Review: The Wedding Singer, Curve

“Pour a double gin,
here’s to your double chin”

Back when Adam Sandler was, you know, tolerable, he did rom-coms like 1998’s The Wedding Singer and where even moderately successful films go, musical theatre adaptations surely follow. Tim Herlihy adapts his own screenplay along with lyricist Chad Beguelin, and original music comes from Matthew Sklar, and the result is a perfectly competent piece of musical theatre which is fun without ever really being fantastic.

Opening at Leicester’s Curve ahead of a 8 month long UK tour (dates and venue at the end of this review), you can see where Nick Winston’s production has made its key decisions – Francis O’Connor’s set has its eye on quick get-outs and so Jack Henry’s video projections do a lot of the heavy lifting in setting the 80s milieu. And the casting mixes West End reliability with TV name recognition, the cherry on the cake of course being Ruth Madoc. Continue reading “Review: The Wedding Singer, Curve”

Album Review: Mrs Henderson Presents (Original London Cast Recording)

 

“We’ll never close…”

I was sad to see Mrs Henderson Presents close prematurely in the West End, having enjoyed it both there and in its first run at the Theatre Royal Bath, but pleased that we at least had a cast recording to remember the show by. I have to say though, that this was one of those occasions where just listening to the musical failed to capture what made it work on stage. 

The period charms of George Fenton and Simon Chamberlain’s pastiche-laden score feel rather old-fashioned on record – not simply in the age that they are trying to evoke but in its very nature. Without the visual, it soon becomes clear that there isn’t a huge amount of narrative drive in the songs, they set the mood of the piece well but don’t tell much of a story on their own. Continue reading “Album Review: Mrs Henderson Presents (Original London Cast Recording)”

Competition – Win a pair of tickets to EUGENIUS! starring Warwick Davies

The wait is over…Eugenius, the eunique new musical is here! Playing for one night only at the London Palladium featuring an all-star cast led by Warwick Davis.
 
Come and be part of the world premiere concert performance at the London Palladium on 29th June 2016. With an incredible cast, led by Warwick Davis (Star Wars, Harry Potter) and a host of award-winning musical theatre names including the Olivier award winning David Bedella (In The Heights, Jerry Springer The Opera), Amy Lennox (Kinky Boots, Legally Blonde), Samuel Holmes (Mrs Henderson Presents, Spamalot), Summer Strallen (Top Hat, The Sound of Music) and narrated by comedian Marcus Brigstocke.

Continue reading “Competition – Win a pair of tickets to EUGENIUS! starring Warwick Davies”

Re-review: Mrs Henderson Presents, Noël Coward

“Everyone loves a bit of filth” 

I really enjoyed Mrs Henderson Presents when I saw it last year in Bath, it came 13th out of all the shows I saw in 2015, so I was most delighted to hear that it would be transferring into the West End. It managed the journey with its main cast almost entirely intact, Tracie Bennett, Ian Bartholomew and Emma Williams all there, just Mark Hadfield dipping out to (re)join The Painkiller and replaced by Jamie Foreman, and its opening at the Noël Coward Theatre has been largely very well received. 

And second time around, it pleased me just as much as the first. Terry Johnson’s direction of this ineffably British show (as with Andy Capp, playing the spoons is up there with the Union Jack) and from my memory, I don’t think that much has significantly changed (though I’ve seen a lot in the intervening 7 months…). That means that the shonky narrator/compere role is still there, which still wears thin quickly, but it also means that its generosity of spirit and warmth of heart is very much present.  Continue reading “Re-review: Mrs Henderson Presents, Noël Coward”

Review: Mrs Henderson Presents, Theatre Royal Bath

“Where’s that damn woman?”

That woman is of course Laura Henderson, a rich widow who in 1937 decides to save the Windmill Theatre from closure and together with Jewish entrepreneur Vivian Van Damm, introduces a continuous variety revue called Revudeville. And seeking to keep their nose ahead of their competitors, nudity is added to the bill, a la Moulin Rouge though unprecedented in the UK, but the censorship battles with the Lord Chamberlain’s office pales into insignificance once war breaks out and the theatre becomes a landmark, refusing to close even as London is battered by the Blitz. 

Terry Johnson’s book for Mrs Henderson Presents wisely adapts Martin Sherman’s screenplay from the film of the same name to create a more tightly encapsulated world centred on the backstage lives of the theatre folk. It dives straight into the main story from the outset and switches things about just enough to keep anyone familiar with the film on their toes. And George Fenton and Simon Chamberlain’s score dances around the period beautifully, pastiche songs evoking the 30s spirit perfectly with a smattering of vaudevillean fun here and driving musical theatre anthems there, always remaining tuneful.  Continue reading “Review: Mrs Henderson Presents, Theatre Royal Bath”

Review: I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change, Above the Arts

“Have you just lost your way?
‘Repressed confused or gay?’”

Just a quickie for this, a late-hours performance late in the run in a vilely hot tiny auditorium perched atop no-one’s favourite West End theatre. I hadn’t been Above the Arts before and I remain unconvinced that it is an essential addition to our theatres, especially in this heat. Fortunately, Kirk Jameson’s production of Jimmy Roberts and Joe DiPietro’s off-Broadway stalwart I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change was good enough to almost take my mind off it.

With old Avenue Q friends Julie Atherton and Simon Lipkin joined by Gina Beck and Samuel Holmes, this is about as good as musical theatre casting gets, especially for a fringe production and the quality of this quartet smoothed over most of the weaknesses of the show. A revue-ish song cycle type of thing, it whips through a set of loosely connected vignettes about the various trials and tribulations between a man and a woman. Continue reading “Review: I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change, Above the Arts”

Review: White Christmas, West Yorkshire Playhouse

“As a child I went wild when a band played
How I ran to the man when his hand swayed”

How else would you start December but with two theatrical productions of White Christmas in quick succession… But where London has a more predictable, traditional take on the hoary old classic with the well-established touring production faithfully replicated, Leeds has a reimagined and reinvigorated version which makes it altogether a more intriguing proposition in the hands of esteemed director Nikolai Foster (whose forthcoming artistic directorship of the Curve in Leicester looks to be most promising indeed) (PS he’s no relation).
I left the Dominion Theatre in London quite well inclined to the show as it does tick all the boxes, perhaps in a somewhat perfunctory manner but with dollops of old-school charm. But freed from those constrictions, Foster is able to give us a fresh new take which is retro rather than old-fashioned, taking its cues from 50s Americana in Matthew Wright’s glorious revolving design. And with arrangements refreshed with a real musical intimacy and integrity by orchestrator Jason Carr and choreography revitalised by Nick Winston, this is a creative team firing on all cylinders.
And delivering the fruits of their labour is a cracking cast who bring an unexpected depth to the we-gotta-put-on-a-show story. The root of Darren Day and Oliver Tompsett’s relationship as Hollywood stars is firmly in their shared past as WWII veterans and Emma Williams and Holly Dale Spencer, as the Haynes sisters for whom they fall on their Vermont holiday, perfectly capture the contemporary sensuality which is just irresistible. And so as Bob and Phil and Betty and Judy sing and dance their way to saving the day, their combined chemistry ensures a real investment in the show (even as it stretches out just a tad too long) especially in Williams and Spencer’s heartwarmingly lovely performances.
There’s great support from the rest of the talented company too – Melanie La Barrie darn well nearly steals another musical (after a barnstorming turn in Guys and Dolls – seriously, when is someone going to put this woman front and centre in a show?!) with a show-stopping rendition of ‘Let Me Sing and I’m Happy’, Siôn Tudor Owen’s Ezekiel Foster (no relation to Nikolai, or me for that matter) and Andrew Jarvis’ General Waverly both light up the stage in their own way, and the cumulative effect of everyone’s enthusiasm more than fills the vast auditorium as the long-awaited comes to pass as it surely must do. London 0 Leeds 1 by my count.
Running time: 2 hours 40 minutes (with interval)
Booking until 17th January

Review: The Water Babies, Curve

“If I drop from the sky, nobody may care but will they catch me”

Under Paul Kerryson, Leicester’s Curve Theatre really has become the incubator for some great musical theatre, reinventing stale classics like Chicago and Hairspray and hosting significant premieres like Finding Neverland and now a new version of Charles Kingsley’s children’s novel The Water Babies. Boasting an impressive array of special effects, a stridently modern score from Chris Egan and a fresh take on the story by Ed Curtis (who also directs) and Guy Jones, it makes for a interesting new entry into the world of British musical theatre. 

The show borrows liberally from Kingsley’s original morality tale of Tom, an orphaned young ne’er-do-well who is framed for a crime he did not commit and whilst fleeing capture, finds his only choice is to dive into a waterfall whereupon he discovers a new world. That underwater world uses in turn inspiration from the 1978 animated version of the story, as Tom is forced to journey through a series of challenges, aided and abetted by talking sea creatures as he searches for the mysterious Water Babies who hold the key to a better understanding of himself and thus his future. Continue reading “Review: The Water Babies, Curve”

CD Review: Spamalot UK Cast Album

“Now we can go straight into the middle eight”

Now that Spamalot has left the West End (again) (and may well pop up once again given its reliability as a stand-by for quickly vacated theatres), I thought I would give the soundtrack a listen, not least because it has languished on my hard-drive for a good couple of years now without me actually getting round to it. Recorded in 2010 at the Churchill Bromley, the album features the UK cast from that touring production of this Eric Idle and John Du Prez show.

It’s a live recording which means the first thing we hear is applause, something which annoys me disproportionately – why can’t, or don’t, they edit it out – as I don’t want to hear anything that isn’t the people on the stage. Likewise with the laughter throughout, I’m glad the audience were finding it funny but that’s not why people buy soundtracks, to hear others having a good time – is it too much to expect a recording unsullied by the great unwashed?! Continue reading “CD Review: Spamalot UK Cast Album”

Review: Spamalot, Playhouse

 “We’re opera mad in Camelot
We sing from the diaphragm a lot”

Though Joe Pasquale may be joining the cast of Spamalot from the 17th June to play King Arthur for six weeks, I would say that now is actually a great time to go and see the show at the Playhouse Theatre, tucked away down by Embankment station. Though it may arguably lack a ‘star name’, what it does offer is an extremely strong piece of musical theatre, delivered excellently by bona fide musical theatre performers, and none more so than Robin Armstrong who makes for an utterly adorable central presence as the King of the Britons.

I only actually saw the show for the first time when it started its tour back in 2010 as since we never really watched Monty Python in our household as kids, the show held no fascination for me when it was in the West End. But its utter silliness and its determination not to take itself too seriously at all won me over and so I was more than happy to make a return visit, especially given the names that were popping up in the cast.  Continue reading “Review: Spamalot, Playhouse”