Puccini’s La Bohème (An Ellen Kent Production) – REVIEW

Puccini’s La Bohème (An Ellen Kent Production)

New Theatre, Oxford 

★★★★

Puccini’s La Bohème (An Ellen Kent Production)

New Theatre, Oxford

 

Reviewed by Jade Prince

Seen January 24th, 2020

★★★★

Arguably one of the most romantic operas ever written, Puccini’s La Bohème sees a young poet and seamstress meet and fall in love. It’s a story of struggles with poverty and health and how this blossoming romance holds under the pressure.

This was a nice production however there were a few things that I could not overlook. I was toying between giving La Bohème three or fours stars. Having now seen another Ellen Kent production, four stars for this is the correct choice. In reflection it would have been far too harsh to give this moving production three stars.

The main purpose of the opera was met. It was vocally beautiful and heartbreaking. It started off rather quiet. There were definitely sound issues. Everything felt a little lost on the stage. The vocals, the acting and the orchestra. Thankfully as the show progressed it started to assert its dominance.

My main critique of the show is how ‘DIY’ it felt. The set and costumes looked so cheap even from a distance. In a way I’m glad we had the surtitles because it distracted from those factors. It’s harsh, I know but it all screamed cheap and very nearly overpowered the show.

Alyona Kistenyova who played Mimi provided endless emotion and constant vocals throughout. She definitely dazzled more in act 1…of 3. The other cast members, although vocally sound, faded into the background. It is a shame but I suppose the opera is all about the music and the voice. These are the main components that carry you on that huge emotional journey. It definitely did that.

All in all, I really enjoyed the evening. I know it seems like a heavily criticised the show. I think for me, an opera is this huge grand experience and unfortunately, this production of La Bohème missed the mark and didn’t match my expectation. Dare I say it felt like a high school production. A good one! But still very much a high school production with a few professional voices dotted through.

This production of La Bohème has just began it’s UK tour and there are plenty of dates left to catch it. More information on upcoming venue and tickets can be found here.

 

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 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.

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.

An Enemy of the People – REVIEW

An Enemy of the People

Union Theatre, London

★★★

“In a way, it did reflect the current government state perfectly; it seemed so promising yet failed to deliver.”

An Enemy of the People

Union Theatre, London

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Reviewed by Jade Prince

Seen January 16th, 2019

★★★

The Union Theatre has opened their doors up once again to a fabulous series bringing focus on past great writers and their work in relation to today’s issues. The Phil Willmott Company have returned to The Union Theatre for their fourth season of “Essential Classics”. Between the months of January and March 2019, three shows are being presented in such a way that pulls the classic writing into the 21st century. On display is Arthur Miller’s adaptation of Henrick Ibsen’sAn Enemy of the People’, Offenbach’sCan-Can!’ and William Shakespeare’s classic, ‘Othello’. 

To start the season off, we got to see ‘An Enemy of the People’ which sees the struggle of a small town scientist as he battles the mayor and local community after making a shocking discovery which could significantly impact the future of the town’s current project. It soon becomes clear that despite the town’s people believing the harsh truth of their actions, the ability to stand against the political body of the town is non-existent. Despite Ibsen writing this piece back in 1882, the context remains relatable in today’s political climate, especially in the US with Trumps’ regime. Arthur Miller’s adaptation of Henrick’s original work was brilliant and also hit the audience hard with the realisation that regardless of the century, the same issues prevail. 

An Enemy of the People definitely delivered the message intended however the lack of professionalism really detracted from the experience. This low budget performance definitely had an impact on how a great play was received by the audience. It was clear it had so much potential. In a way, it did reflect the current government state perfectly; it seemed so promising yet failed to deliver. 

The play definitely got better with time. It gradually built up momentum. This was helped by the passion delivered by David Mildon (Dr. Thomas Stockman) which was compelling to watch. This then reached the pinnacle towards the end of act two where the level of emotion displayed by Mildon was through the roof. I applaud him for the stunning performance. 

Unfortunately, the rest of the show was rather bland. The full package was not there for me. This ranged from the lack of American accents (it appeared that this element was optional for the cast) to the mediocre set design. This really hindered the flow of the play. It was very difficult to distinguish changes in scenes which ultimately slowed the show down. The only way you could identify the scene changes were through the over exaggerated blackouts. It would have been great to see the scenes changes tackled in a different way instead of the simplest solution being selected. 

A lot of thought had been put into setting the scene and this typically came in the form of background noise. It was a very simple addition; birds chirping for when the scenes took place outside and cheering during the debate. It was a nice touch although there were some parts where the background noise was too loud and made it difficult to focus on the scene being played out infront of us. 

The Union theatre is a wonderfully intimate venue where this show could have been right at home however the space was not fully utilised and ended up coming across as very low budget. Overall it was enjoyable but very evident that there was so much more the show could have given to the audience. 

An Enemy of the People is playing at The Union Theatre until 2nd February 2019. For more information and tickets, head to  http://www.uniontheatre.biz/an-enemy-of-the-people.html

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.

Screaming Secrets

Screaming Secrets

Tristan Bates Theatre, London

Screaming Secrets

Tristan Bates Theatre, London

 

Seen on February 23rd, 2018

Reviewed by Jade Prince

(DISCLAIMER – Brutal honesty throughout!)

Well, I’m speechless. And not in the usual way.

Theatre is meant to evoke feelings and this did for me but something is telling me annoyance and a teeny tiny bit of anger wasn’t what the writer was going for.

I’m not too sure where to start. It is probably best to attempt to explain the concept of the play. It was a little all over the place. The main story was meant to be about acceptance and understanding by friends and family. Its a philosophical play looking at moral dilemmas and what happens when we are looking them straight in the eye. Antonio (Jack Gordon) unintentionally discovers his fate but needs to rapidly find a way to disclose such information to his family. The only issue being the bold characters in his family and unfolding events also occurring. Some secrets just have to be told.

That is probably my best shot at trying to explain it. I don’t feel that any of the main aspects of the ‘synopsis’ were actually reached. The secrets alluded in the title were never actually revealed in whole. And although part of the secret was revealed, it was done against Antonio’s will. Reading through the main synopsis on the Tristan Bates’ website I chuckled more than once. “Relationships under scrutiny” but all the established relationships seemed to be falling apart. Not one relationship seemed healthy or achievable. There was no solid relationship to put under scrutiny. Another section read “Antonio has to make up his mind rapidly” he never actually made up his mind. People were continuously telling him what he should do and then Simon (Ben Warwick) went a head and told Monika (Triana Terry) anyway about his diagnosis! What a great doctor! Patient confidentiality!

The story took place during Antonio’s birthday and oh my! It must have been the worst party in the history of parties and in complete honesty, possibly the worst 90 minutes of my theatre life! (I warned I’d be brutal) There have only been four shows out of my 150-odd in the past two years that I have actually contemplated walking out of. Show Boat, Young Frankenstein, Promises, promises (which I did actually leave during the interval) and unfortunately, this one. The only thing really stopping me was the fact I was wedged against a wall with a full row beside me and no interval.

From the onset none of the characters listened to each other and neither did I really. I mean, I did listen. Enough to write this. It just became an argument that went round and round which slowly had more characters joining the mix.

The acting was rather bad. Looking at the programme it looks like a few of the cast have had a very heavy weighted television and film career as a pose to stage. I feel this might have been a downfall.

It was so frustrating how the majority of the characters spoke over each other meaning many of the lines were very rarely finished. It made it all feel so rushed and not rehearsed. Actually a lot of the potential humorous lines where missed due to this. People jumping in here, there and everywhere. The whole feel of the show was very mismatched. This included the plot which did not seem to follow anything really. Even the time period was questionable. Nothing pin pointed it on stage. The set was saying 21st century chic with the vintage pieces. Whilst one costume screamed the 60s. None of the costumes seemed in keeping with each other or even matched one decade.

A key point of theatre for me is relating to it. Watching something that is realistic. None of this was realistic. The party was but as soon as you delved further into the story and the morality/impact on relationships was mixed in, it all seemed so far fetched. (SPOILER ALERT) In what situation would you find out you have cancer by over hearing a conversation between a friend/your doctor and sister and then so calmly approach that ‘friend’. Firstly, why would your personal doctor be your friend? That doesn’t happen very often in real life, virtually never when dealing with terminal illnesses. And then the big green light came in representing the shock of the cancer. Cliché!

We then somehow managed to jump into a seance mid-show? Monika just blurted out ‘Let’s have a seance!’ WHAT?! At no point leading up to this was there any inkling of the interest in the paranormal. The funniest part did occur during this scene but how we got there still baffles me!

There were then freeze frames thrown in everywhere! There are only so many freeze frames you can tolerate especially when some of the cast feel that they are exempt from them. A freeze frame means you freeze. Not continue moving and sighing which was rather distracting.

The script was poncy. I completely understand that philosophy was the main part and that the writer specialises in philosophy which accounts for all the philosophical terms and views but the language was just unneeded. Extravagant words thrown in for the sake of it. I can accept a few here and there with purpose but full sentences, not so much.

Overall, this play was incredibly bizarre! Far too much happening at one. Many of the characters seemed pointless.

There are two more showings left of this if you feel the urge to see it but I would definitely advise you spend your money on something else. Information on the show and tickets can be found here https://www.tristanbatestheatre.co.uk/whats-on/screaming-secrets and it closes today, February 24th.

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.