Review: Sweet Charity, Donmar Warehouse

Nowhere near enough charm in this Sweet Charity for my liking. Josie Rourke’s farewell to the Donmar Warehouse is grey rather than silver

“I’m always looking for an emotional experience”

When the light lands just right on Robert Jones’ set for Sweet Charity at the Donmar Warehouse, it sparkles like silver; the rest of the time, it is rather grey. Sadly, that’s pretty much rather true as a whole for Josie Rourke’s production here, her farewell as Artistic Director here.

Those bright spots are dazzling. Debbie Kurup and Lizzie Connolly are superb as Charity’s pals and co-workers Helene and Nickie, dreaming their dreams with real circumspection. Martin Marquez’s velvety smoothness is charm personified as movie star Vittorio Vidal. Continue reading “Review: Sweet Charity, Donmar Warehouse”

Re-review: All change on the Strand for Dreamgirls and Kinky Boots

All change on the Strand for Dreamgirls and Kinky Boots post closing notices at the Savoy Theatre and Adelphi Theatre respectively, and I revisit both.

“Never let ‘em tell you who you ought to be
Just be”

Come mid-January, the Strand will look a fair bit different for theatregoers as both Kinky Boots and Dreamgirls have posted advance closing notices, leaving the Adelphi and the Savoy respectively on the same date, Saturday 12th January.  As sad as it is to see any show close though, both of these musicals have had a fairly decent run (Kinky Boots opened in August 2015, making it nearly 3 and a half years; Dreamgirls in November 2016, reaching two) and given how merciless the commercial market can be, I think both productions can hold their head up high with their West End runs.

And getting ahead of the game with those closing notices means that people still have many the opportunity to catch either or both of these shows before the final curtain. (I should add too, that both shows have announced that they will be touring the UK going into 2019.) I’ve paid both a revisit relatively recently and am happy to report that they both remain well worth seeing, due to some mighty fine performance. Oliver Tompsett has only just stepped into the role of Charlie Price but he is nigh-on perfect casting and his majestic voice suits Cyndi Lauper’s score down to a T and he’s clearly getting on well with Simon-Anthony Rhoden’s impressive Lola. Continue reading “Re-review: All change on the Strand for Dreamgirls and Kinky Boots”

The Curtain Up Show Album of the Year 2017 winners

Best UK Cast Recording
42nd Street – 2017 London Cast Recording
Bat Out Of Hell The Musical – Original Cast Recording
WINNER: Dreamgirls – Original London Cast Recording
Everybody’s Talking About Jamie – Original Concept Recording
Girl From The North Country – Original London West End Cast Recording
The Wind in the Willows – Cast Recording

Best American Cast Recording
Anastasia – Original Broadway Cast Recording
Come From Away – Original Broadway Cast Recording
WINNER: Dear Evan Hansen – Original Broadway Cast Recording
Hello, Dolly! – New Broadway Cast Recording
Spongebob Squarepants – Original Cast Recording
Sunday in the Park with George – 2017 Broadway Cast Recording

Best Solo Album/Non Cast Recording
WINNER: Collabro – Home
Leading Ladies – Songs From The Stage
Marisha Wallace – Soul Holiday
Patti LuPone – Don’t Monkey With Broadway
Rachel Tucker – On The Road
Sheridan Smith – Sheridan

Re-review: Dreamgirls, Savoy

Falling in love with Marisha Wallace in Dreamgirls is far too easy!

“You want all my love and my devotion”

As Dreamgirls goes into its second year in the West End and has just welcomed a new cast into the Savoy, what better time to revisit this most glittering of musicals. I must admit to going in with something of a sceptical mindset last time around, both in trying to resist the hype and letting thoughts of ticket prices and imported US leading ladies play on my mind. But all such things aside, this really is a belter of a show, a glowing, full-throated roller-coaster of an experience.

Marisha Wallace, Moya Angela and Karen Mav now share the role for which Amber Riley has won pretty much every award going and tonight’s Effie was the delightful Wallace, a powerhouse of a presence who pretty much nails it from start to finish. Another visitor from Broadway Brennyn Lark’s Deena is well played but I really loved Asmeret Ghebremichael’s Lorrell, possibly becoming the brightest of the Dreams despite the way the script goes. And off the men, Joe Aaron Reid’s Curtis remains a villainous delight.

It’s always lovely to see ensemble members be rewarded for their hard work and both Tosh Wanogho-Maud and Kimmy Edwards have made the leap, now playing Jimmy Early and Michelle Martin respectively. And the production as a whole remains as slick and shiny as it did when it first opened – with all those crystals, how could it not! Keep your eyes peeled for deals on the off-chance they pop up, or take a chance on TodayTix’s daily lottery – it’s worth the shot. And if that weren’t proof enough, here’s some productions shots courtesy of Dewynters. Continue reading “Re-review: Dreamgirls, Savoy”

The Curtain Up Show Album of the Year 2017 nominees

Best UK Cast Recording
42nd Street – 2017 London Cast Recording
Bat Out Of Hell The Musical – Original Cast Recording
Dreamgirls – Original London Cast Recording
Everybody’s Talking About Jamie – Original Concept Recording
Girl From The North Country – Original London West End Cast Recording
The Wind in the Willows – Cast Recording

Best American Cast Recording
Anastasia – Original Broadway Cast Recording
Come From Away – Original Broadway Cast Recording
Dear Evan Hansen – Original Broadway Cast Recording
Hello, Dolly! – New Broadway Cast Recording
Spongebob Squarepants – Original Cast Recording
Sunday in the Park with George – 2017 Broadway Cast Recording

Best Solo Album/Non Cast Recording
Collabro – Home
Leading Ladies – Songs From The Stage
Marisha Wallace – Soul Holiday
Patti LuPone – Don’t Monkey With Broadway
Rachel Tucker – On The Road
Sheridan Smith – Sheridan

Album Review: Dreamgirls Original London Cast Recording (2017)

“The time has come for my dreams to be heard”

That it took so long for the UK premiere of Dreamgirls to arrive (35 years after its original Broadway opening), it is little surprise to see that it has taken a mere few months for the Original London Cast Recording to appear, released by Sony Masterworks Broadway today (Friday 12th May). Capitalising on the show’s extraordinary success at the Savoy (read my review here) and the two Olivier Awards wins for Amber Riley (Best Actress in a Musical) and Adam J. Bernard (Best Actor in a Supporting Role in a Musical), this double-album was recorded live in the theatre over four performances in February 2017 with no additional studio re-recordings or musical overdubs.

The choice to go for a live recording is an interesting one. There’s an undoubted raw energy that comes from the material not just being sung but being performed that makes certain numbers really pop. And then there’s the double-edged sword that is the audience reception – on the one hand it can be spine-tingling effective to hear how enthusiastically the work is being received but on the other, it doesn’t always translate without the accompanying visual and let’s be honest, the recording doesn’t gain anything from having Amber Riley’s entrance applause so volubly present. Continue reading “Album Review: Dreamgirls Original London Cast Recording (2017)”

Review: Dreamgirls, Savoy

“In the morning this feeling will be gone”

 
There’s over one million Swarovski crystals incorporated into this production of Dreamgirls which presumably explains why ticket prices go unashamedly up to £125 – Daddy’s crystal curtains, all 3 of them, don’t come cheap. In many ways, I don’t deny Dreamgirls the extravagance, it’s good to have a huge rollercoaster blowout of a blockbuster musical every now and then, it helps to balance the slightly more serious-minded ones about suicide and cancer. But it helps to be wary about that creeping top line, no matter how many five star reviews this show may garner, surely such pricing cannot be allowed to become the norm in the West End.

Part of the reason Dreamgirls can get away with it is that it has had a 35 year build-up. With book and lyrics by Tom Eyen and music by Henry Krieger, the original Broadway production premiered in 1981 and was a big success and though it may not have crossed the ocean, much of its music has, including cabaret staples ‘And I Am Telling You I’m Not Going’ and ‘One Night Only’. So it is hardly the risk of a new musical, though that it how is will be categorised, and thus it has been priced accordingly. Fortunately, the Savoy is not so big a theatre that the Grand Circle ain’t a perfectly decent to watch the show from. Continue reading “Review: Dreamgirls, Savoy”

Review: Blues in the Night, Hackney Empire

“Oh his jelly roll is so nice and hot
Never fails to hit the spot”

According to the publicity, the New York Post called Blues in the Night “a dark-toned honey of a show” which I guess sounds better, and less potentially contentious, in an American accent. The show at hand was conceived by Sheldon Epps in 1980 and is Blues in the Night, a revue which weaves together music by the likes of Bessie Smith, Duke Ellington, Johnny Mercer, Ida Cox and many more with the sheerest of narrative threads. It makes for an often thrilling evening but one which I found curiously uneven. 

The set-up for the show sees three female characters – The Lady, The Woman, The Girl – bemoan the troubles in their love lives which all centre on the same guy – The Man. Moving around the Chicago hotel in which they all reside, the gift of these tremendous songs is used to tease open their relationships and the many stages of love they experience with The Man, whilst he also gets to chime in about his experiences, mainly with songs like Duke Ellington and Mack David’s ‘I’m Just A Lucky So-and-So’. Continue reading “Review: Blues in the Night, Hackney Empire”

Review: Puss in Boots, Hackney Empire

“Do you want to join the pussycat chorus”

Though its position at other times of the year may seem a little precarious, Susie McKenna has built up the Hackney Empire into one of the must-see venues for pantomime in London, drawing in families from far and wide to their revitalised yet still classic take on all the old favourites. This year is the turn of Puss in Boots to get the E8 treatment but as Kat B takes to the stage drawling through a heavy Jamaican accent and exhorting us to call out ‘Puss in Boots dem’, it is soon clear that this lesser known panto has had a little tinkering.

So whilst we do have a young miller’s son Thomas, who is cheated out of his inheritance and left with just his faithful feline who finds his way into a magic shoeshop, there’s also the various members of the royal household of the kingdom of Hackneyonia to get to know, as an evil queen has taken advantage of a missing prince. Along with a good fairy and an evil witch both trying to get their way. Plus a surprisingly effective ogre. So it can be a little perplexing to work out exactly what is going on, especially when there’s two separate villains to boo and for a title character, Puss doesn’t actually have a huge amount to do. Continue reading “Review: Puss in Boots, Hackney Empire”