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.

The Beautiful Game performed by the National Youth Music Theatre – REVIEW

The Beautiful Game performed by the National Youth Music Theatre – REVIEW

The Other Palace, London

★★★★

The Beautiful Game

The Other Palace, London

 

Seen August 16th, 2018

Reviewed by Mark Sykes

★★★★

NYMT was established in 1976 and has had some illustrious alumni and patrons over the years, including Kerry Ellis, Sheridan Smith, Jude Law and Idris Elba, to name but a few. NYMT provides young people with training and mentoring in musical theatre, both those wanting to tread the boards as well as those wanting a career in the creative and technical aspects of theatre.

NYMT’s 2018 summer season features four musicals, three being performed at The Other Palace as part of a 3-week residency. I had never been to a NYMT performance before, but my interest was piqued when I saw that they were doing a production of The Beautiful Game, having seen the original West End production of this back in 2000 (lead by Hannah Waddingham).

The Beautiful Game has music by Andrew Lloyd Webber with book & lyrics by Ben Elton and is set in Belfast between 1969 and 1972.  Whilst it has football at its core, the focus is on a group of youngsters dealing with the troubles of the day in Northern Ireland.

One of the perennial issues when putting on a show at The Other Palace is the size of the stage. It’s much smaller than its larger West End cousins, so much credit should be given to choreographer Matt Cole for both the opening football match sequence and the cup final that happens later on. Having so many people on stage at the same time and interpreting a football match in dance could be fraught with issues, but the energy and coordination on display was an impressive feat.

If you listen to the soundtrack, one of the highlights is God’s Own Country. Led by the central character Mary, it provides NYMT’s Aliza Vakil one of numerous occasions during the show where her stage presence and performance belies her youth, as is excellent throughout. Mary’s relationship with John is one of the centre pieces of the story as they fall in love, get married and have a child; but John gets drawn into the troubles of the time and gets incarcerated for having helped his best friend escape from the police. On his release from prison, John has some unfinished business to deal with much to the consternation of Mary; but finally the two are re-united as John seeks some level of redemption for past mistakes. Rueben Browne plays John, and at just 19 years old, gives an impressive performance in conveying the emotions of being torn between family and helping wayward friends.

The character Thomas is one of the main protagonists involved in trouble-making activities, and is commendably performed here by Ned Costello. The scene which leads to someone being ‘knee-capped’ is fraught with tension and provides a jolt to the heart when the gun goes off. The experienced Jasper Britton plays Father O’Donnell, and provides much of the light relief in what at times can seem like a  very dark musical; but even with the subject matter at hand, Ben Elton’s lyrics continue to throw in the laughs throughout, helping to lighten the mood.

Director Hannah Crissick has done a sterling job bringing The Beautiful Game back to the stage. All of the NYMT casts members deserve credit in their performance, including Paul French, Edd Conroy, Rory Jeffers, Lucy Carter, TiernaMcNally and all of the ensemble members. Given their age and experience, they all dealt with the subject matter superbly. I only learned after the show that Andrew Lloyd Webber was in the audience the same evening as me; he must have left a very proud man.

The Beautiful Game may deal with issues seen as no longer relevant given the troubles of Northern Ireland belong largely to a bygone era. But the issues at the heart of this story still exist, not only across the Irish Sea but with parallels across the world as religion and violence seem ever intertwined. It’s a story that continues needing to be told. The original cast album is available to listen on Spotify. If you have an account, click here to listen.

The Beautiful Game was staged by NYMT at The Other Palace, 15-18 August 2018.

Broken wings – REVIEW

Broken wings – REVIEW

Theatre Royal Haymarket, London 

★★★★★

Broken Wings

Theatre Royal Haymarket, London

 

Seen August 1st, 2018

Reviewed by Mark Sykes

★★★★★

Having followed the development of the new musical Broken Wings for quite a while on social media, then obtained the concept album back in May and watched the YouTube recordings in awe of the talent on display, it was with much excitement that I visited the Theatre Royal Haymarket on Wednesday 1stAugust 2018 for its world premiere performance.  It was a stunning portrayal of a story about love, heartbreak and tragedy, and which leaves a lasting impression on the audience.

I’ll admit that until Broken Wings surfaced as a new musical in development, I had never heard of the poet Kahlil Gibran, the third best-selling poet of all time.  But having worked in Saudi Arabia for 6 months (in part wanting to learn more about their culture), Broken Wings once more sparked my interest in the Middle East and has provided an opportunity to learn a bit more about the culture of this region.

The show has a simple stage setting – the rear half has the orchestra sat either side of a raised element.  In the first act, the older Gibran (supremely played by co-writer Nadim Naaman) is positioned here with his writing table as he narrates his story and watches on as his younger self (played by Rob Houchen) enacts his early life in the front half of the stage.  The first act introduces all of the main characters and provides the setting for Gibran and Selma to meet and form a relationship that ultimately can never be consummated.  I have seen Rob Houchen a number of times this year and he always impresses with his dynamite vocals.  He has great chemistry with Selma, portrayed by the wonderful Nikita Johal.  Nikita deserves special praise as she stepped-up from the ensemble at short notice to take on the lead role, and she performed it with a great sense of assurance and poise.

Selma’s father, Farris (Adam Linstead) and the Bishop (Irvine Iqbal) also provide focal elements of the story.  Whilst Farris can see the blossoming relationship between his daughter and Gibran, he is persuaded by the Bishop to give her hand in marriage to another – and sets in motion a sequence of events that will lead to heartbreak and tragedy.  Whilst Selma is married off to a philandering man she doesn’t love, her friendship with Gibran is rekindled via a series of illicit meetings.  Ultimately though, Selma’s pregnancy and subsequent events (no spoilers here!) provide a devastating conclusion to this love story.

The second act has the staging partly reversed, with the older Gibran at the front of the stage providing narration for some of the scenes playing out on the raised element.  I found this actually worked quite well; the lack of endless scenery transitions kept the story front and centre and continued to flow seamlessly.  Having the orchestra on the stage was nice to see (and neatly dressed in appropriate attire) and was a positive enhancement.  The only negative of the staging was the use of smoke/dry ice.  I felt it didn’t add anything to the story or atmosphere; indeed there were occasions when events taking place in Farris’s garden were almost overwhelmed by the smoke (albeit this was less obtrusive in act 2).

The music, lyrics and orchestrations are really excellent and I would heartily recommend people buy the concept album if you don’t already have a copy.  The stand-out songs are Selma and Spirit Of The Earth.  This latter song (and it’s reprise as part of the Finale) is probably the highlight of the entire show.  It brings the entire cast front and centre in an electric-charged performance that brings a lump in the throat; it compares equally to any of the big numbers in the likes of Les Miserables, Miss Saigon, etc.  Here though, I have to single out Soophia Foroughi who provides the lead vocals for this song and also plays Gibran’s mother.  I am in love with this voice!  If you watch the YouTube video of Spirit Of The Earth you’ll understand, but Soophia is one of those artists that sound even better live.  A simply supreme vocal performance.

The entire cast, including ensemble members, were excellent; there wasn’t a single weak link.  Joe Davison (Conductor) and the orchestra were also faultless; and again it was so nice to be able to see them in a West End show.

As for Nadim Naaman and Dana Al Fardan, they have created something special.  I so much hope that the four days at the Theatre Royal Haymarket is just the beginning for the stage show.  It deserves an opportunity to grow and mature, and to perhaps come back bigger and better.  Yes, I learned a bit more about Middle Eastern life, but people shouldn’t let it’s Lebanese origins put them off wanting to see this.  Miss Saigon has a love story at its heart, with Vietnam as its setting; Broken Wings has similar parallels (as do many other successful musicals).  Put any prejudices to one side and watch and listen to a genuine love story; you will be rewarded well.

Click here to see Hiba Elchikhe (Selma) and Rob Houchen (Younger Gibran) perform I know Now from the Broken Wings original concept album.

If you don’t already have the concept album, you can order it here.

Knights of the Rose – REVIEW

Knights of the Rose

The Arts Theatre, London

★★★

Knights of the Rose

The Arts Theatre, London

 

Seen July 5th, 2018

Reviewed by Jade Prince

★★★

I was really rooting for this show to be much more. Having seen this talented cast perform on numerous occasions and sounds epic each time, I had high hopes. Unfortunately, the music and vocals couldn’t carry the show alone.

Knights of the Rose is meant to be an epic Shakespearean tale of love, betrayal and sacrifice but a lot of this seemed under developed. The rock score was what made the show unique and exciting with music from Bon Jovi, Meat Loaf and Bonnie Tyler to name a few.

I do want to take a moment to appreciate the cast. Wow! These guys were great! Their voices were incredible! Pretty much every number sounded brilliant!

This biggest let down for me was the fact the show didn’t know what it was. It was right in the middle of being a serious Shakespearean play and a cliche rock playlist put to a story. The songs were used very literally throughout the show and several had the audience laughing within the first bar. A reaction along the line of “Oh my God, are they really using this song!”. I mean, with the literal use, the songs worked very well.

I felt that a lot fo the characters were under developed. One moment the princesses were madly in love, the next, not interested. And then through a drastic change in circumstance, about to marry a man you had know idea they were interested in!

The staging was rather nice. Two levels and sections which moved in order to show the scene changes from the castle, to the bar, to the battle field. One scene that really sticks in my mind was the battle scene in act 2 with the horses. I want to say it was the number “The War To Win”. This was a pretty spectacular scene! The horse head puppets were beautiful and the use of the mesh screen down stage was stunning. You really felt like you were in the heart of the battle with the pouring rain.

I have to say the writing really made you root for certain characters. At one point you wanted the so call ‘villain’ to be killed by the man he betrayed and just when you think it could happen, your hopes were crushed! It was nice to see that aspect wasn’t predictable.

I really need to take a moment to point out a flaw which I couldn’t stop noticing. The shoes. Oh, the shoes. The male shoes were fine but the female shoes were a no, no. They were modern high street shoes. It was as if they were going to get off stage, rip their historical dresses off and hit the town! They were definitely not in-keeping with the time period.

I think if it was developed more into a lighthearted Shakespeare rock musical it could enjoy great success. Or maybe it is there already? It is just needing some way to convey this to the audience.

Overall, this was an enjoyable show. I would recommend it but don’t go in there expecting anything flash. The music and vocal performance was really what made the show for me.

Knights of the Rose is playing at The Arts Theatre until Sunday 26th August.

Information on the show and tickets can be found at: http://knightsoftherose.co.uk

Also don’t forget to follow Knights of the Rose of twitter.

If you are still intrigued, we got to still down briefly with Katie Birtill and Rebekah Lowings at the press call. Check out the short interview here.

The Lion King

The Lion King

Lyceum Theatre, London 

Written by Jade Prince 

The Lion King

Lyceum Theatre, London 

 

Seen May 19th, 2018

Written by Jade Prince 

This will only be a quick one about Lion King simply because I feel this show doesn’t need another review. I simply want to document my thoughts because all of mu previous beliefs were totally wrong!

I always said I’d never see Lion King as it was overrated, over-priced and dated. Boy, do I retract those statements!

I was in London on a Saturday and had no matinee show so I decided to pop in to the box office to see what the day seat situation looked like. I wasn’t;t expecting anything as ti was 10:30am. Lo and behold they had one lonely seat left. For £20, how could I refuse. So I was seeing the show I had always labelled as overrated.

I tell you what, as soon as the opening number started, “The Circle of Life”, I had chills everywhere! It didn’t take much more to make me cry like a baby. As soon as the giraffes came out I was gone!

Regardless of how long its been in the west end, it still works that Disney magic. Its classic Disney magic.

The puppetry was stunning, Not just the animals but also the scenery. Those grass costumes were so creative!

With the incredible feeling that show gave me, I could so easily get addicted to it!

It was nothing high tech but it worked so well. I never expected that stage and my mind was blown by the way if was used to create those iconic scenes we all know and love.

I could go on but I’ll stop it here. I love it and have never has that kind of reaction with a show!

I’m going again!!!!!!

It’s Only Life – REVIEW

It’s Only Life – REVIEW

Union theatre, London 

★★★★

It’s Only Life

Union theatre, London 

 

Seen June 16th, 2018

Reviewed by Jade Prince 

★★★★

It was a rather cute show and contains some great reminders for people wanting to live a fulfilling life. Although, putting these into practice isn’t always the easiest. ‘It’s Only Life’ covers every human need spanning the whole spectrum whilst delivering the message wisely.

The music is solely John Bucchino’s who, over the year, has wrote songs which have been  performed my theatre legends such as Audra McDonald, Liza Minnelli and Patti LuPone to name a few. He isn’t well know in the UK. In all honestly, I had never heard of him. I do have to say though, I love his writing style. All of his songs in this show are very heart warming and honest. He manages to capture true life in its rawest nature.

I can’t say I saw much of a story during this show (the story I did see was left till the end) which did detract from the enjoyment initially. I was very worried I was missing the point so I started really listening to the lyrics. And that is when the enjoyment came back.

You could not ask for a more talented bunch of performers! Including the MD, Nick Barstow. I do love seeing a show and every person on stage is at the same level. No weak link in this cast! The songs were just so well suited to their voices and each of them got to demonstrate their range at various points during the show.

This was a very basic production with no microphones and just one pianist. It was such a beautiful touch only having a piano accompanying the performance. It worked so well with the lyrics being sing. Where the venue was of an intimate size there was no need for the microphones but I do wish that certain cast members had a microphone. At certain points I was really struggling to hear and I was sat front row.

The set was so cute! The use of different levels was perfect! It was very minimalistic, colour-wise. All white washed with the odd burst of colour here and there. All pastel colours and I am a sucker of pastels! I really enjoyed looking around and seeing all of the everyday items (the majority painted white) hung on the walls in the various rooms of the house. I did spy a pastel blue Buzz Lightyear!

‘It’s Only Life’ is currently playing at the Union Theatre until July 7th. If you are looking for a cute, heartwarming, enjoyable show, this is the one!

Tickets and information can be found at: http://www.uniontheatre.biz/its-only-life.html

Teddy – REVIEW

Teddy – REVIEW

The Vaults Theatre, London

★★★★★

Teddy

The Vaults Theatre, London

Seen April 7th, 2018

Reviewed by Jade Prince

★★★★★

Watch out Waterloo Station! If there are disruptions to the trains (and its not caused by South Western Railway for once) then it is because of the Rock ‘n’ Roll coming from below. It’s jolted the tracks! Its a swinging party down there!

This fast pace, on the edge of your seat show takes you back to a Saturday night in 1956. Two teens all glammed up and ready to hit the town. What could possibly go wrong? But it is important to remember ‘Desperate times call for Rock ‘n’ Roll’.

Such a unique show and unlike anything I have ever seen. It is safe to say that I absolutely adored it. Who doesn’t love 50s Rock ‘n’ Roll to start with? You are immediately thrown into a great mood when you take your seats. A trio on stage playing the finest music. This is even before the show began! What a treat we were in for!

The script was incredible. All I kept thinking was ‘this is Dr. Seuss for adults!’ Outstanding! It is poetic beauty and the music is a great addition to the script. It really aids the show and rounds it off in such a gorgeous way. For the majority of the show it really helped heighten the intensity.

It was so adorable seeing the young love fold out on stage. So picturesque! I loved the authenticity as well. Everything had been carefully thought out. Right down to the vintage glass bottles the band used. Little things like that really please me.

The set was stunning and completely at home in the Vaults. Completely stripped back and completely raw. I must admit I had the occasional difficulty in hearing the lines over the music. The acoustics in the vaults aren’t great so the music does have to be a lot louder which is to be expected.

Molly Chesworth (Josie) and George Parker (Teddy) play off each other so well. Such a delight to watch. I did find myself forgetting they are playing teenagers. Some scenes they are so grown up, street wise and ready to take on the world. So strong. Mature beyond their years. Yet, in other scenes they still believed in everything. Molly has the most entrancing eyes. So much naivety and child-like wonder. She had such an impact with her eyes regardless of the acting accompanying it which was great from both parts!

With each number I was wanting to dance. That want was turned into a need during ‘Dance off the blues’. Oh my goodness. That number was totally unexpected. I was not expecting the dance routine. My jaw was on the floor! Incredible moves.

Please, please, please get a ticket for this show. It is outstanding. If you want to be guaranteed a great show and a great time this is the only one you need!

More information about the show and tickets can be found at https://www.thevaults.london/teddy

Be sure to catch it before June 3rd!

Eugenius! – REVIEW

Eugenius!

The Other Palace, London

★★★★

Eugenius!

The Other Palace, London

 

Seen on January 31st, 2018

Reviewed by Jade Prince

★★★★

Eugenius has returned to London after a stellar run last year at the London Palladium. This time it has taken up residence in the much smaller venue, The Other Palace. Complete 80s pop culture over-load, Eugene (Liam Forde) is a teenager. More importantly a geek ridiculed by the world. His world. High school. His safety being the creation of comic book superheroes. From a small hobby, Eugene is shot straight to Hollywood as his idea takes off but reveals struggles along the way maintaining the art and true friendships. Sometimes the fictional world can be a lot realer than it seems.

It was such a fun show to watch! Everything about it had energy. It’s not the best thing that I have seen but I can understand why so many people love it. The majority of the music is incredibly catchy with a variety of different music styles from 80s pop to the standard love ballads to more comical numbers. I have to be completely honest and say that the closing number has been stuck in my head since I left the theatre. “GO EUGENIUS!! Go Eugene!” The whole soundtrack was very upbeat and enjoyable but I don’t feel it would be a soundtrack that I would be able to listen to fully outside of the show. The odd feel-good songs have now been added to my ‘morning motivation’ playlist. The rest would be enjoyed if I saw the show again.

I rather enjoyed the choreography although I found that it lost its full potential due to the stage size. This production would suit a larger stage. It all just felt a tad crowded but they made what they had work.

The script for certain characters was great, especially for Ferris (Daniel Buckley). I did not expect half the things he said which made it so much funnier. The rest of it was rather mediocre and I did find myself willing the next number to start. None of it was irrelevant, just a little slow.

I don’t like doing this part simply because the whole cast were great, we have a standout performer – Laura Baldwin (Janey) was fabulous. He voice is so petite yet so very powerful and she really got to demonstrate that. I spent so long trying to work out what I’d seen her in before. It turns out it was ‘Little Beasts‘! She presented such a caring glow about Janey which was lovely to watch.

It was wonderful seeing all the characters so drastically different! A camp Hollywood talent scout (Theo, Scott Paige). A guy who has to be at the top of the food chain with everybody  kissing his ass (Lex, Cameron Blackely). Somebody born to flaunt her ‘assets’ (Carrie, Melissa James). With the exception of a chameleon of ensemble members (Alison Arnopp, Jacob Fisher, Alex Tranter, Luke Dowling, Frances Dee, Chloe chambers and Rosie Heath)

Overall, I really enjoyed the evening however I can’t help but feel something was missing. I can’t quite put my finger on it. It was missing its wow factor. Despite this, Eugenius is definitely a show to bring back nostalgia for people who grew up in that decade with hilarious references! However people not of that generation will also understand the vast majority of the references too! It will be enjoyed by all (12+)

You can find Eugenius at The Other Palace until March 3rd. For more information on the show and tickets please visit https://www.theotherpalace.co.uk/whats-on/eugenius

#GOEUGENIUS

The Woman in White – REVIEW

The Woman in White

Charing Cross Theatre, London

★★★★

The Woman in White

Charing Cross Theatre, London

 

Seen on December 14th, 2017

Reviewed by Jade Prince

★★★★

Another love story focusing on betrayal and greed and a secret that needs revealing. This eerily beautiful musical follows Walter Hartwright (Ashley Stillburn) as he endeavours to find out this mysterious secret after a strange encounter with the ‘woman in white’ on his travels. A simple work trip to become an in-house drawing master to half-sisters Laura Fairlie (Anna O’Bryne) and Marian Halcombe (Carolyn Maitland) turns into something more chilling.

Right off the bat this show was pretty slow to start with but thankfully the pace picked up halfway through act 1. I went into this show not knowing anything of the story. This is a Webber musical/Charlotte Jones book I have never delved into. At the interval I felt that it was very predictable both lyrically and with the story. Having seen the complete show now I still stand by what I said about the predictability of the lyrics but the story took a lovely turn.

It took a while for the show to captivate me however once it did it was beautiful. I have to be truly honest, the majority of the music didn’t do much for me. A small portion of the numbers were very nice especially when the three voices of Carolyn Maitland, Anna O’Bryne and Sophie Reeves (Anne Catherick) came together. Their voices alone were stunning.

The set was really nice and I loved the way the woman in white could just appear in the middle of the stage. This added even more to the uncertainty and chilling feel. For those who were not familiar with the story (me!) it raised the question, “is she really a ghost?”. Something my attention was drawn to (now this is me being very nit-picky) was the way the costumes were lacking in detail. For the time period they seemed very drab.

The whole cast were very strong regardless of age. The standout performer had to be Sophie Reeves (Anne Catherick). Her performance was stunning and she fit the character to a T. Vocally and visually she was mesmerising.

Overall, I did enjoy the show and I highly recommend it. The Woman in White has a very limited run at Charing Cross Theatre so be sure to grab tickets sooner rather than later! More information and tickets can be found at: http://thewomaninwhite.co.uk/ 

The show is booking until February 10th, 2018.

Hamilton – REVIEW

Hamilton

Victoria Palace Theatre, London

★★★★★

Hamilton

Victoria Palace Theatre, London

Seen December 7th, 2017

Reviewed by Jade Prince

★★★★★

Five stars. And the rest. Indescribable. Get tickets (if you haven’t got them already, why?!) and see this show. The end.

Mel Brooks’ Young Frankenstein – REVIEW

Mel Brooks’ Young Frankenstein

Garrick Theatre, London

Reviewed by Jade Prince

★★

Mel Brooks’ Young Frankenstein

Garrick Theatre, London

 

Seen on November 15th, 2017

Reviewed by Jade Prince

★★

It’s safe to say that this show was not my cup of tea but I can see how people could enjoy it. It really didn’t wow me at any point which has surprised me because everyone I’ve spoken to has enjoyed the show. There were a few bits I liked but the majority was disappointing.

This comedy musical tells the classic Frankenstein story which is based on the popular 1974 movie. It is clear to see that this show pokes fun at itself and the typical horror films from the 30’s  however I’d don’t think it was carried out successfully. Some shows are very good at making fun of themselves, this one just didn’t cut it. As well as the parody aspect you could see that it was attempting to be bad to fit in with this horror genre but once again there is trying to be bad and then just plain being bad!

The script was filled with jokes which the rest of the audience loved! Everyone pretty much laughed through the entire show but I personally think the type of comedy isn’t for everyone. The type of jokes they used heavily relied on innuendos and a lot of them were straight up crude. This can be great if done well just look at shows like Book of Mormon and Avenue Q.  I much prefer more creative jokes with meaning as a pose to generic ones thrown in for now real reason. I have to admit one joke did make me laugh during the first act, Frederick Frankenstein referring to ‘one part of him’ pointing in that direction. That was probably the only time I laughed. All of the jokes became very repetitive. There are only so many exaggerated delays for ‘comical’ reasons you can take within one 2 hour 20 minute show. It held on to every element much longer than it needed to! For example the jokes, playing with words and their different meanings and bringing the fourth wall down to the audience.

The cast themselves were great and worked well with what they had. The timings between the jokes and reactions were fab! Very quick but natural looking. You could see there was chemistry between the cast. The acting itself would be great in a silent film! The stand-out performer was Ross Noble (Igor). He was brilliant at holding that character throughout the whole show. The mannerisms were on point.

The set was kept very basic which was in keeping with the 1930’s horror film genre with a couple of larger props moved onto the stage for certain scenes. I really enjoyed the horse and cart scene. The movement of the cart was really good and it was nice to see the attention to detail with the horse costumes. You could see a lot of choreography had gone into that to make all the movements as realistic as possible. When looking at the set on a whole, you can see that the majority of the budget went on pyrotechnics!

Overall, it’s an okay show. I really don’t rave about it, as you can see but I can understand why some people would enjoy it. If you like the ‘slap-stick’ comedy and parody shows then I would recommend this to you. If you like traditional musical theatre, then save your money.

Young Frankenstein is at the Garrick theatre and playing until February 10th, 2018. For more information and tickets visit: https://youngfrankenstein.co.uk/

Everybody’s Talking About Jamie – REVIEW

Everybody’s Talking About Jamie

Apollo Theatre, London 

★★★★

Everybody’s Talking About Jamie

Apollo Theatre, London

 

Seen November 8th, 2017

Reviewed by Jade Prince

★★★★

To say that I am now obsessed with this show is an understatement! I haven’t stopped listening to the soundtrack. It’s also provided me with a new feel good song ‘Don’t Even Know It‘.

This musical is the brand new creation inspired by the BBC3 documentary aired in 2011, ‘Jamie: Drag Queen at 16‘. Jamie has always been different and destine to be so. Year 11 is always tough for every teenager however a lot more is added to the equation when you channel your true self whilst fighting off prejudice peers and bullies. Jamie is most certainly a force to be reckoned with and proves to everyone that he was made for the spotlight.

I absolutely loved the show. It’s a modern take on ‘Billy Elliot’ but is in keeping with today’s issues.

Let’s jump into the script. It’s unlike anything I have heard in a long time! It’s original and 100% relevant. The school ‘lingo’ between the pupils transported me back to my secondary school years. There are so many witty parts. One of the things I really liked was that issues such as racism were touched upon during one scene and it was shut down by another pupil straight away. It showed that racism is no longer accepted however discrimination over gender is still an issue and tends to be over-looked. This is a changing matter!

I really loved the score. I could tell from the opening number that the music was going to be great. Each song is so catchy however there are some numbers which broke my heart. I was almost in tears, especially during “My Man, My Boy”. I just kept thinking of me and my mum. Two stand out performances were Josie Walker and Lucie Shorthouse. Firstly, Walker’s performance during “He’s My Boy” shattered my heart but she then also blew me away with those vocals. The emotion was raw and I just wanted to hug her. Shorthouse, well, I wasn’t quite expecting a voice like that from her (I have no idea why) but everyone needs to be looking out for this name because I feel she is going places. The rest of the cast were great. Such a good vibe on stage!

The set designers did a fabulous job (I had to throw fabulous in here somewhere, it just seemed fitting!). I loved the way the majority of it was kept feeling rather sterile. This worked so well during the school scenes hinting at the conformity they attempt to inforce. The square lights were a really nice touch in adding to the school atmosphere but they were not redundant. The seamless change between the school and the drag shop was beautiful! A great use of the fly-ins. It was also great to see a contrast between the school scenes and the kitchen showing that home is the place where Jamie could really be himself. It was goodt to see a pop of colour within the set. Those scene changes were also great. Seriously, the attention to detail in this show is everything.

I personally found some of the dialogue slowed down at certain points in the show especially if it was after an energetic number which made it a little difficult to engage with. But the story itself moved at a great pace.

Shout out to the choreographer! The choreography was mesmerising. The contemporary routines were a great pair with the larger numbers but the lyrical during “If I Met Myself Again” was stunning! (This is where I show myself up by making mistakes with the dance terminology. Dance Moms can only get you so far!)

I feel like this ‘review’ is more of me rambling along in comparison to my other reviews which are much more structured but there was so much fabulousness to take in! I am definitely going to have to see it again.

Everybody’s Talking About Jamie has only just begun its run at the Apollo Theatre so there is still plenty of time to get a ticket. Tickets and more information can be found: http://www.everybodystalkingaboutjamie.co.uk/

The Toxic Avenger The Musical – REVIEW

The Toxic Avenger The Musical 

Arts Theatre, London 

Reviewed by Jade Prince 

★★★★★

The Toxic Avenger The Musical

Arts Theatre, London

 

Seen October 25th, 2017

Reviewed by Jade Prince

★★★★★

If you are needing something to make you laugh, this show will certainly do the trick! Based on the film released in 1984, this rock musical combines dark comedy, romance, brutally honest truths about the world we live in and an epic score to give you a theatre experience you shall never forget!

The town of Tromaville, New Jersey, is turning into a toxic cesspit as it quickly becomes the dumping ground for the rich’s waste. When the situation becomes critical it is up to one unlikely hero to save the day, a hero by the name of Melvin Ferd the Third (Mark Anderson). His journey of self-discovery, self- acceptance and finding love is given a hilarious twist.

So, I went into this show with no knowledge of the story just the recommendation from friends saying that if I love Urinetown and The Rocky Horror Picture Show then I will also love this. They weren’t wrong! It is the perfect blend of the two with strong elements of Heathers -musical as well.

Initially it started off very cheesy and I didn’t know whether I was going to enjoy it. The opening number ‘Who will say New Jersey?’ was incredibly similar to the opening of Urinetown with the narration and bombardment of intentional jokes. The narration was not the main focus of the rest of the show which was nice. If my memory serves me right, it only happened again in act 2 briefly. The cheese quickly subsided and more well thought out jokes were thrown in. There were so many unexpected ones which really caught me off guard and brought out my ugly laugh! It was so refreshing to hear new jokes that I hadn’t heard before in other shows. Typically speaking a lot of shows do re-use jokes by rewording or changing the context slightly however these were completely different. Occasionally bordering on offensive but come on, we all laugh at the offensive ones!

The use of the set was great and the scene changes were subtle but worked so well. I love how the pipes hid a lot of the subtle scene changes. The three pipes on stage opened out to reveal either bookshelves (library scene), doctor’s cabinets, a coffee shop and a salon. This worked really well because despite the stage being on the small side at the arts theatre, without very much effort the scene noticeably changed. I absolutely loved the chase scene towards the mid half of act 2. It was beautiful. It involved the cast running from stage left to stage right and then backstage to re-enter on stage left to do it again during that one number. It helped to add another element of comedy to the show.

Before seeing this show it is important to remember that it does not take itself seriously at all! To be honest, it doesn’t take anything seriously, including other musicals. It pokes fun at other successful musicals however this was kept up to date and also incorporated into the set. Some of the show referred to were Hamilton, Hairspray, The Rocky Horror Picture Show, Urinetown, Book of Mormon, In the Heights and Wicked. These were through a mixture of very obvious and very subtle hints.

The whole cast were incredible! The stand out performances were Emma Salvo (Sarah). The way she carried that character blew me away. Sarah is a blind girl, Salvo acted it so well. She never focused on any of the other characters present on stage and although could see everything that was happening, she was unable to react as it would break the illusion of her character being blind. A huge shout out to Ché Francis (Black Dude). His facial expressions and eyes were giving me life! Absolutely hilarious! I take my hat off to that cast and the way some of them had to double up or even triple up their character portrayal. Francis and Oscar Conlon-Morrey (White Dude) were fabulous with all their other smaller character roles. The speed in which they changed into them and how drastically different each one was blew me away. Another stand out moment during the show was Natalie Hope (Mayor/ Ma Ferd/Nun) and they way she handled ‘Bitch/Slut/Liar/Whore’. Every note was absolutely perfect, the acting of both characters was still there and the comedy.

This was a very enjoyable show. I highly recommend it to everyone. It is back in London after a sell out run at the Southwark Playhouse last year. Be sure to snatch a ticket for this show. It has a limited time left at the Arts Theatre and is booking until December 3rd. Tickets and more information available here: https://artstheatrewestend.co.uk/whats-on/the-toxic-avenger/