News: #AllTheWebsAStage details announced

All the Web’s a Stageis a streaming initiative consisting of 12 marvellous jam-packed hours of all your favourite performers from the West End and theatre to comedy, drag and magic!

It’s fitting that the free livestream will be held on Thursday 23 April, Shakespeare’s birthday and the date that theatres began their process of restoration after strict censorship in 1661, the last time British theatres were ordered to close for a prolonged period. 

The livestream is raising money for our artistic comrades who have been severely impacted by Covid-19. Whilst we appreciate the government’s initiatives, and the support made available for many self-employed workers, there are still many freelance artists who fall through the cracks of these new government programs. As a result, thousands of artists who are now unable to earn an income are facing the coronavirus crisis with no available financial support.

You can watch the livestream on the Theatre Together website or on the Theatre Together Facebook page this Thursday from midday. Continue reading “News: #AllTheWebsAStage details announced”

Album Review: #ZoologicalSociety

New musical #ZoologicalSociety, written by Vikki Stone and Kate Mulgrew, gets a well-timed concept album release

“You’ve been here for one day mate, I’ve been here for years”

With a sense of impeccable timing, new musical #ZoologicalSociety launches with a concept album. The plan was to accompany the digital release with a live concert performance at BEAM 2020, the UK’s leading showcase of new British musical theatre but whilst that obviously isn’t happening, the album is now available for our delectation, thanks to Joe and Nikki Davison at Auburn Jam Music who produced, recorded, mixed and mastered the music.

The first of a series of entirely original musical commissions from Northampton’s Royal & Derngate, Vikki Stone and Katie Mulgrew’s #ZoologicalSociety takes its simple concept – animals going through the same societal pressures as humans – and fashions a rather winning musical comedy out of it. Continue reading “Album Review: #ZoologicalSociety”

The 17th Annual WhatsOnStage Awards winners in full

Here’s the full list of the 17th Annual WhatsOnStage Awards winners. No real surprises here, there rarely is with these awards voted for by the public but it is nice to see a real spread across the musicals categories rather than one show dominating as Harry Potter and the Cursed Child does with the plays. And we’ll just ignore the leniency with the deadlines that meant Dreamgirls was able to sneak in despite having only played a handful of previews by the time nominations closed…congrats to all the winners and nominees.

Best Actor in a Play, sponsored by Radisson Blu Edwardian
Ian Hallard for The Boys in the Band
Ian McKellen for No Man’s Land
Jamie Parker for Harry Potter and the Cursed Child WINNER
Kenneth Branagh for The Entertainer
Ralph Fiennes for Richard III

Best Actress in a Play, sponsored by Live at Zédel 
Billie Piper for Yerma WINNER 
Helen McCrory for The Deep Blue Sea
Lily James for Romeo and Juliet
Michelle Terry for Henry V
Pixie Lott for Breakfast at Tiffany’s Continue reading “The 17th Annual WhatsOnStage Awards winners in full”

Review: Aladdin, Lyric Hammersmith

“You don’t get that quality of dance at Sadler’s Wells”
There’s something wonderfully political about the Lyric Hammersmith’s pantomime Aladdin this year. Not just in Joel Horwood’s script, which packs in the requisite Trump and Brexit jokes, plus a cleverly worked visual gag for Article 50, and has the land of Fulhammerboosh ruled over by the Emperor One Per Cent. But in almost every aspect of Ellen McDougall’s production, there’s the kind of astute decision-making that has made her a director to watch and whets the appetite even more for her forthcoming Artistic Directorship of the Gate Theatre.
So the first character we meet is Abanazer, played with lip-smacking relish by Vikki Stone as a cross between Mrs Overall and Grotbag, who pretty much steals the show. And our Aladdin is no clueless US import but rather Lyric regular Karl Queensborough, notching up his eighth performance at a venue where he was nurtured by their youth programme. And casting Malinda Parris as the genie not only releases her sensational powerhouse vocal but also further shows up how questionable Disney’s Aladdin’s gender politics are over at the Prince Edward Theatre.
Thus through these choices, this Aladdin feels refreshed and revitalised, an entirely appropriate piece of family entertainment for 2016. And it does this without ever losing sight of all of the traditional aspects of pantomime that we’ve come to love and expect. So there’s some fantastically saucy humour from James Doherty’s Widow Twankey which (should) fly over the kids’ heads along with the sweets thrown out, there’s tons of audience participation led by Arthur McBain’s excellently sensitive Wishy Washy, and an unflagging atmosphere of fun that never drops.
With a sprightly soundtrack featuring rewritten lyrics to some of the year’s pop hits, an impressively staged magic carpet ride, singalongs and snowfalls, Aladdin is undoubtedly a hit. But it is that it’s a hit very much on the Lyric Hammersmith’s own terms that is most remarkable, along with the message it is passing onto the next generation. You may not necessarily agree with its empire-abolishing politics (with a big P) but the politics (with a small p) of teaching our kids that girls can be genies too, that hard work pays off, that the magic of great theatre lies in the imagination, are irrefutable. Exciting and entertaining, this truly is panto for the 21st century.
Running time: 2 hours 20 minutes (with interval)
Booking until 7th January
Originally written for LondonTheatre1

Review: The Donkey Show, Proud Camden

“I’m gonna say hee, and you’re gonna say haw”

So we hit my sixth different production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream in 2016 with The Donkey Show – A Midsummer Night’s Disco which is less Shakespeare than Shalamar, more Baccara than the Bard. Setting up shop for the summer in nightspot Proud Camden, Athens is thus swapped out for the more hedonistic locale of Club Oberon, where trapeze artists swing from the ceiling, fire breathers roam the stage and pole-dancing go-go boys take the place of fairies.

First created by Randy Weiner and Diane Paulus in 1999, the immersive nature of the production – audience members are encouraged to dance throughout, climbing on podiums optional, – proved a hit formula as disco classics replace iambic pentameter and aerial hoop work is substituted for characterisation. The reimagined and much-reduced story sees merry wanderers of the night Mia, Dmitri, Helen and Sander at the mercy of club hostess Lady Puck, a drag artiste on rollerskates, pushing pills left right and centre at the bidding of nefarious owner Oberon. Continue reading “Review: The Donkey Show, Proud Camden”