Fiver – REVIEW

Fiver – REVIEW

Southwark Playhouse, London

★★★★★

Fiver

Southwark Playhouse, London

 

Reviewed by Jade Prince and Katie Middlebrook

Seen July 5th, 2019

★★★★★

This review will be slightly different to our usual. Creator, Jade, and reviewer, Katie, are teaming up to share their love for Fiver. Having both seen the show, so many similar thoughts and opinions were shared. There’s just gonna be double the love! 

Fivers, something we take for granted but are rarely seen nowadays due to societies preference of contactless payment. Exchanging hundreds of thousands of hands in its lifetime yet so easily forgotten the moment it leaves your fingertips. Have you ever paused after a transaction to think about that fiver and the journey its about to embark on? 

For two hours you will bear witness to roughly half a dozen intertwining stories and how the same fiver touched their lives individually. 

Straight away, we need to express our need for a cast recording! Very rarely you find a show where each next song becomes your new favourite. It is typical for the odd song or two to fall short however this is not the case for the score of Fiver. Every song can hold its own. It was refreshing to hear so many genres of music in one musical. This aspect kept the audience engaged and excited with anticipation for what was to come next. Lyrically, the score was stunning. This ranged from the comedy sprinkled throughout to the deeper meaning behind the lyrics. There were also so many which the audience could relate to on a personal level. It is safe to say that Alex James Ellison and Tom Lees have very brights futures ahead of them not just with this show but with future creations. 

The concept of the show was wonderful. It is a very simple concept however didn’t just glide over the surface, it delved deep into realistic personal stories. It wasn’t the generic run of the mill story which it could have been. You could see the amount of time and effort and creative skill which has been pumped into the story. This really resinated with the audience through its relatable nature. It should also be noted that at no point did the story feel predictable. 

With shows that follow numerous intertwining stories, there is always the risk that the audience will be lost along the way. With Fiver, there was a seamless connection between each story and character. This was helped as the audience were guided through by Alex James Ellison who took the role of the ‘narrator’. His warm, welcoming personality immediately drew the audience in. 

From the get go, it was evident that the fourth wall would not make an appearance. With the show having an intimate story line the removal of the fourth wall really added to the audience’s experience and allowed them to embark on a rollercoaster of emotion.

Although some sombre story lines were looked at in act 1, the perfectly crafted comedy which built throughout act 2 really made this a heartwarming show. One notable scene was the proposal preparation and the joy brought to the stage by Luke Bayer and Aoife Clesham as they portrayed cheeky youngsters. 

The final point to make is the way the score so beautifully allowed each cast member to demonstrate their vocal range individually but also to provide glorious harmonies throughout. 

This is a well rounded, heartwarming show which is perfectly executed. The foundations have been set for Fiver to achieve big things. We cannot wait to see this shows development and will be there every step of the way. 

Fiver is showing at the Southwark Playhouse until 20th July 2019 and trust when we say this is not one you want to miss. More information about the show and tickets can be found here.

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.

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 Wider Earth – REVIEW

The Wider Earth 

Natural History Museum, London

★★★★

The Wider Earth

Natural History Museum, London

 

Seen October 20th, 2018

Reviewed by Jade Prince

★★★★

We all know the name Charles Darwin and how his discoveries changed the world however what is less well-known is his very first voyage and the way this changed his own life.

Enter a world of adventure.

As an audience, you are taken onboard HMS Beagle and sail across the world, witnessing first hand the evolution of Darwin. This show provides a unique insight into the battles 22-year-old Charles Darwin (Bradley Foster) faced when reaching for his dream. Striving for acknowledgement in a prestigious community, acceptance from his father (Robert Darwin played by Ian Houghton) and mutual love from Emma Wedgwood (Melissa Vaughan).

The Wider Earth is London’s newest family show and has all the elements a parent would wish for. It’s entertaining, educational and a perfect way to round off a day of learning at the Natural History Museum. This was something I loved the most about the show, it’s setting. Tucked away down one of the grand corridors, the auditorium is situated right next to The Darwin Centre. A perfect pairing.

Lets get onto the show. There were many aspects I enjoyed. The story did exactly what it said it would do. It presented the buildup to Darwin’s first voyage, the voyage itself and then his return. Five years of someone’s life told in two hours. The script had a very comfortable pace. There were no moments that felt rushed and it was definitely presented at a level suitable for all ages. My only criticism would be that the characters were very bland. I didn’t feel much characterisation.

The set was brilliant. It really helped to create an incredibly smooth transition from scene to scene. The rotation also helped to provide the feeling of traveling. There were a couple of transitions where the cast continued acting on the ‘rock’ during the rotation giving the impression they were exploring a new foreign land. It was brilliant, don’t get me wrong, however after a few scene changes the transitions felt a little repetitive and it definitely lost its wow factor.

My favourite element of the show had to be the puppets, I just wished they had more stage time. The design of the puppets was in the form of simplistic mechanisms.  You could see the structure of the inside of the puppet and route of movement. To incorporate the puppets didn’t require additional cast and crew, the cast members you saw onstage also evolved into puppeteers! Watching it on stage was beautiful. They became this extra limb for the puppet/animal displaying all the associated characteristics.

Sound and light was something which really added depth to the show. Throughout, there was an amazing backing track easing the plot through its own organic growth but also, when needed, heightened the intensity. One scene which really sticks out (without giving to much of the story away) was the moment HMS Beagle capsized. The stage and auditorium were a wash of rippling shades of blue. Completely submerged. In fact, replaying that vision whilst writing this, I can easily say that was my favourite scene in the show. So many actions perfectly executed; the sound, the light, the slow motion acting from the cast.

Looking at the whole package it is clear to see why the Natural History Museum was selected to play host to The Wider Earth. No other venue would do.

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Be sure to see The Wider Earth which is calling the Natural History Museum home from now until February 24th 2019. Did I also mention that children go free when paired with a paying adult ticket? It’s true, they do! More information on the show and tickets can be found at: http://www.nhm.ac.uk/visit/exhibitions/the-wider-earth.html

Eros – REVIEW

Eros

White Bear Theatre, London

★★★1/2

Eros

White Bear Theatre, London

Seen September 9th, 2018

Reviewed by Jade Prince

★★★1/2

The 1990s was a decade which welcomed in many things. The computer was one that had the biggest impact. Like anything, it had its pros and cons. It improved accessibility to the world, giving people the feeling of acceptance and a purpose when in reality the thoughts of these were a distance truth. But with this accessibility came the ability to exploit. The improvement of technology meant that camera were also improving and the time between capturing the image to viewing it in its printed form were drastically decreased. Sexploitation began to have an ever bigger presence.

The story follows the lives of Ross and Kate. Both stagnant in life. Ross unknowingly running from his past and Kate trying to find closure.

I want to say this show has depth however I don’t think this is possible. While the writing was enjoyable most of the time, there were times when the pace dropped. Complete scenes which never seemed to develop and left the audience asking more questions than they had before.

Focusing on pass behaviours eventually catching up with you despite how fast you run and the facade you create. Ross is a mellowing, middle-aged man doing exactly this. Escaping from his past which left a photographic imprint in his mind. A lifetime of guilt and regret. Until the past enters through his failing business’s door, a female ghost of those days, Kate.

I’m still rather unsure what Kate’s intentions were. This was not made clear. I believe this aspect of the play needed working on the most in order to allow the audience to make up their mind on how they felt about Kate. It was also a little ambiguous as to how Terri aided the story. Was she there to represent the naivety of the young?

The writing of the script was fairly good. As perviously mentioned, the majority of it had a good pace with some witty parts. Unfortunately, what let it down was how it seemed the need to acquire a couple of ‘cheap’ laughs. It heavily relied on the mention of well-known towns around the Staines and Twickenham area to make the audience laugh. Don’t get me wrong, it worked, however people will always smile/chuckle when something resonates with them in that context.

Overall, this was relatively enjoyable despite the flaws. It is clear it is in the early stages of its development and I will be interested in seeing where this goes in the future. Next time I hope the synopsis is a little more vague so the reveal of Ross’s past life is more of a shock.

GUY! A New Musical – REVIEW

GUY! A New Musical – REVIEW

King’s Head Theatre, London

★★★★

GUY! A New Musical

King’s Head Theatre, London

 

Seen August 31st, 2018

Reviewed by Mark Sykes

★★★★

This musical is about Guy, an overweight millennial gay man and his search for true love. Played by Brendan Matthew, Guy thinks he doesn’t fit into the gay community and his struggles to find the right partner provides the focus for this story. He shares an apartment with Tyler (Steve Banks) and the relationship goes through a number of ups and downs; friendship troubles emanating from Guy setting up a fake profile on the dating app Grindr using Tyler’s picture. Tyler’s distant partner (Adam Braidley) sees the picture, assumes Tyler is on the latter’s ongoing conquest to find love.

Meanwhile, Guy has decided to lose a few pounds in the hope that a fitter body will make him more attractive and therefore easier to find a suitable partner. It is this storyline where Guy meets Aziz (Seann Miley-Moore), a young, fit, good-looking man of whom Guy thinks someone like that would never fall in love with him. In a way, they are a bit of an ‘odd-couple’, but actually have much more in common than each of them initially realise. Their friendship blossoms, but Guy is afraid to take it to the next level for fear of scaring Aziz away. This causes its own problems when Aziz reaches forward for that first kiss; Guy’s self-doubt and insecurities come crashing down on their relationship and it’s then a question of whether or not things can be retrieved or are their irreconcilable differences?

There only four actors in this show and Brendan Matthew shows admirable qualities as he remains on stage for pretty much the whole of the two hour show, portraying Guy’s qualities and inner demons well. Special mention though goes to Seann Miley-Moore who gave a captivating performance and was seriously impressive.

This was my first visit to the King’s Head Theatre. It’s a very small venue, albeit with a surprisingly wide stage. The intimate setting actually worked well for this show, and with only four actors there was plenty of space for them to express themselves. The staging was simple; no scenery as such, just a few props on stage; but this didn’t detract from the storyline. More so, it puts more emphasis on the dialogue and the acting, with no peripheral frills to be concerned with.

There was a sharpness to the script and lyrics, with some cutting one-liners expertly delivered by the cast. Being slightly critical though, I did feel that parts of the dialogue were a bit contrived and some of the scenes in between the 14 songs could perhaps do with a bit of trimming so as to maintain the momentum of the overall show. My only other criticism is that there were a couple of scenes where it wasn’t clear (to me at least!) whether the dialogue taking place was a virtual conversation or a physical one.

Overall, this modern love story serves as a reminder of the dangers of social media. A reliance on a virtual world of the Internet and dating apps to build relationships and to find ‘the one’, is not necessarily a path to success – especially when all may not be as it seems. For anyone though, gay or otherwise, Guy’s tale can serve as a reminder to us all to look in the mirror, accept yourself for who you are, and don’t try to become something you can never be. Embrace your own qualities, focus on the positives and be proud of YOU!

A Monster Calls – REVIEW

A Monster Calls – REVIEW

The Old Vic, London

★★★★★

A Monster Calls

The Old Vic, London

 

Seen August 18th, 2018

Reviewed by Jade Prince

★★★★★

This has been on my list of things to see and I thought I wouldn’t have the chance to see it at The Old Vic but I am so happy I did. I was reading everything on-line and everyone was raving about the show. My heart warms when I say that this show did not disappoint. It exceeded so many of those reviews! 

The original book (by Patrick Ness) was aimed towards the children’s literature genre and I have to confess, my childhood was shocking when it came to literature. The books I read were never iconic or influential so it was safe to say that I knew nothing about ‘A Monster Calls’. I didn’t even realise it was a book! It is not the standard storyline. The imagination of a child but the struggles of an adult torment Conor (Matthew Tennyson). I feel it is safe to say that Conor feels alone in this darkening world. His father (Felix Hayes) took off and headed to America, he is dealing with the impending doom of losing his very own mother (Marianne Oldham) and a Grandma (Selina Cadell) determined not to let any family incident knock her off her throne. It focuses on morals, truth and acceptance of ones self. 

The whole show put me in this incredible trance! It was so mesmerising to the point where one of the clock clangs scared the sh*t out of me! Violently slapped me right out of that trance! 

Lets look at the set, I loved the versatility of the white box set. Normally the white box is never used to its full potential however ‘A Monster Calls‘ used every single millimetre. A giant canvas for projections, a way to mask the two-man band (Benji Bower and Will Bower) when needed and then have then on full display in the next scene. It also provided a wonderful back drop for the tree. The shadows cast were super. Occasionally when multiple lights were up hitting the tree from different front angles, a couple of different tree shadows appeared in the background. I am not sure if this was intentional but it was a great addition to some of the stories told by the Yee Tree, especially those that you could picture being set in a forest! 

It was an unusual take on a ‘monster’. The book is aimed at children but the typical monster appearance was not adopted. There were no elaborate costumes or masks or gruesome features to distinguish the monster however the addition of the set itself created this illusion. The human appearance probably made it more terrifying. Monsters aren’t always these huge, grizzly creatures, they walk among you and I down the street.

I went into this show not knowing what to expect. I was in awe when the ropes (which I initially thought were for decoration) morphed into a tree. It was such a unique way of representing it. There was nothing standard about it. Michael Vale was definitely not looking for an easy route when envisioning this! The way it effortlessly travelled around the stage taking different shapes and sizes, just like an actual tree would as its branches are waltzed around by the wind. I take my hat off to the cast having to manoeuvre those ropes. Moving one is heavy, let alone 3-4!

Amongst the ropes was a spectacular dance carried out with so much precision across the stage. Even by those suspended in the air. This was great. For me the child element of the characters came out. I don’t know, it’s kind of the standard thing, isn’t it? Only being able to picture children sitting on tree branches. Maybe…just me, okay.

The script was great on its own however the music was an added bonus. I just kept thinking to myself “I need a soundtrack of this.” It was a mix of both relaxing but also heightened intensity. It was a strange combination however work incredibly well. Music can have a really big influence on a show both positively and negatively. A lot of the times it’s not needed though the decision to include music in ‘A Monster Calls‘ nurtured a completely different depth of the show. Music-wise, they didn’t just rely on the ambient music but also had a very talented woman hidden in the cast who was able to strikingly lend her voice to the story. I didn’t think it could get better and then Nandi Bhebhe started singing. The scene where Nandi was singing in the tree was sensational!

All in all, this is the piece of theatre that everyone is needing to see without even realising it. It’s raw yet so powerful and I think I could honestly keep going with this review. More elements keep popping into my head as I write but I need to stop. The ending had me in tears and when those house lights came up in the auditorium I had this uncontrollable need to break down and cry. Even walking out of the theatre I was willing myself not to cry. But I know I wasn’t the only one like this. A couple of seats over from me a boy, who must have been able 16, was doing exactly what I wanted to do. Hunch over and sob. That my friends is a sign of a bloody marvellous show!

I am so happy I got to see it before it closes.

A Monster Calls‘ is at the Old Vic until August 25th so get down there ASAP!

Show and ticket information 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.

Bury the Hatchet – REVIEW

Bury the Hatchet – REVIEW

The Hope Theatre, London

★★★★

Bury the Hatchet

The Hope Theatre, London

 

Seen July 28th, 2018

Reviewed by Jade Prince

★★★★

Outside of my theatre life, there is nothing I love more than watching crime documentaries (especially BuzzFeed Unsolved!). After all, I spent 5 years of my life studying Law and Psychology. Delving into criminal mysteries became the norm for me. So I was super excited when I saw the story line for Bury the Hatchet.

There is still an unsolved murder from 1892 which had the main suspect acquitted. The murder of Andrew Borden and his wife, Abby Borden, occurred 126 years ago to the date of writing this review, August 4th 1892. The main suspect was Andrew Borden’s younger daughter, Lizzie Andrew Borden. This case was unique in providing an insight into the flaws of forensic investigation at the time as this case was ultimately dropped as there was insufficient evidence in order to secure a conviction.

Bury the Hatchet has a very unique way in retelling this story with an injection of some folk music here and there. It was delivered as a documentary yet had a very raw appearance.

Let’s just jump straight in with the biggest down fall and in fact, my only real criticism of the show. I personally feel this raw appearance let the performance down. I couldn’t help but feel there was no real thought in the delivery or preparation. Throughout the show there was a lot of jumping around. The three characters continuously jumped into various different historical reenactment roles which made it rather tricky to stay up to speed with the story being played out in front of you. I occasionally found myself confused as to what time period we were viewing: was it still the historical reenactment or had we leaped forward back into the present day retelling of the story? Whilst watching the show I could see that this disorganised element could be easily rectified in a number of ways.

Taking this out of the equation, I did enjoy the show. It is very rarely you see a play of this nature. I certainly cannot fault the cast. They were incredible and worked wonders with what they had in that room. The harmonies definitely stood out for me. I loved how the addition of music was intricately woven into the story and that it was actually relevant and fitting. The use of the limited number of instruments really transported you back to 1890’s Massachusetts.

I am always intrigued when writers perform their written work. Sarah Wilson did this for Bury the Hatchet. Not only was the writing factual and interesting but the way Sarah delivered this was engaging. The addition of Joseph Prowen and David Leopold only added to this. Chemistry is something I always look for in a cast and the chemistry seen on stage was strong enough to build Andrew ad Abby Borden’s tomb! I really admire the comedy dotted throughout. Although the whole show was scripted, the comedy never seemed forced. This was helped by the fact that Sarah, Joseph and David were able to bounce off each other effortlessly.

I am very glad I managed to see this show and it will be great to see where this goes in the future. I can wholeheartedly say that there is potential and with a budget and larger venue, this will be reached.

Bury the Hatchet is at The Hope Theatre until August 11th. Tickets ind information can be found here.

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.

Flashdance (UK tour) – REVIEW

Flashdance (UK tour) – REVIEW

★★

Flashdance (UK tour)

Bristol Hippodrome, Bristol

 

Seen June 26th, 2018

Reviewed by Jade Prince

★★

My advice: If you want a fun night out with your girlfriends, a couple of drink, see a show with good music and some well known songs, this is the show for you. However, if you are like me; see theatre on a regular basis, know what you are looking for and want to see a perfectly executed show…then…this isn’t for you. At all.

We all know the film Flashdance. Yes, Fame’s nearly forgotten sister.

I hate to say this however I can’t help but feel this product is straying towards this same path.

I can see it has potential but what it really lacks is commitment.

The standard was not there. Everything was messy. The choreography was the biggest let down. For a show with such a heavy bulk of dance involved, I was expecting so much more. Instead we go horrendous spacing on stage and 20 different energy levels. From the audience I could feel no connection between the cast on stage. This was even more prominent in the dance numbers that required partner work and group work. A few cast members were going all out! High kicks so high, precise and extended there might be a chance of a hip dislocation. Whereas others gave minimal effort or even found themselves several beats behind racing to catch up. Unfortunately, being off beat was a regular occurrence.

This isn’t me saying the choreography was bad. It was simply the delivery. I can’t fault Matt Cole’s work. Matt has definitely created high energy movement on stage…when executed well.

The staging was nice. I did enjoy the set and its movement through the different scenes. The two levels worked well. It really came into play when there were two different locations in the same scene. I just wish some of the actors remained in character when walking from upstage centre, having exited from the back stairs of the raised platform, to the wings. Some were evidently out of character and this whole walk section was exposed. Wait until you’re in the wings!

Performance-wise the show was rather bland. The script and delivery was mediocre. The vocals were good. Some stand out performers included Joanne Clifton (Alex Owens) and Emily Kenwright (on as cover Gloria for this particular performance). For the majority of the show I found myself focusing on Emily. She has a great stage presence. Although there was one scene where I did not want her to demand my focus but she still continued doing so. I didn’t want to focus on her not because of her performance but because of the costume. The opening number of act two had these lovely gold, shimmery halter neck dressed. The back is exposed therefore you either wear no bra, a strapless flesh colour bra or a regular flesh colour bra. These are forgivable. But not a regular white bra. Straps on show and everything. Glaring out into the audience like a little gremlin! I had to demonstrate some breathing exercises during this number. How did this get through costume?!

In short, I felt like I was watching a high school production. The vocals were the best part. This show could be something incredible with the right budget and time to nurture it further. It fell into the stereotype that touring shows are trying to shake; limited budget, time, resources which was very sad to see.

It’s meant to be a feel good show about chasing your dreams except this feeling was lost as it traveled off stage into the audience.

Flashdance is still touring the UK if you have a girls night out planned!

Information on the show, tour stops and tickets can be found at http://www.flashdanceuktour.co.uk

 

West End Sings Whitney Houston supporting Women’s Aid – REVIEW

West End Sings Whitney Houston supporting Women’s Aid – REVIEW

★★★★★

West End Sings Whitney Houston supporting Women’s Aid

The London Cabaret Club, London

 

Seen May 20th, 2018

Reviewed by Jade Prince

★★★★★

(All photos included in this post are all my own. Hence the amatuer feel!)

This was possibly the very best charity cabaret event I have ever seen.

The talent was to die for, the charity deserved every penny and the whole event was executed perfectly!

West End Sings is a new charity concept with very specific themes. There are the odd one or two events similar by they don’t have this unique quality. This debut event had a rather spectacular theme. One that fit the chosen charity like a glove! It was songs from the one and only, Queen Whitney Houston!!! To sing Whitney songs, you need some smashing vocals and the performers did not disappoint!

Our host for the night was Norman Pace. Along with everything else, he was perfect! The right amount the comedy, the right amount of cheese but also kept the show moving at a good pace.

In total we were treated to 15 performers display the stunning work of Whitney.

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Above we have Damien Winchester (currently in Aladdin as swing/cover Genie) singing I’m Every Woman/Million Dollar Bill.

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Here we have a picture of Sabrina Aloueche (Chess) killing I Will Always Love You. I bit song to sing but. she. nailed. it.

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Nathaniel Morrison (Founder of West End Gospel Choir) singing Greatest Love of All. Damn. Did he slay! This performance gave me life and Nathaniel worked it! He worked that stay, he worked the floor, he worked every part of The London Cabaret Club!

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This was a beautiful rendition of How Will I Know sung by Charlotte Riby (Recently in Jesus Christ Superstar at Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre)

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The attention drifted during the interval but the moment that first note left Liam Tamne’s lips, the room was under his spell! Liam performed I’m Your Baby Tonight/So Emotional.

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I’ve always loved Lucie Shorthouse’s voice ever since I saw her last year in Everybody’s Talking About Jamie and her performance of It’s Not Right But It’s Okay melted my heart!

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This has to be my favourite Whitney song. That is the stunning Run To You. I take my hat off to Summer Strallen (currently paying Inga in Young Frankenstein). It was truly mesmerising!

The event itself was organised and at no point was the charity out of focus. As soon as you walked into The London Cabaret Club, you know what you were there for. Projections were found on the walls in the main concert hall. I have been to many ‘charity’ events where the show starts and the charity is pushed into the background and forgotten. Not with this one and it made me so happy! It was also a charity I hold so close to my heart!

As I mentioned, this is a new venture for West End Sing but I know for sure I will be there 100% of the way! I am very excited to see the next one scheduled in for later this year. They may or may not have revealed the next theme…BRUNO MARS!!!

This is an event crafted with love and passion by all people involved! I am sure we will see you at the next one!

Follow West End Sings on twitter so you now exactly when the tickets go on sale for West End Sings Bruno Mars!

P.S. if Mr. Producer man happens to read this, we so need a Taylor Swift one. This mega swiftie would be in her element! Thanks.