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Welcome to Rewrite This Story, here you'll find all things Theatre, Music, Arts and Culture! Created and curated by Olivia Mitchell, we share the latest stagey news, reviews, interviews and more!
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The King and I on tour at the New Victoria Theatre Review: An Enchanting Evening

Wednesday, 27 September 2023

The King and I (Tour)
New Victoria Theatre

Last night the New Victoria theatre came alive with Rodgers and Hammerstein's timeless musical, The King and I. Set in the 1860s, the storyline revolves around the King of Siam, portrayed by Brian Rivera, who hires the intelligent British schoolteacher Anna Leonowens, played by Annalene Beechey, to educate his extensive family. The clash of their personalities and cultural backgrounds sets the stage for a compelling narrative.

The performances showcased a beautiful transformation of understanding and mutual appreciation between the stubborn monarch and the determined British teacher. This transformation is beautifully encapsulated through the touching rendition of 'Getting to Know You' by Anna (Annalene Beechey) and the Royal Children, leaving the audience in awe.

Rodgers and Hammerstein’s memorable score stole the spotlight, standing the test of time. The talented cast breathed life into these classic songs, leaving the audience longing for more. The chemistry between the leads was palpable, and both Beechey and Rivera delivered exceptional performances. Beechey's voice charmed the audience, while Rivera's portrayal of the King of Siam was both strong and hypnotic, reminiscent of Yul Brynner's iconic performance at the London Palladium in 1979.

Special mention must be made of other outstanding cast members, including Cezarah Bonner as Lady Thiang and Marienella Phillips as Tuptim, who delivered exceptional performances that enriched the overall experience.

The stage was adorned with a stunning backdrop featuring vibrant colors that transported the audience to the sumptuous world of the King’s Palace, thanks to the masterful designs by Michael Yeargan. Catherine Zuber's costumes enhanced the performers' presence, making them glitter and shine against the opulent palace setting.

The choreography by Christopher Gattelli was a true standout, with intricate dance numbers blending traditional Thai movement with a modern flair. The 'Small House of Uncle Thomas' dance sequence was particularly mesmerising, captivating the audience with its hypnotic beauty and emotional resonance. Generally the show is well paced, although Act 2 might have felt a bit lengthy to some.

In summary, The King and I musical on tour provides a captivating experience, combining talented performers, unforgettable music, entrancing dance sequences, an immersive set, and beautiful costumes. I wholeheartedly recommend this production, and for me, it was undoubtedly a 5 out of 5.

Reviewed on Tuesday 26th September by Glenys Balchin
Photo Credit: Johann Persson

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Police Cops: The Musical at the Southwark Playhouse Review: A Hilarious Riot of a Show

Wednesday, 20 September 2023

Police Cops: The Musical
Southwark Playhouse (Borough) 

Who'd have thought a comedy musical about the US police force could be so entertaining? Well, Police Cops: The Musical proves it's possible. Fresh from wowing crowds at the Edinburgh Fringe, this lively spoof of 80s American action films has now hit London.

Created by Zachary Hunt, Nathan Parkinson, and Tom Roe, this musical takes you on a wild ride through all the clich├ęs of action movies. It follows Jimmy Johnson, a regular teenager turned aspiring 'best damn police cop ever' after a tragic loss. He sets off on a mission to take down the big bad criminals, teaming up with a retired rogue cop, jetting off to Mexico and reconnecting with his high school crush. And all of this is delivered with a relentless dose of stupendously silly comedy.

In this latest iteration of Police Cops, the original team have penned some brilliantly witty lyrics, set to a catchy score by Ben Adams of Eugenius, drawing on musical theatre tropes and classic 80s hits. Andrew Exeter's set and lighting work is magical once again, contributing to a high-energy, high-budget production.

Police Cops: The Musical is outrageously ridiculous yet impressively slick, excellently performed, and keeps you engaged throughout. The humour is silly and over the top, and the cast and crew showcase their real skill in blending comic satire with musical theatre and improv, hitting every comedic and musical beat perfectly. Through the recurring gags, hilarious stage craft and show-stopping numbers it's clear this team understands their genres and have created something uniquely entertaining by merging them. Plus, the writing is really self-aware, touching on outrageous ideas but never crossing the line.

Melinda Orengo, Natassia Bustamente and at this performance Mychele Lebrun as well, all deliver standout performances. All three seamlessly blend polished musical theatre with offbeat character comedy. Zachary Hunt, Nathan Parkinson, and Tom Roe, the masterminds behind this show, also star in it, showcasing their versatility. Hunt, as the leading man, pours endless energy and enthusiasm into his role, while Roe's sharp comic timing and Parkinson's unhinged characters add to the laughter.

One of the most delightful aspects of Police Cops is how evident it is that the entire team is having a blast. You can often catch cast members trying to stifle their laughter, and the musical director, Gabriel Chernick, exudes such joy, especially during a hilarious improv section involving sweets!

In Ameri-conclusion, Police Cops: The Musical is an unexpected treasure, blending zany satire with polished, professional musical theatre. It's hard not to have a grin plastered on your face throughout the performance—it's an absolute blast!

Reviewed on Tuesday 19th September
Photo Credit: Pamela Raith

{AD PR Invite- tickets gifted in exchange for honest review}

The Little Big Things at Soho Place Review: Shines as a Celebration of Disability

Friday, 15 September 2023

The Little Big Things
Soho Place

The Little Big Things at Soho Place presents an emotional journey that triumphs in depicting the resilience of the human spirit. Based on the story of Henry Fraser as told in his 2017 memoir of the same name, the musical tracks his journey from a budding rugby player, to being paralysed from the neck down after a freak diving accident on holiday in Portugal. This production is a testament to the power of adaptation and determination, and instead of being a somewhat patronising portrayal of becoming an inspiration after a life trauma, it showcases the transition from the person Henry was pre-accident to who he became post-accident. It also looks at how Henry's family deal with the changes and features the work of the NHS as well as a small romantic subplot. Each aspect makes this a truly uplifting and charmingly British musical, which feels like it's actively trying to shy away from the typical style of storytelling that often surrounds the stories of disabled people.

Nick Butcher (music) and Tom Ling (music and lyrics) clearly have a talent for writing high energy songs and ballads that tug at your heartstrings. The music is primarily upbeat and big however, while deeply engaging during the performance, the songs don't engrave themselves into memory once the curtains fall. The performances are undoubtedly and unanimously captivating, enriching the scenes and evoking a range of emotions. However, a few standout, memorable tunes would have elevated the overall experience and resonated long after leaving the theatre.

The integration of projections and lighting (Howard Hudson) in The Little Big Things is nothing short of remarkable. The creative use of light and visuals immerses the audience into the heart of the story, enhancing the emotional impact of the narrative. The play of light and shadows amplifies the depth of the characters' struggles and triumphs, leaving a lasting visual impression.

Director Luke Sheppard fearlessly pushes the limits of accessible theatre, infusing innovation, vitality, and charisma into an already poignant narrative. The staging is in constant motion, driven by Mark Smith's lively choreography, which ingeniously integrates moments of BSL (British Sign Language) and embodies the joy and celebration which is infused throughout the show.

Despite the undeniable power of the narrative, there are moments when the production grapples with sudden transitions and dialogues that could benefit from a smoother flow. The pacing occasionally feels a bit clunky, disrupting the overall rhythm. However, this doesn't detract significantly from the musical's poignant message of resilience and adaptation.

The cast's performances are stellar, embodying the characters with authenticity and dedication. Their portrayals breathe life into the story, allowing the audience to connect deeply with the struggles and triumphs of the characters. The musical shines as a celebration of disability, showcasing the strength and adaptability required to navigate a new life.

The Little Big Things is a moving musical that speaks to the resilience of the human spirit. The impeccable use of projections and lighting, along with a talented cast, creates a poignant theatrical experience. Despite minor pacing and memorability concerns, the musical stands as a heartfelt celebration of perseverance and a glowing portrayal of adapting to life's challenges. The little faults don't take away from the big things that make this show as glowing and special as it is and I wholeheartedly recommend it to anyone seeking a meaningful and uplifting night at the theatre, just make sure you take some tissues with you!

Reviewed on Thursday 14th September
Photo Credit: Pamela Raith
{AD PR Invite- tickets gifted in exchange for honest review}

Love Never Dies in Concert at the Theatre Royal Drury Lane Review: Musicality Reigns Supreme

Friday, 25 August 2023

Love Never Dies in Concert
Theatre Royal Drury Lane

Once again, the LMTO and Fourth Wall Live have joined forces to bring a musical to life in concert form with a stellar cast and stunning music. This time, it’s the much discussed and dissected Love Never Dies, which hasn’t been staged in the West End since 2011. For two days the Theatre Royal Drury Lane played host to the latest iteration of the show which mesmerisingly took audiences back to the world of the Phantom and Christine. With the spotlight on a talented cast, and powerful orchestrations, this concert rendition really let the music shine and provided a memorable theatrical experience for those in attendance.

With such a brilliant cast, it’s no surprise that the performances were broadly nothing short of exceptional, capturing the essence of the characters and their emotions. Celinde Schoenmaker stepped back into the role of the beloved songbird, Christine Daae and did so in an utterly magical way, with her soaring soprano perfectly bringing the score to life and dazzling throughout her time on stage. Alongside her, Broadway veteran Norm Lewis put mask back on (in this case a swanky gold number) and became the musical Phantom of the Opera once again. His gorgeous baritone vocals provided some spectacular moments, especially in the rousing Till I Hear You Sing and it’s always a treat to see him on a West End stage. It did however seem that the rock number The Beauty Underneath was not performed live, which is a bit disappointing in a show of this calibre, and it would be interesting to know what prompted this decision from the creative team. This isn’t a criticism of anyone in particular, but perhaps opens a wider conversation about how these concert versions are rehearsed and put together. Of course it’s a massive task to create such strong shows in a short amount of time and given their minimal runtime it’s understandable that the turnaround has to be fairly quick, but it would be curious to know if it’s possible to create a rehearsal process that works for everyone involved and doesn’t leave the audience feeling shortchanged.

Aside from this, the music was incredibly strong, with a number of stand out moments that brought to life the deeply evocative and emotive feelings which course through this show. As Meg Giry, Courtney Stapleton brought a lovely buoyancy and freshness which showed the character in a new and engaging light, whilst Matthew Season-Young provided some strong vocal moments as Raoul. The supporting cast, including the London Musical Theatre Chorus deserve commendation for their remarkable vocals which truly soared in the Theatre Royal Drury Lane.

Staging wise, this was one of the less full-out concerts compared to others but it still did an excellent job of evoking the world of Phantasma and showcasing some of the whimsy of Coney Island. Rebecca Brower’s costumes were very in keeping with the gothic vibes and cleverly mirrored some of those from the original Phantom production, overall creating a dynamic atmosphere which cleverly set the place and time, without overshadowing the music.

The LMTO orchestra, under the baton of Freddie Tapner, masterfully captured the intricate emotions of the music, underscoring the characters' journeys with every note. The majestic melodies and haunting refrains were a testament to the timeless quality of Lloyd Webber's composition and it was such a treat to hear the score performed by such a large group of highly talented musicians.

While Love Never Dies has faced criticism for its narrative depth, the concert format seemed to address some of these concerns. The live performance allowed the characters to shine and their relationships to be explored with greater nuance. A lot of the plot is quite frankly ludicrous and the characters have taken complete 180s from their initial iterations but this concert format seemed to be a perfect vehicle for highlighting the strengths of the piece while minimising its perceived weaknesses.

Overall Love Never Dies in Concert, was a captivating and emotionally resonant experience. The talented cast and impeccable orchestral accompaniment combined to create a theatrical event that honoured the legacy of its predecessor while standing as a powerful production in its own right. Many of the original book issues still stand but from the audience reaction, it’s clear that this is still a show which many hold close to their hearts.

Reviewed on Tuesday 21st August 2023 by Olivia 

{AD PR Invite- tickets gifted in exchange for honest review}