10 questions for 10 years – Matthew Parker

As the Hope Theatre’s outgoing AD prepares for his final season and new adventures, Matthew Parker takes a little time to answer Ten Questions for Ten Years

It is no mean feat to transform a fringe theatre into a must-see venue but that’s what Mr Parker has done so successfully over the last few years at the Hope. Both as a director (Her Aching Heart and Steel Magnolias being particular highlights) and as an artistic director (his programming really has been reliably delightful), he has flourished and consequently, I’ve kept on going back even on Arsenal matchdays…  
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Review: The Rink, Southwark Playhouse

Get your roller-skates on and over to the Southwark Playhouse for a croking revival of Kander & Ebb’s The Rink with a stonkingly good Caroline O’Connor

“Noisy boys, long and lean.
Giggles of girls in the mezzanine”

All sorts of thoughts pass through your mind as you watch The Rink, at least they do if you’re me. Wouldn’t Gemma Sutton be perfect casting in the lead of the inevitable Lindsay Lohan: The Musical; does Jason Winter have the longest legs in musical theatre; does Caroline O’Connor have any trace of a Lancashire accent at all; didn’t Kander and Ebb write fricking fantastic songs for women; and does an ability to roller-skate in a musical make you a quadruple threat?

That’s not to say I was distracted whilst sweltering in the Southwark Playhouse during this preview on Saturday, but rather that my mind was entirely stimulated (not least when Winter does some kind of windmill move on the floor…😃). The Rink is one of those musicals that history hasn’t treated too kindly, despite a premiere that starred Chita Rivera and Liza Minnelli but with Adam Lenson’s expert hand at the tiller, this is a revival to treasure. Continue reading “Review: The Rink, Southwark Playhouse”

Nominations for the 2017 Drama Desk Awards

Outstanding Play
If I Forget, by Steven Levenson, Roundabout Theatre Company
Indecent, by Paula Vogel, Vineyard Theatre
A Life, by Adam Bock, Playwrights Horizons
Oslo, by J. T. Rogers, Lincoln Center Theater
Sweat, by Lynn Nottage, The Public Theater
 
Outstanding Musical
Anastasia
The Band’s Visit, Atlantic Theater Company
Come From Away
Hadestown, New York Theatre Workshop
The Lightning Thief: The Percy Jackson Musical

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Re-review: Ragtime, Charing Cross

“You can never go back to before”

Mother may spend a song telling us that we can never go ‘Back To Before’ but fortunately you can go back to Ragtime with no fear. And in a post-election climate, it can’t help but feel even more charged as the USA finds itself at a(nother) momentous point in its history. You can read my original review here and if anything, Thom Southerland’s production has gotten even better as the actor-musicians feel even more confident and comfortable. 

Leading performances from Jennifer Saayeng and Ako Mitchell, Earl Carpenter and Anita Louise Combe, and Gary Tushaw remain powerful as ever. But on second viewing I enjoyed watching ensemble members and just how damn hard they’re working – Kate Robson-Stuart, Christopher Dickins and James Mack particularly standing out for me… If you’ve not seen the show yet, there’s a trailer below for your delectation but move quickly, there’s less than a month less of the run. Continue reading “Re-review: Ragtime, Charing Cross”

Review: Ragtime, Charing Cross

“And say to those who blame us for the way we chose to fight
That sometimes there are battles that are more than black or white.”

It’s impossible to watch Ragtime right now without marvelling at its relevance to the current US presidential election campaign and the lessons that were right there for Donald Trump and his team to learn. For in many ways, the show – written by Ahrens and Flaherty with book by Terrence McNally from EL Doctorow’s novel – is about the development of the modern American nation and identifies three key groups instrumental in that societal change in women, African-Americans and immigrant communities, the very people Trump has done his damnedest to alienate.

Politics aside, what’s more significant is the magical touch that director Thom Southerland seems to have when it comes to reconceiving musicals, as his actor-musician production here at the Charing Cross Theatre is an extraordinary success. Keeping most of his 24-strong company onstage throughout amplifies the overarching humanity of its storytelling, reminding us that these are all of our stories regardless of whichever group we ‘belong’. Combined with the expert musicality onstage and an ingenious design from Tom Rogers and Toots Butcher, it’s an irresistible adaptation that shouldn’t be missed. Continue reading “Review: Ragtime, Charing Cross”

Nominations for the 2015 Drama Desk Awards

Outstanding Play:
Clare Barron, You Got Older
Lisa D’Amour, Airline Highway
Anthony Giardina, The City of Conversation
Stephen Adly Guirgis, Between Riverside and Crazy
Elizabeth Irwin, My Manãna Comes
Simon Stephens, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time
Jack Thorne, Let the Right One In

Outstanding Musical:
An American in Paris
Hamilton
Fly By Night
Pretty Filthy
Something Rotten!
The Visit Continue reading “Nominations for the 2015 Drama Desk Awards”

Review: It’s Only A Play, Gerald Schoenfeld Theatre

“My first night in New York and I’m high-fiving Denzel Washington”

Of everything that I saw or considered seeing in New York, It’s Only A Play possibly best exemplifies the dilemma I faced. Being such an actor junkie, the prospect of Stockard Channing and Nathan Lane and Megan Mullally (the latter two for the first time) was hugely tempting but I could scarcely ignore the fact that they were in a backstage farce. But the lure of the Lane was strong and so I booked myself in, hoping that low expectations would allow me to enjoy it.

And did I? I can’t really say, even now. I certainly laughed quite a bit, chuckling along with the theatre industry references of which there were masses and marvelling at how many modern touches Terrence McNally had managed to stuff into his updated text (James Franco’s x-rated selfies, Shia LeBeouf’s erratic behaviour and Alec Baldwin’s red-hot temper just a few that I can recall). But the whole thing does still feel curiously old-fashioned and perhaps a little self-satisfied.

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Review: Master Class, Vaudeville

“Never miss an opportunity to theatricalise”

The obvious place to start with this review of Terrence McNally’s play Master Class is to take note of the fact that following Sharon Gless’ turn in A Round-Heeled Woman, it is now Tyne Daly’s turn as she reprises her Broadway performance as Maria Callas here. But even as it now means that I’ve seen both Cagney and Lacey on the stage, I have never actually seen an episode of Cagney and Lacey! A Round-Heeled Woman has now finished but as Master Class starts up its limited run at the Vaudeville Theatre (this was a preview), I have no hesitations in totally recommending booking for this fabulous show.

Initial signs were not encouraging as Daly’s first arrival on stage was met with rapturous applause, a personal bugbear but something more is going on as the fourth wall was immediately dismantled and it becomes apparent that we in the audience are actually playing a part in the show. Based on a series of master classes that renowned opera singer Maria Callas actually held at Julliard in the 1970s, we see three students present their efforts for deconstruction by the great diva and by golly does she deconstruct. And we are acknowledged as the audience watching the master class, Callas jokes with us, hectors and exhorts us to embrace her every word and generally folds us into proceedings in the most engaging of manners. Continue reading “Review: Master Class, Vaudeville”