Review: Chicago, Phoenix

Chicago returns to the West End at the Phoenix Theatre but is this the ideal 21st birthday present?

“He had it coming”

There’s a lot to like in this revival of Chicago (Josefina Gabrielle, Sarah Soetaert) but not quite enough to get the heart pounding (an ill-at-ease Cuba Gooding Jnr). Take a read of my 3 star review for Official Theatre here.

Running time: 2 hours 25 minutes (with interval)
Photos: Tristram Kenton
Chicago is currently booking at the Phoenix Theatre until 23rd June

Album Review: Marguerite (2008 Original London Cast Recording)

“Come see the show,
She will neither know nor care”

It is always fascinating to listen to the cast recordings of shows that are regarded to have flopped, to see whether the writing was always on the wall or if some reason was responsible for the magic not happening. Lasting just four months at the Theatre Royal Haymarket in 2008, Marguerite is one such musical, despite (or maybe because of) the weight of expectation behind its writing team.

With a book by Alain Boublil, Claude-Michel Schönberg and Jonathan Kent (from the the Alexandre Dumas, fils’ novel La Dame aux Camélias) lyrics by Alain Boublil and Herbert Kretzmer, and music by Michel Legrand, the demands on these Gallic grandees were nothing short of recreating the exceptional success of Les Misérables (on which Boublil, Schönberg and Kretzmer collaborated) but it wasn’t to be. Continue reading “Album Review: Marguerite (2008 Original London Cast Recording)”

Album Review: Chicago (1997 London Cast Recording)

“A lot of people have lost faith in America”

I quite like the film version of Chicago but was surprised by the extent to which I had internalised its soundtrack upon listening to this London Cast Recording from 1997. Part of that lies in the fact that it is good few years since I’ve seen it onstage but there’s no excuse really, for a theatre nut like me. And sure enough, surrendering to the thrill of Ruthie Henshall and Ute Lemper here was a genuine pleasure and a great way to revisit Kander & Ebb’s score.

Henshall’s Roxie and Lemper’s Velma are surely among the best that these characters have ever been sung. The unrelenting stunt casting that kept the show a West End presence perhaps devalued the music a bit but in these hands, with these voices, you come to really appreciate the emotional complexity and proper darkness of these women and what they’re forced to do in order to keep their head above water and then some. Continue reading “Album Review: Chicago (1997 London Cast Recording)”

Losing my mind over Losing My Mind – 10 top interpretations of the Sondheim classic

“Sometimes I stand in the middle of the floor”

With the National’s highly anticipated production of Follies (Dominic Cooke directing a cast of 37 and an orchestra of 21, lest you forget) about to start previews in a week’s time, I thought I’d listen to about a hundred different versions of perhaps its most famous song – ‘Losing My Mind’ – and try and decide on a top ten, with the assumption of course that whatever Imelda Staunton will do with the song will be completely, utterly, life-changingly extraordinary (no pressure Meldz).

Continue reading “Losing my mind over Losing My Mind – 10 top interpretations of the Sondheim classic”

Album Review: Crazy For You – (1993 Original London Cast Recording)

“Who could ask for anything more”

Gershwin musical Crazy For You was last seen in the West End in this Open Air Theatre transfer and on the fringe at Highgate’s Gatehouse theatre but its opening run in London was a three-year stint at the Prince Edward from 1993. Credited as a ‘new’ Gershwin musical comedy, the show is an adaptation of their 1930 musical Girl Crazy sprinkled with some additional from the vast chapter of the Great American Songbook under the letter G.

And because of the quality of these songs, it’s hard not to fall entirely in love with an album that collects so many of them together, no matter the framework, especially when the cast is led by the superlative talents of Ruthie Henshall. Jae Alexander’s musical direction sounds sprightly and fresh throughout and real highlights include Henshall’s “Someone to Watch Over Me” and Kirby Ward’s “They Can’t Take That Away From Me”.

Album Review: John Owen-Jones – Bring Him Home

“Give me this moment, this momentous moment”

I was excited by the prospect of a new John Owen-Jones album but the reality of Bring Him Home – A Collection of Musical Favourites was, I have to say, a little disappointing. For it is something of a greatest hits affair, collecting together tracks from three of his previous albums – Unmasked, Rise and his self-titled album and adding in just the three new songs.

Those tracks are Miss Saigon’s ‘Why, God, Why?’, West Side Story’s ‘Maria’ and ‘Suddenly’, written by Claude-Michel Schönberg, Herbert Kretzmer and Alain Boublil especially for the filmed version of Les Misérables. Only the last of these has any real interest as something particularly new, although fans will enjoy the personal connection Owen-Jones has to the others (drama school audition song, and first show he was in onstage). Continue reading “Album Review: John Owen-Jones – Bring Him Home”

News: Olivier Awards presenters revealed

The Olivier Awards 2017 has announced the list of people who’ll be handing out awards at the ceremony, hosted by Jason Manford of all people, on Sunday 9th April in the august surroundings of the Royal Albert Hall.

Presenters this year include – deep breath – David Baddiel, Alfie Boe, John Boyega, Michaela Coel, Leanne Cope, Julian Clary, Robert Fairchild, Ben Forster, Phoebe Fox, Andrew Garfield, Denise Gough, Matt Henry, Ruthie Henshall, Amanda Holden, Rufus Hound, Cush Jumbo, Nathan Lane, Rose Leslie, Maureen Lipman, Danny Mac, Audra McDonald, Lin-Manuel Miranda, Laura Mvula, Paul O’Grady, Tracy-Ann Oberman, Sophie Okonedo, Charlotte Ritchie, Mark Rylance and Russell Tovey. Continue reading “News: Olivier Awards presenters revealed”

CD Review: Ruthie Henshall – The Ruthie Henshall Album (1996)

“I dug right down to the bottom of my soul”

Ruthie Henshall’s 2013 album I’ve Loved These Days was one of my favourite things that I listened to last year, her appearance in Follies in Concert marking the first time I’d actually seen her onstage. So it’s taken me an unforgivably long time to get around to another of her albums, the straight-forwardly named The Ruthie Henshall Album, dating from 1996. 

And what a fascinating collection it is. Starting off with a punchy powerhouse of a 1-2 in ‘Everything’s Coming Up Roses’ and ‘Maybe This Time’, both belted to within an inch of their life, Henshall then takes a breath and relaxes into gorgeously restrained versions of ‘Summertime’ and ‘Willow Weep For Me’, showing off a much more lyrical side to her vocal talent, which is the one which prevails across the album as a whole.

Whether the tender emotion of Rodgers and Hart’s ‘Where Or When’ or a tremulous ‘As Long As He Needs Me’, the daffy comedy of Fanny Brice’s ‘Second Hand Rose’ or A Chorus Line’s ‘Nothing’, or exerting consummate control over jazz-inflected orchestral interpretations of standards like ‘The Man That Got Away’ and ‘Someone to Watch Over Me’, it’s a real pleasure to listen to the contours of Henshall’s voice luxuriate so gorgeously over such classics.

At 16 tracks, the album is perhaps a little long – I remain unconvinced that the world really needs another version of ‘I Dreamed a Dream’ or ‘Don’t Rain on My Parade’, no matter how well sung – but complaining about having too much of as good a thing as Ruthie Henshall is the real definition of churlish. Well worth tracking down.

CD Review: She Loves Me (1994 London Cast Recording)

“He brought me ice-cream”
It’s a little unfortunate for this 1994 London Cast Recording of She Loves Me, that I came to it after having fallen hard for the charms of the Broadway production that was livestreamed and whose cast recording I’ve already had the pleasure of reviewing. For it can’t help but be overshadowed by it, not just in terms of whether its ‘better’ or not but also in the more ephemeral sense that that was version that changed my mind about the show after a lacklustre fringe production had turned me off.


The main joy here comes from a stellar performance from Ruthie Henshall as the headstrong but heartsore Amalia Balash, a role for which she won the Best Actress in a Musical Olivier Award, the kind of old-school soprano role that is all-too-sadly rarely found these days. The sweet emotion of ‘Vanilla Ice Cream’, the tender heart of ‘Dear Friend’, but particularly the comedy and vocal acrobatics of ‘Where’s My Shoe?’, you can see how there’s a powerful match between singer and role.


Tracie Bennett, also an Olivier Award winner for this show, is a good fit for Ilona, Amalia’s somewhat dippy colleague from the shop in which they work, as she works the comic angle for tracks like ‘I Resolve’ and ‘A Trip To The Library’ but John Gordon Sinclair, the third acting award winner from a very successful night for the show doesn’t really embody all the charm of the confident, what ought to be a soaring moment in the title song just putters along. Worth a listen for Henshall’s contributions but I’d stick with the new Broadway cast recording if you’re looking to buy. 

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.