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”

Review: Lazarus, King’s Cross

“A man lost in time”

It’s no secret that I’m a big Ivo van Hove fan, I’ve been to New York and Amsterdam several times to see his work as regular readers will know, so booking for his latest show to hit London – Lazarus – was a no-brainer. At the same time though, I have to say that the music of David Bowie has played little part in my life, so a musical continuing the story of his 1976 film The Man Who Fell To Earth and based on his songs doesn’t actually carry the same appeal that I might normally have with a van Hove show.

Of course, the shock news of Bowie’s passing as the show opened in New York this past winter lends Lazarus an especial charge, featuring as it does songs from his later albums and songs that were written for this project, among some of the last he ever penned. To an outsider though, it makes for strange experience with a strong sense of mood prevailing over a defined narrative progression, Enda Walsh co-writing a book with Bowie that is labyrinthine in its own fractured, hallucinatory way. Continue reading “Review: Lazarus, King’s Cross”

CD Review: Hey Producer!

“I was wond’ring when you gonna notice me”

Hey Producer! is a collection of musical theatre and cabaret songs by composer Danny Davies, pulling together selections from cabarets, excerpts from musicals he has written and specially composed songs for this CD. It was released in 2012, and as is the way with these albums, a spectacular array of performers have been assembled to deliver this material. From fresher talents like Julie Atherton and Daniel Boys to the more experienced hands of Peter Polycarpou and Rosie Ashe, the combined effect is of an old-school musical theatre vibe that is rather pleasing.

The CD starts with a classic cabaret number, Atherton’s ‘Hey Producer!’ in which a budding star pleads for her chance for a big break, offering up any kind of inducement including her body even though “you’re probably gay” – witty and light and one can imagine it going down a storm somewhere like the Crazy Coqs. We then move into a sequence of impassioned old-school balladry – Patrick Smyth’s ‘Falling Rai’n, Chris Thatcher and Alison Jiear’s ‘One More Night’ and Polycarpou’s ‘Twice the Man’ all stir the soul with noble sentiment, rousing emotion and most significantly, cleanly memorable tunes. Continue reading “CD Review: Hey Producer!”

Review: Jesus Christ Superstar, O2 Arena

“Tell the mob who sing your song that they are fools and they are wrong”

Having gone down the road of television casting once again for one of his shows and quite possibly killing off the genre at the same time, Andrew Lloyd-Webber’s much-touted revival of his 1971 rock opera Jesus Christ Superstar will hopefully have the same effect on staging theatrical productions in cavernous arenas like London’s O2. Director Laurence Connor’s concept has been to relocate the loose retelling of Jesus’ last week to a modern-day context, pulling out strong allusions to the Occupy movement, riots, Guantánamo Bay and reality television. 

Tim Minchin’s Judas is the undoubted highlight of the show, a stirringly confident rock vocal of fierce conviction that near perfectly captures the essence of what Lloyd-Webber is trying to achieve but elsewhere there is much less strength. Ben Forster’s Jesus mauls Gethsemane almost beyond recognition but fares better elsewhere where his falsetto is more aptly deployed and his angst not so overplayed; Melanie Chisholm’s goth take on Mary Magdalene is anaemically thin and utterly forgettable; Chris Moyles’ highly gimmicky Jerry Springer-esque King Herod – he hosts a show called Hark! with Herod, a rare flash of genuine humour – is thankfully brief; Alex Hanson’s Pilate is a quality performance that stands out from a hard-working ensemble, but too often the wide lens of the show means that their efforts pass by unnoticed. Continue reading “Review: Jesus Christ Superstar, O2 Arena”

Blogged: a couple of YouTube clips for your delectation

After being given a lovely recommendation of a video on YouTube that most definitely spoke to my interests, I got to thinking how to say thank you, and so I thought I’d pop a couple of my favourite YouTube clips on here in return. Perhaps unsurprisingly, they’re all musical theatre related, but that’s just how I roll 😉

First up is a video that I’m sure that of you will have seen already: Julie Atherton’s hilarious clip for ‘Portrait of a Princess’, created to coincide with Michael Bruce’s album launch for Unwritten Songs (on which the track appears). My love for Ms Atherton is no secret and this really is one of the best show cases of why I love her so much, her gift for comic acting whilst singing is just second to none – the eye rolls at 3:45 are a particular thing of joy – even just the fact that it is set in bits of Hackney I know well amuses me, skipping gaily through Ridley Road market is a hoot. Throw in cameos from a princely Russell Tovey, a slutty Sheridan Smith and an outrageously buff Jon Lee, amongst others, and it’s a definite recipe for success. Continue reading “Blogged: a couple of YouTube clips for your delectation”

Review: Live at the Studios – Julie Atherton in Concert

“No one else has ever shown me how, to see the world the way I see it now”

It is no secret that I am a little bit of a fan of Julie Atherton (although I did have to take her name off the display of tags at the bottom of this page because it was making all the other ones look so small!) and I love that she seems to be constantly working, meaning that there are endless opportunities to see her perform or listen to her recordings. I very much enjoyed Ordinary Days but I was more than a little annoyed when a series of late night post-show cabarets were announced for Wednesday nights, after I’d booked my ticket (for a Thursday) and my diary was already booked up for the Wednesdays she was playing. But as it turned out, Caryl Churchill’s Fen wasn’t too long a play and so a quick tube and a little bit of running from Charing Cross to the Trafalgar Studios later, I made it in the nick of time to her final cabaret show and I could not have been more glad to make it as it really was a superb evening (not least because she was sat RIGHT NEXT TO ME at one point in the evening and I totally managed not to lose it).

The beauty of cabarets is that they can be mixed to showcase all sorts of things, they’re not beholden to a strict format or theme beyond those that are self-imposed and so it was tonight. We got a nice smattering of cabaret standards delivered with her customary vocal precision (does anyone do wordy comic songs better than her? I think not) and some tracks from her latest album No Space For Air, including the beautiful ‘Never Saw Blue Like That’ (which random pointless trivia fact fans, was one of my big sister’s favourite songs way back cos it was on the Dawson’s Creek 2 soundtrack!). But this freedom to do the songs she wants meant that we were also treated to one of the songs that didn’t make it onto the album, a tender version of Damien Rice’s ‘Cannonball’, her take on the written-for-a-man ‘Someone To Fall Back On’ by Jason Robert Brown and her playing around with Wicked’s ‘For Good’ with Oliver Tompsett as Glinda, a surprisingly effective choice. Continue reading “Review: Live at the Studios – Julie Atherton in Concert”

fosterIAN awards 2010

 WinnerRunner-upOther nominees
Best Actress in a PlayMichelle Terry, TribesNancy Carroll, After the DanceZoë Wanamaker, All My Sons
Helen McCrory, The Late Middle Classes
Miranda Raison, Anne Boleyn
Sophie Thompson, Clybourne Park
Best Actor in a PlayJohn Heffernan, Love Love LoveBenedict Cumberbatch, After the DanceJacob Casselden, Tribes
David Suchet, All My Sons
Roger Allam, Henry IV Part I + II
Andrew Scott, Design for Living
Best Supporting Actress in a PlayRachael Stirling, A Midsummer Night’s Dream (Rose, Kingston)Jemima Rooper, All My SonsJessica Raine, Earthquakes in London
Sylvestra Le Touzel, Les Parents Terribles
Clare Higgins, Hamlet (NT)
Madeleine Potter, Broken Glass
Best Supporting Actor in a PlayRobin Soans, Palace of the EndNigel Lindsay, Broken GlassAdrian Scarborough, After the Dance
Eddie Redmayne, Red
Stephen Campbell Moore, All My Sons
William Gaunt, Henry IV Part I + II
Best Actress in a MusicalTracie Bennett, End of the RainbowEmma Williams, Love StoryCora Bissett, Midsummer
Sheridan Smith, Legally Blonde
Katie Moore, Salad Days
Kirsty Hoiles, Spend! Spend! Spend!
Best Actor in a MusicalSam Harrison, Salad DaysJon-Paul Hevey, Once Upon a Time at the AdelphiJohn Owen-Jones, Les Misérables
Alan Richardson, Iolanthe
Matthew Pidgeon, Midsummer
Dean Charles Chapman, Billy Elliot
Best Supporting Actress in a MusicalHannah Waddingham, Into the WoodsJodie Jacobs, State FairKaren Mann, Spend! Spend! Spend!
Siobhan McCarthy, The Drowsy Chaperone
Jill Halfpenny, Legally Blonde
Twinnie Lee Moore, Flashdance
Best Supporting Actor in a MusicalMichael Xavier, Into the WoodsMatthew James Willis, IolantheTom Parsons, Avenue Q
Michael Howe, The Drowsy Chaperone
Liam Tamne, Departure Lounge
Earl Carpenter, Les Misérables

2010 Best Supporting Actor in a Play & in a Musical


Best Supporting Actor in a Play

Robin Soans, Palace of the End
One of the beauties of this year of relentless theatre-going has been the occasional absolute diamond that has emerged. And in a play that simply blew me away most unexpectedly, in this case Palace of the End at the Arcola, Robin Soans as weapons inspector David Kelly delivered one of the most searingly intense monologues I have ever witnessed. Brutal in its unflinching honesty, captivating with his unwavering gaze, this was simply breathtaking acting: at times difficult to watch but impossible to ignore. I don’t know what Soans’ plans for 2011 are, but rest assured I’ll be trying my best to see him no matter where.

Honourable Mention: Nigel Lindsay, Broken Glass
This was such a tight category for me to decide, all of these actors really did impress me but sneaking into second place (after a little time at the top) is Nigel Lindsay in Broken Glass. His turn as the extremely charming and most excellently booted GP who struggled to maintain his professional detachment from the strangely alluring Sylvia provided a magnificent contrast to Antony Sher’s tightly coiled husband and it is a crying shame that the production wasn’t able to transfer to a larger theatre to become more widely seen as it surely deserved. It was also notable as the last chance to see Lindsay flex his thespian muscles more clearly as he will be submitting to daily green makeovers as he takes on the lead role in Shrek the Musical from May.

Adrian Scarborough, After the Dance
Eddie Redmayne, Red
Stephen Campbell Moore, All My Sons
William Gaunt, Henry IV Part I + II

7-10
Leo Bill, Posh/The Glass Menagerie; Dominic Tighe, Richard III; Henry Lloyd Hughes, Rope/Posh; Angus Wright, Design for Living

 

Best Supporting Actor in a Musical

Michael Xavier, Into the Woods
Anyone who can sing ‘Hello little girl’ with charm and allure and not come across like too much of a paedophile should be commended, and in Into The Woods, Michael Xavier managed just that as the Wolf and doubling up as Cinderella’s Prince, added a restless swashbuckling charm (and a much-welcomed sexy swagger) to the chilly night at the Open Air Theatre. Xavier can currently be seen in the utterly gorgeous Love Story at the Duchess, definitely a recommended visit.

Honourable Mention: Matthew James Willis, Iolanthe
Picking out one member of the Iolanthe cast initially felt a little churlish as I really did enjoy it all across the board, but as one half of a dusty old couple of dons discovering their love for each other, Willis was a delightful discovery. His Earl Tolloller was wonderfully sung as well as well acted and I really hope that he transfers with the production when it moves to Wilton’s Music Hall for a run there in the New Year.

Tom Parsons, Avenue Q
Michael Howe, The Drowsy Chaperone
Liam Tamne, Departure Lounge
Earl Carpenter, Les Misérables

7-10
Peter Polycarpou, Love Story; Samuel J Holmes, Pirates of Penzance; Jon Robyns, Les Misérables; Spencer O’Brien, Salad Days

Review (or more of a love letter): the fourth-to-last Avenue Q, Wyndhams


“Everything in life is only for now”

There’s no show really that best typifies my love for the theatre, and specifically my love for London theatregoing, than Avenue Q. From its arrival at the Noël Coward Theatre in 2006, this was a show I fell head over heels for from the opening song and one that has provided constant pleasure to me ever since. Looking back, I think this counts up as my seventh visit to the show, plus one special Valentine’s Day cabaret show, and like every relationship it has had its ups and downs, but ultimately that’s only made my love for the show stronger and I was really pleased to be able to squeeze in one last visit to the final Friday afternoon show to bid it ‘furwell’. 

As if I couldn’t have loved this show more, the grace and humour with which the closing notices were announced just melted my heart. I’ve borrowed images of the set of posters from the Avenue Q Facebook page and posted them here to show you what I mean, I particularly love the ‘Available for Panto from 30 October’ line, it is so typical of the humour of the show and whoever has been in charge of the publicity should be commended for keeping a sense of humour throughout. The YouTube clip at the bottom is also well worth a watch.

Continue reading “Review (or more of a love letter): the fourth-to-last Avenue Q, Wyndhams”