Review: Pretty Woman – the Musical, Piccadilly Theatre

Aiimie Atkinson is good but deserves far better than Pretty Woman: the Musical, the blatant cash grab at the Piccadilly Theatre

“Somebody pinch me, this can’t be true”

The publicity for Pretty Woman – the Musical invites, nay begs, you to invoke one of the movie’s iconic catchphrases so let’s have it. Mounting a show in 2020 in which the only roles for women are prostitutes or bitches? Big mistake. Huge. Charging £175 to sit on your front row? Big mistake. Huge. Encouraging the use of a grand piano for anything besides playing? Big mistake. Huge.  

The 1990 film directed by Garry Marshall from J F Lawton’s screenplay scored massive success for a rom-com but much like Grease, it is hard to view the story with a contemporary lens. Determined to view itself as a fairytale (of sorts), it takes the worlds of asset stripping and sex work and whisks them together without taking anything seriously. And Marshall and Lawton’s book for this musical adaptation does the same except with added songs by Bryan Adams (yes, that one) and Jim Vallance. Continue reading “Review: Pretty Woman – the Musical, Piccadilly Theatre”

EP Reviews: Gavin Creel – Quiet (2010) / Oliver Tompsett – Gravity (2013)

“You won’t be my angel”
I won’t be your guy

2010 EP Quiet by Tony winner Gavin Creel is really rather lovely indeed. Six tracks of acoustically-inclined folk pop co-written with Robbie Roth, it is a short but sweet album of real heart that emphasises the musicality of this musical theatre star, and also shows a wise progression from his first album. And if we’re to believe the lyrics here, that heart is a substantially bruised one which works out very well for fans of a melancholy ballad.

Such fans are particularly well served by the opening pair of tracks. The delicate ‘Green To Grey’ and the plaintive reality check of ‘Love Fell Down’ are desperately heartfelt and beautifully moving as Creel allows a husky tenderness to colour his voice to gorgeous effect. The collection is intelligently sequenced too, allowing a note of hope to creep in with the late realisation of ‘Small Words’ and the gentle humour of closer ‘Hot Ohio’.  Continue reading “EP Reviews: Gavin Creel – Quiet (2010) / Oliver Tompsett – Gravity (2013)”

Review: Another Night Before Christmas, Bridge House

“Would it help if you sat on my lap?”

My
 decision not to see many festively-themed shows this year ran into my commitment to supporting new musical theatre writing as far as Another Night Before Christmas was concerned, so it was a rare trip down to the Bridge House Theatre in Penge for this. With book and lyrics by Sean Grennan and music by Leah Okimoto and a rare talent for attracting a top-notch cast – this two-hander stars Olivier award-winning George Maguire and Rachael Wooding – the scene is set for this alternative festive fare.

Though it has to be said, it doesn’t prove to be that different in the end. Social worker Carole manages one last act of kindness on her way home from her work Christmas do, but her plans to flop on the sofa and do nothing on Christmas Eve are well and truly disrupted by a visitor. For the man she gave the party leftovers to has rocked up on her doorstop and is claiming that he is, well, Father Christmas himself. Unable to turf him out into the cold, she soon finds him trying to whittle away at her cynicism and getting her to believe.
So it’s a bit formulaic to say the least, but Guy Rettalack’s production is also very good-natured and that takes it a long way. Okimoto’s score swings with jazzy inflection and a good deal of humour, especially in the song ‘Kill Der Bingle’, and Grennan’s script is also full of laughs, many of them cheesy but hey, it’s the season for it. And Wooding and Maguire both work the intimacy of this pub theatre well, two strong voices and plenty of charisma for days, they might just make a believer out of the biggest of Scrooges.

Running time: 2 hours (with interval)
Booking until 23rd December

Album Review: Richard Beadle – Songs (2012)

“If we make it through together”

Songs was the debut album from Richard Beadle, a songwriter, composer and conductor of television and production music, as well as a well-established musical supervisor/director on a wide range of West End shows from Betty Blue Eyes, The Bodyguard to the forthcoming The Girls. I actually attended a concert showcasing Beadle’s music back in 2013 but it has taken me a little time to get round to properly listening to the album.

His style seems to sit somewhere equidistant between ‘traditional’ and ‘new’ musical theatre writing – the nervy angst of ‘The Wedding Song’, sung perfectly by Julie Atherton, owes a debt to Jason Robert Brown whereas Rachael Wooding’s beautiful declaration of love in ‘Here We Are’ has a much more classic feel to it. And what comes across these 12 tracks is a pleasing sense of confidence in musicality, these are songs that stand as well individually as in the musicals from which they come. Continue reading “Album Review: Richard Beadle – Songs (2012)”

Saturday afternoon Evita treats

With Evita about to open once again in London, this edition of Saturday afternoon treats is a Perón spectacular.

First up is a collection of ‘Don’t Cry For Me’s’ – I love the newer versions of Madalena Alberto (the incumbent Eva) and Elena Roger which are more subtle (at least at first) interpretations but there’s also something thrilling about the full-on diva mode it provokes in Patti LuPone and Elaine Paige and their wardrobes.

But then I delved a little deeper and was simply blown away by the clips of LuPone’s performance in the first Broadway production so there’s a hugely charming take on ‘Buenos Aires’ and a scorching version of ‘A New Argentina’ that is breathtaking. The stirring choreography of Elena Roger’s own ‘Buenos Aires’ remains an absolute delight so I thought I’d stick that on the end too.

Continue reading “Saturday afternoon Evita treats”

Review: Richard Beadle – Songs , St James Studio

“With grace and poise, not hate and noise”

Nestled in the basement of the newly-built St James Theatre in Victoria is a studio with an ambitiously varied programme of events that runs throughout the week but at weekends, it turns into a cabaret space hosting a range of singers from the world of musical theatre and beyond. And this Sunday saw the turn of songwriter and West End musical director Richard Beadle to showcase his work in a concert mainly featuring songs from his album, simply entitled Songs, sung by a host of West End stars. 

The show was split into two halves – the first taking in songs from his musical work-in-progress Today Is My Day and the second, an assortment of other numbers from his songbook and from the albums of other people with whom he has worked – but unifying the whole evening was Beadle’s clear gift for songwriting. His ear for a clean and uncomplicated melody is perfect for the effective telling of story through song and so the simple but powerful emotions behind songs like the traumatic ‘1967’ delivered beautifully by Niamh Perry and the melancholy ‘Here We Are’, Rachael Wooding revelling in the chance to show a subtler side to her voice, shone through with an impressive lyrical naturalism. Continue reading “Review: Richard Beadle – Songs , St James Studio”

Review: The IDolls, Matcham Room at the Hippodrome Casino

“Drama and talent and sex – combined”

Since they were cast together as the divas in the musical of Priscilla Queen of the Desert, Portia Emare, Emma Lindars and Charlotte Riby have harnessed their considerable talents to form The IDolls, a musical trio who’ve built up quite a reputation for themselves with their powerhouse vocals. Their repertoire may have been born out of a mutual love for soul music but their set tonight at the Matcham Room in London’s Hippodrome casino went way further to embrace their musical theatre beginnings as well as 70s disco, Motown, self-penned tunes and contemporary pop.   

So given their natural strength and the unique selling point of the gorgeous blend that they come up with, the first half of their gig felt slightly unbalanced. After a thrilling opening that featured Sister Act’s sparkling ‘Fabulous Baby’ and an epic soul/Motown medley including a fierce rendition of ‘I Heard It Through the Grapevine’, the eclectic mix that followed felt a little too, well eclectic. Giving each of the IDolls a solo spot to showcase their individual voices is an integral part of the evening, but allowing the same for each of the guest performers alongside a duet with them felt a little excessive, the interval arrived with the feeling that the group numbers were just something of a special treat rather than their raison d’être. Continue reading “Review: The IDolls, Matcham Room at the Hippodrome Casino”

Christmas Music Review: Kristin Chenoweth’s A Lovely Way To Spend Christmas & Christmas in New York

It’s CHRIIIIST-MAAAS! Well not really, but in honour of Advent starting and all of the snow in London, I’d thought I’d write about two of my favourite Christmas albums with musical theatre connections. 

There are certain performers who I really do want to see live at least once in my life and somewhere near the top of that list is Kristin Chenoweth (so any producers reading, get her over here pronto, please), not least because she seems so fricking adorable in everything I’ve ever seen her in and I would just die if she tugged my hair like she does at 5:18 in this clip of her and Idina Menzel performing ‘For Good’. So I’ve had to make do with her TV shows, YouTube clips and her CDs, the Christmas one of which, A Lovely Way To Spend Christmas, became a fast favourite when it was released a couple of years ago.

The best track, and if you only download one I’d make it this one, is a gorgeous version of ‘Do You Hear What I Hear’. Building slowly with an angelic vocal, enhanced by the insertion of the Gloria refrain from ‘Ding Dong Merrily On High’, it is sweet and perfect and often on repeat play on stressful December commutes. ‘What Child Is This’, to the tune of ‘Greensleeves’ and ‘I’ll Be Home For Christmas’, both staples of US Christmas albums are both well-performed but a slowed version of ‘The Christmas Waltz’ is really lovely and the medley of ‘Sleep Well Little Children’/’What A Wonderful World’ is another flawless wonder. Continue reading “Christmas Music Review: Kristin Chenoweth’s A Lovely Way To Spend Christmas & Christmas in New York”