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.

CD Review: Gypsy (2015 London Cast Recording)

“I had a dream, a wonderful dream”

From the moment Imelda Staunton shook the very foundations of the Chichester Festival Theatre as Mama Rose in Gypsy, it was pretty much a given that a West End transfer of this Jule Styne/Stephen Sondheim show would be on the cards and that this incredible performance would be immortalised in an official cast recording. And it shouldn’t be taken for granted that Staunton is wowing audiences nightly at the Savoy and that we have been blessed with an album, for this is the kind of musical theatre perfection that surely only comes along once in a lifetime. 

Much of the attention rightly falls on Staunton’s astonishingly nuanced portrayal of the ultimate stage mom but it would be a mistake to label this a one-woman show, Jonathan Kent’s production is far too good for that. She is supported by an extremely skilful performance from Lara Pulver as Gypsy Rose Lee, tracing this overlooked sister’s journey to unexpected stardom and listening to the growing confidence ‘Let Me Entertain You (Gypsy Strip)’, her shyness is cast off vocally as well as physically, like a chrysalis revealing the shimmering showgirl beneath. Continue reading “CD Review: Gypsy (2015 London Cast Recording)”

Review: Gypsy, Savoy

“Ready or not, here comes Mama…”

These days, it’s more of a surprise when the big musicals from Chichester Festival Theatre don’t transfer into London (cf Barnum). And though it took them a wee while to confirm that Jule Styne’s Gypsy would be making a similar leap, after receiving the kind of extraordinary reviews (including from yours truly) that would most likely canonise Imelda Staunton right here and now, there was never really any doubt that this Rose would get her turn again, 40 years after the show was last seen in the West End.

With such a build-up and expectations sky high, Jonathan Kent’s production has a lot to live up to – and you can sense perversely-minded naysayers dying to have their turn – but dare I say it, I think the show has gotten even better. A key aspect to this is that Anthony Ward’s multi-faceted and multi-piece set design fits much better into the Savoy’s proscenium arch, its machinations felt just a little too exposed on Chichester’s thrust though the pay-off is that Nicholas Skilbeck’s supple-sounding orchestra now has to be tucked away.  Continue reading “Review: Gypsy, Savoy”

CD Review: Spamalot UK Cast Album

“Now we can go straight into the middle eight”

Now that Spamalot has left the West End (again) (and may well pop up once again given its reliability as a stand-by for quickly vacated theatres), I thought I would give the soundtrack a listen, not least because it has languished on my hard-drive for a good couple of years now without me actually getting round to it. Recorded in 2010 at the Churchill Bromley, the album features the UK cast from that touring production of this Eric Idle and John Du Prez show.

It’s a live recording which means the first thing we hear is applause, something which annoys me disproportionately – why can’t, or don’t, they edit it out – as I don’t want to hear anything that isn’t the people on the stage. Likewise with the laughter throughout, I’m glad the audience were finding it funny but that’s not why people buy soundtracks, to hear others having a good time – is it too much to expect a recording unsullied by the great unwashed?! Continue reading “CD Review: Spamalot UK Cast Album”

Re-review: Wicked, Apollo Victoria

 “There’s a kind of a sort of: cost
There’s a couple of things get: lost” 

Now entering its eighth year at the Apollo Victoria, Wicked remains one of the major go-to shows in London’s West End, beloved of fans and tourists alike. A major UK tour has just started to great reviews in Manchester, demonstrating the wide appeal of this prequel-of-sorts to the events in The Wizard of Oz but with a major cast-change fast approaching, the London production feels like it is missing a little of that emerald sparkle that has made it such an enduring success.

I’ve seen the show twice before (reviews here and here) and so perhaps there’s an element of familiarity breeding contempt but I do have a fondness for Stephen Schwartz’s score and you gotta love a story that puts female friendship so firmly at the centre (many may mock the musical but how many long-running plays are there that do the same…). It was just hard to shake the feeling that maybe some people were a little demob-happy, or even maybe that the production is resting on its laurels a tad.  Continue reading “Re-review: Wicked, Apollo Victoria”

Review: Spamalot, New Wimbledon Theatre

“In a thousand years, this will still be controversial”

I’ve never really been a fan of Monty Python and so had never felt the need to go and see Spamalot when it was running in the West End. But when a UK tour was announced, featuring a few interesting cast members, I decided to take the plunge and make my first visit to the New Wimbledon Theatre. 

Described as a new musical loving ripped off from Monty Python and the Holy Grail, it is a largely irreverent parody of the Arthurian legend with some self-parodic numbers about musical theatre thrown in for good measure. It features a new book and lyrics from Eric Idle with John Du Prez contributing to the music, but contains a couple of songs from the original film and also possibly the most recognisable song Monty Python ever came up with, ‘Always Look On The Bright Side of Life’. But really, it’s not about the plot, or the killer rabbit, or the French people, or the flying cow, or Finland, it’s about the humour and the silliness and the sheer enthusiasm onstage. Continue reading “Review: Spamalot, New Wimbledon Theatre”

Review: Oliver!, Theatre Royal Drury Lane

This review marks a momentous occasion as it features the first appearance of Aunty Jean, one of my most faithful theatre companions, despite living nearly 200 miles from me in Wigan. We try to see at least one thing every time she visits whether for pleasure or work, but it has been a while since she has been down so Oliver marked her first 2009 London theatrical trip.

Fortunately it was well worth it, as this show did not disappoint on any level (and many levels it did have!). The sets for this show were truly awe-inspiring: Fagin’s underground lair was cleverly constructed; the depth of the alleyway for the street scenes was huge so it gave a great sense of scale to the proceedings, one which has been sadly lacking in many large recent productions, cost-cutting I guess, and the lighting from scene to scene could not have been more different, yet still highly effective. This all combined to give great energy and movement to the show, which scarcely needs it due to the highly familiar and zippy score. Continue reading “Review: Oliver!, Theatre Royal Drury Lane”