Review: Adam & Eve….and Steve, King’s Head

“It’s fine for Sweden but not for Eden”

If you were so inclined, you could rip into Adam & Eve….and Steve for its tendency towards dramatic inconsistency and slight musical blandness but as Beelzebub pops up to tell us early on, it’s all “just a bit of heavenly humour”. And given that the show has thrived on the festival circuit (including Edinburgh last year) and is now playing in the late slot at the King’s Head, the temptation to take the Devil’s advice is a strong one.

For Adam & Eve… is affable indeed, enjoyable (particularly with a pint in hand) without ever straining too hard, and unashamedly light entertainment with its revisionist take on the Creation myth. Chandler Warren’s book posits a Garden of Eden where Eve’s temptation by an apple is matched with Adam’s temptation by an additional companion in Paradise called Steve, God’s plans for the human race thus thrown into disarray by the gays. Continue reading “Review: Adam & Eve….and Steve, King’s Head”

CD Review: Mamma Mia (Original Cast Recording 1999)

“It’s the best I can do”

It’s easy to be dismissive about Mamma Mia and all it has wrought in revitalising the jukebox musical as a form but the numbers don’t lie. 17 years and counting in the West End, the 8th longest running show on Broadway (it occupies the same position on the UK ranking at the moment too), a wildly successful film adaptation that became the highest grossing musical ever…it’s impressive stuff.

And listening to the Original Cast Recording from 1999, subsequently re-released with bonus tracks for the 5th anniversary, I’d say it’s fairly easy to see why it has endured so long. For all you may mock Catherine Johnson’s book, which hangs oh so lightly on a varied selection of Benny Andersson and Björn Ulvaeus’ iconic music for ABBA, it actually does interesting things with it, in telling its own story rather relying on the songs themselves (I’m looking at you Jersey Boys…!)

So to say you’re better off listening to ABBA’s greatest hits is to miss the point. As light as the plot may be in its girl-wants-father-to-walk-her-down-the-aisle-but-finds-there’s-three-potential-candidates frothiness but there’s something genuinely tender in hearing ‘Chiquitita’ repurposed for two friends comforting a third, maternal lament ‘Slipping Through My Fingers’ actually sung between mother and daughter, the stag v hens vivacity of ‘Lay All Your Love on Me’.

And yes, they sound different to the originals, of course they do with a full orchestra and chorus to back them up, not to mention the lack of Swedish accents. This recording is a little blessed too in having the film’s soundtrack with its interesting casting choices to easily surpass, but that’s not to take away from the delightful vocals of Louise Plowright, Jenny Galloway, and Siobhán McCarthy as the leading trio, the latter’s Donna a fabulous leading lady from heartbreak to happiness.

Plowright’s cougarish ways enliven ‘Does Your Mother Know’ no end and Galloway’s equally predatory stance toward Nic Colicos’ Bill in ‘Take A Chance on Me’ is a delight. Lisa Stokke’s Sophie, the bride-to-be is charm personified and in keeping with the show’s female-friendly ethos, her intended – Andrew Langtree’s Sky – is somewhat sidelined. For me, ‘Our Last Summer’ has always been one of my favourite ABBA songs and remains so here, ruefully sung by former rocker Harry, an appealing Paul Clarkson, and McCarthy with a gentle loveliness that seems to stand in for the show as a whole.

Review: Mamma Mia (and memories), Novello

“If you’ve got no place to go, if you’re feeling down…”

Mamma Mia has been on my list of shows that I’ve never quite got round to seeing for ages now. I’d decided that I wanted to go in a large group, on a Friday night, after a fair few Hendricks and Fever Trees, but somehow it never quite happened. In the meantime, the show moved to the Novello to make way for those Mormon boys and then an expected Christmas present landed in my lap as a friend, tired of me saying ‘one day I’ll go’, bought me a ticket.

Though it wasn’t at all like I planned – a single ticket for a Monday evening with a bottle of Diet Coke – it actually proved to be a brilliant way to see the show and to restart my theatregoing for 2014. It was the evening after my first day back at work, I was sat front row centre and the huge geniality of a like-minded audience made it as genuinely pleasurable experience as one could expect from such a long-running stalwart of the West End. Continue reading “Review: Mamma Mia (and memories), Novello”

Review: Me & Juliet, Finborough

“The theatre is dying. No, the theatre is living”

One of the most annoying things about the transport network in this country is the fact that so much of the repair work and resulting closures take place at the weekend so that normal folk are vastly inconvenienced whilst the suits have their week-day travel protected. Whether it is national train services being replaced with coaches or TfL’s ever-ongoing programme of line closures and restricted services on both the underground and overground trains, it makes it extremely hard to make a reliable travel schedule. Which is a long-winded way for me getting round to saying that despite my best efforts, I only made it to the second half of Me & Juliet at the Finborough.

Consequently this is going to be more a collection of comments rather than a full-blown review, you should head over to Webcowgirl’s site to read the view of someone who arrived on time. This is actually the European premiere of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s show, continuing the Finborough’s exploration of the lesser known works from their canon, State Fair received its UK debut here last year subsequently transferring to the Trafalgar Studios 2 this summer. Continue reading “Review: Me & Juliet, Finborough”

Review: State Fair, Trafalgar Studios 2

“Our state fair is a great state fair, don’t miss it, don’t even be late”

Originally produced at the Finborough last summer in what was incredibly its UK stage premiere, Rodgers & Hammerstein’s State Fair makes a transfer to the small basement theatre of Trafalgar Studios. Partly recast and given a design refresh, it extended its run by a couple of weeks due to demand, meaning I finally got round to seeing it, having been on holiday for most of its run, both this year and last.

In the grand scheme of things, State Fair is a fairly simple play, it revolves around the Frakes, a rural farming family who journey to the three day Iowa State Fair to compete with their livestock and their condiments, and have a little fun too. It started life as a film with five Rodgers & Hammerstein songs in it, ‘It Might As Well Be Spring’ won them their only Oscar, but as it was developed into a musical in the late 90s, the score was substantially beefed up by the incorporation of a number of songs most of which had been cut from other R&H shows such as Oklahoma! and Pipe Dream. Continue reading “Review: State Fair, Trafalgar Studios 2”