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Late Company, Finborough Theatre | Review

Late Company, Finborough Theatre | Review

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Late Company
Finborough Theatre
Reviewed on Friday April 28th 2017 by Olivia Mitchell
★★

Late Company is one of the most moving and well executed plays I've seen. Written by award-winning Canadian playwright, Jordan Tannahill when he was only twenty-three, it follows two families dealing with the roles they played in the suicide of a young boy. 

Michael and Debora Shaun-Hastings are the parents of teenager, Joel who died by suicide a year earlier. They have invited the Dermots: mother and father Tamara and Michael and their son, Curtis  who played a big role in the bullying that led to Joel's suicide, round for dinner to build bridges and get "closure". The play is a study of grief, cyber bullying, parental guidance and homophobia among many other issues.

Of course this is a heavy subject and there's no avoiding that but the admirable thing with this play is that nothing is pushed or over emoted. The issues come forward naturally and the audience become greatly involved. The intimate setting, brilliant acting, writing, stage design and lighting all play a key factor in  allowing the audience to get lost in the production. At points I forgot I was watching as an audience member and really felt that I was at the dinner party. 

The small cast of five are all equally outstanding with Alex Lowe, Lisa Stevenson, Todd Boyce and Lucy Robinson playing the roles of the parents in a heartfelt way but fully showing the flaws in their parenting techniques and world views. David Leopold is exceptional as Curtis, embodying the teenage withdrawal and innocence perfectly and conveying so much with few words and short sentences. 

Praise must be given to Michael Yale for his faultless direction which established the permeating emotion to seep into every audience member. There was such intimacy but it didn't feel overwhelming, almost as if we were all flies on the wall watching the dinner party unfold. Yale's handling of the script is sympathetic, pure, relevant and intelligent. 

Late Company is more relevant now than ever and the entire company manages to bring the issues forward in a stunning way. It's an engaging look at the society we live in and the how impacts of what we do, which may seem innocent, can affect people. It encourages us to look at our own actions and to make sure we face problems head on instead of avoiding them and potentially facing horrific consequences. These issues surround us at all times so there's no point pretending they're not there and Late Company has done a wonderful job at bringing them to the forefront. 

Late Company runs at the Finborough Theatre until 20th May 2017

Photo credit: Charlie Round Turner

Alice's Adventures Underground, The Vaults | Review

Alice's Adventures Underground, The Vaults | Review

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Alice's Adventures Underground
The Vaults
Reviewed on Thursday April 27th 2017 by Olivia Mitchell
★★

Alice's Adventures Underground at The Vaults underneath Waterloo station is not just a show, it's an experience. An experience which everyone should have. It's magical, mystical, unique and altogether brilliant.

Based on the books by Lewis Carroll, we travel around the whimsical Wonderland meeting a variety of characters in a number of different, fantastically designed locations. The great thing about this event is that it's always different and everyone's experience is completely unique. Depending on your choices, you follow varying routes and the multiple casts and audience members mean that everything is always different.

Upon entering Wonderland, we're ushered into a room filled with photos, chandeliers, dusty books and of course, a looking glass. A blonde haired, blue eyed girl appears and seems to have forgotten who she is, asking "who am I?" before disappearing and leading the way for our adventure to begin.

The excitement can be felt in the room as we are taken to make our first decision of the night: 'eat me' or 'drink me'. This determines which path we will take, and with 24 adventures happening at the same time, it's basically impossible to be part of the same show twice. We're given a playing card and split into suits who are each led by a performer who guides us madly through the labyrinth of wonderland.

The impressive thing about this immersive experience is how seamless it is. Not a beat is missed and each moment is so well planned that nothing is clumsy or rushed. It's mind-blowing how slick it is. The characters are crazy and mad but performed perfectly, I particularly loved Zara Plessard as the Queen of Hearts. I don't want to give too much away about the characters and story because not everyone sees them all and it's definitely best to go into this without any preconceptions but every moment is truly brilliant and the its honestly does get curiouser and curiouser at every turn.

If you get the chance to go to this magic underground then please do! You're guaranteed a theatrical experience like no other, it's bewildering, breathtaking, beautiful and an absolute must-see.

Alice's Adventures Underground runs at The Vaults until 23rd September 2017.

Funny Girl (UK Tour), New Victoria Theatre | Review

Funny Girl (UK Tour), New Victoria Theatre | Review

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Funny Girl (UK Tour)
New Victoria Theatre
Reviewed on Tuesday April 25th 2017 by Olivia Mitchell
★★

Funny Girl is one of my absolute favourite musicals  and was one of the first reviews I ever wrote (which you can read here.) I saw the show when it was in previews at the Savoy Theatre and never had the chance to go back so I was very excited to see it again on it's UK tour to see if it still lived up to my initial praise. I am very pleased to say that it did and even exceeded it!

Funny Girl tells the story of the young Jewish girl, Fanny Brice who longs to be a star and is not going to take no for an answer. Whilst many people in the industry brand her as "not pretty enough", her comedic talent, natural stage presence, strong voice and sheer determination allow her her big break as she becomes a star with the Ziegfeld Follies. Along the way she meets the mysterious Nick Arnstein and we follow the ups and downs of their rollercoaster relationship. 

The simplistic but beautiful set and staging takes the audience to 1920s New York perfectly with the precise amount of extravagance and spectacle to add to the show and story without detracting from it at all. Most of the scenes take place on the created stage and backstage where Fanny is performing and the use of other theatrical elements is very cleverly used such as spotlights, curtains and mirrors. 

The entire cast are sublime with the versatile, energetic ensemble completely bringing the ornate dance scenes to life. Especially impressive was the dance which included pointe shoes with taps on them. The choreography is spectacularly sharp and show-stopping and executed faultlessly.

Natasha Barnes as Fanny Brice is completely and utterly mesmerising. Her stage presence is outstanding and she absorbs the audience into the world of Miss Brice flawlessly. Her portrayal is warm and witty, with sensational vocals and sublime comedic timing. It's not only her high energy moments which are impeccable though but the quiet moments of vulnerability where we really see what a brilliant actress she is. Music That Makes Me Dance was a particular stand out moment for me as the entire audience was not only silent but seemed as if they were so enraptured in the moment that they were holding their breath. It was a truly magical theatrical moment. I was thoroughly blown away by Barnes and can't wait to see her continue to become a star of the stage and the blazing supernova she deserves to be. 

Fanny's charismatic love interest is played by Darius Campbell who takes on the role very well. He is engaging and his strong voice carries well and pairs flawlessly with Barnes' especially in Who Are You Now which is touching and emotive. He has just the right mix of charm, wit, mystery and darkness to fully show the multiple layers of the problematic Nick Arnstein.

I am so impressed by this entire production and it is absolutely the best touring production I have seen. The calibre of every moment is top notch and I was mesmerised throughout. Funny Girl has every element necessary and ticks all the boxes needed for a wonderful theatrical experience. Natasha Barnes steals the show with her astonishing performance; she is truly the greatest star and a complete inspiration.

Funny Girl runs at the New Victoria Theatre until April 29th 2017 before continuing on it's UK tour.

Grease (UK Tour), New Wimbledon Theatre | Review

Grease (UK Tour), New Wimbledon Theatre | Review

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Grease (UK Tour)
New Wimbledon Theatre
Reviewed on Monday April 24th 2017 by Olivia Mitchell
★★

Grease was certainly the word last night at the opening night of the show at the New Wimbledon Theatre. The classic hits and story which are loved by many had brought a varied crowd who all seemed extremely excited for a carefree, upbeat night at the theatre. With an abundance of hair-gel and budding romances that's exactly what the production provides, it's not faultless but it's feel-good fun.

The onstage band open the show with a high energy performance of 'Grease is the Word' which created an electric atmosphere and introduced the powerful instrumental players and ensemble in a brilliant way. Leading the cast as the sweetly innocent Sandy is musical theatre favourite Danielle Hope who is marvellous in the role. Her voice is strong and she captures the character extremely skilfully. Danielle certainly shines in the role with her rendition of the 'Sandra Dee Reprise' being a particular standout of the whole production.

Her romantic counterpart Danny Zuko is played by The Wanted's Tom Parker who seemed slightly out of place and nervous but did come across well at points. As the show went on he seemed to settle into the role more but there's definitely some room for improvement in terms of overall performance. Similarly, the other celebrity name, Lousia Lytton as the fiesty Rizzo is lacking a certain something. Her energy is high and her sass comes across well but her vocals let her down at points.

The ensemble are absolutely outstanding though, with each one owning their quirky roles perfectly and showing off their boundless stage presence. Gabriella Williams is absolutely splendid as Patty Simcox, her dancing, acting and whole performance is stellar and she provides hilarious comical moments through her peppy, excitable, exaggerated performance. I also loved Michael Cortez who was extremely energetic and had some brilliant one liners which he delivered with great comedic timing. 

Arlene Phillips' choreography is retro and sleek and creates a great visual. The energy is the real key in this show and each move seems well thought out to provide optimum power and spirit. 

You can't fault the production values of this show and despite some lacking moments it ticks all the boxes for an infectious night out and will please anyone who is a fan of the iconic musical. 
Grease runs at the New Wimbledon Theatre until April 29th 2017 before continuing on it's UK Tour.

An Intimate Evening with Lea Michele, Shoreditch Town Hall | Review

An Intimate Evening with Lea Michele, Shoreditch Town Hall | Review

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An Intimate Evening with Lea Michele
Shoreditch Town Hall
Reviewed on Friday April 21st 2017 by Olivia Mitchell
★★

I, like so many others, went through a huge, and I mean huge Glee phase. I had all the merchandise, all the dvds, cds, posters, the lot! Seeing my Facebook 'on this day' I think it was all I ever thought about. Every day a status memory pops up saying something along the lines of "watching Glee... love it so much! Rachel woo! xx" so I was pretty deep in the obsession, and yes, I used to put kisses after my status'!

Anyway, Glee was my life so in turn, Lea Michele was too. Lea as Rachel Berry was everything I wanted to be, yes she was over the top and a demanding diva but beneath it all she was a hardworking talented individual who knew what she wanted. She motivated me to work and improve myself and added even more to my musical theatre obsession. Needless to say when last week Lea announced she would be coming to the UK to do a London concert, my 13 year old self came right back. My excitement levels were through the roof and I booked to see her at the Shoreditch Town Hall straight away!

So there's my little background story, now lets get on to the review of the actual concert. Honestly, Lea could have sung the phone book and I would have been happy but she did so much more than that and created a really beautiful night and performance. One of the key factors in the concert being so warm and welcoming was the fact that you knew everyone in the room was feeling the same. We were all (I'm assuming) Glee fans back in the day and were shocked and excited to finally see Lea over in the UK so a lovely, excited, contented buzz filled the room from the get go.

The concert included a taster of the upcoming album Places which is released on Friday April 28th as well as some songs from Michele's first album Louder and a medley of songs from Glee. Each number seemed well thought out and there were lovely introductions given to each one about what the song means to Lea or a little anecdote about the writing process.

Lea has a grace and elegance that makes everything look so effortless. She is sophisticated and simple whilst being rough and vulnerable at the same time. For me personally, Lea has always been such an icon that I never really thought of as a real person. I know it sounds crazy but I'm sure (at least I hope) some of you know what I mean! Lea has always been this idol of talent, beauty and creativity that I never imagined I'd see in real life, so seeing her close up, in the flesh on stage was kind of weird and didn't feel real. I also found it hilarious every time she swore not only because it accompanied a funny story but because it made her seem so normal and genuine. 

Each song was performed wonderfully along with the fabulous band who were impeccable and sleek with Misty Boyce providing the main back up vocals effortlessly and wonderfully. Particular stand-out tracks for me were 'My Man' and 'Battlefield' which are two of my favourite songs anyway but they were done so well I even felt emotional listening.

The tracks from Lea's upcoming album Places were exciting and beautiful and I'm sure the whole album will be exquisite. Lea has such a stunning tone to her voice that soars easily and adds warmth to every note which comes out of her mouth. At just over an hour, I would have liked  the concert to be a bit longer but with only a weeks notice and I'm assuming a lot of jet lag, it was understandable that it wasn't overly long. 

The Shoreditch Town Hall was the perfect venue for this intimate concert, creating an impressive setting whilst still feeling warm and personal. Overall it was a radiant night and I only hope that Lea will come back to the UK soon to do further performances and show off more of her impressive vocal talents and stage presence.

Lea Michele's album PLACES is released April 28th 2017

Photo credit: Andrew Timms

In Conversation With... Damian Buhagiar | Interview

In Conversation With... Damian Buhagiar | Interview

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Damian Buhagiar recently finished starring in In The Heights, is currently part of the UK tour of Thoroughly Modern Millie playing Ching Ho and will soon be starring in Mamma Mia  in the West End. Damian was lovely enough to do this interview for Rewrite This Story and I can't wait to see him in the show!

For those who don't know, can you explain a little about your career and highlights so far?

I have always been attracted towards theatre and musicals from a young age of 3. Being a Maltese student at Stagecoach was a great introduction to this form of career. When you are young, you don't actually realise that this could be a future job so it all starts as a hobby and a recreation from other school work, or activities. 

As I grew older I started taking it even more seriously by taking private singing lessons, dance classes and acting classes. When I hit the age of 15, the time i had my GCSEs back home in Malta, my singing teacher adviced me to audition for Tring Park School For the Performing Arts, a brilliant boarding school. So I did and after  a couple of weeks I was accepted to persue my musical theatre training further as well as do my A levels for 2 years. Without the love, help and support from my parents this would have never happened especially being away from home. After those 2 years I was than chosen to attend the BA Hons musical theatre course for another 3 years which was such a incredible excperience. You learn new things everyday, you learn so much about yourself and the training and the teachers have been fantastic. 

Once my third year was coming to an end we started having people from the business coming to see our shows and showcases, people such as directors, choreographers, producers, agents and more.  To me that was one of the highlights as I got to introduce myself to the business and express what I love most, my passion for theatre which leads me to my second highlight which was being a massive part of Lin Manuel's hit  musical 'In the Heights' playing the role of Sonny at the Southwark Playhouse. The reason I say this was one of the highlights in my life is because it has enabled me to show my passion in my own style of dance and defined me and so it couldn'thave been a better show to enter the musical theatre business with. 

I then moved on to an 18 month UK Tour of Jersey Boys playing the role of Joe Pesci and 2nd cover Frankie Valli which was another highlight in my career as I got to explore England a bit more, see different cultures and make new friends outside of London as well as the insanely stunning theatre built around the country. I have than moved on to playing on stage swing in Bugsy Malone at the  Lyric Theatre, working with the choreographer  Drew McOnie and which then led me to reprising my role as Sonny in In the Heights, this time at the Kings Cross Theatre in London for 4 months. Of course the biggest highlight from this was the fact I got the chance to meet the legendary Lin Manuel Miranda in person. I am now currently on the UK Tour of Thoroughly Modern Millie playing a completely different character to what I normally play called 'Ching Ho', a Chinese role which I am glad to say I am loving.


Was being a performer what you always wanted or did you have a different career path in mind when you were younger?



As mentioned earlier, I have always taken musical theatre, singing, dancing and acting as a hobby up until the age of fourteen. I was mainly aiming to invest time in my studies to eventually become a Mechanic Engineer (seeing I am pretty into mechanics and cars) or an architect.


You recently finished playing Sonny in In The Heights, did you know from the Southwark that you were a part of something special? How was it returning to the show?

In The Heights, has been one of the biggest adventures that has happened in my life. Playing the role of Sonny, literally has been my unexpected dream role straight after grauduating from college. It felt like it was just meant to happen and came at the right time. What made even more special was the company. Seeing how we all become one unit and one family creates something magical. Creates a spark that is unexplainable. As the Southward was a small intimate venue this proved how much of a unit we really were as we all shared our passion with the audiences which gave such a great response. 



Returning to the show after a year and a half this time at the Kings Cross Theatre, created that spark again in a different way. It was interesting to see that my heart was always there, my spirit enlightened and I was just 'Living' and recreating Sonny again, sharing the live with different members of the cast..(some of them from the Southwark).


How was the transition from the Southwark to Kings Cross theatre? What changed in the show?

I think moving to a different style of venue definitley created a change in space and motion however the one thing that made it feel like there was no difference at al was the spirit and the community we as a cast and a team all had.  As the Southwark Playhouse had much of a smaller theatre, there was a lot of intimacy and more of an interraction with auditiences which makes it even more appreciative being that close. Kings Cross had a wider stage being on Traverse stage, so that as a team made us work harder to use eachother to get the story accross morr and put our chatacters on a higher level that in the southwark for audiences to have the same feeling. 


The idea of heritage is very important in Heights, being from Malta, did you face any of the same struggles as Nina and Usnavi?

In The Heights couldn't possibly be a successfull show/production if there isnt any heart and love and care between not just the cast but even the company. Same with everything, if you are working in a lovely safe environment where you feel you can trust and open up your heart to your collegues without being scared, that same feeling will definitely show on stage. Especially for someone like myself being away from home away from my loved family, having a second family in a show like that has made me feel like home and it has always been a job travelling to work to express this love shared with the other talented cast members. Luckily I have never been in Usnavi's or Nina's position however I can relate to how difficult it really is to follow your dreams and what really genuinly makes you happy. Luckily I had ultimate support from my loved family where both my parents have enabled me to follow the dream career I have always wanted. A big sacrifice on their part that without them I woudn't be here doing what I love most...theatre/performing and hopefully being an inspiration to others.


You're currently starring in Thoroughly Modern Millie, can you explain the storyline a little and how your character fits into it?

The story is about this new naive girl in town called Millie, coming to new york for the first time when she sets her sights on marrying her whealthy boss. Problem arises when she checks into a hotel owned by the leader of a white slavery ring in China. Where my character "Ching Ho" along with his brother "Bun Foo", helping to kidnap pretty and suspecting orphan girls and shipping them to the Orient. Ching Ho however takes a shine to one of the 4 girls "Miss Dorothy'' and rescues her from Mrs. Meers, who at the end the truth is revealed and Mrs. Meers is captured.



What's the biggest challenge about taking on this role?

The biggest challenge in taking the role of 'Ching Ho', the Chinese part, is because of the obvious....its a Chinese role and I am Maltese. Performing this role everyday has enabled me to discover more aspects of him that allow me to invest and play around with on stage. I have been blessed to have my fellow cast memeber Andy who is actually from Hong Kong himself so has tought me the language patiently. It has been an interesting process however I always love a chalenge and at least I could say I have tested that language and might want to investtime it too in future. I've also learnt a lot about Chinese history and what makes the characters: Ching Ho and Bun Foo work as slaves in the show... their background stories.


How are you enjoying touring life? What do you miss most about being away from home?

I have always loved touring. I just love getting away from london and get to see different cultures in different places in the UK or abroad, make new friends in the digs I stay in as well as enjoy my own company and driving. Being away also makes you apreciate lot of things and miss a lot of things. Having a lot of free time on my hands make you think about your life in depth such as my parents and my lifestyle back home and the time I share with them.


What are your hobbies and passions outside of performing? 

Drawing has always been a massive part of my life that enables me to forget the real world and just zone out completely and focus on one things...cars. The passion I always had ever since I was 5 years old. 


Can you name a few of your dream roles?

Playing Sonny in the musical In The Heights has already been one of my dream roles. I would say playing Phantom in Phantom of the Opera and Clyde in Bonnie and Clyde would definitely be two of my dream roles in musical theatre however I like variety and a challenge so I love exoloring as opportunities come my way, what a dream role would be.



If you could go back to any era, when would it be and why?

If I had to go back to an era I would go back to 1950s. I love that all men were mostly gentleman with manner, respectful towards their women and also live a fashionable suit. Life back that would have been very classy.



What's the best piece of advice you've ever received and what advice would you give to aspiring performers?

Best advice I have ever recieved have been to just be yourself. If it makes you happy do it. Always follow your gut. If you ever come in doubt just ask yourself 'but why not?'. If you have a dream, fight for it however long it takes to achieve it.


A huge thank you to Damian for doing this interview. Make sure you book tickets to see Thoroughly Modern Millie on its UK tour!

Half a Sixpence, Noel Coward Theatre: Behind The Scenes | Review

Half a Sixpence, Noel Coward Theatre: Behind The Scenes | Review

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Half a Sixpence got the number 9 spot in my Top 10 Shows of 2016 and a glowing 4 star review back when I saw it on press night so I was extremely excited when I was invited to a special bloggers event to see it again.

The event was held at the Noel Coward Theatre for a number of bloggers, vloggers and stagey people. I saw some familiar faces as well as meeting some new people and it was a really lovely opportunity to spread the theatre love. We started off by having a talk from the charming, witty, supremely talented and just generally lovely Charlie Stemp who told us all about his audition process for the role of Arthur Kipps, the transfer from Chichester to London, his journey learning to play his banjo Babs and all about his new rockery!

After that we were taken up onto the stage where we were taught a section of the "Flash Bang Wallop" dance by dance captain, Jaye Juliette Elster. The section we learnt was only ten seconds long but we all had an absolute laugh prancing around pretending we were in the show. I for one will be using the choreography as my party trick from now on!

Once our little boogie was over, we went for another Q&A/chat with some more of the cast: Charlie Stemp, Emma Williams, Bethany Huckle, Sam O'Rourke and Jaye Juliette Elster. They are all such lovely warm people and it's evident from hearing them speak, how much they love the show and being a part of it. Particularly funny were the anecdotes of onstage mishaps such as when the revolves broke in Chichester and when the bike got stuck on stage in the finale and the cast had to cleverly force it off whilst still smiling and waving as if nothing was wrong! The cast are so warm and genuine and it was just lovely seeing them laughing and loving what they do and it certainly shows on stage with spades of enjoyment and energy flying around from start to finish.

We then left the cast to warm up for the show and made our way to the bar for some pre-show drinks and Instagram selfies (here's my stagey insta!) The show was wonderfully joyous and uplifting and even better than I remembered it. My views are pretty the same as before so I won't bore you with another review where I repeat but you can see my original one here. To sum up the show I would say that it's full of life, heart and love and provides a perfect treat to leave you feeling content and warm inside.

When the show was finished and we were all on a stagey high, we were given a backstage tour which was wonderful and a very exciting opportunity to see the props and sets close up. I filmed some clips of the stage and dressing room which will all be in my vlog which will be posted on: https://www.youtube.com/rewritethisstory It was incredibly interesting to see everything close up and see how much work goes in backstage to  create such a flawless performance for the audiences night after night.

We all parted ways feeling like we could jump for joy and sing all the way home!

If you haven't seen Half a Sixpence already I really implore you to hop down to the Noel Coward Theatre and see it in all its glory! It's currently booking until 2 September 2017 with tickets available at www.halfasixpence.co.uk

The Musical Marathon, The Other Palace | Review

The Musical Marathon, The Other Palace | Review

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The Musical Marathon
The Other Palace
Reviewed on Sunday April 16th 2017 by Grace English 
★★

The Musical Marathon at The Other Palace was held in support of Orchid a cause close to the hearts of far too many of us; that of fighting male cancer. Even at its most light-hearted and celebratory points neither the performers nor the audience lost sight of what we were there for, and this is what marks it as a truly spectacular and important evening.

Paul Taylor-Mills and Caroline Flack carried us through a maelstrom of powerhouse performers singing songs of their choosing, most of which are in some way anthems of ambition and resilience. Nathan Amzi opened the show with a heartfelt rendition of 'Titanium', and from there, not a single performer gave anything less than their absolute best, each one truly holding the audience completely in the moment. A special mention has to go to Kim Criswell's 'Look to the Rainbow/Over the Rainbow', as well as Emma Kingston's 'Listen' and Marisha Wallace's heart-wrenching 'Stay With Me' as the standout performances of the night, even amongst a group with no weak links whatsoever. In addition, Aimie Atkinson, Genesis Lynea and Stephanie Rojas closing Act One with an energised rendition of 'Lady Marmalade' was a true testament to girl power and their boundless talents as individuals.

Between the performances, Paul Taylor-Mills and Caroline Flack kept us entertained with jokes and anecdotes from their time working with the performers, and even hosted a form of 'karaoke bingo' that resulted in a hilarious improvisation of 'Don't Stop Believing' in the style of Meatloaf and Britney Spears. This allowed the night to easily overcome an issue facing any concert-esque shows; that of failing to engage the audience and thus loosing their attention about an hour in. In overcoming this, we get a sometimes hilarious, sometimes emotional, and constantly enjoyable night showcasing some of the best talent on the West End.

In spite of the fun, it should be remembered that this night was held in the interest of raising money for a serious and important cause which you can learn more about here: https://orchid-cancer.org.uk/

Photo credit: Claire Bilyard

The Winter's Tale, Barbican | Review

The Winter's Tale, Barbican | Review

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The Winter's Tale
Barbican
Reviewed on Thursday April 4th 2017 by Esther Matthews
★★

As an avid Shakespeare lover I am always a little tentative to see a new production of the classic tale but I was pleasantly surprised by Cheek by Jowl theatre companies take on The Winter’s Tale.  It was simple, funny and emotional.

With very minimal set it was a little worrying to step into the theatre and find two very simple pieces on stage but that fear vanished as soon as I realised someone was sitting on the stage, back to the audience and perfectly still. There was a sense of excitement from the audience as they came in to discover this figure. As she left the stage the lights when out and the play began. The lighting and sound engineering blew me away, with a simple set you needed something to set it apart and these two things combined were it. Your mind wasn’t allowed a second to rest, there was always something new to capture your attention. 

I particularly enjoyed the musical aspect of the piece. Paddy Cunneen did a brilliant job of adding in just the right amount of music to set the tone of the piece. There were live instruments being played throughout and even songs written for the play. 

I don’t think I can pick a cast member that didn’t keep up physically and emotionally. The energy on the stage was electric from the off. Orlando James marvelled in the lead role, his energy alone could have sustained the whole piece. 

My only slight worry is that the company knew the piece a little too well. There were some moments where the choreographed movement was a little too perfect, it took away from the delusion in the king’s mind. There needed to be a sense of discovery which didn’t quite happen in some scenes. 

I highly recommend seeing The Winters Tale. Director Declan Donnellan brings a modern and fascinating twist to one of Shakespeare’s latest plays and does it beautifully. So much heart is put into the production, you will be overflowing when you leave the theatre. 

The Winter's Tale runs at the Barbican until April 22nd

Photo Credit: Johan Persson

42nd Street, Theatre Royal, Drury Lane | Review

42nd Street, Theatre Royal, Drury Lane | Review

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42nd Street
Theatre Royal, Drury Lane
Reviewed on Wednesday April 3rd 2017 by Olivia Mitchell
★★

It seems that 2017 is the year of old Hollywood musicals coming back into fashion. The West End is getting a smattering of big budget, glitzy, over the top glamorous productions and I'm certainly not complaining about it!

42nd Street is a timeless, Classic, toe-tapping 'backstage-musical' which is sure to be a hit. Telling the story of struggling performers trying to get their big Broadway break we see their trials and tribulations and meet the young chorus girl Peggy Sawyer as she is thrown into the manic theatre world with the chance of getting her big break.

The choreography (by Randy Skinner) is key in this show so if you're not big on dance heavy performances then it's not for you. Personally though, there's not much that's more exhilarating than a beaming stage full of crystals, colours and thunderous feet pulling off steps with ease and grace.

The show runs seamlessly with smooth costume changes, especially when a seemingly unorganised array of dresses suddenly arrange themselves into a sensational rainbow.  Douglas W. Schmidt's set design is ambitious, exciting and magical and certainly creates a spectacle. The silhouette work is slick and spectacular and the moment when the mirror rises to show impeccable synchronised company work, there were audible gasps of awe from the audience. Every moment of this show is a complete extravaganza of brilliance and it's full of moments which will leave you open-mouthed.

The stars of the show are wonderfully cast, with Clare Halse portaying Peggy Sawyer's energy and vigour extremely well. Sheena Easton's vocals as the fading star Dorothy Brock are impeccable and Tom Lister as Julian Marsh is strong but charming and hits each note with dexterity.

Of course, this show would be nowhere as brilliant without its unblemished ensemble work. There are beaming smiles all round, faultless feet and enough energy to power the underground! The stage is filled with colour and life and each moment just works. The show is certainly one of the biggest and flashiest I've seen recently but everything fits and nothing feels too over the top. Everything has a place, nothing is there just for the flashiness, it all works to give the show drama whilst still remaining cohesive- utterly faultless.

42nd Street earned the royal seal of approval from the Duchess of Cambridge herself and I'm sure it will continue to be loved and praised by everyone who steps into the huge Theatre Royal. The stage is large, the cast is large and the whole thing is bigger and brighter than you can imagine. If you want to step back to the decades of glitz and glamour, be blown away by talent, have your ears tapped off and escape the real world for a few hours then 42nd Street is the show for you! Go see it and be prepared to tap all your way home!

Watch my 42nd Street vlog: https://youtu.be/-7FksKHBGoc

Wonderland (UK Tour), New Victoria Theatre | Review

Wonderland (UK Tour), New Victoria Theatre | Review

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Wonderland (UK Tour)
New Victoria Theatre
Reviewed on Monday 3rd April 2017 by Olivia Mitchell
★★

I finished performing in Will Todd's opera Alice's Adventures in Wonderland on Friday and have already taken another trip down the rabbit hole to see the UK Tour of Wonderland- I see an Alice theme becoming part of my life!

Frank Wildhorn, composer of one of my favourite musicals Bonnie and Clyde has reworked the Classic tale of Alice into a contemporary story about finding your place in the world. The story follows single mother Alice (Kerry Ellis) who lives in a bleak city with her ridiculously mature daughter Ellie (Naomi Morris). Stuck in a rut after her manipulative ex-husband kicked all her confidence out of her, she seeks a life away from the real world. When a bunny which promises to take her out of her mundane life hops in front of her, it seems like the logical option to follow him down the hole... or lift! Joined by their neighbour Jack  (Stephen Webb) they end up in the magical and mysterious Wonderland.

The story is about self-belief and self-discovery and touches on some relevant issues. With Alice saying that "girls need to know that they should value themselves" and the rabbit expressing that "nothing can exist 'til you dream it first", it's sweet and heart warming.

Wonderland itself is bizarre, whimsical, quirky and truly bonkers. With all the well known characters such as the Queen and Hatter popping up throughout. Alice discovers that if she steps through the Looking Glass, she'll come out as a different version of herself. She toys with the idea of stepping through but is skeptical to return to the strong woman she was before.

Kerry Ellis is a star as Alice. Her vocals are faultless as she effortlessly belts out each number. Her stage presence is strong and it's joyful to watch her transformation throughout the show. Alongside Naomi Morris as her strong spirited daughter (who has a striking resemblance in voice and looks to Lilla Crawford) the pair create a lovely duo and a believable chemistry onstage.

For me the standout by far is Natalie McQueen. Her voice is off the charts and her scatty, feisty and extremely mad portrayal of the Hatter completely steals the show. She is compelling throughout and her facial expressions are enough to cure all types of illness!

Wendi Peters embraces the role of the evil Queen of Hearts well, mastering the comedic timing impeccably and showing off her superb singing voice. It's a shame how little time she is on stage  as it would be lovely to see her for more than a fleeting moment at a time. Nevertheless, her portrayal is wonderful.

The score is brilliant with wit, pace and just the right amount of craziness but the script is a little weak. At times it feels forced and cringey , with the dialogue not adding much to the show other than filling time. Personally I feel that the overall downfall is that there is not a clear target audience. There are times where it seems better for young adults and adults but others where it's almost pantomime like and seems aimed at very young children. There is a lot of potential but I think there needs to be a little work done to make the show fully solid and fluid.

The music is engaging and enjoyable. The spectacular performers and witty moments make it a really enjoyable show to watch and a fun family night out.

Wonderland is on at the New Victoria Theatre until Saturday April 8th

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