News: the Hippodrome to host music, magic and comedy this winter

Fourth Wall Live and The Hippodrome Casino London are thrilled to announce a series of over 40 shows at the Hippodrome Casino this winter. The season runs from 18 November every week for 5 weeks and will include two shows nightly at 7.00pm and 9.00pm.

The series will feature stars from the world of musical theatre, comedy and magic with all tickets priced £20. Audiences will be safely socially distanced following the most up-to-date safety guidelines. There will be 130 tickets on sale per show and tickets go on sale soon. Sign up at www.fw-live.com for advance presale and further announcements. Continue reading “News: the Hippodrome to host music, magic and comedy this winter”

Review: First Date – the Musical

Samantha Barks and Simon Lipkin lead a terrific ensemble in this innovative, virtual production of First Date – the Musical – shame about the show itself…

“It’s only a first impression
And though the impression is strong
It never can hurt to question
Though I doubt this will lead to romance”

There’s so much to commend in this virtual production of First Date – the Musical. Directed by Dean Johnson in the elegant surroundings of the Crazy Coqs, there’s a really clever use of video inserts to enhance this show about an unlikely blind date and make it stand out in the ever-crowded market of livestreams that are available.

Johnson’s videography is genuinely high-quality and provides a constant stream of laughs, as moody black and white segments will awkward pauses and fantasy sequences support the main event. And with Simon Lipkin and Samantha Barks leading the cast, and Oscar Conlon-Morrey, Nicholas McLean and Danielle Steers making up an ensemble of dreams, signs look good. Continue reading “Review: First Date – the Musical”

Casting news for early September

As some theatres look to a careful reopening and others consolidate their online offers, casting news of four intriguing shows breaks 

The Last Five Years at Southwark Playhouse will star Molly Lynch (Cathy) and Oli Higginson (Jamie) who return to their roles after they were cut short on 16 March. They will be appearing in the show from 1 – 31 October and will be in the same ‘support bubble’ so the show won’t adhere to socially distancing staging.

However, in the venue, there will be strict social distancing measures in place. For full info on that head here and click on the Covid-19 FAQS tab: https://southwarkplayhouse.co.uk/the-large/the-last-five-years/#covidfaqs Continue reading “Casting news for early September”

10 of my top moments of the decade

Ever behind the curve, I present 10 of my top moments in a theatre over the last ten years (plus a few bonus extra ones because whittling down this list was hard, and it will probably be different tomorrow anyway!)

© James Bellorini

Extraordinary Public Acts for a National Theatre

The establishment of the Public Acts programme at the National Theatre offered up something sensational in Pericles, an initiative designed to connect grassroot community organisations with major theatres, resulting in a production that swept over 200 non-professional performers onto the stage of the Olivier to create something that moved me more than 99% of professional productions.  A truly joyous and momentous occasion. 

Honourable mention: this year’s musical take on As You Like It proved just as heart-swellingly beautiful over at the Queen’s Theatre Hornchurch. Continue reading “10 of my top moments of the decade”

Film Review: Nativity Rocks! (2018)

The fourth instalment in the Nativity film series, Nativity Rocks! restores a little of the goodwill squandered by the previous two sequels

“I’m wishing Father Christmas doesn’t forget where I live like he did last year”

I can’t think of a film franchise that has squandered such promise as the Nativity series. Debbie Isitt’s original film was such a sweetly unexpected success, but its magic sadly proved rather elusive as its subsequent sequels lost any of its sense of purpose or improvised charm. So the arrival of a third sequel in the shape of Nativity Rocks! (released in cinemas in 2018) came with a healthy dose of apprehension, even if the musical adaptation has rescued some of its lustre (though is that also now in danger of oversaturation , as the musical is now in its third consecutive winter tour).

For all my reservations though, Isitt had zero problem in attracting a quality ensemble as the cast undergoes something of an overhaul. So Marc Wootton’s Mr Poppy is dispatched to Australia and replaced with Simon Lipkin’s Mr Poppy (his long-lost brother), Daniel Boys is the fresh-faced teacher taking St Bernadette’s school choir through the rigours of yet another competition, with Helen George as the putative love interest, Gabriel Vick as the posh rival schoolmaster. Plus there’s Hugh Dennis and Anna Chancellor as some well-to-do parents, Ramin Karimloo as a refugee father, Meera Syal and Celia Imrie too, plus Craig Revel Horwood… Continue reading “Film Review: Nativity Rocks! (2018)”

Album Review: Jon Robyns – Musical Direction

I’ve long admired Jon Robyns and his new album Musical Direction reflects on his career so far beautifully, as well as suggesting what fun lies ahead

“You can get what you want or you get old”

Having fallen in love with Jon Robyns in parallel with tumbling hard for Avenue Q, he really is the leading man of my (entirely platonic) dreams, so news of a new solo album was certainly up my strasse. And Musical Direction manages an excellent job of balancing many of the aspects of that come with musical theatre performers making their own recordings.

There are nods to his performance past – a chirpy take on The Last Five Years’ ‘Moving Too Fast’ and a delicately beautiful glide through Chitty Chitty Bang Bang’s Hushabye Mountain  – and a perfectly timed look to the future too. And this is where the cleverness kicks in as you may not think you really need another version of ‘Bring Him Home’ but this acoustic, cello-drenched arrangement is spine-tingling good, certainly whetting the appetite for his imminent debut as Jean Valjean when Les Misérables reopens the Sondheim Theatre. Continue reading “Album Review: Jon Robyns – Musical Direction”

The Curtain Up Show Album of the Year 2017 nominees

Best UK Cast Recording
42nd Street – 2017 London Cast Recording
Bat Out Of Hell The Musical – Original Cast Recording
Dreamgirls – Original London Cast Recording
Everybody’s Talking About Jamie – Original Concept Recording
Girl From The North Country – Original London West End Cast Recording
The Wind in the Willows – Cast Recording

Best American Cast Recording
Anastasia – Original Broadway Cast Recording
Come From Away – Original Broadway Cast Recording
Dear Evan Hansen – Original Broadway Cast Recording
Hello, Dolly! – New Broadway Cast Recording
Spongebob Squarepants – Original Cast Recording
Sunday in the Park with George – 2017 Broadway Cast Recording

Best Solo Album/Non Cast Recording
Collabro – Home
Leading Ladies – Songs From The Stage
Marisha Wallace – Soul Holiday
Patti LuPone – Don’t Monkey With Broadway
Rachel Tucker – On The Road
Sheridan Smith – Sheridan

Review: Nativity! The Musical, Birmingham Rep

“A cheeky drink, a naughty wink,
we’ll loosen up alright”

Just like a wise man, I came late to Nativity, only getting round to watching Debbie Isitt’s film a couple of years ago but oh, how it won me over, feeling like an instant Christmas classic. (The less said about the sequel and the shocking third film, the better). So it was little surprise to hear that Isitt was adapting her film for the stage, in the form of Nativity! The Musical. And though I have once again embraced my inner Scrooge and won’t be reviewing much, if any, festive fare this year, I couldn’t resist the chance to sparkle and shine.

And I’m glad I did, even if it is a full month too early to be even thinking of anything Christmassy. Nativity remains a beautifully heart-warming story and if anything, has even more of a feel-good factor about it through all the liveness of this production. The story centres on Coventry primary school St Bernadette’s, trying to escape Ofsted-imposed special measures by beating a rival school to putting on the best Christmas show which, through the most tenuous of links, might just attract Hollywood interest and get turned into a film. Continue reading “Review: Nativity! The Musical, Birmingham Rep”