Review: Honeymoon in Vegas, London Palladium

“I am not making friki-friki”

The London Musical Theatre Orchestra’s arrival on the scene has not gone unnoticed by me but their previous concerts have always fallen on days when I couldn’t make it. So finally putting a show on on a Sunday night meant I was able to put it in the diary and to mark the occasion, they only went and invited their first guest conductor along, Mr Jason Robert Brown himself to helm the UK premiere of his show Honeymoon in Vegas.

And in the swish surroundings of the London Palladium, it was hard not to be entirely seduced by the lush sound of a 30-strong orchestra (under the musical direction of Freddie Tapner), a chorus of 16 up-and-coming performers and a main cast of bona fide West End stars directed by Shaun Kerrison. The concert staging allows for an amusingly slapdash approach which really suited the joie de vivre exuding from pretty much everyone involved here, a real passion project. Continue reading “Review: Honeymoon in Vegas, London Palladium”

fosterIAN awards 2016

 WinnerRunner-upOther nominees
Best Actress in a PlayJuliet Stevenson/Lia Williams, Mary StuartUzo Aduba/Zawe Ashton, The MaidsGemma Arterton Nell Gwynn,
Linda Bassett, Escaped Alone
Helen McCrory, The Deep Blue Sea
Maxine Peake, A Streetcar Named Desire
Harriet Walter, The Tempest
Best Actor in a PlayO-T Fagbenle, Ma Rainey's Black BottomLucian Msamati, Ma Rainey's Black BottomPhil Dunster, Pink Mist
Paapa Essiedu, Hamlet
Rhys Isaac-Jones, Jess and Joe Forever
Lucian Msamati, Amadeus
Danny Sapani, Les Blancs
Best Supporting Actress in a PlayJade Anouka, The TempestLizzy Connolly/Amanda Lawrence, Once in a LifetimeNadine Marshall, Father Comes Home From The War (Parts 1, 2, and 3)
Tanya Moodie, Hamlet
Siân Phillips, Les Blancs
Rachael Stirling, The Winter's Tale
Susan Wokoma, A Raisin In The Sun
Best Supporting Actor in a PlayPeter Polycarpou, Scenes from 68* YearsAnthony Boyle, Harry Potter and the Cursed ChildRudi Dharmalingham, Mary Stuart
Dex Lee, Father Comes Home From The War (Parts 1, 2, and 3)
Nick Fletcher, The Deep Blue Sea
Jonjo O'Neill, Unreachable
Alan Williams, Mary Stuart
Best Actress in a MusicalJenna Russell, Grey GardensClare Burt, Flowers for Mrs HarrisSamantha Barks, The Last 5 Years
Glenn Close, Sunset Boulevard
Kaisa Hammarlund, Sweet Charity
Cassidy Janson, Beautiful
Landi Oshinowo, I'm Getting My Act Together...
Best Actor in a MusicalLouis Maskell, The Grinning ManAko Mitchell, RagtimeDeclan Bennett, Jesus Christ Superstar
Dex Lee, Grease
Hugh Maynard, Sweeney Todd
Charlie Stemp, Half A Sixpence
Mark Umbers, She Loves Me
Best Supporting Actress in a MusicalJennifer Saayeng, RagtimeVictoria Hamilton-Barritt, Murder BalladJosie Benson, Sweet Charity
Sheila Hancock, Grey Gardens
Rachel John, The Bodyguard
Katherine Kingsley, She Loves Me
Gloria Onitiri, The Grinning Man
Best Supporting Actor in a MusicalJulian Bleach, The Grinning ManTyrone Huntley, Jesus Christ SuperstarAdam J Bernard, Dreamgirls
Daniel Crossley, Sweet Charity
Stuart Neal, The Grinning Man
Dominic Tighe, She Loves Me
Gary Tushaw, Ragtime

The 2016 fosterIAN nominations


The end of year round-up continues with the acting performances that stood out for me, the ones that made me sit up, and sometimes stand up. As ever, I have used the label ‘best’, the categories should really be considered ‘favourite’ as that is what the fosterIANs (fos-tîr’ē-ən) are – my favourites. So please find below the 2016 fosterIAN award nominations, categories expanded to 7 nominees (and sometimes more!) because I am that indecisive, winners to be announced in the coming days. 

Best Actress in a Play
Uzo Aduba/Zawe Ashton, The Maids
Gemma Arterton, Nell Gwynn
Linda Bassett, Escaped Alone
Helen McCrory, The Deep Blue Sea
Maxine Peake, A Streetcar Named Desire
Juliet Stevenson/Lia Williams, Mary Stuart
Harriet Walter, The Tempest

Best Actor in a Play
Phil Dunster, Pink Mist
Paapa Essiedu, Hamlet
O-T Fagbenle, Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom
Rhys Isaac-Jones, Jess and Joe Forever
Lucian Msamati, Amadeus
Lucian Msamati, Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom
Danny Sapani, Les Blancs Continue reading “The 2016 fosterIAN nominations”

Re-review: The Last Five Years, St James


“First, a story”

When The Last Five Years announced an extension of a week just after opening, it meant I was able to nab a pair of cheap tickets down the front, conveniently on the side where the shirtless scene happens, and take a friend. And I’m glad to I got to revisit the show, both to see it (literally) from a different angle and also to experience it with understudy Samuel Thomas playing Jamie, as Jonathan Bailey was suffering from an indisposition.

My original review of Jason Robert Brown’s production of his own musical can be read here and as per, it still stands. Samantha Barks has really got the role of Cathy down to perfection with a beautiful line in rueful, reflective humour alongside that gorgeous voice. And Thomas did a great job as Jamie, perhaps more of a vocal match for his co-star as evidenced in a stellar ‘Nobody Needs To Know’ – my only note would be his clock dancing could be a little freer (and that’s only because I’ve seen Bailey do it, my friend thought he ‘clocked’ just fine!). Continue reading “Re-review: The Last Five Years, St James”

Review: The Last Five Years, St James


“I’m not always on time
Please don’t expect that from me” 

I think I have to rank Jason Robert Brown’s The Last Five Years as one of my favourite new musicals (it was first performed in 2001) as any show with such a sequence of extraordinary songs as ‘A Part Of That’, ‘The Schmuel Song’ and ‘A Summer In Ohio’ at its heart surely deserves. I had the privilege to be introduced to the show by the Paul Spicer and Julie Atherton-starring version in 2009, I loved it again with Jon Robyns and Danielle Hope a couple of years ago, and I was a fan of last year’s film version and how it adapted the show’s unique structure for a different medium.

The show’s conceit is that he tells the story of a relationship between 2 twenty-something New Yorkers both from start to finish and from finish to start at the same time. So Jamie’s narrative commences in fresh hope at the beginning and Cathy’s opens at a moment of real heartbreak and as they move along their timelines, there’s one moment where they crossover, where they actually interact, a moment of glorious happiness made all the more tragic for already knowing how it is going to end.  Continue reading “Review: The Last Five Years, St James”

Hallowe’en DVD Review: Dracula Untold (2014)


“Drink…and let the games begin”

You gotta love an origin story, even for the dark lord himself, as everyone’s misunderstood, no-one’s that bad really. Or so Matt Sazama and Burk Sharpless would have us believe in Dracula Untold, a 2014 Gary Shore film that ultimately did fairly good business. Here, Luke Evans’ Vlad is a good lad who only got the nickname ‘The Impaler’ because he was kidnapped by the Ottoman Empire as a boy and trained into their most deadly assassin. 

But he’s escaped now and has a wife and kid so all is good. Or is it? When a Turkish helmet (not a euphemism) is found in a river, Vlad realises that his childhood friend Mehmet, now Mehmet II, played by Dominic Cooper in a huge amount of fake tan (because you know, Hollywood couldn’t possibly try and turn a Turkish actor into a star) is up to no good. So he follows the stream to a cave where Charles Dance is hiding. Continue reading “Hallowe’en DVD Review: Dracula Untold (2014)”

Round-up of summer album reviews


To cover the holiday period, you may have noticed an album review or three – here’s a round-up of them, including my top ten.

Recommended titles
Close To You – Bacharach Reimagined (2016 Original London Cast Recording)
Hamilton (2015 Original Broadway Cast Recording)
Kelli O’Hara – Always 
Leslie Odom Jr – Leslie Odom Jr 
Matt Doyle – Uncontrolled
Samantha Barks – Samantha Barks
Thérèse Raquin (2014 Original London Cast Recording)
The Last Five Years (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)
The Scottsboro Boys (2014 Original London Cast Recording)
Waitress (Original Broadway Cast Recording)


And the rest!
Alison Jiear – Inspirational
Allegro (2009 First Complete Recording)
An American Victory (2016 Concept Album)
Annie (1995 London Studio Cast Recording)
Annie (2014 Film Cast)
Bad Girls (2007 Original London Cast)
Billy Porter – At The Corner of Broadway and Soul
Billy Porter – Billy’s Back On Broadway
Brian Stokes Mitchell – Simply Broadway
Bright Star (Original Broadway Cast Recording)
Bring It On: The Musical (2012 Original Broadway Cast Recording)
Caroline Sheen – Raise the Curtain 
Cheyenne Jackson – I’m Blue, Skies
Cheyenne Jackson – Renaissance
Cool Rider (Original Studio Recording)
Departure Lounge (Original London Cast Recording)
Elf the Musical (2015 Original London Cast Recording)
From Here To Eternity (2014 Live Cast Recording)
Funny Girl (2016 London Cast Recording)
Ghost The Musical (Original London Cast Recording)
In The Heights (2008 Original Broadway Cast Recording)
Jane Krakowski – The Laziest Gal in Town
John Owen-Jones – Unmasked 
Kimberley Walsh – Centre Stage
Kinky Boots (Original Broadway Cast Recording)
Kristin Chenoweth – Coming Home 
Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar & Grill (2014 Cast Recording)
Lord of the Rings (2008 Original London Cast Recording)
Louise Dearman – Here Comes The Sun 
Louise Dearman – You and I 
Love Birds (Original Edinburgh Cast Recording)
Mamma Mia (Original Cast Recording 1999)
Mrs Henderson Presents (Original London Cast Recording)
Natasha, Pierre and the Great Comet of 1812
Oliver Tompsett –Sentimental Heart
Our First Mistake – The Songs of Kerrigan and Lowdermilk
Out Of Context: The Songs Of Michael Patrick Walker
Patti LuPone – Far Away Places
Patti LuPone – Matters of the Heart
Prodigy (Original Cast Recording)
Promises, Promises (2010 New Broadway Cast Recording)
Rebecca Caine – Leading Ladies 
Renée Elise Goldsberry – Beautiful EP 
Richard Beadle – Songs 
Ruthie Henshall – The Ruthie Henshall Album
Sally Ann Triplett – Anything Goes
She Loves Me (1994 London Cast Recording)
She Loves Me (2016 Broadway Cast Recording)
Stephen Ward (2013 Original Cast Recording)
Shuffle Along, Or…
The Bodyguard – The Musical (World Premiere Cast Recording)
The Color Purple (2006 Original Broadway Cast Recording)
The Color Purple (2015 Broadway Revival Cast Recording)
The Fix (1997 Original London Cast)
The Gershwins’ Porgy and Bess (2012 New Broadway Cast Recording)
The Mystery of Edwin Drood (2012 Broadway Cast Recording)
Thirteen Stories Down – The Songs of Jonathan Reid Gealt
Tony Yazbeck – The Floor Above Me
Tuck Everlasting (2016 Original Broadway Cast Recording)
Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown (2011 Original Broadway Cast Recording)
Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown (2015 Original London Cast Recording)
Xanadu (2007 Original Broadway Cast)

CD Review: Samantha Barks – Samantha Barks (2016)


“Remember the glass we charged in celebration”

Samantha Barks has come a long way from Saturday night BBC talent shows – to the West End to blockbuster film musicals and performing at the Oscars, even appearing on Bear Grylls: Mission Survive. It’s taken her a little while to get around to releasing her self-titled first album – a mixture of original tracks, pop songs and stagier fare – but on this evidence, it has been well worth the wait with a beautifully assured, intimate collection.

There’s nothing forced about Barks’ approach on Samantha Barks here – the fireworks of Moulin Rouge’s ‘One Day I’ll Fly Away’ and Disney charm of Hercules’ ‘Go The Distance’ are delivered with a real restraint, and the less theatrical choice of song come slightly from left-field – the elegant piano and strings of Burt Bacharach and Elvis Costello’s ‘This House Is Empty Now’ is strikingly mature and yet superbly heartfelt, The Band Perry’s ‘If I Die Young’ delicately affecting too.  Continue reading “CD Review: Samantha Barks – Samantha Barks (2016)”

CD Review: Scott Alan Live


“And there it is…”
 
For a composer who hasn’t had a major show on over here, Scott Alan inspires an amazing amount of evangelical joy from his fans. This has come from a series of albums and concerts in which his songwriting has been showcased by a wide-ranging collection of Broadway and West End stars, culminating in a rapturously received residency at the St James Theatre a couple of months ago. I like his work, having previously reviewed a couple of his albums, but I haven’t been as ecstatic as some about it so I thought I’d go back to the ones I hadn’t listened to. 
 
His double album Live offers reworkings of many of his songs and mixes things up further by retaining many of his frequent collaborators but letting them loose on different songs, even switching up genders on some of them. It’s a great move – Natalie Weiss smashes the joyful ‘I’m A Star’, Laura Osnes wraps her delicate voice beautifully around ‘Now’ and Jeremy Jordan is charming as ever on ‘Please Don’t Let Me Go’ and that’s all in the opening five songs. The slightly indulgent length of the album means we don’t always maintain such intense quality over both discs plus bonus tracks.

Continue reading “CD Review: Scott Alan Live”