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Angels in America, National Theatre | Review

Angels in America, National Theatre | Review

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Angels in America
National Theatre, Lyttleton Theatre
Reviewed on Saturday May 13th 2017 by Olivia Mitchell
★★

Angels in America has got to be one of the National Theatre's most eagerly anticipated productions and one of the hottest tickets in London right now. The production boasts a line-up of incredible stars with the entire run sold out apart from lottery and day seats. Due to the sheer size and epicness of this play, it is rarely staged so seeing this revival from director Marianna Elliott is a once in a generation opportunity.

The show is big. The glossy A4 programme is big, the set is big, the cast names are big and the length is big. So much is packed in and the scope of the production and the ideas within it are vast and although slightly overwhelming at times, it's an extremely well put together and a mesmerising production.

The cast includes Broadway's Nathan Lane, Olivier-winner Denise Gough, NT stars Russell Tovey and James McArdle and Hollywood film star Andrew Garfield, who had performed in shows at the NT before heading to Hollywood. The acting is utterly sublime, with ridiculous talent and confidence that is breathtaking throughout.

Tony Kushner's two-part play tells the story of the emerging AIDS crisis of the 1980s as it hit the gay community in New York, by as cast of both real life and fictional characters who are living through it. Both parts are dense but liberating in the way they play with form, moving from domestic realism to hallucinatory fantasy, especially in part two Perestroika.

Part one, Millennium Approaches is full of angst and drama but is extremely humorous at points. A homeless woman chaotically exclaims "In the new century I think we will all be insane", when get to part two, Perestroika, twenty-five years later we see that that premonition may have come to be.

Nathan Lane manages to have both our hate and sympathy as the vicious, closeted lawyer Roy. Denise Gough lives right up to her superstar name and she embodies the role of the drugged out, angry and upset, Harper, giving a mesmerising performance. James McArdle is wonderful as the infuriatingly sensitive Louis. Russell Tovey brings pain and innocence to the confused Mormon Republican Joe and Nathan Stewart-Jarrett is fantastic as Belize who is perhaps the only sane one of the group. But it's Andrew Garfield who steals the show. He is breathtaking as the shows lead, Prior Walter. Garfield is intense and committed to the role with just the right amount of wit and grit to make this somewhat wacky character come to life in perfect colour on stage.

Although the context of Angels in America is different in 2017, especially with regards to AIDS, the play feels extremely relevant and the revival couldn't have come at a better time. The action looks back at the time Reagan was in office and studies his right-wing policies which are scarily analogous with Donald Trump's. This makes everything even more resonant and emphasises the fractured America where opinions on gender, wealth and race have unfortunately not changed.

This play is unlike anything else, with a mix of angsty, sardonic, gloomy surrealism which is a roller coaster from moment one. There are so many moments of shock that jump out like an endless stream of consciousness and it's really like being inside Kushner's brain as his thoughts vomit out. Although that doesn't sound particularly pleasant, it really is. There's something magical and truthful about the craziness. This play is not likely to be seen again in the near future and this production of the modern masterpiece is sure to stay with everyone who sees it until the next one comes about. Angels in America is epic but the most important thing is that it promotes discussion and remains relevant.

Angels in America will be broadcast to cinemas by NT Live from 20 July.

Samantha Barks, Mayflower Theatre | Review

Samantha Barks, Mayflower Theatre | Review

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Samantha Barks with Kerry Ellis
Mayflower Theatre
Reviewed on Saturday May 20th 2017 by Mary Schofield
★★

The Mayflower is a fantastic venue located in the heart of Southampton, I have visited it frequently over the past two years that I have been at University and it's brilliant that such a wonderful theatre is on my doorstep. The venue is often visited by West End shows on their UK tours and seats a capacity of 2,300 people.

Despite the large capacity of the theatre the performance itself felt intimate as Samantha Barks (first discovered on I'd Do Anything and known for her recent appearances in: Les Miserables, The Last Five Years, Oliver and most recently her films Bitter Harvest and Interlude in Prague) took us on a nostalgic journey down memory lane. She sung a collection of songs from her new album including: “When He Loved Me” and “If I Die Young” as well as a gorgeous cover of "Blackbird" by The Beatles. Sam also shared with us a spectacular performance from The Last Five Years, “I Can Do Better Than That” which she wrapped in the St James Theatre (now The Other Palace) last December. Unfortunately I wasn’t lucky enough to see this in the theatre but the film version will have to help ease my new musical obsession!
Samantha's special guest for this one off concert event was the wonderful Kerry Ellis (known for her appearances in Wicked and currently on tour with the production Wonderland). Her set consisted of performances from both Wonderland and We Will Rock You. Ellis really showed off her unique, rocky voice and was a perfect complement to Barks.
The highlight of the evening was definitely when both ladies joined together for a wonderful duet of "For Good" from Wicked. Samantha went on to explain that this performance was one that she previously had on her bucket list, making the occasion even more special. You truly missed a magical moment if you weren't there! The evening was rounded up with a throwback to Les Mis with “On My Own”, bringing tears to every member of the audience and showing the power of Samantha's stage presence.

The only thing that upset me about the event was the timings; I would have been more than happy to listen to Barks sing for another 3 hours! This was a fantastic concert with two powerhouses of musical theatre joining together for a fabulous evening of entertainment. Hopefully this isn't the last of the pairing we see and I can't wait to see Samantha perform again- fingers crossed for another stint on a West End stage! 

The Addams Family (UK Tour), New Wimbledon Theatre | Review

The Addams Family (UK Tour), New Wimbledon Theatre | Review

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The Addams Family (UK Tour)
New Wimbledon Theatre

Reviewed on Tuesday May 16th 2017 by Olivia Mitchell
★★

The Addams Family musical comedy first made an appearance on the Broadway stage in 2010 and has finally made its way over the pond for its UK premiere. This version of the much loved cartoon series family, sees them struggle as their daughter Wednesday falls in love with a 'normal' boy. In an attempt to make good, Wednesday organises a dinner party between the two families. What ensues are secrets, wackiness and a whole load of kooky chaos.

The production is wonderful and great to look at. Diego Pitarch's set is constantly changing and extremely layered but doesn't look overcrowded or messy and the Gothic feeling is achieved extremely well. The lighting and sound effects work well alongside it and the elaborate costumes and make up add a whole other, very effective, dimension.

Samantha Womack's Moticia is surprisingly funny and suitably dark and stiff but at times it feels she is too reliant on people already knowing the character instead of making it her own. Overall though she gives a very good performance, especially in the tango scene!

Cameron Blakely is the standout of the show as Gomez. He is passionate and energetic throughout, with a constant humour and stage presence. His little camp moments are hilarious and his voice is outstanding. His relationship with the whole cast is brilliant but especially with his daughter Wednesday.

Played by Carrie Hope Fletcher, Wednesday is witty and sharp whilst being suitably kooky. Her vocals are fantastic and she seems at ease on the stage. Her incredibly clear voice works wonderfully with large belting moments and her precise diction is notable especially during 'Pulled' which seems to be an audience favourite!

Oliver Ormson plays Wednesday's love interest, the all-American Ohio born, Lucas. The pair work well together but Fletcher is definitely the stronger of the two performance wise. Les Dennis is strong as the quirky uncle Fester and has the audience laughing with him as well acting as the narrator at points. His character does seem a little out of place at times and not developed enough to warrant a full song but Dennis pulls it off well.

Charlotte Page is hilarious as the rhyme talking mother, her voice is brilliant and she frequently steals the show! Her partner is played by Dale Rapley who is good but again feels a little under developed.

Andrew Lippa's music is full of life (and death), colour and vibrance and certainly has something for everyone. There are energetic moments (helped along by Alistair David's brilliantly slick choreography), hilarious moments and more contemplative moments which all combine for a lovely production.

This is a wonderful production which will hopefully see a West End life after its tour. There are genuine laugh out loud moments which are sure to be enjoyed by people of all ages. Overall, a stellar production.

The Addams Family is at the New Wimbledon Theatre until the 20th May before continuing its tour.

photo credit: Matt Martin

Tick, Tick... Boom, Park Theatre | Review

Tick, Tick... Boom, Park Theatre | Review

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Tick, Tick... Boom
Park Theatre
Reviewed on Thursday May 11th 2017 by Olivia Mitchell
★★
With the success of Bruce Guthrie's current production of Rent, one of the defining musicals of the 90s, it's not a surprise this revival of Tick, Tick... Boom! has come about. Originally written as a one man semi-autobiographical musical, Tick, Tick... Boom! portrays the years of struggle Jonathan Larson faced and acts as a bittersweet reminder of the triumphs he never got to see after his untimely and heartbreaking death on the eve of Rents opening off-Broadway.
Bronagh Lagan's production is nostalgic and intimate whilst providing a reflective look at the brooding and anxious story of Jonathan. The staging allows warmth and engagement throughout, with Chris Jenkins as the composer often making direct eye contact with the audience therefore allowing them to really feel part of the story and environment.
For any Rent fan this is a truly brilliant piece of theatre as there are so many parallels with Larson's life and the lives of those in Rent which are explored throughout. Namely where Jon and Michael are dreaming of escaping the life they're living. There are also musical moments which conjure up the same feelings as Rent and it's lovely to hear the roots of Larson's writing and what developed from this show. 
Larson's desire was to bring rock music into the world of musical theatre and this piece acts as a clear demonstration of that; providing moments of angsty drama as well as soaring glistening moments. The inner monologue is ever present but combined with moments of humour and sadness, the show has enough depth to keep the audience focussed and committed. Gareth Bretherton's band push the music along well and capture each side of the musical styles extremely well.
Joining Chris to make up the three piece cast are Jordan Shaw as the smooth toned best friend, Michael and Gillian Saker as the loving but conflicted girlfriend, Susan. All three have wonderful voices and fit the roles extremely well, seeming like true friends and giving very realistic performances. 
This is a lovely production which works well in the space and is overall very fun and entertaining. It's up close and personal, with some brilliant singing and performances which are worth a watch!
Tick, Tick... Boom! is on at the Park Theatre until 27th May 2017
Photo by: Claire Bilyard

Dreamgirls, Original London Cast Recording | Album Review

Dreamgirls, Original London Cast Recording | Album Review

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Dreamgirls
Original London Cast
Reviewed by Olivia Mitchell
★★

Recorded live at London's Savoy Theatre, backed by a fourteen piece band, this new recording of the well loved musical, Dreamgirls, gives you a wonderful opportunity to hear some of the finest voices on the West End singing one of the most high energy and belt heavy scores. And I Am Telling You that you need to get out and get a copy asap because it's a triumphant recording indeed.

The whole album feels like you're really watching the show and although there are probably far less swarovski crystals in your living room than on the stage of the Savoy, nothing is lost with the transition from stage to cd and with the recorded audience applause you can fully pretend you're in the show as you sing along in the shower! 

'The Dreams' are of course the stars of this show and the impeccable vocals from the three girls are fully shown off in this recording. Amber Riley's effortless belt and riffs are a joy to be heard at full volume through headphones, along with Liisi LaFontaine's beautiful smooth tones and Ibinabo Jack's huge voice and moments of complete hilarity. Overall they really are a Dream Team and it's clear to hear why the show is getting the rapturous praise that it is. Joe Aaron Reid (Curtis Taylor Jr), Tyrone Huntley (C.C. White), Lily Frazer (Michelle Morris)  and Adam J Bernard (Jimmy Early) are equally brilliant and provide fabulously dramatic vocal moments throughout. 

Personal highlights of the recording include 'It's All Over', 'Listen', 'Steppin' To The Bad Side', 'Ain't No Party' and 'Dreamgirls' which all pack a punch and a half. Each song is balanced well and comes across as it would on stage: with vibrance and emotion.

Overall the album provides a wonderful complement to seeing the stage show but is also brilliant in its own right. You can feel the energy and passion through your speakers and it's a really brilliant recording to add to any theatre lovers collection. The entire cast are faultless and the love for performing together really comes across. I will certainly be listening to this recording for more than One Night Only and highly urge you to download it and give it a Listen for yourself. If you haven't seen the show then definitely try and grab yourself a ticket because it's honestly one of the best things I've seen and this recording the best thing I've heard!

The Dreamgirls Original London Cast Recording is released Friday 12 May 2017.

Dreamgirls is currently booking at the Savoy Theatre until 21 October 2017.

West End Unplugged feat. Dreamgirls, W Hotel | Review

West End Unplugged feat. Dreamgirls, W Hotel | Review

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West End Unplugged feat. Dreamgirls
The W Hotel
Reviewed on Monday May 8th 2017 by Olivia Mitchell
★★

West End Unplugged is a new series of concerts taking place at the W Hotel in Piccadilly Circus inspired by the concept at the W Times Square: Broadway at the W. The idea is to gather together a whole group of West End performers and see them showcase their skills with a variety of songs and performances in an intimate, relaxed environment and to just have a good time. The first concert included the cast of Motown and for the second we were treated to the cast of Dreamgirls performing their hearts out flawlessly, even though they'd just finished a show! 

Marisha Wallace carried us through the evening of powerhouse performers singing songs of their choosing, with a few special guests and a whole load of energy and love. Throughout the night, every single performer went all out and gave nothing but their best, with every single one owning the stage and holding the audience in the palm of their hand.

The relaxed, stripped back setting of the W Hotel bar was perfect for the concert. With drinks flowing and comfy sofas all around, there was enough space to feel intimate whilst not feeling closed in. The acoustic set worked wonderfully in the space with it being the perfect mix of stripped back and club, party vibes.

I have to talk about Amber Riley singing 1+1' as my ultimate performance of the night. I mean, I knew she was talented but the runs and effortless belt had me open mouthed in awe and adoration,-what a superstar. Special mentions must also go to Joe Aaron Reid's 'I Lived', Marisha Wallace's 'My Funny Valentine' and Liisi La Fontaine's 'One Last Time' as the other stand out performances of the night, but there were absolutely no weak links and every single performance was outstanding. Additionally I have to quickly mention Tyrone Huntley who blew me away again with his rendition of 'Rock With You' which I recently heard at the West End Live Lounge, his voice is just angelic and so so effortless. I want to talk about every performer individually but I'm afraid that would be a ridiculously long post so just know that the cast of Dreamgirls are freaking talented and deserve every bit of love and praise they get!

Our host for the night was the hilarious, talented and just all round brilliant, Marisha Wallace who is the current alternate for Effie White. Marisha kept us entertained between performances with jokes and anecdotes about her life and the other performers as well as providing back up vocals for a number of the acts and belting her way through some songs. Her overwhelmingly fabulous stage presence kept the audience engaged and laughing all the way through and created a glorious night which showcased one of the most talented casts on the West End. 

I can't wait to see more of these acoustic sets and hopefully more of each and every Dreamgirls cast member! West End Unplugged is a unique opportunity to hear the stars of the stage outside of their usual confinements and a brilliant chance to just enjoy talent and music. For an absolutely fantastic night out, be sure to attend one of their concerts. Who said Monday's have to be boring!?

Keep an eye out here for upcoming West End Unplugged concerts, you won't regret attending!

Thoroughly Modern Millie (UK Tour), New Victoria Theatre | Review

Thoroughly Modern Millie (UK Tour), New Victoria Theatre | Review

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Thoroughly Modern Millie
New Victoria Theatre
Reviewed on Monday May 8th 2017 by Valerie Field
★★
Thoroughly Modern Millie has had many reincarnations and is based on a 1967 movie musical that is itself based on a 1956 London stage musical that in turn became a 2002 Broadway show. This new tour mixes a bit of each in to create a very enjoyable and well constructed production.
Set in 1922, Thoroughly Modern Millie tells the story of small-town girl Millie Dillmount who makes her way to New York with the sole intention of finding a husband, not out of love but for money. However, events take a sinister turn when she checks into the Hotel Priscilla for single women which just happens to be owned by Mrs Meers, the leader of a white slavery ring. Things get interesting for sure!
Joanne Clifton as Milly, the Kansas girl desperate to make it in New York, is superb and effervescent. Although she is probably best known for her dancing on Strictly she can certainly act and has a good singing voice. She's the perfect fit for the title character and she warmed to the audience immediately. 
A big mention must go to Graham McDuff as Mr Grayden, especially for his drunken scene which was hilarious and had the whole theatre laughing. Lucas Rush also deserves a mention as Mrs Meers, embodying the character well and showing off a great stage presence throughout.
The glamorous costumes,  all out dancing and typically Broadway music are exactly what you'd expect from a show like this and combined with the art deco set, it's easy for the audience to get drawn in and lost in the 1920s world. Each scene change is done effortlessly, especially the office scene which is simplistic but highly effective.

All in all, Thoroughly Modern Millie is a 'feel good show' of the highest decree. I would highly recommend going to see it for a few hours of escapism and entertainment. The whole cast are outstanding and really seem to be having a wonderful time on stage which comes across in making their performances lively and energetic. The standing ovation received at the end of the show was evident of how much the audience enjoyed it so it's well worth a visit to Thoroughly Enjoyable Modern Millie!

Places, Lea Michele | Album Review

Places, Lea Michele | Album Review

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Places
Lea Michele
Reviewed by Olivia Mitchell
★★


Lea Michele's second solo album, Places was released on April 28th and flew to the top of the US pop charts, reaching number one almost as soon as it came out. It features a number of emotional ballads as well as some more upbeat songs which all flow together and scream emotion at every moment. In a recent interview Lea said that this album is more her true sound with both pop and musical theatre influences mixed in, it's not an album where she tries to fit a mould or sell to a certain market, it's just her.


Places is very slow-ballad heavy which could be a problem for some people but I thrive on those sorts of songs and honestly can't think of anything better than an all-out, belt for your life, dramatic album so I love it! The lyrics are theatrical and every song really plays to Lea's strengths as a singer, hitting each note with enough power and force to match Barbra and Celine.

This album flows very well indeed, each song holding its own and nothing is there just to fill space. Places is the perfect album for so many occasions, be it getting ready to go out, driving with the windows down, hiking or just while you're in the house living your best life. There's a song for everything and it's so personal and intimate that it feels like the exact album to accompany life and all its goings on.

The intimacy is what really makes Places special. Lea is baring her soul and showing us all her ups and downs through these songs. I want to tell you my favourite song but honestly it changes every five minutes so I can't but at the moment I am loving 'Run To You', 'Heavy Love' and 'Sentimental Memories'. The theme throughout the album is one of empowerment and pushing through whatever life throws at you. There is motivation beyond belief with 'Anything's Possible' especially, making you feel like you can conquer the world!

The amazing thing about Lea's voice is how it manages to be so strong but raw at the same time. She shows off her wide range well and moves between voice parts so smoothly it's just joyous to hear. Lea has always been an idol of mine and hearing this elegant piece of work made me even more inspired by her. 

Places refers to the call before starting a show where you're called to your place for the beginners call. The title seems very apt as it marks the start of a new chapter for Lea but to me I see the title as the sign to take my place, listen to this album, feel strong and motivated as hell and then to run at life full speed and live each moment to the fullest. So if you want to be inspired by both brilliant songs and flawless vocals then this is definitely an album you need in your collection. Lea really comes into her own and it's evident how much love and time has gone in to making this the best album it can be. Bravo!

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