I have come across in quite some time. The theatre itself, the signage and the website still bear the old name, only the tickets actually say Charing Cross on them which makes for a strange state of affairs. It is now playing late-night home to Naked Boys Singing, which is proving remarkably enduring given that this is the fourth outing for Phil Willmott’s production after previous runs at the King’s Head and the Arts Theatre: what could its appeal be…?!

It’s a musical comedy revue loosely in the style of A Chorus Line, following 7 guys as they audition for and then perform in a show which requires them to be in the nude. Which they do, eventually. But before that, there’s an attempt at trying to add depth to proceedings by filling the back-story of some of the protagonists and philosophising about what it means to really get naked, but given that the height of humour here is men shouting as many different terms for male genitalia as they can, any level of sophistication is pretty much wasted. Continue reading “Review: Naked Boys Singing, Charing Cross Theatre”

Review: Just So, Tabard

“Why are those things you admire most in others the hardest to find in yourself?”
 

Stiles+Drewe occupy a funny place for me: a musical writing pair, I’ve several of their soundtracks in my collection as well as their West End concert and I’ve been to a charity gig they hosted this year but I have never actually seen a show they have written. Fortunately, the Tabard Theatre took it upon themselves to rectify this by putting on a production of Just So.

Written in the mid 1980s by George Stiles (music) and Anthony Drewe (lyrics), this is actually the professional London premiere of this show after a successful 2006 revival in Chichester which featured Julie Atherton. Director Andrew Keates has aimed big with this production, the biggest ever at the Tabard, which celebrates both the 25th anniversary of the show and the Tabard itself.

Just So pulls together five of Rudyard Kipling’s famous stories into one epic journey through the jungle as the Elephant’s Child and the Kolokolo Bird, guided by the wise Eldest Magician, travel together to stop the evil crab Pau Amma from flooding everything and on the way meet all sorts of weird and wonderful creatures as they learn to face their fears, be truly courageous and the real value of friendship. With a live band and a cast of eleven, the story is brought vividly to life on the stage of the Tabard in what makes for a most entertaining family musical. Continue reading “Review: Just So, Tabard”