Posts with the label Joel Harper-Jackson
Showing posts with label Joel Harper-Jackson. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Joel Harper-Jackson. Show all posts

Wednesday, 3 August 2022

Chess the Musical in Concert, Theatre Royal Drury Lane | Review


Chess the Musical in Concert
Theatre Royal Drury Lane
Reviewed on Tuesday 2nd August 2022 by Olivia Mitchell 
★★★★

After the success earlier in the year of Bonnie and Clyde in Concert, the bar has been set rather high for what concert productions at the Theatre Royal Drury Lane can provide, and this most recent one certainly hits the mark.

Chess, last seen in London in 2018 at the Coliseum, is set in the 1970s/80s amid the Cold War. Two chess masters meet in Bangkok to fight it out for the world championship title, but also end up in political and romantic competitions. 

By Tim Rice's own admission in the programme notes, the music is the heart of this show, with many finding fault with the book that is sometimes all over the place. Thankfully in this production everything is fairly sleek and issues with the book can be overlooked thanks to the sumptuous cast, choir and orchestra.

Director Nick Winston put on the show in a previous iteration in Japan and has superbly brought it to the London stage with a version that puts the focus strongly on storytelling, both through the music and the buoyant choreography by Alexzandra Sarmiento and Tara Young

This is further helped in no small way by the outstanding LMTO Orchestra, directed expertly by Freddie Tapner. The sumptuous, melodically complex, beautifully syncopated score is showcased to the highest degree. There's a sensitivity given to the more pared back moments whilst the rousing, dramatic pieces of score are stretched to their full extent to provide real wow moments. The LMTO Chorus also bring add excellent power and oomph to the proceedings.

There were some songs which were cut from the show, namely the song Talking Chess between Anatoly and Freddie and Commie Newspapers which I think would have helped the plot be a bit clearer, especially for those seeing the show for the first time. But of course given the short turnaround and runtime for the concerts, I can certainly understand why some pieces had to be cut and shifted and what was still included was excellent. Any plot issues really fly under the radar when you have such a wonderful team on stage and offstage making everything else so enjoyable.

This onstage team is made up of some musical theatre heavyweights and there are standout performances throughout. Samantha Barks' rendition of Nobody's Side and the Anthem Reprise are definitely at the top. Joel Harper-Jackson's Pity The Child, Hadley Fraser's Anthem also bring the house down, and Frances Mayli McCann and Barks also compliment one another beautifully in the classic I Know Him So Well.

Having first seen Chess in concert version at the Royal Albert Hall in 2008 and falling in love with it at age 10, seeing this production of equal strength was an absolute treat to witness. Here's hoping we see more of this outstanding adaptation and the stellar cast who brought it to life!

photo credit: Mark Senior

Chess the Musical in Concert, Theatre Royal Drury Lane | Review

Wednesday, 3 August 2022

Thursday, 13 December 2018

Kinky Boots (UK Tour), Edinburgh Playhouse | Review


Kinky Boots (UK Tour)
Edinburgh Playhouse 
Reviewed on Tuesday 11th December 2018 by Liv Ancell
★★★★★

Audiences at the Edinburgh Playhouse are being transported straight to the Price & Sons Shoe Factory in Northampton this December, to a time and place where drag queens and shoemakers collide in spectacular fashion, in what is a truly unique and special tale.

Kinky Boots has boldly strutted into town and delighted the Edinburgh Playhouse’s audiences since opening night on 11th December. With original music & lyrics by Cyndi Lauper performed by a diverse cast eager to impress, it is impossible not to get swept up in the drama and excitement of this unique spectacle.

The promise of the show’s eponymous red kinky boots seems far off at first, as the curtain rises to reveal the gritty factory belonging to Price & Sons, practical shoemakers. Here we meet Charlie Price, who was portrayed brilliantly by the energetic and tone-perfect Joel Harper-Jackson.


Set design (by Tim McQuillen-Wright) convincingly transforms the stage between its main two states: a working shoe factory and an intimate drag club. This reinforces the contrast between the very different worlds of protagonists Charlie and Lola, as the story dips in and out of Charlie’s tough reality and the exciting world of the exotic drag queen, Lola.

Speaking of Lola, Kayi Ushe who played the show’s famous red-boot bearer on the night stole the show in spectacular fashion. With his perfectly placed sashays, sassy one liners and full range of emotions, Kayi Ushe put on a winning performance in what is undeniably an extremely demanding role. From booty drops to belting out ballads, deadpan put-downs and effortless switches between the character’s macho masculine and drag-queen personas - sometimes done in the very same breath - the audience was absolutely blown away by the level of talent and professionalism Kayi brought to the performance.

Another notable performance in the show was that of Coronation Street veteran Paula Lane, who stepped into the fun role of homegrown Northampton pocket rocket Lauren. Her rendition of The History of Wrong Guys - just one of the show’s long list of incredibly catchy tunes - was underpinned by well-delivered slapstick elements which caused hilarity among the audience.


Lola’s cast of utterly fabulous drag queens, a.k.a The Angels, proved that when drag and theatre cross-over, the result is electric. Played by the kick-ass combination of Connor Collins, John J. Dempsey, Damon Gould, Joshua Lovell, Chileshé Mondelle, and Toyan Thomas-Browne, The Angels left the audience in utter wonderment with their sharply executed choreography. Their performance should almost come with a warning that mere mortals should not attempt their high-tempo sequences of squats, drops, jumps, sashays and moves at home. Not to mention the Angels’ costumes (costumes by Gregg Barnes) which would have put even Ru Paul’s Drag Race contestants to shame, with their dazzling glitter and unashamed flamboyance.

The story of Kinky Boots has its glorious ups, its poignant downs, and beautiful nuances of human emotion which eclipse the themes of loss, love, acceptance and even, the challenges of running a family business. The cast perfectly led us along the full spectrum of emotions, and put on a visual feast for the whole audience. A particular highlight for me in terms of staging was the boxing scene, where strobe lights helped to paint a particularly tense and dramatic scene.

I’ll leave the rest under wraps; this show is an absolute treasure box of surprises, laughs, and delights. The cast and production is of the highest standards and quality rarely seen outside of the West End or Broadway. If you’re looking for a little sparkle and escapism on a cold December evening in Edinburgh, there truly is no better place to be.


Kinky Boots runs at the Edinburgh Playhouse until January 5th 2019

photo credit: Helen Maybanks

Kinky Boots (UK Tour), Edinburgh Playhouse | Review

Thursday, 13 December 2018