Lockdown review: Les Misérables – The Staged Concert

Les Misérables – The Staged Concert is released on digital download, along with a bonus featurette which is highly amusing

“Minutes into hours, and the hours into years”

Striding over the barricades to alleviate lockdown tedium, Les Misérables – The Staged Concert has now been released on digital download. The release will raise funds for performers, musicians and the NHS as well as incurring additional donations (an extra £5 for every purchase) from The Mackintosh Foundation which will go to the charity Acting for Others, the Musicians Union Coronavirus Hardship Fund and Captain Tom Moore’s Walk for the NHS fund

You can actually watch Bringing It Home – A Les Miz Stay at Home Special below but I thought I’d give you fair warning as it has its pros and cons. Continue reading “Lockdown review: Les Misérables – The Staged Concert”

Album Review: The Route To Happiness (2014 Original Cast Recording)

“Better we’d not met”

I saw a festival presentation of Alexander S Bermange’s The Route To Happiness at the Landor back in 2013 and a year later, an original cast recording was made available through Auburn Jam, albeit with an entirely different cast. So in place of Cassidy Janson, Niall Sheehy, and Shona White, we get Kerry Ellis, Ben Forster and Louise Dearman taking on the roles of this three-hander.

The story follows the pursuit of fame, money and love and how the three intersect in the intertwined stories of Trinity, Marcus and Lorna. But where the show has maintained a fairly positive place in my memory, listening to the double-album of the score felt like a bit of a chore. Musically it is accomplished but far too similar-sounding, there’s little sense of progression to carry you through. Continue reading “Album Review: The Route To Happiness (2014 Original Cast Recording)”

CD Review: Cool Rider (Original Studio Recording 2015)

“Don’t get sore when you lose tonight”

Cult status is a funny thing, depending on which side of the coin you fall, it can either rescue diamonds in the rough or just further expose them. For me, Cool Rider comes down heavily on the latter though it must be said, there’s plenty who would argue the former, not least those who contributed over £12 grand to the Kickstarter to get this recording made. Hey, it’s their money right?!

Cool Rider is perhaps better known as the stage adaptation of ill-fated film sequel Grease 2. Staged in a concert version in 2014, the popularity of which saw it return for a week of performances at the Duchess Theatre, the fans are clearly there but quite for what, I couldn’t really say. The plot is little more than an retread of the original but with the roles reversed but the main problem lies in an inconsistent and uninspired score. 

With no less than 10 different contributors named, and the legacy of an absolute classic to live up to, Lee Freeman’s orchestrations valiantly try to elevate the 80s take on 60s pastiche but finds that no time period can make it sound good. It’s awkwardly dated and cringe-worthily written – “we’re gonna rock, we’re gonna roll, we’re gonna bop, we’re gonna bowl” is no “rama lamma lamma ka dinga da dinga dong” that’s for sure…

More crucially, there’s too little charm to balance what comedy there is. Ashleigh Gray does a commendable job as the go-getting Stephanie, the title track is strong and her side of climactic duet ‘(Love Will) Turn Back The Hands of Time’ is excellent but opposite her, Aaron SIdwell is lacklustre in a largely insipid part. Reece Shearsmith’s romp through a sex-ed class in ‘Reproduction’ is another example where the recording falls flat, though I can appreciate that prior knowledge of the scene might well make it work.

So Cool Rider might well be one for the fans, for whom seeing and hearing the show live will have been a dream. For the more casual listener, there aren’t many more worse things you could do.

The Curtain Up Show Album of the Year 2015 nominees

Best Cast Recording
Bend It Like Beckham (Original London Cast Recording)
Cool Rider (Original Studio Recording)
Gypsy (2015 London Cast Recording)
Made in Dagenham (Original London Cast Recording)
Memphis the Musical (Original London Cast Recording)

Best Solo Album
Cynthia Erivo and Oliver Tompsett Sing Scott Alan
Hugh Maynard – Something Inside So Strong
John Owen-Jones – Rise
Tim Prottey-Jones – To Do. To Be.

Review: Pure Imagination: The Songs of Leslie Bricusse, St James

“Don’t know whether it’s mornin’ or night;
Only know it’s soundin’ right”

The numbers around composer Leslie Bricusse stack up most impressively indeed – over 1,000 songs written over a period of more than 60 years, including the book, music or lyrics for 40+ musical films and plays, winning 2 Academy Awards and being nominated for a further 8. So one can certainly indulge him in a moment of reflection in Pure Imagination: The Songs of Leslie Bricusse, a career retrospective that merely skims the surface of that mighty back catalogue with 50 numbers but giving a glorious sense of the formidable and unerring quality of his undoubted talent.

Devised by Bricusse along with director Christopher Renshaw and producer Danielle Tarento, the show eschews any kind of formal narrative, instead collecting songs into loose groupings which give the ideal opportunity to show off the vast breadth of material and leave even the most knowledgeable saying ‘I didn’t know he wrote that one as well’. So the theme to The Pink Panther rubs shoulders with Doctor Dolittle’s ‘Talk To The Animals’ and Willy Wonka’s ‘Oompa-Loompa Doompadee-Doo’, and a sing-song around the old joanna features such classics as ‘My Old Man’s A Dustman’ and ‘The Good Old Bad Old Days’.  Continue reading “Review: Pure Imagination: The Songs of Leslie Bricusse, St James”

Re-review: Miss Saigon, Prince Edward Theatre

“Why God? Why today?” 

I wasn’t the hugest fan of Miss Saigon first time round as my review from then clearly attests but I’m never one to be entirely closed-minded (though it may not often seem that way…) so when the opportunity to take a friend who had not previously been popped up, I made a return visit to the Prince Edward Theatre. The show is still basking in the glow of recently winning 9 What’s On Stage awards and it is clear that it is attracting a younger and atypically passionate crowd (for a West End show at least). 

That passion cuts both ways though as the overexcited group behind us couldn’t hold back from the flash photography and the young woman in front of me was less enthused than the rest of her party and spent most of the show on Facebook. It makes for a different kind of theatre experience when you’re having to do battle with that kind of behaviour but given my continued lack of engagement with the storyline of this particular musical theatre behemoth, it was as much a distraction for me as anything.  Continue reading “Re-review: Miss Saigon, Prince Edward Theatre”

2014 BroadwayWorld UK Awards Shortlist

Best Choreography in a New Production of a Musical
Bob Avian & Geoffrey Garratt – Miss Saigon – Prince Edward Theatre
Peter Darling – Charlie and the Chocolate Factory – Theatre Royal, Drury Lane
Gary Lloyd – 20th Century Boy – The Grand Wolverhampton
Ann Yea – Urinetown – St James

Best Costume Design in a New Production of a Play or Musical
Andreane Neofitou – Miss Saigon – Prince Edward Theatre
Rae Smith – The Light Princess – National Theatre
Soutra Gilmour – Urinetown – St James Theatre
David Shields – Sister Act – Aberystwyth Arts Centre

Best Direction of a New Production of a Musical
Laurence Connor – Miss Saigon – Prince Edward Theatre
Matt Ryan – Dogfight – Southwark Playhouse
Jamie Lloyd – Urinetown – St Jamess
Paul Kerryson – Chicago – Curve Leicester

Best Direction of a New production of a Play
Yael Farber – The Crucible – The Old Vic
Declan Donnellan – Shakespeare in Love – Noel Coward Theatre
Jamie Lloyd – Richard III – Trafalgar Studios
Daniel Evans – The Full Monty – Noel Coward

Best Featured Actor in a New Production of a Musical
Kwang-Ho Hong – Miss Saigon – Prince Edward Theatre
Hugh Maynard – Miss Saigon – Prince Edward, London
Matthew Barrow – Chicago – Curve Leicester
Adam Pearce – Urinetown – St. James Theatre

Best Featured Actor in a New Production of a Play
Adrian Schiller – The Crucible – Old Vic Theatre
David Oakes – Shakespeare In Love – Noel Coward Theatre
Bill Nighy – Skylight – Wyndhams
Andrew Scott – Birdland – Royal Court

Best Featured Actress in a New Production of a Musical
Rachelle Ann Go – Miss Saigon – Prince Edward Theatre
Rebecca Trehearn – Dogfight – Southwark Playhouse
Jenna Russell – Urinetown – St. James Theatre
Zizi Strallen – Hairspray – Leicester Curve

Best Featured Actress in a New Production of a Play
Samantha Colley – The Crucible – Old Vic
Angela Lansbury – Blithe Spirit – Gielgud
Anna Carteret – Shakespeare in Love – Noel Coward Theatre
Carey Mulligan – Skylight – Wyndhams

Best Leading Actor in a New Production of a Musical
Jon Jon Briones – Miss Saigon – Prince Edward, London
Richard Fleeshman – Urinetown – St. James Theatre
Jamie Muscato – Dogfight – Southwark Playhouse
Warren Sollars – 20th Century Boy – Wimbledon

Best Leading Actor in A New Production of a Play
Richard Armitage – The Crucible – Old Vic Theatre
Martin Freeman – Richard III – Trafalgar Studios
Daniel Radcliffe – Cripple of Inishmann – Noel coward
Tom Bateman – Shakespeare In Love – Noel Coward

Best Leading Actress in a New Production of a Musical
Eva Noblezada – Miss Saigon – Prince Edward Theatre
Rosalie Craig – The Light Princess – National Theatre
Lucie Mae Sumner – Avenue Q – UK Tour
Jodie Prenger – Calamity Jane – Watermill Theatre

Best Leading Actress in a New Production of a Play
Anna Madeley – The Crucible – Old Vic
Angela Lansbury – Blithe Spirit – Gielgud
Gillian Anderson – A Streetcar Named Desire – The Young Vic
Billie Piper – Great Britain – National Theatre

Best Lighting Design in a New Production of a Play or Musical
Charles Balfour – Richard III – Trafalgar Studio
Adam Silverman – Urinetown – St James Theatre
Paule Constable – The Light Princess – National Theatre
Grant Anderson – The Addams Family – Assembly Hall (Edinburgh)

Best Long-Running Show in the West End
Les Miserables – Queens Theatre
Wicked – Apollo Victoria
Phantom of the Opera – Her Majesty’s Theatre
Matilda – Cambridge Theatre

Best Musical Direction (Fringe or regional)
George Dyer – Dogfight – Southwark Playhouse
John Donovan – Singin’ In The Rain – UK Tour
Ben Atkinson – Chicago – Leicester Curve
Zach Flis/Joanne Ho – The Addams Family – Assembly Hall (Edinburgh)

Best Musical Direction (West End)
Alfonso Casado Trigo – Miss Saigon – Prince Edward Theatre
Richard John – Dirty Rotten Scoundrels – Savoy
Martin Lowe – The Light Princess – National Theatre
Alan Williams – Urinetown – St. James Theatre

Best New Musical in the West End
Urinetown – St James Theatre
I Can’t Sing! – London Palladium
The Light Princess – National Theatre
Dirty Rotten Scoundrels – Savoy Theatre

Best New Play
Shakespeare In Love – Noel Coward Theatre
Let the Right One In – Apollo
1984 – Headlong/Almeida / Playhouse Theatre
Great Britain – National Theatre

Best New Production of a Musical (Fringe/Regions)
20th Century Boy – UK tour
Dogfight – Southwark Playhouse
Happy Days – UK tour
Sunny Afternoon – Hampstead Theatre

Best Performance in a Long-Running West End show
Carrie Hope Fletcher – Les Miserables – Queens Theatre
Gavin Creel – The Book of Mormon – Prince of Wales
Willemjin Verkaik – Wicked – Apollo Victoria Theatre
Rebecca Lock – Mamma Mia – Novello

Best Scenic Design in a New Production of a Play or Musical
Totie Driver, Matt Kinley & Adrian Vaux – Miss Saigon – Prince Edward Theatre
Soutra Gilmour – Richard III – Trafalgar Studios
Soutra Gilmour – Urinetown – St James Theatre
Rae Smith – The Light Princess – National Theatre

Best Sound Design in a New Production of a Play or Musical
Mick Potter – Miss Saigon – Prince Edward Theatre
Richard Hammarton – The Crucible – The Old Vic
Terry Jardine/Nick Lidster – Urinetown – St James Theatre
Tom Gibbons – 1984 – Headlong/Almeida/ Playhouse Theatre

Theatrical Event of the Year
West End Live – Trafalgar Square
50 Years on Stage (National Theatre) – Various Theatres
Les Mis V Phantom Charity Football Match – Bromley FC
Kerry Ellis’s return to Wicked – Apollo Victoria

Theatrical Venue of the Year
Southwark Playhouse
Donmar Warehouse
Leicester Curve Theatre
Edinburgh Playhouse

Understudy of the Year in any production of a Play or Musical
Carolyn Maitland – Miss Saigon – Prince Edward Theatre
Marc Antolin – From Here to Eternity – Shaftesbury
Emma Hatton – Wicked – Apollo Victoria theatre
Niall Sheehy – Miss Saigon – Prince Edward Theatre

Review: Miss Saigon, Prince Edward Theatre

 
“Hey Joe, try taking a little excursion
You’ll feel good from a little perversion”

There’s a real generational split when it comes to Miss Saigon – a contemporary of such 80s mega-musicals as Phantom and Les Mis, it has comparatively fallen by the wayside in terms of longevity nor has its score really attained the status of a bona fide classic. So there’s a group of people familiar with the show ready and waiting to make comparisons between the original and this major revival at the Prince Edward Theatre, and then there’s the rest of us – me included – for whom this is a new experience.

And as is often the case when expectations have been pumped sky-high (“Box office records broken on the first day!” “The greatest musical ever?!” “Watch out for the helicopter…”), it isn’t immediately clear what all the fuss is about. Claude-Michel Schönberg and Alain Boublil’s book is basically Madame Butterfly redux but transplanted to the Vietnam war as GI Chris is loved long-time by Kim, their love then forced apart by the US defeat in Saigon and a reunion, of sorts, organised once he finally discovers that he left more than his heart with Kim that evening… Continue reading “Review: Miss Saigon, Prince Edward Theatre”

Review: The Route to Happiness, Landor

“We’ll make it”

Over the next month, Aria Entertainment and the Landor Theatre in South London are hosting a whole season dedicated to new musical theatre writing – From Page to Stage – which features showcases, works-in-progress and workshops from a wide range of writers from across the globe. The programme also includes this world premiere of The Route to Happiness, a new intimate three-hander from Alexander S Bermange which runs for a week. And as befits a season of this nature, the show marks an interesting progression for Bermange as a writer, though not one without its challenges, and offers a brilliant showcase for some of our excellent talent.

The Route to Happiness opens with three Londoners having their respective dreams of love and marriage, unlimited wealth and enduring fame dashed by circumstances and follows them on their attempts to build their hopes back up and get back in pursuit of the things that they think will make them happiest. So former banker Marcus seizes the opportunity to manage wannabe celebrity Trinity despite her lack of obvious talent, whilst also romancing author Lorna after an impromptu meeting at a wedding where she believes she may finally have found the one. Continue reading “Review: The Route to Happiness, Landor”