Review: Aladdin, New Wimbledon

“I’m anybody’s for a pint of semi-skimmed and a walnut yoghurt”

Coming out of Puss in Boots, I said this will be the last panto I see this year. Oh no it wasn’t… The New Wimbledon has built up a reputation to rival the Lyric Hammersmith and the Hackney Empire in London pantomimes, producing slickly professional productions starring high-profile names such as David Hasselhoff, Dame Edna and last year, Priscilla Presley. This year though, the celebrity wattage is homegrown in the form of Jo Brand, who takes the role of the Genie of the Ring in Aladdin

And with someone who actually understands what pantos are all about (Presley’s air of bemusement at the whole shebang was hilarious), the dynamic of the show feels like a properly old-school affair. Brand’s hugely dry wit makes her perhaps too laconic a presence for the kids but she certainly makes the adults laugh, the presence of two Britain’s Got Talent acts lends a variety feel to the whole affair and in Matthew Kelly’s Widow Twankey, there’s a game dame indeed. Continue reading “Review: Aladdin, New Wimbledon”

CD Review: Act One – Songs from the musicals of Alexander S Bermange

“Every moment’s one to treasure”

Composers who put together albums of their songs, especially if they are up and coming talent who haven’t necessarily had a breakthrough show yet, are often in something of a bind. Do you go for as diverse a selection of your material as you can find or do you concentrate on showcasing your strengths – both approaches have their merits and their disadvantages and I don’t personally think there is any easy, or right answer. Act One – Songs from the musicals of Alexander S Bermange is probably closer to the latter option and sure enough, it has its strengths and its weaknesses.

Bermange has quite a list of credits to his name but has arguably yet to really mark his mark on the London scene. I only really became aware of him recently when his show Thirteen Days had a small run as part of this year’s Arcola’s Grimeborn Festival. As a musical treatment of the Cuban missile crisis, it was a work of mixed qualities, not always entirely successful but one which equally showed intriguing promise, not least in the firmly old-school manner of rousing song-writing. And that is what comes across most clearly in this collection, which bypasses the post-Sondheim school to cleave closer to the likes of Schwartz and balladeer. Oh, and it features a simply sensational cast of sheer quality. Continue reading “CD Review: Act One – Songs from the musicals of Alexander S Bermange”

Winners of the 2010 What’s On Stage Awards

BEST ACTRESS IN A PLAY
Rachel Weisz – A Streetcar Named Desire at the Donmar Warehouse (24.8%)
Alison Steadman – Enjoy at the Gielgud (12.8%)
Fiona Shaw – Mother Courage & Her Children at the NT Olivier (9.4%)
Helen Mirren – Phedre at the NT Lyttelton (21.60%)
Juliet Stevenson – Duet for One at the Almeida & Vaudeville (7.60%)
Lesley Sharp – The Rise & Fall of Little Voice at the Vaudeville (23.80%

THE CAPITAL BREAKS BEST ACTOR IN A PLAY
Jude Law – Hamlet, Donmar West End at Wyndham’s (40.80%)
David Harewood – The Mountaintop at Theatre 503 & Trafalgar Studios 1 (6.00%)
Dominic West – Life Is a Dream at the Donmar Warehouse (13.60%)
Ken Stott – A View from the Bridge at the Duke of York’s (14.90%)
Mark Rylance – Jerusalem at the Royal Court Downstairs (13.90%)
Samuel West – Enron at the Royal Court Downstairs (10.80%)
Continue reading “Winners of the 2010 What’s On Stage Awards”

Review: Priscilla Queen of the Desert, Palace

“Everyone likes to dress up, wear some sequins, get in touch with their feminine side…apart from lesbians that is”

When I found out a great Canadian friend who just happens to be a huge musicals fan was stopping in town briefly in the festive season, I had little doubt of what would be the best thing for us to see: Priscilla Queen of the Desert. For this is not a show about about subtlety: using a carefully judged collection of familiar pop songs, some amazing costumes and a production design team whose maxim was clearly ‘more more more’, this is a fun-packed, crowd-pleasing spectacular that was the perfect anecdote to the horrible weather.

It’s based on the film of the same name, where three ill-matched drag performers take a road trip from Sydney to Alice Springs to meet up with the estranged wife and son of one of them, and little has been changed. Of the three leads, Tony Sheldon is superb as the transexual Bernadette, armed with a lifetime’s collection of quick one-liners, a steady grace and an unerring conviction in who she is. The trumpet anecdote is one of the funniest things you will hear all year and Sheldon’s performance holds the show together, elevating it beyond a series of drag turns. Continue reading “Review: Priscilla Queen of the Desert, Palace”

fosterIAN awards 2009

 WinnerRunner-upOther nominees
Best Actress in a PlayRachel Weisz, A Streetcar Named DesirePhoebe Nicholls/Lisa Dillon, When the Rain Stops Falling; Chris Nietvelt, The Roman TragediesImelda Staunton, Entertaining Mr Sloane
Juliet Stevenson, Duet for One
Anna Chancellor, The Observer
Best Actor in a PlayHans Kesting, The Roman TragediesJude Law, Hamlet (Donmar)Dominic Rowan, The Spanish Tragedy
David Troughton, Inherit the Wind
Dan Stevens, Arcadia
Henry Goodman, Duet for One
Best Supporting Actress in a PlayRebecca Hall, The Winter’s Tale (Bridge Project)Kate Fleetwood, Life is a DreamJessie Cave, Arcadia
Michelle Dockery, Burnt By The Sun
Alexandra Gilbreath, Twelfth Night
Ruth Wilson, A Streetcar Named Desire
Best Supporting Actor in a PlayAndrew Scott, CockSimon Paisley-Day, Entertaining Mr SloaneMark Dexter, Inherit the Wind
Tom Goodman-Hill, Enron
Ethan Hawke, The Winter’s Tale (Bridge Project)
Barnaby Kay, A Streetcar Named Desire
Best Actress in a MusicalSamantha Spiro, Hello, Dolly!Julie Atherton, The Last Five YearsMelanie Chisholm, Blood Brothers
Donna King, Frank’s Closet
Patina Miller, Sister Act
Tamzin Outhwaite, Sweet Charity
Best Actor in a MusicalSimon Burke, La Cage aux FollesCarl Mullaney, Frank’s ClosetRoger Allam, La Cage aux Folles
Mark Umbers, Sweet Charity
Aneurin Barnard, Spring Awakening
Tony Sheldon, Priscilla Queen of the Desert
Best Supporting Actress in a MusicalJosefina Gabrielle, Hello, Dolly!Sheila Hancock, Sister ActJosefina Gabrielle, Sweet Charity
Tiffany Graves, Sweet Charity
The Lovely Debbie McGee, Frank’s Closet
Jodie Prenger, Oliver!
Best Supporting Actor in a MusicalOliver Thornton, Priscilla Queen of the DesertDaniel Crossley, Hello, Dolly!Rowan Atkinson, Oliver!
Clive Carter, Priscilla Queen of the Desert
John Marquez, Annie Get Your Gun
Jason Pennycooke, La Cage aux Folles

The first fosterIAN awards: a summary

So here we have it, the results of the first fosterIAN™ awards, themselves the fruit of a great year of theatre-going in which I rather suspect the fine line between passion and obsession has become somewhat blurred! Hey-ho, there’s 12 plays booked so far for January so I think I know which side is winning! Happy new year.

Best Play
The Roman Tragedies, Barbican

Best Fringe Play
Public Property, Trafalgar Studios 2

Best Actor in a Play
Hans Kesting, The Roman Tragedies

Best Actress in a Play
Rachel Weisz, A Streetcar Named Desire

Best Supporting Actor in a Play
Andrew Scott, Cock

Best Supporting Actress in a Play
Rebecca Hall, The Winter’s Tale

Best Musical
Hello, Dolly!

Best Actor in a Musical
Simon Burke, La Cage aux Folles

Best Actress in a Musical
Samantha Spiro, Hello, Dolly!

Best Supporting Actor in a Musical
Oliver Thornton, Priscilla Queen of the Desert

Best Supporting Actress in a Musical
Josefina Gabrielle, Hello, Dolly!

Most versatile actor
Tie: Nancy Carroll, Arcadia + Twelfth Night and Simon Burke, When the Rain Stops Falling + La Cage aux Folles

Best success in the face of adversity
Helen Dallimore, Too Close To The Sun

Closest move to Damehood
Imelda Staunton

Leading man of the year
Elliot Cowan

2009 Best Supporting Actor in a Play/in a Musical

Best Supporting Actor in a Play

Andrew Scott, Cock
In a late challenge for this award, Andrew Scott’s performance in Cock was truly astounding for me: I’ve rarely seen an actor so fully at ease with his lines that it feels genuinely like he’s not even acting. In the strange cock-fighting-inspired pit, there was nowhere to hide, for actor nor audience, meaning we could bear witness to the considerable intensity of this performance down to the last tear on his cheek.

Honourable mention: Simon Paisley-Day, Entertaining Mr Sloane
The sight of the closetted Ed salivating over the leather-trouser clad Mr Sloane was a highlight of the year even back in February and Paisley-Day’s chemistry with Dame-to-be Imelda Staunton made this play crackle with more twisted hilarity than even Joe Orton might have dreamed of.

Mark Dexter, Inherit the Wind
Tom Goodman-Hill, Enron
Ethan Hawke, The Winter’s Tale
Barnaby Kay, A Streetcar Named Desire


Best Supporting Actor in a Musical

Oliver Thornton, Priscilla Queen of the Desert
Threatening to steal the show with his every number, Thornton’s camptastic Felicia is a sheer riot to watch. Perfectly toned, shockingly limber, obsessed with Kylie and armed with the most vicious of tongues, we also never lose sight of the boy beneath the make-up and his growing chemistry with Tony Sheldon’s Bernadette is a thing of beauty to watch through its ups and downs.

Honourable mention Daniel Crossley, Hello, Dolly!
As is probably apparent by now, I loved practically everything about Hello, Dolly! And as Cornelius Hackl, Daniel Crossley was a delight. His learning to dance scenes were hysterical and ‘Put On Your Sunday Clothes’ with its choreography is close to being one of the happiest thing I’ve ever seen.

Rowan Atkinson, Oliver!
Clive Carter, Priscilla Queen of the Desert
John Marquez, Annie Get Your Gun
Jason Pennycooke, La Cage aux Folles

Leading Man of the Year 2009

Perhaps in one fell swoop, I am undoing all the work I have done this year to try and mould myself into a semi-serious theatre critic, but darn it, it is Christmas and I am shallow, so I proudly present to you, my top ten hottest guys I’ve seen on stage this year! And I know, there’s no consistency about whether it’s the actor or the character who I found attractive, but it’s hot guys, who cares!

NB: I did actually book my tickets to see The Priory before the casting was announced, it was purely fortuitous that all 3 main guys happened to end up on this list, true story!

2010 What’s On Stage Award nominations

BEST ACTRESS IN A PLAY
Rachel Weisz – A Streetcar Named Desire at the Donmar Warehouse 
Alison Steadman – Enjoy at the Gielgud 
Fiona Shaw – Mother Courage & Her Children at the NT Olivier
Helen Mirren – Phedre at the NT Lyttelton 
Juliet Stevenson – Duet for One at the Almeida & Vaudeville
Lesley Sharp – The Rise & Fall of Little Voice at the Vaudeville 

THE CAPITAL BREAKS BEST ACTOR IN A PLAY
Jude Law – Hamlet, Donmar West End at Wyndham’s 
David Harewood – The Mountaintop at Theatre 503 & Trafalgar Studios 1 
Dominic West – Life Is a Dream at the Donmar Warehouse 
Ken Stott – A View from the Bridge at the Duke of York’s 
Mark Rylance – Jerusalem at the Royal Court Downstairs
Samuel West – Enron at the Royal Court Downstairs  Continue reading “2010 What’s On Stage Award nominations”

Review: Rent Remixed, Duke of York’s

Many a musical has received a facelift, but none quite so dramatic or misguided as Rent Remixed, setting up shop at the Duke of York’s. William Baker (director) and Steve Anderson (musical arranger) are perhaps better known as part of the creative team behind Kylie Minogue but are responsible here for reinterpreting Jonathan Larson’s much loved Rent for a younger generation.

The original itself is a rough reworking of La Bohème, celebrating the lives of a group of sexually ambiguous, bohemian New Yorkers, eking out a living on the breadline and devastated by the arrival of HIV and AIDS. And whilst this is ostensibly the same show, the process of ‘remixing’ has ended up with curious results. Continue reading “Review: Rent Remixed, Duke of York’s”