Cast announced for Bonnie and Clyde

 Part of The Other Palace’s rebranding has been to establish it as an incubator for new musical theatre pieces and so it has been opening its doors for work-in-progress performances of shows like Heathers and Joybubbles. 

And in a couple of weeks we get Bonnie and Clyde – music by Frank Wildhorn, lyrics by Don Black and a book by Ivan Menchell – which flopped on Broadway despite the best attempts of stars Laura Osnes and Jeremy Jordan. And rather excitingly, for this production, we get the talents of Evelyn Hoskins and Jamie Muscato in the leading roles. Continue reading “Cast announced for Bonnie and Clyde”

Review: Honeymoon in Vegas, London Palladium

“I am not making friki-friki”

The London Musical Theatre Orchestra’s arrival on the scene has not gone unnoticed by me but their previous concerts have always fallen on days when I couldn’t make it. So finally putting a show on on a Sunday night meant I was able to put it in the diary and to mark the occasion, they only went and invited their first guest conductor along, Mr Jason Robert Brown himself to helm the UK premiere of his show Honeymoon in Vegas.

And in the swish surroundings of the London Palladium, it was hard not to be entirely seduced by the lush sound of a 30-strong orchestra (under the musical direction of Freddie Tapner), a chorus of 16 up-and-coming performers and a main cast of bona fide West End stars directed by Shaun Kerrison. The concert staging allows for an amusingly slapdash approach which really suited the joie de vivre exuding from pretty much everyone involved here, a real passion project. Continue reading “Review: Honeymoon in Vegas, London Palladium”

CD Review: Mamma Mia (Original Cast Recording 1999)

“It’s the best I can do”

It’s easy to be dismissive about Mamma Mia and all it has wrought in revitalising the jukebox musical as a form but the numbers don’t lie. 17 years and counting in the West End, the 8th longest running show on Broadway (it occupies the same position on the UK ranking at the moment too), a wildly successful film adaptation that became the highest grossing musical ever…it’s impressive stuff.

And listening to the Original Cast Recording from 1999, subsequently re-released with bonus tracks for the 5th anniversary, I’d say it’s fairly easy to see why it has endured so long. For all you may mock Catherine Johnson’s book, which hangs oh so lightly on a varied selection of Benny Andersson and Björn Ulvaeus’ iconic music for ABBA, it actually does interesting things with it, in telling its own story rather relying on the songs themselves (I’m looking at you Jersey Boys…!)

So to say you’re better off listening to ABBA’s greatest hits is to miss the point. As light as the plot may be in its girl-wants-father-to-walk-her-down-the-aisle-but-finds-there’s-three-potential-candidates frothiness but there’s something genuinely tender in hearing ‘Chiquitita’ repurposed for two friends comforting a third, maternal lament ‘Slipping Through My Fingers’ actually sung between mother and daughter, the stag v hens vivacity of ‘Lay All Your Love on Me’.

And yes, they sound different to the originals, of course they do with a full orchestra and chorus to back them up, not to mention the lack of Swedish accents. This recording is a little blessed too in having the film’s soundtrack with its interesting casting choices to easily surpass, but that’s not to take away from the delightful vocals of Louise Plowright, Jenny Galloway, and Siobhán McCarthy as the leading trio, the latter’s Donna a fabulous leading lady from heartbreak to happiness.

Plowright’s cougarish ways enliven ‘Does Your Mother Know’ no end and Galloway’s equally predatory stance toward Nic Colicos’ Bill in ‘Take A Chance on Me’ is a delight. Lisa Stokke’s Sophie, the bride-to-be is charm personified and in keeping with the show’s female-friendly ethos, her intended – Andrew Langtree’s Sky – is somewhat sidelined. For me, ‘Our Last Summer’ has always been one of my favourite ABBA songs and remains so here, ruefully sung by former rocker Harry, an appealing Paul Clarkson, and McCarthy with a gentle loveliness that seems to stand in for the show as a whole.

CD Review: Annie (1995 London Studio Cast Recording)

“Betcha they’re good

Why shouldn’t they be?”
I’ve never actually seen Annie on stage. I would have gone to the recent UK touring version but I was too annoyed by the cast of Craig Revel Horwood as Miss Hannigan to even contemplate booking. For me, taking away any of the few opportunities for older actresses without substantially making up for it elsewhere is unforgivable. Yes, you could point to his alternate being Lesley Joseph, or Jodie Prenger, which simply reinforces the pointlessness of the exercise, pushing it too close to stunt casting.
So I was interested to actually listen to Charles Strouse’s score for the first time since becoming a blogger and I opted for this 1995 studio cast recording as it had names like Ruthie Henshall, Kim Criswell and Clare Burt attached to it. I really wish hadn’t though as it is a dated, lethargic run through the music that lacks any kind of real energy at all. It is sung perfectly proficiently – Sarah French’s Annie, Criswell’s Miss Hannigan, Henshall’s Grace, Ron Raines as Daddy Warbucks – but this recording is as dusty as a relic and should be left on a shelf to collect more dust.

Review: I’m Getting My Act Together And Taking It On The Road, Jermyn Street

“I’ll find my way again
And I will sing my song”

Written in 1978 by Gretchen Cryer and Nancy Ford, it’s a little bit depressing that I’m Getting My Act Together and Taking It on the Road still has the resonance that it does nearly 40 years later. The show may not have been seen in the UK for nearly 40 years but its commentary on how the music business – indeed culture at large, even society as a whole – treats middle-aged women remains as incisive as it surely ever has done.

Heather Jones is a pop singer who has just turned 39 and is on the cusp of launching a refreshed act in front of a bunch of music biz luminaries in a New York cabaret club. The only problem is, her manager Joe isn’t keen on her new image, her new sound, her new lyrical honesty, he wants the safe, same old same old, unthreatening Heather back because he doesn’t believe he can sell a mature woman as a commercial prospect. Continue reading “Review: I’m Getting My Act Together And Taking It On The Road, Jermyn Street”

Review: Midnight, St James

“If these walls could speak, they’d probably scream”

It’s not every day that you get an invitation to a musical set in Azerbaijan so I was certainly intrigued to hear about Midnight, receiving a workshop presentation by Aloff Theatre and directed by Matthew Gould in the cosy space of the studio at the St James Theatre. With book and lyrics by Timothy Knapman and music and lyrics by Laurence Mark Wythe (probably best known for Tomorrow Morning), the musical is based on the play Citizens of Hell by Azerbaijani writer Elchin (who for a day job just happens to be the Deputy Prime Minister there!).

Set in Baku in 1937 with the Soviet Union in gripped in the midst of Stalin’s Great Terror, every knock on every door brings with it the fear of being disappeared by the NKVD. And this New Year’s Eve is no different as a husband and wife pace about their flat, debating how – or if – to celebrate when friends and neighbours have been tortured and executed. When the knock finally comes, it isn’t necessarily who they’re expecting but the eventual chilling realisation of who their visitor is and the chaos he can unleash is even worse.  Continue reading “Review: Midnight, St James”

Album Review: Sister Act the musical (Original London Cast Recording)

“Queen of Angels is not your grandma’s church anymore. God help your grandmother if it were.”

It was quite the unexpected pleasure returning to this soundtrack. My abiding memories of Sister Act the Musical were of initial disappointment that it wasn’t a retread of the film (one of my all-time favourites doncha know), the randomness of Whoopi Goldberg jetting in for a week of shows and the subsequent tour being rather good (if a little spoiled by the women behind me not shutting up for a minute). But listening to Alan Menken’s score, I was amazed how much of it I was able to easily recall – I may have seen the show 3 times but the last trip was back in 2012.

And how. From the raucous girl-group energy of openers ‘Take Me To Heaven’ and ‘Fabulous, Baby!’ to the (only slightly) more sedate musical offerings of the nuns’ choir in ‘Raise Your Voice’ and ‘Bless Our Show’, there’s a roof-raising joyousness to many of the songs that brings larger groups of the cast together. And leading from the front, the glorious Patina Miller is a full-throated pleasure to listen to as the divine Deloris, her voice soaring like a heavenly host but also capable of tenderness as in the stirring simplicity of the title track. Continue reading “Album Review: Sister Act the musical (Original London Cast Recording)”

Album Review: Just So (2006 Chichester Festival Theatre Cast)

“The questions raised at every turn show there’s always more to learn”

This production of Stiles + Drewe’s Just So, their musical adaptation and conflation of Rudyard Kipling’s Just So Stories was a well-received one at Chichester Festival Theatre, coming almost a decade after the show was originally written. Their historically family-friendly back catalogue has served them well over the years – and is bearing significant fruit now in their Trio of Trios, and some elements of this well-cast recording are just lovely.

The heartfelt simplicity of ‘Does The Moment Ever Come?’ is perfectly suited to Richard Dempsey’s sweetly earnest Elephant Child, Julie Atherton might never have sounded better (or more wonderfully northern) on the nervously apprehensive ‘Wait A Bit’ and John Barrowman’s Eldest Magician has the charisma to make his life lessons a little more holistic than hectoring. His singing on ‘Just So’ and ‘If’ wisely warm-hearted. Continue reading “Album Review: Just So (2006 Chichester Festival Theatre Cast)”

Easter DVD Review: Joseph and the Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat

“How we miss his entertaining dreams”

An impromptu Easter treat came courtesy of a charity shop in Stratford-upon-Avon with this daft filmed version of Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice’s Joseph and the Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat featuring Ken-doll-in-human-form Donny Osmond as the titular entitled brother. It’s a rather odd screen adaptation, using a school show conceit to pay tribute to its theatrical origins/get away with a micro-budget (delete as you see appropriate).

This approach does allow for one genius moment as we see Joan Collins’ music teacher indulging in some amazing fake piano playing as the production starts, and from then we go way way back and enter the land of Canaan in the stagey but safe hands of Maria Friedman’s Narrator. I like Friedman, I really do, but she is so hammy here that she makes sitting in the back row of the upper circle seem like a sensible option to avoid being blinded by its glare. Continue reading “Easter DVD Review: Joseph and the Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat”