Review: Ain’t Misbehavin’, Southwark Playhouse

I gif my way through the good times of Fats Waller tribute show Ain’t Misbehavin’ at the Southwark Playhouse

“Give em what they want, and when they want it, without a single word to say”

Ain’t Misbehavin’ sees the directorial debut of Tyrone Huntley


And the theatrical choreography debut of Strictly queen-in-the-making Oti Mabuse.


Continue reading “Review: Ain’t Misbehavin’, Southwark Playhouse”

Re-review: A singalong Bat out of Hell, Dominion

We go back to the singalong Bat out of Hell at the Dominion Theatre but find diminishing returns

“Can’t you hear the choir now?
Listen to the animals sing”

Just a quickie for this repeat visit to Bat out of Hell, as the allure of the singalong performance was once again too strong. I don’t know if Tuesday night was the best choice though, as the Dominion Theatre was lacking in bodies and in atmosphere, at least in our part of the stalls, which kind of detracted from the communal spirit which was so enjoyable last time around.

I wonder too if the news of the show’s closure has dampened some of the enthusiasm. As D-day (5th January) draws closer, some of that intensity might return but for me, the performance level was weaker than I’ve previously seen. Rob Fowler and Sharon Sexton carry the show even more now and that means you only feel their absence all the more when they’re not on stage. Nothing really rocks, nothing really rolls…

Running time: 2 hours 45 minutes (with interval)
Photo: Specular
Bat out of Hell is booking at the Dominion Theatre until 5th January, one more singalong performance is scheduled for 31st December 

Review: A singalong Bat out of Hell, Dominion

Baby baby BABY! For better or worse, Bat out of Hell introduces the singalong musical into the West End 

“You got the kind of lips that do more than drink
You got the kind of mind that does less than think”

Although it might feel like every night is singalong night at some musicals (cough Motown cough), Bat out of Hell have gone the extra step and made one night a month an actual sing-along performance. So if you get down to the Dominion Theatre on these selected dates, then you can live your dream of singing in a West End theatre, just, you know, not on the actual stage…!

If you’re pondering whether this is a good idea, I’ve answered a few questions below.

“I know you’re lookin’ for a ruby in a mountain of rocks
But there ain’t no Coupe de Ville hidin’ at the bottom of a Cracker Jack box”

1. What if I don’t know all the words?

Never fear – there are screens dotted around the theatre, and above the stage, which show the lyrics. And it’s not every song we’re invited to sing along to, which I was particularly gutted for for “What Part of My Body Hurts the Most”. Seeing the lyrics like this has the additional amusing bonus of showing how batshit crazy some of them are…! Continue reading “Review: A singalong Bat out of Hell, Dominion”

Review: Bat Out of Hell, Dominion

Serving up more Meatloaf, Bat Out of Hell returns to London at the Dominion with a new-found subtlety…

“Some nights you’re like nothing I’ve ever seen before or will again”

I jest of course – there ain’t nothing subtle about Bat Out of Hell, apart from the slight price rises on the merchandise stall. Newly installed at the Dominion Theatre, after runs in Manchester, Toronto and at the Coliseum last year, it has lost little of the bizarre, baffling energy that saw it find a very devoted audience.

And they’ll be pleased that leads Andrew Polec and Christina Bennington return, the new cast members slot in effortlessly, and the inimitable vocal prowess of all is still ear-splittingly breathtaking, under Michael Reed’s musical supervision. Rob Fowler and Sharon Sexton remain the show’s secret weapon, stealing the thunder like a punked-up Jack and Karen. Continue reading “Review: Bat Out of Hell, Dominion”

Album Review: Stephen Ward (2013 Original Cast Recording)

“Part of me is saying I should go”

Like many others, I imagine, I did not leave Stephen Ward thinking I particularly want to hear this score by Andrew Lloyd Webber again anytime soon and so three years later, this is the first time I’ve revisited this musical. And as the strange melody of opening number ‘Human Sacrifice’ started, I began to wonder if I’d been overly harsh, Alexander Hanson’s story-telling experience imbuing this prologue of sorts with real interest and setting me up for a potential reimagining of my opinion.

But then track number 2 ‘Super Duper Hula Hooper’ kicks in, that title makes me die a little inside every time I hear it, and you soon begin to realise why the show barely managed 4 months in the West End. Lloyd Webber may have been a teenager in the 60s but he’s looking back at them like a man in his sixties, the air of rose-tinted corrective lenses and musical tweeness proving fatal to conjuring any kind of authentic sense of the period. Continue reading “Album Review: Stephen Ward (2013 Original Cast Recording)”

Review: In The Heights, King’s Cross Theatre

“Since when are Latin people scared of heat?”

There’s something about a really good musical that makes it a pleasure to go back and revisit and so it is with In The Heights, its fresh contemporary edge hugely exciting to witness and so full of visual and lyrical interest that re-viewing brings up many things that I missed first time round. My 5* review for Cheap Theatre Tickets can be read there and I urge you to book as soon as possible, if only because Victoria Hamilton-Barritt is getting increasingly pregnant (funny how that happens!) and she is unmissable in the role of Daniela (although equally, it will be interesting to see how whoever covers the role performs it once she leaves).

Running time: 2 hours 30 minutes (with interval) 
Photo: Robert Workman
Booking until 3rd January

Review: In The Heights, King’s Cross Theatre

“Well you must take the A Train
Even farther than Harlem 
To northern Manhattan and
maintain 
Get off at 181st, and
take the escalator 
I hope you’re writing this 
Down, I’m gonna test ya later” 

Lin-Manuel Miranda’s stock could not be higher with his new show Hamilton taking Broadway by storm so it’s an apposite time for this belated transfer of his earlier musical In The Heights, with book written by Quiara Alegría Hudes. Undoubtedly one of the best shows of 2014, Luke Sheppard’s production blew the roof off the Southwark Playhouse and is now poised to do the same at the King’s Cross Theatre with many of the original cast and creatives returning to give us a slice of life from the New York Hispanic community of Washington Heights. 

Nothing has been lost in the move, the whole production just sparks with vivid life. From takis’ effective sidewalk design (now with added movable fire escape) to the pure joy of Drew McOnie’s choreography, the reconfigured staging releases a newer, raw energy that blooms into the space. And with Gabriella Slade’s day-glo bright costumes, the vibrant splashes of Howard Hudson’s lighting and the crispness of Gareth Owen’s sound design, complemented well by Phil Cornwell’s musical direction, Sheppard keeps the show firing excitingly at full throttle throughout. Continue reading “Review: In The Heights, King’s Cross Theatre”

Re-review: In The Heights, Southwark Playhouse

 

“Since when are Latin people scared of heat?”

I can’t remember the exact moment when I knew I would book to see In The Heights again but it would definitely be somewhere in the first 10 minutes of watching it the first time. There was a certain amount of expectation resting on the shoulders of this production – the show was brand new to me but it was impossible to ignore the excitement of those were previously familiar with it – and so I had a little trepidatious fear that I might be swimming against the tide with this one. But I could not have been more wrong – as my original review will attest – and so I nabbed a pair of tickets for the final week within minutes of getting home!

There isn’t really too much more to say about the show than to commend it for maintaining such a magnificent level of energy throughout its run, it feels as fresh and punchy as it did last time and that is no mean feat with such a physically demanding piece as this. There’s a wonderfully teasing note on their website which says sign up here to be kept informed of the future of this production and it would be a well-deserved success for all concerned if a transfer was secured. I really hope they find a space suitable though, as whilst many may cry ‘it should be in the West End’, so much of its unique joy comes from the intimacy of this studio configuration.  

Review: In The Heights, Southwark Playhouse

 
“My mom is Dominican-Cuban
My dad is from Chile and PR which means
I’m Chile..Domini-curican!
But I always say I’m from Queens!”

Amid the crashing and burning of ill-conceived big budget West End shows, it has been left to the smaller venues of London to carry the torch for musical theatre in the capital and currently leading the charge with what will surely end up being one of the productions of the year is the Southwark Playhouse. They secured the UK premiere of Tony winning show In The Heights which in itself is an achievement but more importantly, they assembled a team who have expertly reconceived it for the relatively intimate space to create some explosively exciting theatre.

Luke Sheppard’s production is pitch-perfect on every level. The choreography – Drew McOnie deserves every prize going – is fearless, fast and furious, Latin influences married with contemporary movement to create something that feels incredibly organic in its fluidity; Howard Hudson’s lighting is full of vibrant splashes of colour and well evokes the near-unbearable heat; and takis’ set design maximises the space brilliantly, suggesting the communal spirit and run-down feel of a hard-done-by enclave yet also finding room for a band of 8 along with a cast of 17. Continue reading “Review: In The Heights, Southwark Playhouse”

Review: Stephen Ward The Musical, Aldwych

“Manipulation, that’s the technique, 
This conversation must not leak” 

It’s a curious thing, to take a relatively obscure figure, base a musical on him that is then named after him, yet leave a vacuum where his central presence ought to be the driving force. For all that Andrew Lloyd Webber, Don Black and Christopher Hampton place the character of Stephen Ward at the centre of Stephen Ward the Musical, he remains far too inscrutable, far too unexplored for us to buy into the main premise of the show which is that Ward, who committed suicide after being made the scapegoat for the Profumo scandal of 1963, is a tragic victim of Establishment hypocrisy.

But for all Alexander Hanson’s sterling efforts as the osteopath-turned-social fixer who engineered the first meeting of Secretary of State for War John Profumo and wannabe showgirl Christine Keeler, the show suffers from making him narrator as well as protagonist. So he is lumped with huge swathes of exposition, made increasingly worthy due to a slavish attention to real-life events, as a huge cast of characters flash by momentarily in the service of telling a story, but leave us none the wiser as to what Ward was like as a person, what motivated him, what moved him. Continue reading “Review: Stephen Ward The Musical, Aldwych”