Priscilla Queen Of The Desert (UK Tour)

Priscilla Queen Of The Desert (UK Tour)
New Theatre, Oxford

Seen Tuesday 24th August 2021
★★★★

Priscilla Queen Of The Desert (UK Tour)

New Theatre, Oxford

–Gifted–

Reviewed by Jade Prince

Tuesday 24th August 2021

★★★★

Theatre is back! I am late saying those words because I haven’t had the chance to get to the theatre since everything started opening back up and it feels marvellous. 

What was even more marvellous was having Priscilla Queen of the Desert being the show to come back to! It was such a great show filled with everything camp, bright, colourful, sparkly and accompanied with complete bops (yes, I have just said bops!)

Based on the 1994 movie with the same name, Priscilla Queen of the Desert drops you in the heart of the Australian outback where Priscilla carries Tick, Adam and Bernadette in style to Alice Springs where they are set to perform. The journey is filled with several surprises, new relationships, and small towns where the flamboyant drag lifestyle isn’t welcomed with open arms. 

I have to say the script was my favourite part. It was so quick-witted that I found myself still laughing at the joke just delivered and missed the next one being fired! I always appreciate intelligent humour. So often can shows pack in crude joke after crude joke causing the audience to think ‘here we go again’ but this script was very different. There were the crude jokes and many innuendos but there was also a large number of really clever one liners that caught me off guard. Obviously with humour the delivery is paramount and this cast definitely delivers the humour. 

The choreography began to get a little repetitive but this was forgiven with the amount of energy the cast put into it. There were a couple of costumes that caught my eye but not always in the good way. I love drag and all of the glitz and glamour associated with the wardrobe so my eyes were very much analysing every piece on stage. There were a few numbers where, to me, the costumes detracted from the choreography and looked bulky not allowing for fluid movements. Within the cast there was a great diversity of body types which in my opinion you don’t get to see as often on stage especially for female cast members so that was incredibly refreshing. With this I feel as if the wardrobe department neglected some of the costumes with focus on the trench coats that made appearances several times during the show. It didn’t appear they were all tailored to the individual bodies leaving some cast members looking a little drowned in the coats. 

However, apart from that little nag there literally wasn’t anything else to fault. It was such a fabulous night out and one that I would highly recommend for people who have missed the theatre and are a little apprehensive about going back. The whole auditorium was filled with such energy that it was very easy to forget what this past year and a half has entailed. There is no way you can sit there and not feel happy with the songs that flood the theatre. The story does take some dark turns but I loved the fact that as soon as the opening bars of the next number were heard, a subtle murmur through the auditorium started with the realisation that although the scene was sad, the music irony wasn’t going to let it stay there. 

I think at the moment this is something we all need as well as delivering the message that every show is echoing: I will survive. If that isn’t the message we all need at the moment then I have no idea what we need. 

Priscilla Queen of the Desert will be at New Theatre Oxford until 28th August 2021 before continuing with its UK Tour. 

Information and tickets for New Theatre Oxford can be found here.

Information, venue and tickets for the rest of the tour can be found here

Stay safe, wear a mask and enjoy the theatre! 

Irving Berlin’s White Christmas – REVIEW

Irving Berlin’s White Christmas – REVIEW

Dominion Theatre, London

★★★★

Irving Berlin’s White Christmas The Musical – Gala Performance

Dominion Theatre, London

 

Reviewed by Mark Sykes

Seen November 25th, 2019

★★★★

This reviewer, at the ripe old age of 55(!), has literally spent a lifetime watching the classic White Christmas movie, so having missed out on seeing this production when it premiered at the Curve, Leicester in December 2018, I was really looking forward to finally seeing this story come to life on-stage – and thankfully the evening lived up to my expectations.

Without getting too much into the details of a story that no doubt the majority of readers will be familiar with, it focuses on two WW2 army veterans (Wallace and Davis) who become a major song-and-dance act after their careers end. They bump into the Haynes sisters, who are also a popular song-and-dance act with a burgeoning career. They all end up at a winter lodge in Vermont that is sadly lacking any snow. Wallace and Davis bump into their former General, the owner of the lodge, who has bills piling up as the lack of snow means a dearth of paying customers. Wallace, Davis and the Haynes sisters concoct a plan to put on a Christmas concert at the lodge to help out the General. The parallel story is one of love between the army veterans and the two sisters – one relationship comes easy, the other needs some matchmaking to be done!

The staging at the Dominion Theatre focuses on the barn at the lodge where the Christmas concert is to be held. The simple wooden structure enables the various sets to seamlessly transition between scenes, whether it’s a New York ballroom, a train carriage, or the reception of the Vermont lodge. Interestingly, the band were situated on-stage to the left of the audience and split over two levels of the barn. For me this worked well (as it wasn’t a large orchestra) and enabled them to support some of the scenes more effectively than if they’d been hidden away elsewhere. I particularly loved the neon lighting that often featured in the set design created by Michael Taylor, and overall everything worked well whether it was simple or complex scene.

The highlights of the show for me happened on the big song-and-dance numbers. The vast expanse of the Dominion stage provided ample space for all of the cast to be involved in Stephen Mear’s wonderful choreography. On more than one occasion these big numbers had me thinking back to the recent hit production of 42nd Street which was impressively led by Clare Halse, and which is fitting seeing as that Clare is one of the Haynes sisters and is tremendous throughout. The other sister is Danielle Hope, she has the most wonderful voice and who I last saw demonstrating her vocal prowess in concert at The Other Palace back in the summer. Clare and Danielle work well together as sisters with excellent dynamics between the two of them.

Danny Mac as Wallace and Dan Burton as Phil Davis wouldn’t seem out of place in the original movie. They have the looks, can sing the American songbook, and have dancing skills that make it look so effortless. Following on in the footsteps of Bing Crosby and Danny Kaye is an enormous undertaking, but they do the show justice – never more so than in the big energetic song-and-dance numbers previously mentioned. It’s on those occasions that the Dominion really comes alive and takes on a different dimension.

General Waverley is played by Michael Brandon. Again, showing my age here, Michael became particularly well-known in the UK as a result of the 80’s TV series Dempsey & Makepeace, of which I was a big fan. It was great to see him on stage, and this native New Yorker was perfect casting for the ageing (sorry Michael!) American General. Brenda Edwards was the crafty receptionist at the lodge charged with keeping both the lodge and the General under control. A former X Factor contestant from 2005, Brenda has a wonderful voice that when she lets rip, makes you immediately think of her standing up in church delivering a gospel classic. Which is ideal seeing as she’s appearing as Deloris in the Sister Act UK tour in 2020.

All of the cast were wonderful. Whether it was the singing, the dancing or the numerous comedic moments, there wasn’t one weak link. There is one other person that I would like to highlight though, and that is the General’s niece. This role is alternated across three children and for the Gala night it was Erin Rushidi. Erin was truly outstanding, particularly with the comic timing, and pretty much stole every scene that she was in. The audience loved her! She is a tremendous talent and definitely one to watch out for in the future.

As for the show itself, it gets off to a slightly slow start as the foundations of the story are built at the start of act one in the army days, but that quickly moves on and then the rest of the show pretty much flies by. Song after familiar song happens apace, and whilst you’re waiting in anticipation for ‘that’ final scene, you can’t help but revel in the visual feast in front of your eyes. There are some wonderful costumes, designed by Diego Pitarch.

This production follows the storyline very closely, and there were a number of times when I was getting quite emotional seeing elements of the movie come to life in front of my very eyes. Whilst the finale was always going to be a special moment, another highlight was when Bob Wallace and Betty Haynes sang ‘Count Your Blessings Instead of Sheep’. Danny Mac and Danielle Hope performed this beautifully, and yes there may well have been a tear in my eye at the end of that song. So, to the finale itself, White Christmas. This was everything I wanted it to be. Yes, we all know what happens when the barn doors are opened, but it was fabulous to see this scene come to life and the snow begin to fall.

Director Nikolai Foster has done a brilliant job with this production. I suspect the majority of audience members will be familiar with the story and have seen the movie before (who hasn’t?!); well none of these should leave disappointed. Yes, some elements of the storyline and some of the jokes may seem dated in the 21st century, but if you walk into the theatre putting all that aside, you will find yourself with a definite smile on your face, a chuckle here and there (well actually, quite a few chuckles!), and a propensity to want to sing along! And on that latter point, everyone gets the opportunity to do that at the end.

Even the most hardened of hearts cannot fail to be softened by what they see and hear in this production. Everyone will be leaving the theatre with a smile on their face, maybe a few tears in their eyes, and no doubt looking forward to seeing the movie on TV again this Christmas. For me, I’m seeing the show again over the Christmas period, and I can’t give a better recommendation than that!

White Christmas will be continuing to provide cheer during this festive season. Be sure to catch this winter warmer. More information on the show and tickets can be found here.

Soho Cinders – REVIEW

Soho Cinders – REVIEW

Charing Cross Theatre, London 

★★★★★

Soho Cinders

Charing Cross Theatre, London

 

Reviewed by Katie Middlebrook

Seen October 29th, 2019

★★★★★

You Shall Go To The Ball!

Soho Cinders is a musical, loosely based on the story of Cinderella. It has music by George Stiles and lyrics by Anthony Drewe with Elliot Davis as co-author. The action is based in the heart of London in Soho. The musical first showcased in 2008, followed by a gala concert in 2011. The soundtrack was also then released in 2011.

Soho Cinders is a modern musical which mixes politics and true love in a story about a boy called Robbie. Robbie is in the midst of running his late mother’s laundrette, paying for rent to his two ugly-step sisters and becoming romantically involved with the engaged mayoral candidate, James Prince. James and Robbie’s worlds collide, forcing them to fight for their true love and happy ending in this hilarious twist on the classic Cinderella story. The Charing Cross theatre is currently holding the most recent rendition of Soho Cinders. 

The show opens with the fun upbeat number ‘Old Compton Street’. This song is full of dance breaks, harmonies throughout and a chance to see all of the characters and get an introduction to the storyline. This is also where we first meet our Cinderella character who is played by Luke Bayer. 

Luke plays Robbie who is our leading man in the show. Luke has played a leading role before as the alternate Jamie in Everybody’s Talking About Jamie and he definitely does not disappoint in this new role. The emotion and energy Luke puts into every song he sings is breathe-taking. The score of this show is quite poppy and definitely fits Luke’s voice very well. His acting and comedy value comes across so easily, you are rooting for him to have the happy ending he deserves by the end of the show.

The second song in the show is a song called ‘Wishing For The Normal’, which is sung by Robbie and best friend Velcro who is played by Millie O’Connell. This song shows the beautiful friendship Robbie and Velcro have. Luke and Millie bounce off each other when they are on stage together, the chemistry has you constantly smiling and laughing at the banter Robbie and Velcro have with each other. 

The score of the show is very catchy, I came out singing the songs over and over again. Two songs definitely stood out as my favourites. The first being ‘They Don’t Make Glass Slippers’ which comes at a very poignant moment in the show. It is sung by Luke and really show cases his beautiful vocal rang and the emotion he shows when performing. The second song is ‘You Shall Go To The Ball’ which is the last song in Act one. It is a fun dance number where you see multiple of the different storylines moulding into one. 

Act one ends with ‘You Shall Go To The Ball’ and leaves everyone singing the catchy song in the interval. The first act ends with a big cliff hanger which leaves you wanting to find out what happens next.

A highlight of the show for me was definitely the two stepsisters. There comedy throughout the show is absolutely hilarious it left the audience in stitches. They have two duets together, but my favourite definitely has to be ‘I’m So Over Men’. The stepsisters are played by Michaela Stern and Natalie Harman. Michaela is also co-producing the show along with Will Keith and Kyle Tovey.

The show ends with a very catchy curtain call which has you foot tapping or even up on your feet dancing along with the cast as they have a ball on stage. 

Soho Cinders is on at The Charing Cross Theatre until December 21st. Do not miss out on this spectacular show! It is not one you want to miss.

Hair (UK tour) – REVIEW

Hair (UK tour) – REVIEW

New Theatre, Oxford

★★★

Hair (UK Tour)

New Theatre, Oxford

 

Reviewed by Jade Prince

Seen June 26th, 2019

★★★

Slap bang in the middle of the East Village of New York City in 1967, a tribe of hippies want to let the sun shine in despite the ongoing Vietnam War. Inquisitive minds seeking for a way to change the world and redefining authority by uniting the world with music.

The ‘tribe’ was interesting however joining is not something on the agenda here at Ginger in the Theatre. It is sad to say but love did not strike our heart.

I had big hopes for Hair after its sold-out run at The Vaults in London. Having now seen the show, I’m not really sure what people saw.

The music was great and it is definitely something I will be adding to my Spotify playlist however the whole package lacked the oomph a ‘wild, colourful, sexually liberated and free’ show should have possessed.

The only thing I will be raving about is the harmonies throughout. The cast sounded so dreamy on stage, giving me goosebumps many times. The highlight being towards the end of “Let the Sun Shine In”.

Even writing this now, I am so confused as to what happened in the show. Not due to the plot being complicated but simple because there was no plot. The tiniest bit of storyline I could grasp onto with the tips of my fingers was Claude (Paul Wilkins) being drafted to fight in the Vietnam War. Apart from that I am still at a loss as to what the plot was. And then to top it off, we had an abrupt ending! I can’t deal with abrupt endings! The whole audience was unsure on whether we were to expect more. There was a strong feeling of disappointment radiating around the auditorium.

From a technical point of view, the sound quality was not great and the music over powered the vocals. This made it really difficult to hear the lyrics resulting in the audience disconnecting from the plot (or what limited plot there was).

To put a positive spin on this review, the set was aesthetically pleasing. It was a lovely touch having the subtle colour change during the ‘trip’ scene at the beginning of act 2. The black light was able to pick up UV colours hidden within set. It was something I wasn’t expecting and also a very cleaver addition to ensure that the actual trip was distinguishable from the already psychedelic reality.

It was a somewhat enjoyable show however I found myself willing the next number on. The dialogue felt unnecessary and did nothing to aid the story. I think I would have preferred just the musical numbers, one after the other.

For more information on the show, tickets and remaining venues on the tour, click here.

Amélie (UK tour) – REVIEW

Amélie (UK tour) – REVIEW

New Theatre, Oxford

★★★★★

Amélie

New Theatre, Oxford

 

Reviewed by Jade Prince

Seen June 18th, 2019

★★★★★

Amélie, a musical derived from the much loved 2001 film of the same title, presents the story of a young lady who although appears quiet , has an imagination louder than words. Spending her life providing fellow Parisians with happiness through her small acts of kindness, she soon discovers it is time to work on herself and allow her heart to speak when love comes knocking.

The Parisian vibe immediately seeped into my blood, warmed my heart and I fell in love. It provided a sensation I have never experienced…maybe it was the feeling of actually falling in love! My heart skipped a beat numerous times

This show was the full package; whimsical, charming, humorous whilst being filled to the brim with talent and phenomenal stage craft.

I’m not sure where to begin! The set is gorgeous. You see it and immediately you are transported to the hustle and bustle of Paris. This feeling is only amplified when the cast take to the stage.

Although seeming very chaotic to look at with all the additional nick-nacks, the set itself was a simplistic beauty. There were no huge scene changes. Just the movement of some props and dimming of the light. It really didn’t need anything else. It lent itself to provide almost a musical box feel. Seeing the story play out in front of you as if the mechanism was being cranked in the wings. Even the way Amélie was transported around the stage was whimsical!

The tiny Parisian cafe scenes pulled you by the hand down a little alley way into the heart of one of Paris’ up and coming districts. The vivid hum of the busy people outside was only added to with the cast. It was such a stunning choice to have the cast playing their own instruments throughout the show. I obviously had my eyes focused on the stage but I could imagine closing my eyes and being there in the heart of Paris. Buskers surrounding me, playing the beautiful symphony of Paris’ heart beat.

The whole cast were insanely talented (and to me, nailed the French accent) but I do have to draw focus to Audrey Brisson and her breathtaking performance as Amélie. It was such an endearing performance. She played it to the back of the stalls with her facial expressions. Also, such a dreamy voice!

My final fangirl moment for the show was the puppetry. It was seen more in act 1 and it was used for an element I didn’t expect at all. The show is still fairly new in the grand scheme of things. It premiered at Berkeley Repertory Theatre in September 2015. At that stage, and even on broadway, young Amélie was played by a little girl. Since then, it has been switch up slightly in order to replace the child actor with a puppet. It is such a beautiful touch. Another one which works so well for the show! Adding heaps to the storytelling charm and allowing the audience to differentiate between the past and the present.

All in all, Amélie is an outstanding piece of theatre which checks so many boxes. The creative team are doing everything right. On top of all of this mentioned, there is a stunning musical score.

I urge you to see this show as it tours around the UK. You will not be disappointed!

For more information on the show, upcoming venues and tickets, click here.

 

The Swell Mob – REVIEW

The Swell Mob – REVIEW

Colab Factory, London

★★★                         (Concept ★★★★★)

The Swell Mob

Colab Factory, London

 

Reviewed by Jade Prince

Seen May 9th, 2019

★★★                         (Concept ★★★★★)

The Swell Mob. Where do I start with The Swell Mob?

Another incredibly promising show which unfortunately fell flat. I suppose it did have an impact on me, I left questioning what I had just experienced and the show has stayed with me. Just not for the right reasons.

I am going to be vague as possible with the plot as describing it will reveal spoilers. With this show it is best not to know what the story is however knowing how to respond is key. I’m pretty sure that won’t make sense but please bear with me!

Situated next to an already well-established immersive theatre experience, The Swell Mob is left in the shadows.

The concept for this show is outstanding. This is partly why it pains me to write this 3 star review. The 3 star review is purely based on what I experienced on the night. If an opportunity came around meaning I could see the show again, I would without hesitation in the hope my current view would be changed.

The Swell Mob is unlike any other immersive theatre I have experienced. Instead of being taken through the story, you have control on how it played out which I loved! It was hands-on, immersive (as you’d hope) and stimulating.

I’m just going to go straight in for it…I didn’t get a full show. An abrupt ending is never good in my opinion. But what is worse is when the audience can’t distinguish the end of the show and are just left there lingering until stage management informs you that it is in fact the end of the show….go home!

The audience for this particular performance we attended never saw the end of the show. The run time is very limited and appeared to require precise audience actions for the story to progress.

From the get-go, it was evident that the audience was very unsure on what was happening. The show came up late (the venue doors didn’t open until after the scheduled start time) which normally isn’t an issue but when you have 75 minutes for the show with the second show so soon after the first ends, it becomes a very risky game. On two show days at The Swell Mob, show 1 goes up at 16:30/19:15 with show 2 staring at 19:15/21:00. On most days its a 30 minute turn around, theres hardly any time factored in for any possible mishaps resulting in the audience missing the scripted finale.

After being let in late, we all hung around in the first room which conveniently had the bar! A tankard of gin for me please! This was our first real encounter with the cast.

It was a very awkward first 10 minutes. 10 minutes of a very limited time when the story could have moved forward. Eventually other audience members started to notice that we had to purchase a ticket in order to move forward. Don’t worry, the ‘currency’ is provided upon arrival!

Finally, scene 2 began! In the depths of the basement (the same basement where I had a drunk night of poker…ha!) the full labyrinth came into view. Once again, everyone was little uncertain as to where they could go and even what they should do. I took it upon myself to start exploring. This then let to the discovery that you can actually touch props, open draws and find hidden clues. Another chunk taken from our limited time.

Without giving too much of the plot away, multiple clues have to be found in order to free the spirits. Its a mixture of riddles and finding items in order to unlock the ending.

The sections of searching were broken up nicely with scenes acted by the cast however it was difficult to know when these were happening and could have easily been missed due to the set up of the building.

Once we got into the flow of things and knew the boundaries, it was great fun interacting with the characters. I managed to get very hands on. You feel like you have really contributed. It was so easy to get sucked into the atmosphere.

The cast were also fabulous to interact with and could be found roaming the entire building.

The main downfall of The Swell Mob was the lack of guidance from the cast/stage management. The concept was wonderful and I adore the (almost) escape room-vibe. It just took far too long for people to understand what was going on and as a result we never received the full story that night. It would have been amazing if the cast moved the story along if they saw the audience struggling to do this themselves. It would avoid the disheartened feeling of ‘was that it?’ as we left.

I really wanted to rate this higher but the incredible cast and mind-blowing sets just weren’t enough to offset the incomplete story/experience. I’m not saying this happens every night. It could have been an off night.

The Swell Mob is at the Colab Factory until July 28th (only open on Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays). More information can be found here.

If you have been, we want to know your thoughts with this one. Did you get the full story?! Let us know! 

 

Amour – REVIEW

Amour – REVIEW

Charing Cross Theatre, London

★★★

Amour

Charing Cross Theatre, London

 

Reviewed by Jade Prince

Seen May 8th, 2019

★★★

Did I ‘amour’ this show?

Amour I did not but that’s not to say I hated it. In fact, I’m on the fence about it, or should I say, in the wall. Sorry, I couldn’t help myself!

‘Amour’ takes place in the 1950s in Paris. I mean, with that title, it couldn’t really take place anywhere else?

The story focuses on Dusoleil (Gary Tushaw) who appears very comfortable in life. Comfortable. Nothing out of the ordinary. Working as a civil servant, passing the time writing letters to his mother when his mind isn’t wandering and daydreaming about Isabelle (Anna O’Byrne). All of this changes one night when he discovers he possesses the ability to walk through walls. This new ability provides him with the courage of not only helping the less fortunate but to win the heart and save Isabelle from her controlling marriage.

There was something about this show which had me feeling pretty, ‘meh’. Although reflecting on each individual component, I’m struggling to but my finger on what this show was lacking.

Individually, the artist direction for many features was beautiful and whimsical however collectively, the spark didn’t ignite.

The traverse stage set up was a unique decision (although this was probably swayed by the previous show that played at Charing Cross Theatre). I personally don’t think it lent itself well to the story. It definitely restricted what we saw on stage. If the stage/venue had been bigger, I think the traverse stage would have been wonderful. Direction-wise, it was clear that time and thought had been put into the actor’s movement. Each side of the audience was catered for and at no point did I feel like I was watching the show from backstage.

The cast were incredible! Vocally outstanding and it was a joy to listen to all of those harmonise! It was beautiful when the score built and each character was singing there own verses over each other.

I have to say I was very surprised that it wasn’t Jonathan Lipman doing the costume design for this show. The costumes were very similar to his style. It looked like the costumes were pulled from previous shows at Charing Cross Theatre where Lipman had overseen the costumes. I understand why the Monochrome theme was selected, to be in keeping with the Parisian love story. I just really wish a different spin had been put on it. It was disappointing as its been seen in so many other shows.

Lyrically the show was very cleaver. It was sung from start to finish so it is important you pay attention. Occasionally I found it really difficult to follow as the lyrics are sung very quickly. A lot of the jokes come at those points and I found myself sat there in a sea of chuckles having completely missed the joke myself. There was the occasional play on words which made them sound rude until the whole thing came out. I really appreciated that especially with one of the riskier words!

-Now this is something I don’t normally say-

If the opportunity comes around and I get to see the show again before it closes, I definitely will. I didn’t hate it but at the same time, going in ‘blind’ and not knowing anything about the show hindered my experience. I do think a second watch will highlight a lot of things I initially missed and bring a new appreciation to the show. 

All in all, it was a very charming piece and lives up to the main promo quote provided by NY Times, ‘a bedtime story for grown ups’. Nothing too over stimulating although enjoyable at the same time.

‘Amour’ is playing at Charing Cross Theatre until July 20th, 2019.

More information on the show and tickets can be found here.

West End Eurovision 2019 – Review

West End Eurovision 2019 – Review

Adelphi Theatre, London

★★★★★

West End Eurovision 2019

Adelphi Theatre, London

 

Reviewed by Jade Prince

Seen April 28th, 2019

★★★★★

 

— Straight away, my apologies this is such a long one. I wanted to capture the night in as much detail as possible to show people what they are missing out on and why they really need to consider attending awesome events like this! No pressure, ha! I will provide my summary in bold at the bottom for those in a rush! 

What a night! 

So camp.

Piled high with all the cheese.

Delivers and embodies everything Eurovision is and then some! 

This year we were able to attend West End Eurovision. Creator and writer Jade is the first person to dive out of the room when anybody utters the E-word. That and the P-word (panto) are the deal breakers. 

-BUT-

West End Eurovision may have converted me. Not enough to watch the Eurovision on TV but to return to the annual West End event. I’d be Mad not to! (<— did you see what I did there? If not, you soon will). 

Each year West End Eurovision takes up residence in one of the sparkly west end venues. This year happened to be the Adelphi Theatre (currently home to Waitress) and was celebrating its 9th return. 

In the west end, we all love a good charity event. It was evident to see at this event. The purpose of West End Eurovision is to raise money and awareness for HIV & AIDS. Back in 2008, The Make a Difference Trust – Theatre MAD was created in order to fundraise for HIV and AIDS in the theatre community. There are numerous charity events they host throughout the year with different themes and performers but I can honestly say, they are incredible to attend. I have been to a few and I’ve had a blast. 

The theory behind MAD Trust is having the theatre community come together and make a difference as a team, showcasing their skills and talents to help those living with/impacted by HIV and AIDS. 

To the event…

West End Eurovision pretty much says what it is on the tin. The same principles of the normal Eurovision, the only difference, instead of countries joining together, it is west end shows. This year, 7 west end shows came together for one night and one night only to fight it out to see who could claim the prestigious title of, “West End Eurovision Winner 2019!”. Gracing the stage were the casts of ‘Only folks and Horses’, ‘Everybody’s Talking About Jamie’, ‘Aladdin’, ‘Mamma Mia!’, ‘Follies’, ‘The Phantom of the Opera’ and ‘Wicked’.

Last year’s winner was The Phantom of the Opera and trust me, everyone was gunning for that title this year. 

The claws where out and no wow factor was left unturned. We had pyrotechnics, light shows, insane choreography, a human Ken doll and quick changes! 

For the night we had the delightful Richard Gauntlett hosting, ensuring the laughs kept coming and the show kept moving.

First up we saw the cast of ‘Only Fools and Horse’ performing “Dancing Lasha Tumbai”. The energy was fab and a great start to the show. It set the bar high for the other contestants. They were cleverly able to incorporate their show into the song! 

Second to perform was ‘Everybody’s Talking about Jamie’ with their version of “Toy”. Now, this song secured Israel’s win in the 2018 Eurovision and it was looking to have the same fate with Jamie. The costumes where in keeping, with each ensemble labelled as a different toy brand. The three lead vocals smashed it and well…the human Ken doll at the end was an added bonus. Layton Williams demanded everybody’s full attention; aerial, pirouetting and splitting all over the stage. They know how to please an audience! Things were looking great for ‘Everybody’s Talking About Jamie’ as the audience found themselves asking, “what could top that?!”

Third to perform was the cast of ‘Aladdin’ with “Monsters”. Yet again, another strong contender. With brilliant choreography the fluorescent green was really mesmerising to watch as the lights dimmed. 

Closing act one, ‘Mamma Mia!’ took to the stage and performed their choice song, “Je Ne Sais Quoi”. Something new was brought to the stage that we hadn’t seen prior to this performance…comedy. Initially I think the majority of the audience was distressed when it appeared a cast member was almost dropped and then hobbled off stage only to return with a cast on her leg. By this time enough had ‘gone wrong’ for the audience to relax back into the night and laugh along. 

‘Follies’ had the honour of opening up act 2. We saw a much slower pace is comparison to act 1 however this pace change did not impact the entertainment! With “L’oiseau et L’enfant” the smallest cast of the night had the audience in the palm of their hand. You could have heard a pin drop during that performance. For the first time that night, the whole audience erupted! This had just become the lead contestant! 

And just when you thought the talent couldn’t get any better. No seriously, I thought it had peaked, the cast of ‘The Phantom of the Opera’ had the entire building lose their chill! Oh my word, there have only been a handful of moments where I had full-body chills during a performance and this made the list. Their performance of “Grande Amore” caused me to forget how to breathe! Firstly those vocals were to die for. Obviously we knew there would be perfect harmonies. Secondly, we witnessed wow factor after wow factor! The energy of the performance gripping to and working in perfect unison with the music. Each heightened moment visually replicated on stage. The moment the performance finished the audience blew the remainder of the roof off the Adelphi! It is safe to say that ‘The Phantom of the Opera’ was back to reclaim the title of West End Eurovision winner 2019.

That Phantom runs an incredibly tight ship. WHERE CAN I JOIN PHANTOM BOOTCAMP?!?!

The final show to take to the stage was ‘Wicked’ with “Wild Dances“. I hate to say this but they were very unfortunate in this line-up. I mean, how on earth could you top The Phantom of the Opera’s performance? The talent was there but just fell a little short.

Having never been to a West End Eurovision I was unsure on how the voting would play out. To my surprise it was much more technically advanced than I was expecting! We had the four main judges; Amber Davis (winner of Love Island 2017), Bonnie Langford (currently staring in 9 to 5), Wayne Sleep OBE (Cats, Song and Dance) and Tim Vincent (TV personality). The four judges were providing comments after each performance. There were several categories the shows could win but I know that you are all interested in the overall winner. This was determined by a combination of votes from the judges and the audience. In the room, we had a certain amount of time where we could text a main number to cast a vote. The votes cost £1 a go but all the money went to MAD Trust.

During this time were were entertained further by some incredible special guests. These included Michael Rice (winner of the BBC’s All Together Now in 2018) and Dana International (winner of Eurovision in 1998). Michael Rice’s voice was fabulous. He is one to watch out for!

Now it was the moment we had all been waiting for. The auditorium held there breath as the suspense ate us alive. When people say the shows get competitive, you had best believe them!

The final result was:

1. The Phantom of the Opera – 88 votes (Congratulations on that well deserved win!)
2. Follies – 80 votes
3. Wicked – 62 votes
4. Aladdin – 52 votes
5. Mamma Mia! – 42 votes
6. Everyone’s Talking About Jamie- 40 votes
7. Only Fools and Horses- 16 votes

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West End Eurovision 2019 winners, The Phantom of the Opera with “Grande Amore”. Photo credit: Gaz Sherwood PBGstudios.com

All in all, I had a bloody amazing night! Everyone involved with performing and putting on the show is there on their own time. Not a single person is paid but that doesn’t impact the quality you receive. I’ll be going again, for sure. Not only are you getting a fabulous night of pure talent and laughter but you are also helping out a well deserving charity! 

I have also linked the MAD Trust’s website. I strongly encourage you to have a look.

If you’ve made it through to the end, thank you!

Lipstick: A Fairy Tale of Iran – REVIEW

Lipstick: A Fairy Tale of Iran – REVIEW

Omnibus Theatre, London

★★★★

Lipstick: A Fairy Tale of Iran

Omnibus Theatre, London

 

Reviewed by Jade Prince

Seen March 10th, 2019

★★★★

 

I can review it this time round! In March 2018, I was invited to see a script-in-hand performance of ‘Lipstick: A Fairy Tale of Iran. It was in its very early stages but even at that point it was well established. A year later, we got to see the development.

To give you an overview, ‘Lipstick: A Fairy Tale of Iran‘ tells Orla’s (Siobhan O’Kelly) story. A heartbreakingly beautiful account of her 6 week trip to Iran in 2010 told upon a Soho club stage in the present day. A story of a completely different country with completely different laws and, more importantly, a completely different view on women. Where control on its people, cultural practices and the arts is valued above anything else.

The show is set up with a dual aspect; two stories intertwining with each other. One part consists of the scenes that played out on Orla’s trip to Iran. The second part taking place on a Soho club’s opening night. Although I really enjoyed this dual story aspect, I couldn’t help but feel it was very confusing at some points. The whole staging of the show has undergone major development however the subtle light changes didn’t send a strong enough signal of a scene change to the audience. There are parts of the script that change very suddenly and myself, as an audience member, started focusing on where we were instead of the powerful words being said.

The script itself was a little slow and took its time to build momentum. You really need to hang in there because the message it conveys is so powerful. Some of the monologues really put the brutal truth into perspective. Highlighting the awful things that still occur in this world but also still provide that glimmer of hope.

I applaud Sam Wilde and Elizabeth Harper for the set design. Simple yet in keeping with the story. Something I loved about the script-in-hand performance was the intimacy. I mentioned that it was like being told the story in someones living room. This time it was the complete opposite. But it kinda worked. The cabaret club set still felt intimate but gave the impression of a grander establishment. It did detract from the intimacy however it gave the performance more authenticity.

Dotted throughout the show are some small cabaret numbers performed by Mark (Nathan Kelly). It is only fitting to have a few cabaret numbers in a Soho drag cabaret club! It’s what you’d expect although they were so cleverly worked into the story. A seamless transition from London to Iran and vice versa bringing a constant reminder of the art that would face corporal punishment in one of those countries.

Reading back over my post from a year ago, I still hold all those views.

Something is telling me this show will go far. It’s still got some work however the foundations are there and I am all for supporting this!

The show is a political statement and it hits some tender nerves.

Definitely worth seeing and having on your radar.

‘Lipstick: A Fairy Tale of Iran’ is at the Omnibus Theatre until March 24th 2019. Tickets and more information on the show can be found here.

 

 

SIX – REVIEW

SIX – REVIEW

Arts Theatre, London

♚♚♚♚♚♚ (<- yes, stars won't do it. Bring out the royal attire!)

SIX

Arts Theatre, London

 

Reviewed by Katie Middlebrook

Seen March 10th, 2019

♚♚♚♚♚♚ (<- yes, stars won’t do it. Bring out the royal attire!)

 

“Divorced, beheaded, died, divorced, beheaded, survived.” 

SIX The Musical is a brand-new musical phenomenon that everyone is losing their heads over and the soundtrack is storming up the UK pop charts. 

SIX was originally performed by Cambridge University Musical Theatre Society directed by Jamie Armitage before first playing in The Arts Theatre in December 2017. 

The story of SIX allows each of Henry VIII’s wives to tell their story individually of what they went through during their time as his wife. 

The show starts with the opening song ‘Ex-Wives’ and from the get-go the energy on stage is very apparent. The girl’s costumes have an aspect of old fashion to them but at the same time are very modernised. Each girl has an individual style which fits their character. A part of the costume I really liked is the little microphone holders where during dance numbers, the girls can still carry their microphones but without having to hold them. 

In-between each song the characters tell you are little bit about their story and set up the song before it starts. During these times you can really see the chemistry and friendship between the six girls not only as their characters on stage but also off. The banter they have on stage with each other and the way they deliver the lines had me sitting on the edge of my seat and smiling from ear to ear. 

The first of the wives to tell their story is Catherine of Aragon who was played by Jarneia Richard-Noel. The energy of the girls carries on into this song was a real joy to watch with some fun dance breaks between verses and sassy comments put in throughout the song. The interaction and involvement with getting the audience to clap and dance along with them was great. With the amount energy put into the song the audience are quick and eager to join in. 

The next song is ‘Don’t Lose Ur Head’ which is Anne Boleyn’s story performed by Millie O’Connell. This is one of my favourite songs on the soundtrack, so I was very excited to see this song performed on stage and it definitely lived up to my expectations. Millie’s sassy and engaging performance had me mesmerised from the start and was one of the stand out performances of the show. 

Next up is Jane Seymour’s ‘Heart of Stone’ so wonderfully performed by Natalie Paris. This is also another one of my favourite songs from the album and did not disappoint. Natalie’s outstanding voice and performance had me tearing up and giving me goose bumps with the emotion she put into her performance. 

The fifth song on the soundtrack is ‘Haus Of Holbein’ which is one of the comedy songs. The outfits, lighting and dancing in this song are all very cleverly thought out with parts of them glowing in the dark. This part of the show is set in Germany and I love how the girls all talk and sing in German accents to fit in with this theme. The lyrics, outfits, dancing and accents were hilarious and had me laughing, making this one of my favourite dance numbers in the show. 

Alexia McIntosh plays Anna of Cleves and definitely got down during her solo, ‘Get Down’. The lyrics in this song are hilarious and Alexia performs them so easily leaving the audience hanging on to her every word. 

‘All You Wanna Do’ by Katherine Howard is another one of my favourite songs (are you seeing the pattern here?! Ha!) This is performed by Aimie Atkinson. There is a certain serious side to this song with some of the lyrics being very powerful and this was shown through the choreography throughout the song. ‘All You Wanna Do’ is one of the harder songs to sing in my opinion and Aimie sings it with so much ease and sounded phenomenal. 

Last but not least, Catherine Parr tells her story with her song ‘I Don’t Need Your Love’. Courtney Stapleton, the alternate Catherine Parr, was the one to perform this song. Her voice and outstanding delivery of a meaningful song were fantastic. 

The finale ‘Six’ is where you really see what the show is about. Girl power. The all-female band all get a chance to showcase their amazing talent along with each girl getting a chance to show their outstanding vocals. 

SIX The Musical recently got nominated for five Olivier awards and after seeing this show I can see why. The talent on stage is absolutely breath-taking and I wish them all the luck in the world. I will be raving about it for years to come. 

The live pop-concert musical returned to the Arts Theatre, London in January 2019 after playing in venues around the UK such as Cambridge, Southampton, Glasgow and Edinburgh. 

SIX The Musical, “Divorced. Beheaded. LIVE in concert!” is at the Arts Theatre until January 2020 so grab the hottest ticket in town while you still can!

More information about the show and tickets can be found here.

 

Lorna Dallas: Stages – REVIEW

Lorna Dallas: Stages

The Crazy Coqs, Live at Zédel, London

★★★★

Lorna Dallas: Stages

The Crazy Coqs, Live at Zédel, London

Reviewed by Mark Sykes

Seen March 6th, 2019

★★★★

Lorna Dallas has had an illustrious career spanning many decades, but has only recently returned to the stage after a 20-year hiatus. From Broadway to the West End (and many locations in between); from Show Boat to Hello Dolly! (and countless others), Lorna Dallas has ‘been there, done that’  – and then some! The journey from being a small town girl in Illinois, to a world-renowned stage performer is what provides the setting in Lorna’s latest one-woman show called Stages.

The show sees Lorna on stage alongside her Musical Director on piano, Chris Denny. Stages begins its journey in Lorna’s childhood years in Illinois and her parent’s initial disapproval of her having any thoughts of a singing career. Her opening number of “There’s No Business Like Show Business / A Glamourous Night” instantly proved that age hasn’t dampened those soaring soprano vocals and Lorna immediately had the audience (sprinkled with some familiar showbiz faces) enthralled.

The show, directed by Barry Kleinbort, was littered with songs written by some of the most famous names in music, such as Irving Berlin, Stephen Sondheim, Cole Porter, Kurt Weill, Kander & Ebb, etc. What stood out for me though was many of the songs were not the usual fare that you would usually hear in this type of show. Each song had been perfectly curated to fit Lorna’s life story, both on-stage and off, with each having a specific personal meaning to her. 

The singing career of Lorna Dallas really began when she won a singing contest whilst still in high school. With 20,000 contestants participating, that first showed the pedigree that she had and which would provide the initial foundation for the lengthy career that was to follow. 

Songs such as “Blues In The Night” (by Harold Arlen and Johnny Mercer) and Cole Porter’s “Never Give Anything Away” (with additional lyrics by show director Barry Kleinbort) continued Lorna’s journey. Songs were interjected by fascinating stories and anecdotes, many amusing but with some striking a more personal note. “Poor Little Hollywood Star / At The Crossroads” was another song for Lorna to display her vocal skills, and it was here that she impressively proved that she could still hold a note.

There is certainly an eclectic mix of song choices in Stages, but it was obvious that much thought had gone into their selection. I suppose none more so that Jerome Kern and P.G. Wodehouse’s song “London, Dear Old London” from their 1922 musical comedy The Cabaret Girl. This fitted well with Lorna’s 2-year stint in Show Boat starring alongside Cleo Laine, and a time that she fell in love with this great city.

The highlight of the evening for me had to be Lorna’s performance of Larry Grossman & Hal Hackaday’s “Empty”. It was a stunning rendition of such a beautiful song; unbelievably, the song was cut prior to the opening of the 1970 Broadway show Minnie’s Boys. Lorna also sang one of my personal favourites, “Teach Me Tonight”, written by Gene de Paul and Sammy Cahn. Whilst the song was written in 1953 (well before I was born!), Lorna’s interpretation still feels fresh – and it also provided the opportunity to shine the light on Chris Denny’s keyboard skills with a lovely solo spot. 

The raw emotions of the evening came to the fore with Ivor Novello & Christopher Hassall’s “My Dearest Dear”. The song has a deep personal meaning for Lorna and it left a deep imprint on the hearts of the audience as well. It was a special moment of the evening.

The evening ended with Anthony Newley & Herbert Kkretzmer’s “If All The World’s A Stage”. It was a perfect way to round off a wonderful journey through time. From a small town in Illinois, to shows such as The King And I and even a Royal Variety Performance in front of Her Majesty, the Queen Mother, Lorna Dallas has come a long way. For me it was as much about the personal tales used to segue the song choices as it was the actual songs being performed; but putting them together lead to perfect combination of music and chat.

The fact that Lorna can continue to deliver shows like Stages to sell out audiences, and importantly provide a fresh interpretation on songs that go back to the early decades of the 20th century, is proof of her pedigree and staying power – the likes of which is such a rare commodity in the 21st century.

The Grand Expedition – REVIEW

The Grand Expedition

Top secret location!!!!

★★★★★ and all the stars between here and the moon!

The Grand Expedition

Top secret London location!!!!

.

Reviewed by Jade Prince

Seen February 26th, 2019

★★★★★ and all the stars between here and the moon!

I can’t rave about this enough! The two and a half/three hours spent with GingerLine were a dream. For those who love both theatre and food, your time has come. There is a place where the two worlds intertwine!

GingerLine has a reputation for creating journeys for their audience members that not only teleport them to another world but also sets their taste buds alight. With past adventures including Juniper Manor, The Faculty of Eatucation, and Chambers of Flavour (V 1, 2 & 3) where tickets sold out in a blink of an eye. It is safe to say that this one appears to be following suit.

This was my first GingerLine experience and, in all honesty, I had no idea what to expect. After all, it isn’t every day one gets to indulge in an immersive dining experience. 

For those not familiar with immersive dining, you still get the theatrical story however the food is part of this story. They compliment each other perfectly; enriching all your senses. This type of immersive theatre has really taken off over the past few years with GingerLine paving the way.

Now, the event itself…

Just like any grand expedition, the destination is always in mind but never visible until the final stretch. In this case, 4pm on the day! The location is finally revealed but contrary to popular belief, it is not on the ginger line this time.

We stepped into the clouds and were sworn to secrecy. You really need the element of surprise to add to the wow factor! I can’t be giving away all their secrets! That being said, we have been granted special permission to share some production shots in order to give you a tiny glimpse into this “floating, feeding, falling dream”.

Throughout the night the action is delivered straight to the table. No need to move and trust me, with the amount of delicious food served, you did not want to move!

Majestic poetry carries you through a world where whimsical choreography, larger than life characters, hand-drawn animations, exquisite set design and explosions of flavour flow seamlessly together.

The night was meticulously planned so nothing felt rushed. There was always something to entertain and for those with wondering eyes, like myself, an endless amount of detail to discover.

I had opted for the vegetarian menu to sample for our vegetarian audience and was delighted with the way these dietary requirements were handled. Everyone was catered for all at the same time. And the presentation of the dishes remained the same. I also have to add, the vegetarian menu was delicious!

After floating, being fed and then gently falling back down to earth, it was time to finish our grand expedition. My taste buds have sampled exotic cuisine and everything just tastes bland now!

We’ll have to go on another grand expedition.

Seriously, you need to experience this. Initially, I thought it was a bit pricey but now I have experienced everything you receive and with it all to a very high standard, it is worth every penny!

Tickets and more information can be found here.

There are new worlds waiting for you!


Thriller LIVE – 10th Anniversary Performance – REVIEW

Thriller LIVE – 10th Anniversary Performance

Lyric Theatre, London

★★★★

Thriller LIVE – 10th Anniversary Performance

Lyric Theatre, London

.

Reviewed by Katie Middlebrook

Seen January 22nd, 2019

★★★★

On Tuesday 22nd January 2019, Thriller – Live celebrated a spectacular 10-year anniversary of the show being on the West End and Ginger in The Theatre was lucky enough to be invited to this fun filled event.

Thriller – Live is a two-and-a-half-hour concert show celebrating the music of The Jackson 5 and the solo work of Michael Jackson. The show had already been performed in the United Kingdom, Germany, the Netherlands and Scandinavia before the Lyric Theatre opened its doors in London for the first time on 21st January 2009.

Adrian Grant is the writer and theatrical producer of Thriller – Live. He started a British fan club for Michael Jackson in 1988. Adrian worked closely alongside Michael during the time the ‘Dangerous’ album was being recorded. In 2006 Adrian developed the tribute show and it had its first preview at the Dominion Theatre in August that year. Later that year Adrian teamed Chris Brown up with the dancers of Thriller – Live to perform the show in front of Michael Jackson. The following year Thriller – Live became a touring show with raving success and reviews across the UK and Europe before opening at the Lyric Theatre in January 2009.

This was my first time seeing the show and I had such a fun evening. The performers interactions with the audience was amazing. They easily got everyone to dance and sing along and if you are on the front row you might be lucky enough to get a high five from a cast member or two!

There are four main singers in the show who are all very talented. I really enjoyed hearing their harmonies and renditions of popular Michael Jackson songs. One of my favourites was ‘She’s Out of My Life’ which was performed by David Julian who stood out throughout the show as a very gifted performer.

Florivaldo Mossi was a very convincing Michael with his looks and naturally flowing dance moves. I was a little confused for some of the numbers as it looked like he was lip syncing but, in the finale he could very clearly sing.

The show has a lot of content with lots of well-known Michael Jackson songs as well as Jackson 5 songs, but the show didn’t seem to be in any order or have a particular structure which sometimes was a little bit confusing. I found myself knowing and enjoying a lot more of the songs in Act Two, some of my favourites being ‘The Way You Make Me Feel’, ‘Man in the Mirror’, ‘Earth Song’ and of course ‘Thriller’.

There was obviously a lot of hard work put into the costumes and creative side of the show with the set design and lighting. It was all very colourful and bright and kept the show very exciting throughout the whole thing. Along with the audience interaction it was a very entertaining and enjoyable show.

If you are a fan of Michael Jackson and his music and want a fun filled evening of dancing and singing, then Thriller – Live is the place to go. It continues to play at the Lyric Theatre on Shaftsbury Avenue Tuesday to Sunday every week with matinees on Saturday and Sundays.

More information and tickets can be found here.