West End Live 2017

West End Live
Trafalgar Square, London

Saturday 24th & Sunday 25th June 2017

★★★★★

West End Live

Trafalgar Square, London

 

Saturday 24th & Sunday 25th June 2017

Written by Jade Prince

Another West End Live has come and so quickly gone. I always wish it was longer, but even at the end of two days in Trafalgar Square this ginger was screaming “OMG! ENOUGH!” This will be a longer post than usual, as the event took place over two days. Hope you still enjoy reading it!

Towards the end of June each year, one weekend transforms Trafalgar Square into the stagiest place in London. Thousands of theatre lovers flock to the square to see what the West End currently has to offer, with different shows performing throughout the day as well as special solo guest performers. Did I mention it is free? Yep! Entrance is free all weekend. Such a perfect way to introduce more people to theatre!  Saturday is the biggest and longest of the two days with many of the well-known musicals performing. Seven hours of stagey fun! The Sunday has a slightly shorter schedule with certain shows from Saturday doing repeat performances. Further into the Sunday schedule many musical theatre solo performers make special appearances.

Once again this year I was able to attend both days with friends and like always, had so much fun!

Saturday 24th June

I arrived late due to rehearsal (I snuck out early because Dreamgirls were performing at 13:20 and I HAD to be there for them!) I arrived half way through Phantom of the Opera and by that time I had missed acts from Wicked, 42nd Street, Kinky Boots, Aladdin to name a few however, I didn’t mind much as I have already seen those shows and all the performances from both days are recorded. They were slightly ahead of schedule which was surprising, but I soon realised why when the presenters where on stage. The presenters for the Saturday were from Heart radio and, therefore seemed to have limited knowledge on musical theatre and very much stuck to their given scripts. Normally those presented with a far bit of knowledge on musical theatre will pad out the script with their own opinions of the upcoming show such as: “I really need to see this one,” or “I have seen this one and it was…,” or they gage the audiences excitement for it.

Personally, I found Dreamgirls to be the stand out performance of the whole weekend. It was covers galore (not surprising considering it was a double show day and a vocally demanding show for the leads.) The cast members on stage really went for it as it was Dreamgirls first ever performance at WestEnd Live. It was nice to see that they threw in an unexpected song, which they never normally perform. Typically it is ‘And I am Telling You I’m Not Going’ which they did do, but started the set off with ‘One Night Only’ which to my knowledge they have not performed outside of the theatre before.

After Dreamgirls, I spent a bit of time looking around the stalls and being glittered up courtesy of the Oxford Street stall. This year you were able to get up close to some of the Disney costumes from Aladdin and the Lion King, as well as enter competitions with awesome prizes up for grabs. There is always something for everyone in the family, from the Forbidden Planet stall to the Everything’s Rosie marque with face painting and free candyfloss. These stalls do change each year, but they always seem to have a similar age range. TKTS always have their own marque with theatre merchandise where you can purchase tickets for that day or the upcoming week at great rates.

Many other shows performed throughout the day until 6pm and some of my favourites included Thriller LIVE, Everybody’s Talking About Jamie, Toxic Avenger, Jesus Christ Superstar, 13 The Musical and Hair.

Thriller LIVE perform every year at WestEnd Live and it is always great music that everyone knows and can enjoy. This year there performance seemed to be really long in comparison to other slots and it felt like they performed every song from the show. Although, this was nice it might have been nice to cut their slot slightly shorter as it’s a relatively well known show. This would have then created more time for those shows just about to open or that have had less ‘hype’.

Everybody is Talking About Jamie is soon to open at the Apollo theatre this November. The musical is inspired by a documentary, which was aired on BBC 3 back in 2011 titled ‘Jamie: Drag Queen at 16’. I personally am very intrigued and will definitely be going to see this once it opens after hearing the numbers performed.

Toxic Avenger is a show, which is coming back to London due to popular demand after it’s run at the Southwark Playhouse last year. I had personally never heard anything about this show until this weekend and I absolutely loved the music. Unsure of the actual storyline and from the performance on Saturday I have to say that I was given a real ‘Urinetown’ vive (another brilliant show which I wish had stayed around longer than what it did).

Jesus Christ Superstar was wonderful, as always. They opened with King Herod’s Song and the costume was very bizarre! And then Tyrone Huntly came on to perform ‘Heaven on Their Mind’; I am now even more excited to see him back in it this summer at Regent’s Park. It was a fabulous performance.

Two shows which are coming over to London this summer are 13 the musical and hair. The kids in 13 sounded incredible performing ‘The Lamest Place in the World’ and ‘Getting Ready’. There was a slight cringe moment when one of the boys looked far too young (in comparison to the rest of the cast) to be singing about being a sex god. I don’t know if it was just me feeling that way, but it was a little uncomfortable. Hair is opening at the Vaults this October as another immersive theatre experience. It was very difficult to gage its full potential, as the performance was so different to what will actually be seen but the music seemed enjoyable. There song choice didn’t really captivate me, but I will definitely be going to see it when it eventually opens.

And with that Saturday was over. A few friends and I did leave early as the last couple of performers were also repeated on the Sunday, but we all left on a high from day one and were super excited for day two!

Sunday 25th June

Trafalgar square started rocking out at 12pm on Sunday with School of Rock kicking the day off. Wow! They were loud! So loud. Far too much talent to start the day off. Those kids are too much! Until around 14:30 more west end shows performed including the regulars that are there every year (Stomp, Matilda, Disney’s the Lion King) along with a few new shows (Five Guys Named Moe and The Wind in the Willows).

Sundays always tend to be slightly different as many solo west end performers take to the stage. There is always a great line-up of solo acts and this year did not disappoint! Kerry Ellis kicked the solo section off by singing “It’s gonna be alright”, Panic Attack and “Finding Wonderland” from her most recent show ‘Wonderland’

The talent did not dwindle. Everyone in and near Trafalgar Square were hit with some amazing vocals. Rachel Tucker was most certainly a stand out performer and this was made even clearer when she came out as Marisha Wallace’s special guest. They both sung “Take Me or Leave Me” and left the crowd very weak. I don’t think I will ever get over that, it was definitely a spiritual experience!

Trevor Dion Nicholas gave a much unexpected performance with his band, Neighborhood Goliath. It was a completely different music style to what I was expecting, but it actually worked really well and got the whole audience engaged. “The Current” got people dancing.

John Owen-Jones was a sweetheart. He had the awkward job of introducing himself as for some reason her had taken over as presenter earlier in the day. He did it in such a humble and funny way. His performance was simply stunning. I had goose bumps everywhere from the moment he started singing till the very end. He even made the joke about being part of many different shows, but the only two people actually care about are Phantom of the Opera and Les Misérables!

The show ended in the most perfect way with Marisha Wallace, Trevor Dion Nicholas and Nathan Amzi joining John on stage to sing one final song, “You’re The Voice”. This really brought home just how special musical theatre is and vital it is for the community. Even through difficult times thousands of people were able to come together for the weekend and unite over their one same love, musical theatre.

“So, today, this weekend, WestEnd Live is all about love. You are here, we’re all here because we love theatre and we love this city. Yeah? This country and this city has been through some dark and difficult times recently but what shone through all that darkness has been love and humanity. We are all here today to celebrate that. We are a community, we are a family” – John Owen-Jones.

You felt so much love radiate around Trafalgar Square as they performed the final song of the day. This finished a fabulous weekend off in the best and most loving way possible.

Videos of all the performances mentioned in this blog have been linked under the relevant names.

Be sure to keep an eye out for the dates to the stagiest weekend in London next year. All information can be found as it’s posted here: http://www.westendlive.co.uk/

The Braille Legacy – REVIEW

The Braille Legacy
Charing Cross Theatre, London

Seen on May 27th, 2017

★★★★

The Braille Legacy

Charing Cross Theatre, London

 

Seen on May 27th, 2017

Reviewed by Jade Prince

★★★★

A touching true story of the trials faced by Louis Braille, a blind teenage boy in 19th century France, as he strived to create a life changing tool which has helped to benefit millions of blind people around the world.

Whilst blind children were shunned by society and left to the care of the run down orphanages many of the children, and adults caring for them, lost hope. However, Louis never did.

I personally found this a beautifully touching story line with superb lyrics and vocals to accompany them. Jack Wolfe stood out from the onset of the show. His voice was unlike anything I’ve heard in a long time. I found it drew you into the character and was just so enchanting! As a whole, the ensemble all together sounded gorgeous throughout.

Costume wise it was kept very simple although detailing on the 19th century attire was visible. The adult cast members were clothed all in black and the children all in white with black blind folds (visualising them being blind). I think it was done very tastefully and really got the message across.

I have to admit, I came out feeling very unsure about the set choices. It consisted of a two level structure (resembling a building) in the middle of the stage which was able to pivot 360 degrees. While at some points during the show the structural movement worked well and was visually pleasing along with the cast movements, it seemed slightly redundant the other times. It was not very clear when sets had fully changed or which sets remained the same. I point this out but it did not detract much from my viewing experience. I think maybe the rotating structure would have worked better in a larger theatre. Charing Cross theatre is a very small and intimate space.

As a new musical it has masses of potential: great concept, amazing score and a unique honest story. I really look forward to seeing where it may go in the future.

The Braille Legacy is at Charing Cross Theatre until June 24th. Tickets available at http://charingcrosstheatre.co.uk/theatre/the-braille-legacy

Our Ladies of Perpetual Succour – REVIEW

Our Ladies of Perpetual Succour
Duke of York’s Theatre, London

Seen on May 27th, 2017

★★★★

Our Ladies of Perpetual Succour

Duke of York’s Theatre, London

 

Seen on May 27th, 2017

Reviewed by Jade Prince

★★★★

After several sell-out runs at some very prestigious venues (National theatre and Edinburgh Festival Fringe) Our Ladies of Perpetual Succour is back in the west end “smashing the f*cking system”. When a group of six catholic school choir girls venture out of their small home town of Oban to the city of Edinburgh for a one-day choir contest, all hell breaks loose. The story follows the six girls (Chell, Kay, Orla, Manda, Kayla and Fionnula) as they enjoy their school trip in a less than lady-like manner. Along with the hilarious script and brilliant songs from ELO, heartbreaking discoveries of the characters make the rude and crude ladies lovable.

The show itself was incredibly enjoyable throughout but felt slightly long as it had a run time of 1 hour 45 minutes with no interval. What made this more bearable was the quick and witty relationship between the 6 ladies. It was questionable as to whether they were following a script as it was so free flowing and natural. The way the cast bounced off each other was wonderful to watch from the audience. Despite the script having lots of laugh out loud moments, the quieter more intimate and emotional scenes were still very captivating and heart wrenching.

The cast were able to deal with different music types from rock to church hymns and their harmonies were the most beautiful thing I’ve heard in a very long time. Stand out voices were definitely Frances Mayli McCann (Kylah) and Kirsty MaLaren (Manda). I absolutely loved Karen Fishwick (Kay) portraying the dark horse of the group and the completely honest drunk whilst tugging at the heart strings. It honestly felt like I was watching the shenanigans witnessed from my secondary school days a few years back unfold on stage!

The set was kept very plain throughout the show which worked well during some scenes however led to confusion during others, it was difficult to establish when they were still at the choir contest in Edinburgh or whether they had travelled home to Oban. The stripped back set worked very well for scenes in clubs and bars however not so well in other scenes but everyone worked well with what they had. The messiness and less than precise placement of props added to the whole story of wild chaos.

The who show oozed feminine power with an all female cast and small band.

A refreshing show which is much needed currently and is unlike anything else on the west end with humour for everyone. Something for everyone whether that is some crude humour, emotional storylines or a moment to reminisce in some wild school days. It is a real must see!

Our Ladies of Perpetual Succour is at The Duke of York’s theatre for a very limited run until September 2nd, 2017. Ticket available at http://www.atgtickets.com/shows/our-ladies-of-perpetual-succour/duke-of-yorks/

Whisper House – REVIEW

Whisper House
The Other Palace, London

Seen on May 22nd, 2017

★★★

Whisper House

The Other Palace, London

 

Seen on May 22nd, 2017

Reviewed by Jade Prince

★★★

From the creators of Spring Awakening, Whisper House is set in a lighthouse during World War 2. Christopher discovers something strange when he moves to live with his aunt after his father’s death and mother’s hospitalisation. The mysterious music and whispers have grown more prominent and Christopher knows something must be done.

The rock musical contains an awesome score with catchy tunes that will be stuck in your head and you’ll subconsciously be singing “better to be dead” as you leave.

Alongside this brilliant rock score the actual story line seemed a little lost. It was difficult to see how certain elements of the story were relevant. I feel that this was compensated for through the music and the cast stage presence. There was always something to look at whether that was the actions of the ghosts or the small illusions performed.

Niamh Perry and Simon Bailey stole the show as the two “ghosts” skulking around the stage. Both voices worked wonderfully together creating beautifully eerie presence. These ghosts are said to be seeking revenge and Niamh’s whimsical voice definitely hints at her character’s sinister side. This is helped by her costume (simple, long silk dress) and chilling glares.

A very simple set was used effectively and had different layers working down to the pit of the stage giving the illusion of the height of the lighthouse. Other elements worked very well in creating the feeling of being in New England during World War 2, such as worn and mismatched chairs and wooden floorboards covering the stage.

I personally really enjoyed the use of projection onto the back wall of the set. One of the projections that really stood out was the stair well and how well the actors were timed with the movement of the stairs themselves.

Overall this was an enjoyable show to watch and very captivating. It was very in keeping with The Other Palace’s theme of hosting quirky new productions.

Whisper House is currently at The Other Palace until May 27th. Tickets available at https://www.theotherpalace.co.uk/whats-on/whisper-house

Samantha Barks featuring special guest Kerry Ellis – REVIEW

Samantha Barks featuring special guest Kerry Ellis
Southampton Mayflower Theatre

Seen on May 20th, 2017

★★★★

Samantha Barks featuring special guest Kerry Ellis

Southampton Mayflower Theatre

 

Seen on May 20th, 2017

Reviewed by Jade Prince

★★★★

A one-off gig in the beautiful Mayflower Theatre featuring songs from Samantha Barks’s rapidly growing repertoire including musical favourites “On My Own” and “As Long As He Needs Me” alongside some of her own material, “Troublemaker”. As well as nostalgic vibes from her 2016 album tour, Samantha was joined by the talented Kerry Ellis.

With no doubt the highlight of the night was the greatly anticipated duet “For Good” from Wicked. Kerry reprised her role of Elphaba while Samantha took up the role of Glinda. Such a great pairing for the song which left the audience buzzing.

Samantha finished act one with a stripped down acoustic version of Katy Perry’s “The One That Got Away”. She didn’t just sing the song, she performed it. It was obvious she was feeling every single lyric through out the song.

A few songs into the second act, Samantha introduced Kerry who started with “Finding Wonderland” from the musical Wonderland (currently touring the U.K.) Following this, Kerry did a throw back to her We Will Rock You days with “Somebody To Love” and encouraged audience participation.

Samantha also threw in a few songs with a modern twist such as a jazzed up version of “As Long As He Needs Me” and the ultimate Disney heartbreak tune, “When She He Loved Me”

The whole night had a very relaxed vibe with certain numbers bringing a hush to the whole audience. It was great to see Samantha enjoying herself at home on stage and she proved that she is a huge fangirl at heart!

Be sure to keep an eye out for any other solo gigs Samantha does in the future through her website http://www.samanthabarks.co.uk and her official twitter @samanthabarks

tick, tick…BOOM! – REVIEW

Tick, tick…BOOM!
Park Theatre

Seen on May 18th, 2017

★★★★

Tick, tick…BOOM!

Park Theatre

 

Seen on May 18th, 2017

Reviewed by Jade Prince

★★★★

With a limited run at Park theatre Tick, Tick…BOOM! Most certainly did not disappoint. From the Pulitzer Prize winner, Jonathan Larson, the story follows three friends (Jonathan, Susan and Michael) during the 1990s as they arrive and start their journey through their thirties. While Jonathan spends the eve of his thirtieth birthday contemplating his career choices, his girlfriend (Susan) dreams of being married and venturing out of the city and his best friend (Michael) is achieving huge success in business. This sweet and intimate show takes you on a journey of self-discovery with the strong reminder of never letting go of your dreams no matter what life throws at you.

All three cast members were strong performers, but Jordan Shaw really stood out. Naturally funny when delivering his lines and was super at switching between drastically different minor characters at various point during the show. Despite the fact that there were only three cast members, the hustle and bustle of New York was still so clear on stage. Small things like the stage transitions really helped: the three actors moving props whilst noticeably changing characters. Heading into “Sunday” I was really given the feeling of being sat in the middle of a café in SOHO! In total there were 7 other characters split wonderfully between Gillian Saker and Jordan Shaw alongside their main roles of Susan and Michael. Chris Jenkins gave the audience a real feeling of empathy towards Jonathan as he pursued his dream of becoming a composer.

Superb vocals from all cast members although it was difficult to hear during some songs, as the main keys were very loud and seemed to drown out the vocals. This was more prominent at the start of the show and did not really pose an issue when the three characters came together for certain numbers. The majority of the songs were very engaging (helped by the intimacy of the venue) even the solos had a real connection to them. Gillian Saker’s performance during “come to your senses” was mesmerising! The three came together so well during the larger numbers such as “30/90” and there was never a moment I questioned the friendship portrayed.

Park 90 is a very intimate theatre auditorium which initially caused me doubt, but worked well in the favour of the show. The set, designed by Nik Corrall, was a fabulous use of space with simple but brilliant transitions.

Initially I was slightly unsure as I walked in however, a few numbers in, my mind was put at ease and I came out loving the show and believing that my own personal dreams are not too far out of reach.

Playing at Park Theatre until May 27th, 2017. Tickets: https://www.parktheatre.co.uk/whats-on/tick-tick-boom