February news round-up

Lots to catch up on so here’s a quick round-up of some upcoming concerts and events that could well be worth your time

If you’re looking for the more social side of things to go along with your theatregoing, then have a look here. Getgo Club is like a book club for theatre. Each month they take members to amazing London theatre & host a pre-show mingle, followed by a post-show discussion. The event is curated and hosted by working artists who will  ensure that discussions take place in a safe, fun, & open environment. Members also receive extra goodies such as discounts on tickets & drinks. All for £5!

Getgo Club is a great way to join a community of arts lovers, and head to a variety of theatre as a group. It has  and The first meet-up is at the end of February and I hear they have very limited spaces left so why not find out more here or even just apply directly for a membership here.


The visibility of mental health support has never felt more important and so it is good to see events raising awareness and much-needed funds popping up. Simply Live is a cabaret in aid of Industry Minds, who provide free and low cost mental health support to anyone in the creative arts through therapy, seminars and other useful tools.

Takiig place at Bunga Bunga Covent Garden, on Sunday 15th March, they have already announced a promising line-up which includes Grace Mouat, Cameron Burt, Tom Gill, Hannah-Grace Lawson, Vanity von Glow, and Claire O’Leary. Follow the event on Twitter or Instagram and then book your places here to support this great organisation.


Ahead of a revival at the Hope Mill next month, Zorro the Musical revisits London with a one-off concert recital at Cadogan Hall with London Musical Theatre Orchestra & Chorus and a tip-top cast including the glorious Emma Williams reprising her original role and therefore singing the beautiful song ‘Falling’.    

The full cast is Ricardo Afonso (Zorro/Diego), Emma Williams (Luisa), Lesli Margherita (Inez), Robert Tripolino (Ramon) and Zubin Varla (Don Alejandro). Also appearing will be Catarina Amaral, Daniel Amity, Charlotte Clitherow, Richard James-King, Danny Lane, James Leeman, Lauren Lockley, Matthew McDonald, Mia Michaud, Grace Mouat, Rebecca Ridout, Justine Saville, Margarida Silva, Joe Thompson-Oubari, Richard Upton and Enrico Volpi.


Also working the one-off concert vibe on Sunday is The Pirate Queen, as Boublil And Schönberg’s musical is revived for a charity gala at the London Coliseum with proceeds going to Leukaemia UK. Most exciting for me is the return of Hannah Waddingham to a stage

Main cast
Rachel Tucker (Grace O’Malley), Hannah Waddingham (Queen Elizabeth I), Steph Parry (Majella), Emma Norman (Evleen), Earl Carpenter (Dubhdara), Daniel Boys (Lord Bingham), ‘Britain’s Got Talent’ winner Jai McDowall (Tiernan) and Matthew Pagan (Donal) from Collabro.

Featured ensemble
Pearce Barron, Jamie Birkett, Trudi Camilleri, Sabrina Carter, Shaun Dalton, Adam Dawson, Callum Heinrich, Jade Johnson, Harry Mills, Charlotte Payne, Sophie Reeves, and Jak Skelly

Ensemble
Skye Adams, Thomas Ball, Jeremy Batt, Mary-Jean Caldwell, Sinead O’Callaghan, Christopher Cameron, Jordan Castle, Alfie Doohan, Charlie Ellerton,  Judicel Eslao, Nicola Espallardo, Amy Everett, Lois Morgan Gay, Aidan Harkins, Siwan Henderson, Hannah-Grace Lawson, James Mateo-Salt, Scarlett Maltman, Ethan Tanner, Harry Winchester,  and Cristian Zaccarini.


There’s also a concert version of The Secret Garden (not taking place on Sunday, it’s the 4th April for this one) which is aiming to fill the London Palladium with its lead cast of Lucie Jones, Ramin Karimloo and Jac Yarrow.

Also appearing in the show will be Sarah Bakker (Rose), Bianca Baykara (Alice), Adam J Bernard (Ben Weatherstaff), Lucy Drever (Narrator), Louise Ellard-Turnbull (Mrs Winthrop), Ben Forster (Neville Craven), Sejal Keshwala (Ayah), Melanie La Barrie (Mrs Medlock), Johndeep More (Fakir), Michael Riseley (Captain Albert Lennox), Celinde Schoenmaker (Lily), and sharing the roles of Colin Craven are Finley Glasgow and Isaac Lancel Watkinson, and of Mary are Aoife Hughes and Darcy Jacobs, with Trinity Laban Musical Theatre forming the ensemble.


With Mean Girls due to arrive in the West End in Spring 2021, the folks at Official Theatre managed to get our hands on the Plastics latest Burn Book and it’s full of burns and gossip about some of the West End’s favourite characters! No one escapes the wrath of Regina and Co, from the characters of Wicked and & Juliet, to James McAvoy’s Cyrano de Bergerac and even Henry VIII from SIX (well, sort of).

Take a look at the full West End Burn Book here. Could you do better? They’re looking for the best ‘burns‘ for some of the other characters in London theatre and you might even get added into the book itself.

Review: Chess, London Coliseum

Nobody’s on nobody’s side – an all-star cast can’t save this game of Chess from itself, for me at least

“From square one I’ll be watching all sixty-four”

It’s taken over 30 years for Chess to return to the West End (though it was seen at the Union in 2013) and though it has a huge amount of resource thrown at it in Laurence Connor’s production for English National Opera, it doesn’t necessarily feel worth the wait. An 80’s mega-musical through and through with an intermittently cracking score from ABBA’s Benny Andersson and Björn Ulvaeus, Richard Nelson’s book hasn’t aged particularly well and bears the hallmarks of the  substantial tinkering it has had at every opportunity.

It’s not too hard to see why it has needed the tinkering. The mix of Cold War politics told through the prism of rival US and Soviet chess Grandmasters, love triangles and power ballads is a tricky one to get right and part of the problem seems to be just how seriously to take it all. On the one hand, the chess matches are backgrounded with montages of the real-life tensions of the 80s; on the other, scenes that take us through the various locations of the tournaments are a cringeworthy riot of cultural stereotyping that revel in their utter kitsch. Continue reading “Review: Chess, London Coliseum”

Review: An American in Paris, Dominion

“Who could ask for anything more”

True to its name, An American in Paris premiered in 2014 at the Théâtre du Châtelet in the French capital to ecstatic reviews before transferring to the Palace Theatre on Broadway for another well-received (and Tony-winning) run there. It now rocks up at the newly refurbished Dominion Theatre, just ahead of another huge dance-heavy Broadway musical in 42nd Street, producers clearly banking on audiences wanting distraction from the realities of the outside world.

And that it certainly provides – director and choreographer Christopher Wheeldon’s reinvention of the 1951 film (new book by Craig Lucas) is an absolute feast for the eyes and ears. George and Ira Gershwin’s score is beyond classic (‘I Got Rhythm’, ”S Wonderful’, ‘They Can’t Take That Away from Me’ et al) and sounds luscious in Rob Fisher’s new arrangements musically directed by John Rigby, and Bob Crowley’s set and costumes look divine in all their old-school charm. Continue reading “Review: An American in Paris, Dominion”

The Curtain Up Show Album of the Year 2016 nominees

Best UK Cast Recording
American Psycho – Original London Cast Recording
Close To You: Bacharach Reimagined – Original London Cast Recording
Funny Girl – Original London Cast Recording
Half A Sixpence – 2016 London Cast Recording
Kinky Boots – Original West End Cast Recording
Mrs Henderson Presents – Original London Cast Recording

Best American Cast Recording
Allegiance – Original Broadway Cast Recording
The Color Purple – New Broadway Cast Recording
Fiddler On The Roof – 2016 Broadway Cast Recording
Lazarus – Original Cast Recording
On Your Feet! – Original Broadway Cast Recording
Waitress – Original Broadway Cast Recording

Best Solo Album / Non Cast Recording
Cheyenne Jackson – Renaissance
Lin-Manuel Miranda – The Hamilton Mixtape
Idina Menzel – idina.
Kristin Chenoweth – The Art of Elegance
Nadim Naaman – Sides
Samantha Barks – Samantha Barks

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)”

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”

20 shows to look forward to in 2016

2016 is nearly upon and for once, I’ve hardly anything booked for the coming year and what I do have tickets for, I’m hardly that inspired by (the Garrick season has been ruined by the awfulness of the rear stalls seats, and I only got Harry Potter and the Cursed Child tickets due to FOMO). Not for the first time, I’m intending to see less theatre next year but I do have my eyes on a good few productions in the West End, fringe and beyond. Continue reading “20 shows to look forward to in 2016”

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: Follies in Concert, Royal Albert Hall

“Flawless charmers
Every one”

An early birthday from my Aunty Jean saw me get to revisit those wonderfully swiveling seats at the Royal Albert Hall for the matinée of Follies in Concert, a semi-staged version of the Sondheim show directed by Craig Revel-Horwood for just two performances with an all-star cast, featuring none other than Diane Lockhart herself, Christine Baranski. Having never seen the show before, I have nothing to compare it too but after hearing the score played by the City of London Philharmonic Orchestra and conducted by the inimitable Gareth Valentine, I suspect I may never need to hear another version! 

The set-up of a reunion concert for an old theatrical troupe as per James Goldman’s book works wonders for the show and especially this production. There seemed to be real joy and appreciation amongst the company as they watched their colleagues each take their turn to reprise their former glories – Anita Harris and Roy Hudd’s light-hearted skip through ‘Rain on the Roof’, Stefanie Powers’ glamorous swish through ‘Ah, Paris!’, Lorna Luft’s quirky take on ’Broadway Baby’, Betty Buckley raising the roof with a soaring ‘I’m Still Here’ – whether the onlookers were acting or not, seeing them give each turn hugs, kisses and standing ovations felt real. Continue reading “Review: Follies in Concert, Royal Albert Hall”