Round-up of news and treats and other interesting things

The announcement of the new cast for Broadway’s hugely lauded Hello, Dolly! has been a most strange affair – names trickling out one by one, rather than one big splash. However, it is Bernadette Peters (from 20th January) who has the unenviable task of following in Bette Midler’s shoes and trying to maintain the hefty box office that she’s managed to garner, and maintain. Victor Garber and our very own Charlie Stemp (making his Broadway debut) have also been revealed and doubtless by the time you read this, more will be have been announced too, one by one.

Producers Tim Levy (Director, NT America) and Jordan Roth (President, Jujamcyn Theaters) announced today that the National Theatre Production of Tony Kushner’s epic and seminal masterwork, Angels in America: A Gay Fantasia on National Themes, will return to Broadway for the first time since its now-legendary original production opened in 1993. This spectacular new staging of Part One of Angels in America, Millennium Approaches, and of Part Two, Perestroika, had its world premiere earlier this year in a sold-out run at the National Theatre, where it became the fastest selling show in the organization’s history. This strictly limited, 18-week engagement will begin performances at The Neil Simon Theatre on Friday, February 23, 2018, with an official opening on Wednesday, March 21. Public on sale is: 27 October at 10am NYC time.


Starring two-time Tony Award® winner Nathan Lane and Academy Award® and Tony Award nominee Andrew Garfield, the cast of Angels in America will feature fellow original National Theatre cast members Susan Brown, Denise Gough, Amanda Lawrence, James McArdle, and Nathan Stewart-Jarrett. (Additional casting will be announced shortly – Russell Tovey is the only main cast member not to travel, it would be neat if Luke Norris were able to step in as it was Tovey who stepping into his role in the transfer of A View From The Bridge which Norris couldn’t do). Two-time Tony Award winner Marianne Elliott (War Horse, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time) once again directs. 

As if there was any doubt about the target market for the soon-to-open Bridge Theatre, they’ve released details of the catering that will be available, most notably their collaboration with the acclaimed restaurateurs of St John. Apparently they have famous madeleines, and these famous madeleines are available to be pre-ordered hot as an interval snack. Let it not be said I don’t give you the important news!

And as predicted, the Oscar Wilde season is throwing up even more casting that will prove hard to resist. Kathy Burke’s Lady Windermere’s Fan now has its principal parts filled and so we have the delectable Samantha Spiro as Mrs Ernylee, Kevin Bishop as Lord Darlington, and none other than Jennifer Saunders as the Duchess of Berwick.

Review: The House They Grew Up In, Minerva

“This is not only your street with only your stories”

 

It’s always fascinating to get the opportunity to follow a playwright’s development in real time and so it has been with Deborah Bruce. From Godchild downstairs at the Hampstead (yes, a play written by a woman there!) to The Distance at the Orange Tree, later revived by Sheffield, and now to a Headlong co-production with Chichester, this is clearly a writer moving in the right direction.
 
The House They Grew Up In is a difficult play to watch though, a drama focused on reclusive siblings Daniel and Peppy whose hermit-like existence in their South-East London home sees them surrounded by the accumulated detritus of everything they’ve ever owned. The arrival of the inquisitive boy from next door, seeking refuge from his own problems, threatens the equilibrium they’ve constructed though, exposing it to severe outside scrutiny like never before.

Continue reading “Review: The House They Grew Up In, Minerva”

TV Review: Doctor Who Series 10

Episodes, in order of preference
World Enough and Time
Extremis
The Doctor Falls
Thin Ice
Knock Knock
Oxygen
The Eaters of Light
Smile
The Pilot
Empress of Mars
The Pyramid at the End of the World
The Lie of the Land

Top 5 guest spots
1 David Suchet’s Landlord was as perfectly written a character as befits one of our more superior actors
2 Regular readers will know I’m a big fan of Kieran Bew and his astronaut in Oxygen was no exception
3 Nicholas Burns‘ malevolent Sutcliffe was a delightfully Dickensian villain 
4 Another theatrical delight of mine is Anthony Calf, impressive as the pseudo-Victorian Godsacre
5 Rebecca Benson’s young Pict impressively led The Eaters of Light from the front, a perfect vessel for Rona Munro’s vision

Saddest death
Michelle Gomez’s Missy has been a brilliant breath of fresh air and whilst her decision to follow Moffat and Capaldi out the door is understandable, it isn’t any less disappointing. And perhaps the timey-wimeyness of the circumstances around her passing mean that maybe this isn’t the last we see of her…

Most wasted guest actor
I don’t what I expected from the reliably excellent Samantha Spiro in Doctor Who but I didn’t get it from her part in The Doctor Falls.

Gay agenda rating
With Bill onboard, A+!

Album Review: Hello, Dolly! (2017 New Broadway Cast Recording)

“One of your old favorite songs from way back when”
Seeing Hello, Dolly! at the Open Air Theatre still ranks as one of my all-time favourite theatrical experiences, tied up as it is with memories of my Aunty Mary, so it was only really practicality that held me back from booking to see the show on Broadway once the casting of Bette Midler was announced (heck, even Donna Murphy as her alternate was a seriously tempting proposition). But resist I did, in the anticipation of the inevitable Cast Recording that would offer a peek into Dolly’s new world.
It’s always a tricky thing, to embrace a new version of something so beloved and for me, every note, riff and chuckle of Barbra Streisand’s interpretation for the film soundtrack is ingrained on my memory. And so to hear someone else do it, no matter how well, always requires something of a readjustment. So it took me a couple of listens to really get into the groove of this album but in the new arrangements by Larry Hochman (orchestrations), and Don Pippin (vocal arrangements), the score feels familiar but fresh.
Midler is too good a performer not to do complete justice to Jerry Herman’s score and her brassy and bold take on the character is ideally suited, not a million miles away from the public perception of the woman herself. She glides effortlessly through the glorious title track with all its swaggers and she injects real pathos into quieter emotional moments like ‘Before The Parade Passes By’ too, her performance is always fun to listen to – it does therefore feel a real shame that she apparently won’t be performing at the Tony Award ceremony for us all to see.
Hello, Dolly! is far from a one-woman show though, and there’s a variety of strong supporting performances, not least the delectable Gavin Creel as the adorable Cornelius Hackl who shimmers gorgeously in ‘Put on Your Sunday Clothes’. Kate Baldwin more than justifies her Tony nomination in the inspired take on ‘Ribbons Down My Back’ and David Hyde Pierce makes a strong impression as Horace Vandergelder, even if the deleted song reintroduced here for his benefit doesn’t quite prove an essential addition. 
So this New Broadway Cast Recording of Hello, Dolly! manages the not-inconsiderable feat of establishing its own identity on something so familiar, by finding the way to channel all the special chemistry that Midler brings to the show and putting a huge smile on the face.

The Complete Walk, from the comfort of your sofa #10

“Come, sit on me”

The Taming of the Shrew

Christopher Haydon takes Eve Best and John Light over to the Villa Businello-Morassutti in Padua, to make me sure that the world is in need of a proper production of the Best/Light Shrew as they spar achingly, beautifully, with each other. Toby Frow’s rambunctious 2012 production also comes up a treat with Samantha Spiro and Simon Paisley Day equally impressing.

The Winter’s Tale

And another, with Michelle Terry directing an almost painfully raw performance from Mariah Gale in Apothecaries Hall, her wounded Hermione breathtakingly good, especially with the strong contrast of the vibrant Yoruba production from the Globe II Globe festival.



As You Like It

A curiously low-key take here as Bryan Dick’s Touchstone and Marty Cruickshank’s Corin wander Belgium’s Ardennes Forest with a good deal more time devoted to the clips, in this case from Thea Sharrock’s interpretation of the play from 2009, with a stellar Naomi Frederick and Laura Rogers riding roughshod over Jack Laskey.

The Complete Walk, from the comfort of your sofa #2

“I would you were as I would have you be”

Our journey along the Complete Walk, at our own speed and from the comfort of our own home, continues apace. Here’s my thoughts on the first suite of films and now there’s four more for your delectation.
Twelfth Night comes to us from Parham House, West Sussex, with the glorious Olivia Williams and Susannah Fielding playing Olivia and Viola/Cesario. And directed by Jessica Swale, it’s deliciously exciting and erotic as the former is utterly thunderstruck by the latter, both actors hitting the mark perfectly and suggesting that this would be a production for the ages were it ever to happen in full. It is spliced with Tim Carroll’s 2012 production which saw Mark Rylance reprise his Olivia, a performance of which, in all honesty, I was no real fan back then and remain so now.
Macbeth
Interestingly, this was the first of the films that felt heavier on the Globe production rather than the new clip. In the atmospheric gloom of Glamis Castle, Adele Thomas directs a forcefully weird Joanna Scanlan as the Porter but the majority of the action comes from Eve Best’s 2013 production, (sadly not the Elliot Cowan-starring one from 2010) with Joseph Millson’s beautifully spoken M and Samantha Spiro’s vibrant Lady M. It was nice to see them again but the final result did thus feel a little unbalanced.
Now this one was good. Sheila Reid’s storytelling Gower, reprised from the Swanamaker production earlier this year, enhanced by wordless excerpts from the National Theatre of Greece’s version from the Globe To Globe season and illustrated animation too, Dominic Dromgoole’s direction took Reid all around the Globe complex and beautifully so.
One of the cushier jobs in this series, Douglas Hodge’s achingly voiced Prospero finds himself marooned on Bermuda and shot gorgeously by Jessica Swale mostly in voiceover to beautiful effect, And it was nice to revisit Jeremy Herrin’s Roger Allam-starring version for the Globe in 2013, even if I remain unconvinced by its Ferdinand and Miranda, a sterling combination of old and new.

Re-review: Guys and Dolls, Phoenix

“Follow the fold and stray no more”

In the merry-go-round of theatres and shows and transfers and tours, the success of the West End transfer of Chichester Festival Theatre’s Guys and Dolls has seen it divide itself in two – the promised UK tour will go ahead through to the summer but the show remains in the West End as well, skipping from the Savoy to the Phoenix to replace the outgoing Bend it like Beckham
It’s my third time at the show. I saw the original run in Chichester and the transfer to the Savoy and hadn’t planned to return. But as ever, the lure of the recast leads sucked me in. Siubhan Harrison remains with the company but with Samantha Spiro, Oliver Tompsett and US actor Richard Kind joining the team (plus the excellent Jason Pennycooke), my barely-there resistance melted away.
And I’m glad to gone again. The classic quality of Gordon Greenberg’s production can’t be faulted and the show is naturally entertaining from start to finish. I did particularly enjoy the fresh spin of the leads too – Kind’s effortless comedy is joyous to behold, Tompsett is the ideal charismatic leading man and Spiro can do little wrong in my eyes, milking her Miss Adelaide for all she’s worth.
So something of a safe bet but no less enjoyable for it, and any opportunity to see Spiro and Tompsett on our stages should be relished.


Running time: 2 hours 40 minutes (with interval)
Booking until 29th October

Review: A Christmas Carol, Noël Coward

“Bah humbug”
Thing with resolutions is that it is terribly easy to break them. And having resolved to see no Christmas shows this year, Jim Broadbent only went and decided to do A Christmas Carol in the West End. Not having seen him on stage before, I decided to take the plunge just before heading back up north for the 25th and truth be told, I probably should have left it. 
This adaptation (for there are many around) is by Patrick Barlow, him of The 39 Steps, and has much of the same knockabout energy of that recently departed show. And in Tom Pye’s set of a miniature Victorian theatre in which the play is a play-within-a-play, puppets fly in and out and a genteel atmosphere of old-fashioned fun reigns, overseen by the indubitable twinkle in Broadbent’s eye. 
And though that is entirely right for how Broadbent is seen by many, Phelim McDermott’s production doesn’t quite hit the Scroogish notes that characterise Dickens’ tale. In short, this Christmas Carol has been considerably feckled with both story-wise and character-wise and to little appreciable degree. It’s sentimental rather than sharp, raucous where it could be reflective. 
So despite the hard-working company around him covering multiple roles, I was left disappointed. Taken in and of itself, I imagine it could be quite entertaining but for anyone who knows A Christmas Carol, it might be more of a challenge. 
Running time: 2 hours 20 minutes (with interval) 
Booking until 30th January
UPDATED
London Musical Theatre Orchestra presents a spectacular one-off production of Alan Menken and Lynn Ahrens’ A Christmas Carol at the Lyric Theatre London on Monday 19th December. Given the full Broadway treatment, this musical adaptation ran for an impressive ten years at New York’s Madison Square Garden. Don’t miss out on this extra-festive concert production, featuring an all-star West End cast soon to be announced. Book tickets here.

TV Review: London Spy


“People lie Danny, they lie very well” 
Well this was a disappointment wasn’t it, there’s no two ways about it. Tom Rob Smith’s London Spy started its five episode run most promisingly with its forthrightly modern gay love story – between emotionally reclusive Secret Service operative Alex and Danny, a shift worker and regular on the hard-partying Vauxhall gay clubbing scene. Edward Holcroft and Ben Whishaw made a powerfully effective couple, negotiating their differences beautifully and believably so that by the time Alex went missing, the substance of the emerging conspiracy theories actually meant something.
But as the plot wound vaguely into labyrinthine dead ends and red herrings, it became increasingly hard to get a handle not just on what was happening but what Smith was trying to say. And directed in would-be sepulchral (but actually just frustratingly dark) gloom by Jakob Verbruggen, the joys of recognising bits of my local Vauxhall soon wore off as you realised that such a stunning supporting cast as Adrian Lester, Clarke Peters and Harriet Walter were indeed being criminally underused or landed with heinous dialogue and what started off irresistibly disintegrated into implausibility.
The quaint notion of staying up for “the morning papers” in a digital age, the irresponsible casualness with which the HIV transmission was dealt (again, implausibly…), the huge contrivances on which the allegedly most sophisticated spies relied, the massive frustration of the final volte-face which just didn’t work for me…and Jim Broadbent’s Scottie deserved so much more. When a show’s highlight ends up being Samantha Spiro’s detective wrapping her lips around such bon mots as sadism and erotic asphyxiation, something’s gone awry. 

Re-reviews: Di and Viv and Rose / Dirty Rotten Scoundrels

“It was a ball, it was a blast

It was a shame it couldn’t last”

A half-term jaunt down to London for Aunty Jean saw us take in a couple of shows I was happy to revisit. I remain as affectionately inclined towards Dirty Rotten Scoundrels as I ever have done, its traditional bonhomie remains as watchable as ever and there’s just something comfortable about the whole affair which remains hard to resist. Even whilst not being Robert Lindsay’s biggest fan (seriously, is he being paid by the pelvic thrust?!) the shimmering star quality of Kat Kingsley and the affable appeal of Alex Gaumond more than compensate. And the bumbling charms of Ben Fox, the third Chief of Police since the show started – job security in Beaumont-Sur-Mer is clearly not strong 😉 – prove the ideal foil for Bonnie Langford’s knowingly charismatic Muriel.

And we also made a more-timely-than-we-realised trip to Amelia Bullmore’s Di and Viv and Rose which posted closing notices pretty much as we left the matinée. It feels a real shame as it is such a sprightly production of a sparkling play which certainly deserved better audiences but for whatever reason, it just didn’t connect. I’ve written more about the show on my three previous visits (link here) but I’d definitely recommend trying to catch it before it closes, not least for some of the most joyous dancing onstage (which forms the perfect counterbalance to My Night With Reg) and Jenna Russell’s glorious performance as the hugely-generous-of-spirit Rose. 

Dirty Rotten Scoundrels
Running time: 2 hours 30 minutes (with interval)
Booking until 7th March

Di and Viv and Rose
Running time: 2 hours 35 minutes (with interval)
Booking until 14th March