Review: 35mm – A Musical Exhibition, The Other Palace Studio

“Why must we justify? 
Let’s defy their forms and fixtures…”

There’s something about choosing a song cycle as your form that automatically feels like a declaration that the entertainment that lies ahead is going to be a mixed bag, some hits and the possibility of some misses in a willfully diverse collection, loosely connected by an overarching theme. And so it proves with Ryan Scott Oliver’s 35mm: A Musical Exhibition, currently getting a short run in The Other Palace’s studio space.
The hook here is that the 15 songs are each inspired by a photograph taken by Broadway photographer Matthew Murphy, allowing for the exploration of any (and all) aspect of human nature and the adoption of any musical style he wishes. An exponent of new musical theatre writing, Scott Oliver calls to mind something of the complexity of Michael John LaChiusa’s compositions and equally brings the same kind of challenges. 
For this is modern musical theatre, probing into rock and folk as much as showtunes and pizzazz, and as with any collection so mixed, there are going to be some songs which work much better for you than others. 35mm can thus prove a rather uneven show to experience particularly as the connection to the photographs doesn’t always feel as fully exploited as it could be, especially lyrically.
Adam Lenson’s production has cast wisely though, meaning that even if a track isn’t musically your bag, its performance is guaranteed to be engaging. Maisey Bawden, Gregor Duncan, George Maguire, Christina Modestou and the Stage Debut award-winning Samuel Thomas all take their moments – Thomas’ ‘Cut You A Piece’ and Modestou’s ‘The Party Goes With You’ got my personal vote, and ‘The Seraph’ is a hauntingly beautiful number that Duncan and Thomas really shine.
So it ain’t a traditional musical and to criticise it for not being so is to miss the point – 35mm is doing something different here and it should be appreciated for that. That doesn’t automatically make it a perfect show but it does make it an interesting one.
Running time: 70 minutes (without interval)
Booking until 30th September

Winners of The Stage Debut Awards 2017

The Joe Allen Best West End Debut

WINNER: Andrew Polec for Bat Out of Hell at the London Coliseum
John Boyega for Woyzeck at the Old Vic
Anthony Boyle for Harry Potter and the Cursed Child at the Palace Theatre
Andy Karl for Groundhog Day at the Old Vic
Audra McDonald for Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar and Grill at Wyndhams Theatre
Imogen Poots for Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? at the Harold Pinter Theatre
Amber Riley for Dreamgirls at the Savoy Theatre
Charlie Stemp for Half a Sixpence at the Noel Coward Theatre

Best Actor in a Play
WINNER: Abraham Popoola for Othello at Tobacco Factory Theatres, Bristol
Jack Archer for Nivelli’s War at the Lyric Theatre, Belfast
TJ Jones for The Seven Acts of Mercy at the Swan Theatre, Royal Shakespeare Company
Kenneth Omole for Assata Taught Me at the Gate Theatre, London

Best Actress in a Play Sponsored by Pauline Quirke Academy at PQA Studios London
WINNER: Grace Molony for The Country Girls at the Minerva Theatre, Chichester
Anya Chalotra for Much Ado About Nothing at Shakespeare’s Globe, London
Kellan Frankland for The House of Bernarda Alba at the Royal Exchange, Manchester
Jess Peet for Alice in Wonderland at the Royal Lyceum Theatre, Edinburgh

Best Actor in a Musical Sponsored by Encore Radio
WINNER: Samuel Thomas for Allegro at Southwark Playhouse, London
Adam J Bernard for Dreamgirls at the Savoy Theatre, London
Ben Hunter for The Girls at the Phoenix Theatre, London
Daniel Urch for 110 in the Shade at Ye Olde Rose and Crown, London

Best Actress in a Musical Sponsored by The Other Palace
WINNER: Miriam-Teak Lee for On the Town at Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre, London
Chloe Carrington for Hair at Hope Mill Theatre, Manchester
Emily Hughes for Fiddler on the Roof at Everyman Theatre, Liverpool
Siena Kelly for On the Town at Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre, London

Best Composer Sponsored by Trafalgar Entertainment Group
WINNER: Dan Gillespie Sells for Everybody’s Talking About Jamie at the Crucible Theatre, Sheffield
Jonah Brody for Removal Men and This Beautiful Future at the Yard, London
Ruth Chan for Snow in Midsummer at the Swan Theatre, Royal Shakespeare Company, Stratford-upon-Avon
MJ Harding for Removal Men at the Yard, London
Stephen Jackson for Roller Diner at the Soho Theatre, London

Best Designer Sponsored by Robe
WINNER: Rosie Elnile for The Convert at the Gate Theatre, London
Joshua Gadsby for Dreamplay at the Vaults, London and Still Ill at the New Diorama, London
Simon Spencer for The Tempest at the Royal Shakespeare Company, Stratford-upon-Avon
Jessica Staton for Extra Yarn at the Orange Tree Theatre, London

Best Director Sponsored by See Tickets
WINNER: Lekan Lawal for Betrayal at Derby Theatre, Derby
Sean Aydon for Richard III at the Rosemary Branch, London
Alexander Lass for 46 Beacon at Trafalgar Studios 2, London
Lynette Linton for Assata Taught Me at the Gate Theatre, London

Best Writer
WINNER: Katherine Soper for Wish List at the Royal Exchange, Manchester, and Royal Court Theatre, London
Titas Halder for Run the Beast Down at the Marlowe Theatre, Canterbury and Finborough Theatre, London
Asif Khan for Combustion at Tara Arts, London
Victoria Willing for Spring Offensive at the Clapham Omnibus, London

 

Nominees for The Stage Debut Awards 2017

The Joe Allen Best West End Debut
John Boyega for Woyzeck at the Old Vic~
Anthony Boyle for Harry Potter and the Cursed Child at the Palace Theatre
Andy Karl for Groundhog Day at the Old Vic
Audra McDonald for Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar and Grill at Wyndhams Theatre
Andrew Polec for Bat Out of Hellat the London Coliseum
Imogen Poots for Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? at the Harold Pinter Theatre
Amber Riley for Dreamgirls at the Savoy Theatre
Charlie Stemp for Half a Sixpence at the Noel Coward Theatre

Best Actor in a Play
Jack Archer for Nivelli’s War at the Lyric Theatre, Belfast
TJ Jones for The Seven Acts of Mercy at the Swan Theatre, Royal Shakespeare Company
Kenneth Omole for Assata Taught Me at the Gate Theatre, London
Abraham Popoola for Othello at Tobacco Factory Theatres, Bristol

Best Actress in a Play Sponsored by Pauline Quirke Academy at PQA Studios London
Anya Chalotra for Much Ado About Nothing at Shakespeare’s Globe, London
Kellan Frankland for The House of Bernarda Alba at the Royal Exchange, Manchester
Grace Molony for The Country Girls at the Minerva Theatre, Chichester
Jess Peet for Alice in Wonderland at the Royal Lyceum Theatre, Edinburgh

Best Actor in a Musical Sponsored by Encore Radio
Adam J Bernard for Dreamgirls at the Savoy Theatre, London
Ben Hunter for The Girls at the Phoenix Theatre, London
Samuel Thomas for Allegro at Southwark Playhouse, London
Daniel Urch for 110 in the Shade at Ye Olde Rose and Crown, London

Best Actress in a Musical Sponsored by The Other Palace
Chloe Carrington for Hair at Hope Mill Theatre, Manchester
Emily Hughes for Fiddler on the Roof at Everyman Theatre, Liverpool
Siena Kelly for On the Town at Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre, London
Miriam-Teak Lee for On the Town at Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre, London

Best Composer Sponsored by Trafalgar Entertainment Group
Jonah Brody for Removal Men and This Beautiful Future at the Yard, London
Ruth Chan for Snow in Midsummer at the Swan Theatre, Royal Shakespeare Company, Stratford-upon-Avon
Dan Gillespie Sells for Everybody’s Talking About Jamie at the Crucible Theatre, Sheffield
MJ Harding for Removal Men at the Yard, London
Stephen Jackson for Roller Diner at the Soho Theatre, London

Best Designer Sponsored by Robe
Rosie Elnile for The Convert at the Gate Theatre, London
Joshua Gadsby for Dreamplay at the Vaults, London and Still Ill at the New Diorama, London
Simon Spencer for The Tempest at the Royal Shakespeare Company, Stratford-upon-Avon
Jessica Staton for Extra Yarn at the Orange Tree Theatre, London

Best Director Sponsored by See Tickets
Sean Aydon for Richard III at the Rosemary Branch, London
Alexander Lass for 46 Beacon at Trafalgar Studios 2, London
Lekan Lawal for Betrayal at Derby Theatre, Derby
Lynette Linton for Assata Taught Me at the Gate Theatre, London

Best Writer
Titas Halder for Run the Beast Down at the Marlowe Theatre, Canterbury and Finborough Theatre, London
Asif Khan for Combustion at Tara Arts, London
Katherine Soper for Wish List at the Royal Exchange, Manchester, and Royal Court Theatre, London
Victoria Willing for Spring Offensive at the Clapham Omnibus, London

 

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”

News: #AlsoRecognised Awards shortlists announced

Shortlists for the third annual Also Recognised Awards have been announced by MyTheatreMates, founded by Mark Shenton and Terri Paddock. These audience-voted industry accolades celebrate talent in fields often overlooked by other award bodies. Voting is now open for all categories and closes on Sunday 26th March 2017. Cast your vote at: www.mytheatremates.com/AlsoRecognisedAwards-2017/
 
The aim of the awards is to recognise some of those categories that are sometimes overlooked in other awards – for example, Best Musical Direction is one that is sadly unique to the Also Recognised roster. There’s also a nod to the behind-the-scenes folk with awards for Best Twitter Engagement, Show Trailer and Show Poster recognising the invaluable part that marketing, especially digitally, has to play in the industry.
 
So find the shortlists below and head over to My Theatre Mates to cast your vote. I helped to draw up these lists along with Mark and Terri, Andrew Keates and Mike Dixon, and the rest of the My Theatre Mates collective, and I think the blend of West End, Off-West End, fringe and regional nominees reflects that, so I’ll be most interested to see how the results pan out.

Continue reading “News: #AlsoRecognised Awards shortlists announced”

Review: Death Takes A Holiday, Charing Cross

“I’m Death. 
‘And you’re on holiday?’”

The ways in which the titles of shows are worked into the script are a source of endless amusement and new musical Death Takes A Holiday is no exception, pointing up as it does the ridiculousness of the show’s conceit. Based on the 1924 Italian play La Morte in Vacanza, which has been adapted for the silver screen a few times, most recently in the Brad Pitt stinker Meet Joe Black, Peter Stone and Thomas Meehan’s book tells the story of what happens when Death falls head over heels for an Italian duke’s daughter and so decides to take a couple of days annual leave to follow through,

Posing as a Russian prince, he joins the aristocratic family at their Lake Garda country pile, ostensibly to learn about human emotions but truth is, there’s only one he’s that keen on. And given that the main object of his study, Grazia, is a fan of the moody gothic look – despite being engaged to someone else – there’s little doubt as to whether will be alone when he returns to the day job at the end of the weekend. It’s a curious lack of dramatic imperative for a show running over two hours, especially since there’s the potential to have a proper love triangle, instead Maury Yeston’s expansive score is left to fill the gaps.  Continue reading “Review: Death Takes A Holiday, Charing Cross”

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: Floyd Collins, Wilton’s Music Hall

“Do you feel the kind of grace inside the breeze?”

One of the joys of having this blog is the aide memoire aspect of it, the theatrical diary that it has become, allowing me to trace how my tastes have shifted. I say this in particular reference to Floyd Collins, a show I didn’t much enjoy the first time I saw it at its 2012 production at the Southwark Playhouse and yet which on this revisit, four years later, I adored. 

A substantial part of it comes with the musical complexity of Adam Guettel’s score, one I (still) think few people would fall in love with instantly, but also one which has repaid repeated listens and the breadth of performers yearning to sing his music (Audra McDonald, Kelli O’Hara…), incrementally convincing me of its worth and culminating in the gloriously revelatory sound of Tom Brady’s band tucked away in the balcony of Wilton’s Music Hall. Continue reading “Review: Floyd Collins, Wilton’s Music Hall”

Review: Allegro, Southwark Playhouse

“We muffle all the undertones,
The minor blood-and-thunder tones;
The overtones are all we care to play”

Even Rodgers and Hammerstein can have a duff moment. Allegro is a rarity amongst their catalogue in that its 1947 debut was not the equal of the shows that they wrote before and after – you may have heard of them, Carousel and South Pacific… – and so has languished pretty much in obscurity ever since. But in these content-hungry, revisionist times, nothing lays untouched for too long and it is the expert hand of Thom Southerland who has brought us Allegro’s European premiere to the Southwark Playhouse.

I reviewed the 2009 first complete recording of the show in the summer and was surprised at how musically strong it was (helped of course by a stellar cast) so was intrigued to see how the book played out alongside it. And for me, it is not too hard to see why this is a show that has collected dust rather than accolades on the shelf. Telling the life and times of an ordinary American Joe, called Joe, from birth to childhood (told by puppets, eeesh!) through to mid-life crisis but so ordinary is Joe, so everyday the details of his life, that it is hard to get too excited by it. Continue reading “Review: Allegro, Southwark Playhouse”