Review: Little Shop of Horrors, Open Air Theatre

Audrey II as a drag queen? Maria Aberg’s take on Little Shop of Horrors at the Open Air Theatre gives me life

“Oh, don’t you see?
Finally I’ll be
Somewhere that’s green”

It’s something of a relief when you’ve seen a version of a much-loved show that is nigh-on perfect, it really does take the pressure off those that follow. So I was able to visit a verdant Open Air Theatre to see Little Shop of Horrors – one of my all-time favourites, if not the actual one – excited by the prospect of what Maria Aberg had done, and secure in the knowledge that Derek Bond absolutely nailed it for the Royal Exchange a couple of years ago. 

Chief among her innovations is giving Audrey II much more life than they’ve ever had before, by casting drag queen Vicky Vox in the role. So from twitching, voracious puppet plant (designed by Max Humphries with Tom Scutt) emerges a strutting shrub of sinful sass and it is an inspired choice. Making her a Mephistophelean figure who can prowl around the amphitheatre flips Audrey II into something as thrilling as threatening, Vox revelling in the lasciviousness of “feed me” and the most scathing raised eyebrow you ever did see. Continue reading “Review: Little Shop of Horrors, Open Air Theatre”

Album reviews: Working / Bat out of Hell / 42nd Street

A trio of West End cast recordings (well, one’s off-West-End…) show that it is sometimes hard to recapture the stage magic 

© Robert Workman

Starting off with the best of this bunch, the Southwark Playhouse’s production of Working might not have seemed like the obvious choice for a cast recording but maybe the lure of a couple of new Lin-Manuel Miranda tracks was a real sweetener.

Truth is, it is the quality of the cast’s performances that make this a fantastic addition to the list of albums you need to hear. From Siubhan Harrison’s impassioned ‘Millwork’ to Dean Chisnall’s gleeful ‘Brother Trucker’, and the highly charismatic Liam Tamne nails both of Miranda’s contributions – the wilful ‘Delivery’ and a corking duet (with Harrison) on ‘A Very Good Day’.

Experience pays though, as Gillian Bevan and Peter Polycarpou take the honours with some scintillating work. The latter’s ‘Joe’ is beautifully judged, as is the former’s ‘Nobody Tells Me How’, both demonstrating the uncertainty that can come at the end of a long career, when retirement doesn’t necessarily hold the joyful promise it once did. Highly recommended.  Continue reading “Album reviews: Working / Bat out of Hell / 42nd Street”

Bat Out Of Hell is coming back in 2018

“It’s so hard to believe but it’s all coming back to me now”

Sign-Up for more information on the rock’n’roll return of @BATtheMusical to London’s #West End 🤘 https://t.co/n7m60a0EG6 pic.twitter.com/WpMs3rM0yS

— Bat Out Of Hell (@BatTheMusical) August 22, 2017


There are (still) no words to say about Bat Out Of Hell that can really do it justice (here’s my attempt from the first viewing) and in any case, even if I wanted to I couldn’t, as it really is a show that demands to be seen having partaken of a beverage or seven. And believe me, last night I partook! So I guess I’ll see you at the Coliseum next year then, you can get the first round in 😉

Review: Bat out of Hell, London Coliseum

“Will you hose me down with holy water, if I get too hot?”

I think it is safe to say that Bat out of Hell is one of the most random things you’ll see in the West End this year, if not ever, whether you’re a fan of Meatloaf or not. It is a deliciously over-the-top production quite unlike the usual fare in the august surroundings of the London Coliseum but that’s part of its charm here – what would be sacrilegious is actually cheekily charming. Find production photos of the show here and read my 4 star review for Cheap Theatre Tickets here.

Running time: 2 hour 50 minutes (with interval)
Booking until 5th August

fosterIAN awards 2011

 WinnerRunner-upOther nominees
Best Actress in a PlayEve Best, Much Ado About Nothing (Globe)Ruth Wilson, Anna ChristieRosie Wyatt, Bunny
Siân Brooke, Ecstasy
Lisa Palfrey, The Kitchen Sink
Geraldine James, Seagull
Best Actor in a PlayBenedict Cumberbatch, FrankensteinAndrew Scott, Emperor and GalileanTrevor Fox, The Pitmen Painters
Dominic West, Othello
Jude Law, Anna Christie
Charles Edwards, Much Ado About Nothing (Globe)
Best Supporting Actress in a PlayAlexandra Gilbreath, OthelloSheridan Smith, Flare PathSinéad Matthews, Ecstasy
Billie Piper, Reasons to be Pretty
Kirsty Bushell, Double Feature 1
Esther Hall, Many Moons
Best Supporting Actor in a PlayRyan Sampson, The Kitchen SinkHarry Hadden-Paton, Flare PathRobert Hands, The Comedy of Errors (Propeller)
Edward Franklin, Many Moons
Craig Parkinson, Ecstasy
Adam James, Much Ado About Nothing (Wyndhams)
Best Actress in a MusicalImelda Staunton, Sweeney ToddAdrianna Bertola, Josie Griffiths, Cleo Demetriou, Kerry Ingram, Eleanor Worthington Cox & Sophia Kiely, MatildaLaura Pitt-Pulford, Parade
Beverley Klein, Bernarda Alba
Jemima Rooper, Me and My Girl
Scarlett Strallen, Singin’ in the Rain
Best Actor in a MusicalBertie Carvel, MatildaMichael Ball, Sweeney ToddDaniel Evans, Company
Daniel Crossley, Me and My Girl
Alastair Brookshaw, Parade
Vincent Franklin, The Day We Sang
Best Supporting Actress in a MusicalSamantha Spiro, CompanyKate Fleetwood, London RoadJosefina Gabrielle, Me and My Girl
Josie Walker, Matilda
Rosalind James, Ragtime
Ann Emery, Betty Blue Eyes
Best Supporting Actor in a MusicalDaniel Crossley, Singin’ in the RainNigel Harman, Shrek the MusicalConnor Dowling, Guys and Dolls
Jack Edwards, Betty Blue Eyes
David Burt, Crazy For You
Nick Holder London Road

2011 Best Supporting Actress in a Play + in a Musical

Best Supporting Actress in a Play

Alexandra Gilbreath, Othello
The main reason that I travelled to see Othello at the Crucible was not so much for the reunion of The Wire stars in Dominic West and Clarke Peters, but in the casting of Alexandra Gilbreath as Emilia. And it was totally worth it as she made a massive impact, creating a fully rounded character with a history and passions that surely far exceeds what is on the page. Her work in the Royal Court’s The Village Bike also pleased me greatly, making this a great year for fans of the Gilbreath.

Honourable mention: Sheridan Smith, Flare Path
As anyone who saw Flare Path will say to you, ‘the letter scene, THE LETTER SCENE!’. Though second billed below Sienna Miller in this Terence Rattigan revival, Smith pretty much stole the show, finding unexpected deep reservoirs of feeling in Doris, the barmaid with a heart of gold done good, whose reactions to hearing the (translated) letter from her husband were one of the most affecting moments in a theatre all year.

Sinéad Matthews, Ecstasy
Billie Piper, Reasons to be Pretty
Kirsty Bushell, Double Feature 1
Esther Hall, Many Moons

7-10
Claudie Blakley, Comedy of Errors (NT); Janie Dee, Noises Off; Imelda Staunton, A Delicate Balance; Anna Calder-Marshall, Salt Root and Roe

 

Best Supporting Actress in a Musical

Samantha Spiro, Company (Crucible)
It does seem that anyone playing Amy in Sondheim’s Company is a shoo-in for recognition here, Cassidy Janson just missed out on a nomination for her role in the Southwark Playhouse production, but the truth is when the song (Not) Getting Married is delivered well, it really is a showstopper. Janson did well, but Samantha Spiro, already so very beloved of my heart for Hello, Dolly! if not necessarily Chicken Soup with Barley, held the Crucible in the palm of her hand as the scatty bride-to-be whose jitters threaten to jeopardise her whole happiness. She radiates warmth here and never once sacrifices clarity of diction for an easy laugh in that most verbose of numbers: acting through song at its best.

Honourable mention: Kate Fleetwood, London Road
In some ways, it is a bit harsh to nominate one person out of London Road as it really is such a strong ensemble show but Kate Fleetwood emerged most as the beating heart of the show as the unassuming woman who set up the London Road in Bloom competition that forms the centre of the community’s coming together and achieves so very much. Fleetwood taps into so much empathetic normality here that somehow translates into something so special: that first “begonias and, petunias, and um, impatiens and things” is just remarkable.

Josefina Gabrielle, Me and My Girl
Josie Walker, Matilda
Rosalind James, Ragtime
Ann Emery, Betty Blue Eyes

7-10
Lauren Ward, Matilda; Cassidy Janson, Company (Southwark Playhouse); Joanna Riding, Lend Me A Tenor; Katherine Kingsley, Singin’ in the Rain

Review: Ragtime, Landor

“It was the music of something beginning…”

Earlier this year, it did seem that the Landor had a bit of a curse as a range of issues forced programme changes on more than one occasion, but they do seem to have hit their stride now. I didn’t catch Carousel but it seemed to go down well and that was followed an incomparable production of The Hired Man, probably one of the best shows of the year so far, so there was no pressure resting on the show following at all: Ragtime. Directed by Artistic Director Robert McWhir, Ragtime continues the Landor’s strong trend of delivering top-quality fringe musical theatre with unfeasibly large casts: over 20 people make up this ensemble! I caught a preview on a Sunday afternoon as a ticket for a tenner deal popped up on Twitter (if you’re on Twitter then think about following theatres you like as similar deals are frequently posted up there).

And I am pleased to report that Ragtime comes close to the heights of The Hired Man in creating a stunning piece of emotional drama, enlivened with some perky playfulness and all wrapped in a deliciously beautiful score (and funnily enough set in a similar time period). The opening number is a thing of pure joy, managing to cover the thematic scope of the play and fully introduce the three families around which the story turns. Terrence McNally’s book is based on a novel by E.L. Doctorow set at the turn of the twentieth century in a New York bustling with huge social change. Continue reading “Review: Ragtime, Landor”

DVD Review: Les Misérables in concert

“There’s a reckoning to be reckoned”

Forming the culmination of the 25th Anniversary celebrations of Les Misérables was a pair of concert versions of the show taking place at the O2 centre in Greenwich which brought together the company of companies, over 500 actors and musicians joining forces to pay tribute to this enduing classic of a show. The cast and companies of the touring production and the West End production joined with a massive choir and orchestra and a hand-picked international cast performed the lead roles in this concert presentation which was also relayed live into cinemas and later released on DVD to be enjoyed by those who chose not to go (or couldn’t get tickets).

Concert versions of shows are always a bit funny, performers singing songs to each other but looking straight out at audiences and limited opportunity for acting so they can often feel a little constrained in their presentation. Here, the cast were in full costume and projections and clips from the show used to fill in some of the gaps that the songs could not fill. And it is all really rather good if not quite the self-proclaimed “musical event of a lifetime”. Continue reading “DVD Review: Les Misérables in concert”