Lockdown theatre review: Jesus Christ Superstar (2012 Arena Tour)

Jesus Christ Superstar takes to the “rock’n’roll” arena. It isn’t good.

“Why waste your breath moaning at the crowd?
Nothing can be done to stop the shouting.”

Amidst the deluge of theatrical content emerging online, it can be quite hard to make decisions about what to actually watch. Andrew Lloyd Webber’s release of the 2012 live arena tour of Jesus Christ Superstar stood out for me as though I did go and see it at the O2, we were seated at the back of the cavernous space and so the opportunity to actually see what happened on the actors’ faces was enough to tempt me. Plus it’s Good Friday…

Pre-dating the Open Air Theatre’s revelatory restaging by three years, Laurence Connor’s restaging of ALW’s 1971 rock opera lays its contemporary allusions thickly (Occupy, Guantánamo, reality TV) but right from the start, you can see how superficial it is. A busy prologue full of kinetic energy references the Occupy movement strongly but as soon as the show proper starts, it’s as if it never happens, you could cut it and never know the difference.

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Album Review: Heather Headley – Broadway My Way

Crikey, how I loved Heather Headley’s Broadway My Way, one of the best showtunes albums of recent years 

“I know that everything I need is in here”

I was unreasonably peeved at Heather Headley for a little while, taking her casting in the West End debut of The Bodyguard as a slight on UK talent, for which I was rewarded her not appearing when I saw the show! But on seeing this clip of her smashing ‘Memory’ out of the park, I realised I’d played myself in not trying to see the show again to witness her talent live.

The next best thing is her 2018 album Broadway My Way, which I’ve belatedly got round to listening to. And once again more fool me, as it is probably one of the best musical theatre albums I’ve had the privilege of hearing. A collection of songs both old and new, it is an absolute masterclass in reinterpreting material to make it so closely fit a voice as to suggest it was written just for it. Continue reading “Album Review: Heather Headley – Broadway My Way”

Album Review: Hayden Tee – Face to Face

A varied song selection means that Hayden Tee’s new album Face to Face should appeal to a wide range of musical theatre fans

“In a world of wondering, suddenly you know”

Fresh off a year in the sensible shoes of Miss Trunchbull in Matilda, New Zealand actor and singer Hayden Tee celebrates the world of musical theatre – and his path within it – with the intriguing new album Face to Face. Arranged by Nigel Ubrihien and assisted by the lushness of by a symphony orchestra, this collection covers Kander & Ebb to Jason Robert Brown and much more inbetween.

At just 9 tracks long, I might have had a touch of initial disappointment that there’s some heavily familiar material here. Les Misérables is represented twice with ‘Stars’ and ‘Empty Chairs at Empty Tables’, and the ubiquitous ‘Till I Hear You Sing’ from Love Never Dies. All are sung most competently, the controlled power at the top of Tee’s range is certainly impressive but on an entirely selfish note, I’m just tired of hearing these songs. Continue reading “Album Review: Hayden Tee – Face to Face”

Album Review: Andrew Lloyd Webber Unmasked: The Platinum Collection

Andrew Lloyd Webber, Unmasled

Andrew Lloyd Webber marks his 70th birthday with a new musical anthology –  Unmasked: The Platinum Collection – taking in shows new and old with some surprises along the way (Beyoncé, Lana del Rey, Duncan from Blue )

“Oh what a circus, oh what a show”

Upon reaching 70 this year, Andrew Lloyd Webber is clearly in a reflective mood and hot on the heels of his autobiography Unmasked released last week, comes this new compilation album Unmasked: The Platinum Collection. Available physically as a 2CD or 4CD version (the latter with a 40 page book of liner notes and tributes), this collection looks back on a career spanning nearly 50 years and features some new twists on the material as well as reminding us of the old favourites.

Over the four discs, 17 of Lloyd Webber’s shows are represented here (Jesus Christ Superstar tops the list with 8 tracks, Evita and Phantom just behind), alongside assorted one-off songs (such as ‘Amigos Para Siempre’ from the 1992 Barcelona Olympics, the Gary Barlow co-write ‘Sing’ from the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee). But for ALW fans it will be the unreleased stuff that makes the mouth water – five new orchestral suites and a smattering of new recordings featuring the likes of Lana del Rey (a winsome ‘You Must Love Me’ and Gregory Porter (a spirited ‘Light At The End Of The Tunnel’. Continue reading “Album Review: Andrew Lloyd Webber Unmasked: The Platinum Collection”

Andrew Lloyd Webber celebrates 70 years with ‘Unmasked: The Platinum Collection’

In celebration of his 70th birthday this March, new compilation ANDREW LLOYD WEBBER: THE PLATINUM COLLECTION will be available March 16th through UMC / Polydor.  

The collection is personally curated and overseen by Lloyd Webber to include classics from his earliest work starting with 1968’s Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat through his most recent School of Rock. 

Newly recorded songs from superstar artists Nicole Scherzinger (“Memory”, Cats), Gregory Porter (“Light at the End of the Tunnel”, Starlight Express) and Lana Del Rey (“You Must Love Me”, Evita) add to the collection of his cherished works from the past five decades. 

The set also contains recordings by world-class performers such as Barbra Streisand, Madonna, Michael Crawford, Sarah Brightman, Michael Ball, and released for the first time, Beyonce singing “Learn To Be Lonely” from the 2005 Academy Awards with Lloyd Webber accompanying on piano. 

UNMASKED: THE PLATINUM COLLECTION is available as 2 CD and 4 CD editions. The 4-disc version contains an exclusive 40-page book with a personally penned introduction from Lloyd Webber and more in-depth notes on each track, written by respected theatre critic and Lloyd Webber biographer Michael Coveney, together with personally written tributes from Barbara Streisand and Glenn Close among others. 

Pre-order 2 CD Edition

Pre-order 4 CD Edition

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Re-review: Matilda the Musical, Cambridge

Seven years, five stars, a return visit to Matilda the Musical shows the show has lost none of its charm

 

“When I grow up,
I will be smart enough to answer all
The questions that you need to know
The answers to before you’re grown up”

As Matilda the Musical approaches its seventh year in the West End, and a new adult cast has had a couple of weeks to bed in, I was delighted to get the chance to revisit the show. Since its premiere in Stratford back in 2010/11, it has been a musical to fall in love with over and over again. I can – and do – listen to the Original Cast Recording all the time, and it is always on top of the list of things I recommend when I’m ever asked ‘what should I see’. Take a read of my 5 star review for Official Theatre here, as I try not to use up all my words in praise of Gina Beck.

Running time: 2 hours 35 minutes (with interval)
Booking until 27th May 2018, for the moment

David Shannon, Gina Beck, Tom Edden and Marianne Benedict

 

Album Review: Groundhog Day (2017 Original Broadway Cast Recording)

“Nobody cares what I’m talking about”

It is rare that I feel so completely out of kilter with the general reception for a show to the extent that I did with Groundhog Day. The signs were all there for it being a new musical to thrill me but I was just bored rigid by it, thoroughly disappointed at what I found to be exceedingly dull. But that was definitely an outlying opinion as it received a raft of 5 star reviews, its Broadway run was secured and a return to London is guaranteed.

I didn’t get to revisit the show at the Old Vic, or rather I chose not to try and get another ticket through the general scrum, and so the release of the Original Broadway Cast Recording offered a useful opportunity to revisit Tim Minchin’s score and see if I was able to locate anything of what has worked so well for so many. And like my own personal groundhog day, the three times I listened to this album revealed nothing new to me – I just don’t like it!

Winners announced for the #AlsoRecognised Awards 2017

 

Several shows in the running for this year’s Olivier Awards, announced next Sunday 9 April, are also recognised this week in the third-annual Also Recognised Awards – in some notably different categories. The full list of winners is announced today in this audience-voted, industry accolade set up by theatre commentators Mark Shenton and Terri Paddock to celebrate lesser-known but equally worthy talent in fields overlooked by other awards bodies.

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Critics’ Circle Awards 2016: the winners in full

 

Even without trying, I end up being contrary! The Critics’ Circle Awards have announced their winners for 2016 and as I cast my eyes down the list, I was amused to see that their best new play and best musical were shows that I did not hugely enjoy (The Flick and Groundhog Day) and their best actor pick – Stephen Dillane – was another that did not register with me at all.
After that, things chime a little better with me, with Billie Piper’s excoriating work in Yerma, which is returning this summer, and Glenda Jackson’s extraordinary Lear (whatever you thought of the production, her production was a stonking return to the stage) both being recognised. And deservedly, the creatives behind Harry Potter and the Cursed Child gain just as much recognition, if not more, as its cast. Lovely to see Charlene James getting a nod too for  Cuttin’ It as most promising playwright.
 
Best new play:

The Flick by Annie Baker
 
Best musical [new or revival]: 
Groundhog Day

Best actor: 
Stephen Dillane in Faith Healer

Best actress:
Billie Piper in Yerma
 
Best Shakespearean performance:
Glenda Jackson in King Lear
 
Best director:
John Tiffany for Harry Potter and the Cursed Child

Best designer:
Christine Jones for Harry Potter and the Cursed Child

Most promising playwright:
Charlene James for Cuttin’ It

Most promising newcomer: 
Anthony Boyle in Harry Potter and the Cursed Child

 

 

Anthony Boyle & John Tiffany (c) Peter Jones

 

Anthony Pins, Billie Piper, Stephen Dillane, Paul Taiano (c) Peter Jones

 

Tim Firth & Joanna Riding (c) Peter Jones