Posts with the label review
Showing posts with label review. Show all posts
Showing posts with label review. Show all posts

Wednesday, 7 September 2022

The Cher Show (Tour), New Victoria Theatre | Review


The Cher Show (Tour)
New Victoria Theatre
Reviewed on Tuesday 7th September 2022
★★★

A world renowned singer, actress and age defying star, Cher has had a longtime career full of ups and downs, which have now been transformed into a glitz-filled stage show.

Turning back time from her Las Vegas residencies, The Cher Show begins in the 1950s with a young Cherilyn Sarkisian who's longing to be a star, and progresses through her various ventures, successes and failures up to the modern day. Taking on the role of the musical icon, are three superstars who share (cher) the role and show her at various stages of her life. Debbie Kurup plays the Star, Danielle Steers is Lady and Millie O'Connell is the youngest, Baby.

It's Cher's rich, contralto voice which makes her so recognisable and the three actresses do a great job of mirroring her style as well as her mannerisms and speaking voice. All are vocally excellent and give performances that the icon herself would be proud of.

Whilst the three Cher's represent different times in her life, they also interact throughout and almost act as a Greek chorus or moral compass for one another. This is one of the most effective parts of the musical as the trio interact so wonderfully and have some really witty moments. They also help to keep the plot moving and provide somewhat of a through line to the show.

Aside from this, the script and storyline are somewhat lacklustre. There's not a real cohesion to the story and while of course liberties can't be taken with a real life story, it does feel like there needs to be a theme which ties the show together, or at least more of a conclusion. Towards the end of the musical there is more mention of Cher as a Goddess Warrior but it kind of comes from nowhere. This as a recurring theme throughout could be more effective as a way to show that Cher was a strong business and career woman who got herself back up every time. Instead, the main points and moments are the relationships in Cher's life. That's not to say these aren't enjoyable to watch, and the whole cast do a great job of portraying them, but for Cher being such a powerful woman, there is a distinct lack of oomph and empowerment overall.

The show also has a few moments which fall flat, such as the tap scene where the dancers aren't actually tapping. For a show which packs in thirty of Cher's greatest hits, there also isn't a real crowd pleaser until the megamix at the end. The songs are effectively shoehorned in to tell the story but don't get a chance to shine in their own right as the musical classics that they are. Perhaps less would be more in terms of showcasing the real bops of the track list and leaving out some of the small interludes.

However, less is most definitely not more in the general visual spectacle of the show. Tom Rodgers' set is fairly simplistic but cleverly transforms and feels like a thousand sets in one. Gabriella Slade's costumes take inspiration from Bob Mackie's originals and bring superb glitz, glam and dazzle to proceedings, with the Cher's quite literally beaming sparkles around the auditorium. Ben Cracknell's lighting is a star in its own, completely fitting the vibe of the show and bringing energy and excitement throughout, even more so in the huge finale.

Whilst the tour of The Cher Show does have some faults, it's a treat to see such strong performances on stage and Cher's persona and discography speaks for itself. For glitz and glam you couldn't really ask for more and will Cher-ly have a great time soaking it all in.

photo credit: Pamela Raith

The Cher Show (Tour), New Victoria Theatre | Review

Wednesday, 7 September 2022

Saturday, 6 August 2022

South Pacific, Sadler's Wells | Review


South Pacific
Sadlers Wells
Reviewed on Friday 5th August 2022
★★★

First performed at Chichester Festival Theatre in 2021, Rodgers and Hammerstein's soaring South Pacific is back for a 2022 summer season at Sadler's Wells Theatre.

It has been over seventy years since the release of the original production which covers a number of issues such as class, race and gender, and this revival is visually and vocally beautiful but doesn't quite hit the right note for a contemporary audience.

Rodgers and Hammerstein's score is a delight to hear, with so many of musical theatre's most popular tunes popping up, including I'm Gonna Wash That Man Right Outta My Hair and the stunning Some Enchanted Evening. The full orchestra alongside the outstanding cast, namely: Julian Ovenden as Emile De Becque, Gina Beck as Ensign Nellie Forbush, and Rob Houchen as Lt. Joseph Cable, do a stellar job of bringing the score to life and showcasing the sounds of the Golden Age of musical theatre.

It's the plot which features some troubling moments that don't quite sit right for a 21st century audience. Whilst this production does handle aspects well, for example by making a real moment of You've Got To Be Carefully Taught (which was a progressive song for its time) the overarching elements of racism are extremely strong, as is the Westernised view placed on everything. Of course, this is a piece of its time and should be viewed as such and there are aspects which are very much still relevant for today's audiences but the strong negative undertones did detract from what is otherwise a thrillingly giddy romance.

However, aside from plot, this is a visually as well as vocally stunning show. Peter McKintosh's set perfectly transports us to the various spaces of the island and the mystical Bali Ha'i. The cavernous space of Sadler's Wells Theatre is used to the shows advantage and has some real wow moments, especially during act two.

Whilst there are flaws with South Pacific there's no denying that it's a lush show with a number of glorious aspects. For fans of classic musical theatre this should definitely be on the list, as well as those who want to indulge in the fantastically sweeping voices of the top notch cast. 


Tickets for South Pacific can be purchased via https://www.londonboxoffice.co.uk/

South Pacific, Sadler's Wells | Review

Saturday, 6 August 2022

Wednesday, 3 August 2022

Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat (Tour), New Victoria Theatre | Review


Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat
New Victoria Theatre
Reviewed on Wednesday 3rd August 2022 by Olivia Mitchell 
★★★★★

Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice's Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat is a staple and rite of passage for many musical theatre fans so when a production is mounted there's always a ready and willing audience to view it. Thankfully for current audiences, the Palladium production which is touring the country is absolutely top notch and a dream night out.

Laurence Connor's version of Joseph is a reinvigorated, large scale, glitzy production that feels like it's been plucked straight from the West End and dropped into Woking. The excellent sets by Morgan Large look luxurious but there's also a lovely element of simplicity which is reminiscent of the hugely popular film version. The entire set design is sleek and perfectly embodies the joy and energy which this show provides.

If you're looking for a killer cast, you need to look no further than Joseph. Every single cast member fires on all cylinders and the power and joy which pours out from the stage is just a treat to experience. In the lead role Jac Yarrow is star quality embodied. His Close Every Door To Me is absolutely excellent and he brings a lovely cheeky quality which draws you to Joseph and makes you root for him even more.

Yarrow is joined by Linzi Hately who is wonderfully witty as The Narrator as well as Bobby Windebank who gives a brilliant portrayal of the Elvis-esque Pharaoh. Mention must also go to Matt Gibson as Rueben and Will Hawsworth as Simeon, both of whom are real standouts vocally in their solo moments. The child performers are a joy to watch as they take on various roles and exude happiness.

This is also a choreography heavy production which further elevates it. There are tap numbers alongside a string of high intensity ensemble moments. Joann M. Hunter has done an outstanding job of providing an array of styles and making every number engaging.

For a show which could easily become pantomimic, there is a real level of intensity which upgrades it and makes it a two hour treat that you'd have to be a scrooge not to enjoy.  The outstanding band led by the joyous musical director John Rigby, alongside the super strong ensemble and superbly adapted show, mean and you can't help but leave the theatre smiling from ear to ear. 

photo credit: Tritram Kenton

Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat (Tour), New Victoria Theatre | Review

Wednesday, 3 August 2022

Billy Elliot the Musical, Leicester Curve | Review


Billy Elliot the Musical
Leicester Curve 
Reviewed on Saturday 30th July 2022 by Hope Priddle
★★★★

After a staggering eleven years in the West End, Billy Elliot the Musical returns in an ambitious new Made at Curve production, directed by Nikolai Foster. Billy Elliot is the uplifting tale of a working-class boy from northeast England who discovers a love of dance during the Miners’ Strike of 1984/85. With a grieving family and embittered community at the heart of this narrative, Billy Elliot celebrates the vital, restorative potential of art and the value of coming together. With many of us bearing witness to the rising cost-of-living, an assault on the arts and a summer of strikes, it is no surprise that this musical - inspired by Stephen Daldry’s legendary film - continues to resonate.

While this Made at Curve production features book and lyrics by Lee Hall, and music by Elton John, it marks a radical break from the original production, with warmth and intimacy replaced by an allover grittier aesthetic. Tender moments such as The Letter were sadly eclipsed, not least by the Curve’s cavernous stage. However, this vastness is extremely effectual in capturing Billy’s loneliness and the colossal feat ahead of him.

Alongside Ben Cracknell’s impressive lighting design, Michael Taylor’s set is highly effective. Though the severe industrial scaffolding lacks a homely sense of place, it intimates towards a more universal working-class experience. The use of a mineshaft as Billy’s home is inspired, whilst moving railings are used to great effect in numbers such as Solidarity and Angry Dance, creating cage-like prisons which mirror the claustrophobic, limited world from which Billy is trying to break free.

The score sounds bigger this time around, with jazzy synthesized accompaniments a welcome addition. The tempo has been upped leaving several numbers feeing rushed. He Could Be A Star, a heartbreaking number in which Billy’s father desperately contemplates crossing the picket, is not given time to breathe, whilst Born to Boogie is treated as brief musical interlude rather than a tiring ballet bootcamp. Nevertheless, the ensemble moments swell and soar. The Stars Look Down is an extraordinarily emotive and impactful opening number, ushering in what remains a truly triumphant score.

Ironically, dance is no longer the focus of this production. Breathtaking ballet routines have been removed in favour of more instinctual and age appropriate movements. It is hard not to miss Billy furiously tapping against a barricade of riot shields with razor sharp precision during the Angry Dance and Hind’s choreography does feel a bit flat. However, this earthly and grounded style still makes sense in context.

The adult cast are incredibly strong; Joe Caffrey reprises his touching and empathetic performance as Billy’s grieving father, while Luke Baker delivers a passionate turn as brother Tony. Sally Anne Triplett offers just the right measure of chain-smoking cynicism and tough love as Mrs. Wilkinson. Lastly, Leo Hollingsworth and Bobby Donald were charming, cheeky and confident as Billy and Michael, capturing our hearts with a magical friendship that was a true delight to watch.

Changes aside, Billy Elliot the Musical still packs a mighty punch. Made in Curve have done an impressive job at reimagining this well-loved musical and brought with it a much needed celebration of determination, difference and daring to dream.

photo credit: Marc Brenner

Billy Elliot the Musical, Leicester Curve | Review

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

Saturday, 16 July 2022

Millennials, The Other Palace | Review


Millennials
The Other Palace Studio
Reviewed on Thursday 14th July 2022 by Olivia Mitchell 
★★★★

With the recent announcements of many West End shows closing, it certainly feels like the perfect time to inject something new onto the scene and Elliot Clay's Millennials certainly does just that. Entering the completely transformed studio space at The Other Palace you are greeted by pink cellophane walls, slinkies suspended from the ceiling, inflatable flamingos, ball pits and so much more. Andrew Exeter's design makes it a feast for the eyes from the moment you enter and at just over an hour, the song cycle continues to provide a brilliant way to spend an evening.

The six strong cast who make up the show are all forces to be reckoned with, as they bring individuality to the piece whilst also being a gloriously well-blended ensemble. Opening the show, Luke Bayer starts contemplative and later brings energy in spades; always providing  super strong vocals. Hiba Elchikhe is star power embodied as she belts and riffs for her life in 21st Century Girl before showing her versatility with an emotionally intense performance near the show's closing.

Rob Madge is everything you could with for in a comedic role. Their performance makes the most of every second of the music and imbues perfect humour alongside great vocals- a real stand out! Luke Latchman's rendition of Priceless is also wonderfully humourous. Taking on one of the most beautiful songs in the show, Hannah Lowther is lovely. Her vocal talent really shines as does her acting as she really welcomes the audience to feel the song and experience it alongside her. Completing the cast is Georgina Onuorah who's voice is heavenly in her solo number Remember the Feeling. It would be hard to find such a strong cast elsewhere and the entire six are are a credit to musical theatre.

Millennials is everything you could want in a fun show but there are some elements that don't quite work. Mainly the fact that it isn't really millennial, instead it's a look at growing up. Which is fine and entertaining but with the insistence of the millennial theme, it just feels like it's missing something. The show would do well with being slightly more specific in its lyrics to really fit the millennial theme, however there's certainly something to be said for how universally relatable the lyrics and feelings are, no matter the generation. Of course this is a song-cycle not a fully fledged musical but it would also be good to have a bit more of a through line between the songs.

There may be a little final sprinkle of fairy dust missing but Millennials is one of the funnest shows about and it'll be brilliant to see where it progresses. Hurray for new British writing and hurray for Millennials!

photo credit: Mark Senior

Millennials, The Other Palace | Review

Saturday, 16 July 2022

Tuesday, 31 May 2022

We Will Rock You (Tour), New Wimbledon Theatre | Review


We Will Rock You (Tour)
New Wimbledon Theatre
Reviewed on Monday 30th May 2022
★★★

Back for its 2022 tour, We Will Rock You is set in a dystopian future where "real" music has been outlawed and replaced with manufactured pop. Society is lived online and it's up to a group of Bohemians to travel across the Seven Seas of Rye, declare themselves the champions and bring back rock and roll and freedom for all.

This truly is a show about the music so you can somewhat overlook book issues but in terms of pacing it's a little clunky. The first act is chockablock with world-building including long winded character and plot introductions; and act two is a game of musical tetris where all the popular tunes we haven't already heard, are fired one after the other. In this production the book also has some modern updates thrown in here and there (some of which fall flat), but the rest of the set and staging doesn't match up and it certainly feels like it missed a chance to be revamped for 2022. There's an element of the outdated screens that does feel fitting but coupled with the budget wigs and costumes, it lacks the sparkle you expect with a tour of this scale.

The heart of We Will Rock You is certainly the cast and the show would be equally as good if it was just a concert of Queen's greatest hits performed by the superstars on stage. As leading man and hero Galileo, Ian McIntosh is wonderful. His vocals soar with so much power behind them and he really embodies the spirit of Queen. Alongside him, Elena Skye as Scaramouche is a dream. Giving major Kerry Ellis vibes, albeit in a different role, Elena's voice is outstanding and she really works with the limited script to make it funny and engaging.

As Killer Queen, Jenny O'Leary is a vocal powerhouse. Her command of the stage is enthralling to watch and she rightfully earns some of the biggest applause of the show. Michael McKell, David Michael Johnson and Martina Ciabatti Mennell also give strong performances. The rest of the cast and ensemble are also very good vocally but there is at times a lack of tight synchronicity that detracts from the clone message which is being put across.

The performances are absolutely top notch but the production itself gives more 'high-school final show' as opposed to 'big-buck tour' and for a show with such bold songs and ideas, there's no continuity or backup given through the sets or costumes, and they feel lacklustre in comparison to the score. 

Faults aside, if you want face melting vocals and all your favourite Queen songs, absolutely take a trip, but for a show that feels luxe and finessed, you'll need to look elsewhere.

photo credit: Johan Persson

We Will Rock You (Tour), New Wimbledon Theatre | Review

Tuesday, 31 May 2022

Thursday, 21 April 2022

The Cher Show (Tour), Leicester Curve | Review


The Cher Show (Tour)
Leicester Curve
Reviewed on Friday 15th April 2022 by Hope Priddle
★★★★★

After a brief run on Broadway, the beat goes on for The Cher Show as a new reimagined version, directed by Arlene Phillips, opened at the Leicester Curve this week. Spanning an astounding six decades and featuring iconic hits such as Believe and Strong Enough, The Cher Show charts the early life of Cherilyn Sarkissian and her spectacular rise to fame. In this uplifting girl-powered production, join Cher as she fights to take charge of her career in a man’s world, leaving a legacy as a trailblazing feminist icon.

This is not an ordinary jukebox bio-musical – there is not just one Cher, but three; Baby, Lady and Star. Though the book (Rick Elice) relies heavily on exposition and is not always successful in divorcing itself entirely from a tired format, it is sharp and quick-witted. By introducing us to three protagonists who interrupt each other with sassy asides and sage advice, an otherwise linear narrative suddenly feels reactive and full of endless possibilities. The Chers reclaim, retell and revise their own story.

The cast is led by a powerhouse trio of women in the role of Cher. Millie O’Connell (Baby) Danielle Steers (Lady) and Debbie Kurup (Star) give natural and nuanced performances as the legendary diva. Cher has become so mythologised into the annals of pop history, it is easy to forget she is a real person. Not once however do our leading ladies stray into the territory of camp or hammy caricature.

As the eldest Cher, Debbie Kurup grounds the trio with her wisdom and worldliness. Kurup’s vocals are truly outstanding, but it is in her ability to reveal the vulnerability, resilience and tenderness behind the icon, that her true power lies. Danielle Steers plays Lady, tasked with negotiating Cher’s fraught personal and professional relationship with husband Sonny Bono. Steers is infamous for her rich contralto vocals and as such, unapologetically devours the score. Steers’ commanding rendition of Bang Bang is a total showstopper, proving that Cher was a role she was born to play. Millie O’Connell is a delight as lovestruck dreamer Baby and is a comedic genius to boot – her repartee with Lucas Rush (Sonny) during The Sonny and Cher Comedy Hour is a complete joy to watch.


It would be easy to assume that Baby and Lady take a secondary role to Star, that they perhaps function as her warm-up act. However, they shine brightly on their own. Baby and Lady are no less accomplished, no less complete than Star. What is so wonderful about The Cher Show is that although their shared story is a linear one, the Chers exist in parallel timelines, supporting rather than replacing one another along their journey.

Lucas Rush gives a tremendous performance as Cher’s first husband and lifelong artistic partner, Sonny Bono. Not only does Rush masterfully imitate Sonny’s nasally vocal inflections, they skilfully embrace his smarmy unlikability and genuine charisma. Though Sonny exhibits exploitative and explosive behaviour at the height of their career, he remains an enduring confidante and champion. We are also introduced to a host of influential characters – Cher’s Mother (Tori Scott), Bob Mackie (Jake Mitchell), and her subsequent husbands Gregg Allman (Sam Ferriday) and Robert Camilleti (Ferriday) - all of whom are treated with affection and goodwill. The ensemble are strong and deliver Oti Mabuse’s dynamic choreography with pizazz.

Tom Roger’s set design is simple yet highly effective, transporting the audience backstage by flanking the wings with monochrome rails and wig-laden shelves. The costumes retain all the glamour of Bob Mackie’s original wardrobe, but his departure from the creative team has clearly allowed designer Gabriella Slade the freedom to take a more inspired approach. Slade’s gladiatorial designs fully embody the fierce spirit of Cher and transform our leading ladies into goddess warrior queens.

The Cher Show is a universally uplifting story of a woman’s fight for independence in an industry driven by men. While it unashamedly embraces all the flair and flamboyance that fans will most certainly expect, as a respectful homage to a much-loved icon, it retains real heart. If I could turn back time, I would watch it all over again.

photo credit: Pamela Raith

The Cher Show (Tour), Leicester Curve | Review

Thursday, 21 April 2022

Wednesday, 20 April 2022

Matthew Bourne's Nutcracker (Tour), New Victoria Theatre | Review


Matthew Bourne's Nutcracker
New Victoria Theatre
Reviewed on Tuesday 19th April 2022 by Angie Creagh-Brown
★★★★

The Nutcracker Suite is an old and much beloved family Christmas favourite. Matthew Bourne's version, however is a somewhat different take on the classic.

What can I say about it? Well it was just wonderful!!! The New Victoria Theatre is a large, modern and inviting building, which at this performance welcomed an audience of all ages; there were some young children (well-behaved) and the ambience was happy and inviting, a taste of the sweet treat evening to come.

Bourne takes the original story of a well to do family celebrating Christmas Eve with friends and family and turns it completely round; his version starts in an orphanage, the cast are dressed in grey, the scenery is grey - no light, no joy. The teenage children are preparing to 'enjoy' their meagre Christmas Eve and are joined by the owner, Dr Dross, danced by Danny Reubens, his wife the Matron, Daisy May Kemp, son Fritz, Dominic North and their very spoilt daughter Sugar, Ashley Shaw.

The children manage to find a Nutcracker, which had been locked away in a cupboard, and they escape to a wondrous scene of falling snow, ice-skating and snowballs. To add to their excitement the Nutcracker miraculously changes from a toy to a handsome, well-muscled and talented young man, (Harrison Dowzellto the delight of the children and the leading lady.

The ensemble dancing was lovely, there were comic moments, surprises and hints of jealousies to come. The dancers were performing with large smiles on their faces, which in turn put joy onto the faces of the audience.

Act Two opens with a kaleidoscope of colour which is The Road to Sweetieland. Clara, beautifully danced by Cordelia Braithwaite, is desperately trying to gain entrance to Sweetieland aided by the The Cupids, wonderfully portrayed by Enrique Ngbokota and Shoko Ito. She is still dressed in her undergarments and they find a pretty dress for her, but it does not compare in any way to that worn by her nemesis, Sugar.

There is a lot of humour in this act. Superbly bright costumes and a plethora of well-known sweets dancing wonderfully. It's a visual treat like no other.

The cast is very diverse, which would mirror the children in an orphanage. The story has been re-written in a modern way. This means it would possibly not be suitable for very young children on whom the innuendoes would be lost, but in terms of aesthetics it's sure to appeal to all ages.

The staging, set design, lighting and costumes all added wonderfully to the most enjoyable evening which finished with a standing ovation and joy abounded both on the stage and in the auditorium.

The Nutcracker plays at the New Victoria Theatre until 23rd April

photo credit: Johan Persson

Matthew Bourne's Nutcracker (Tour), New Victoria Theatre | Review

Wednesday, 20 April 2022