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

Thursday 22 February 2024

Hadestown at the Lyric Theatre REVIEW: A Soul-Stirring Journey to the Depths of Hell


Hadestown
Lyric Theatre

There are musicals that touch your soul and for me that’s Hadestown. I first saw the show in 2018, where I went in completely blind and came out gob smacked and awed. Tonight after the official West End opening night, I feel equally awed as well as inspired, moved, astounded, heartbroken and overjoyed. There really aren’t adjectives to describe how heartfelt and special this show is. Not only is it a piece of fantastic quality theatre but it’s also a poem, a concert, a celebration of life and humanity, an ode to music and above all, a love story.

Hadestown tells the tale of young Orpheus and Eurydice as their tales intertwine. It's a musical retelling of the ancient Greek myth of the duo and follows the journey of Orpheus as he descends into the underworld, determined to rescue his beloved Eurydice from the clutches of the charismatic but menacing Hades. Despite the various iterations and productions this musical has gone through, one constant is how scarily relevant the themes it explores feel in our modern world. Hades, ruler of the underworld and the mines, ostensibly grants "freedom" through employment while simultaneously confining his subjects behind a barrier. Why We Build The Wall is certainly one of the most pertinent songs of the production, its relevance hits all too close to home in the current world.

The musical borders the line between acting as "the world we live in, and the one we dream about", in thanks part to Rachel Hauck's set. Scaled down slightly from the National Theatre production, it still evokes Depression-era vibes and cleverly frames the story. Bradley King's lighting literally highlights some of the most astounding moments of the show, especially during Hades' peak moments, as well as casting shadows to create an almost cinematic feel; overall it's just an incredibly cohesive show that has a vibe and aesthetic that matches it so well.

This undefined world is perhaps best showcased by Anaïs Mitchell's incredible score which combines so many styles a creates such special storytelling. The intricate lyrics allow layers upon layers of emotions to form as Anaïs weaves a musical tapestry that is charming and delightful at times, but gritty and painful at others. Mitchell has truly crafted a musical masterpiece that transcends time and genre and creates a theatrical experience like no other.

Director Rachel Chavkin has meticulously pored over each performer, set element, musician, and lighting effect to craft a production that leaves us suspended between despair and hope. This version of the show also feels perfectly tweaked for the West End, with the use of the performer’s natural accents making the whole thing feel very real and grounded, an inspired change! David Neumann's precise choreography fits seamlessly with the revolving stage, continually moving between frenetic energy and poignant stillness that works so well. This is a piece which is so reliant on balance, the balance between good and bad, love and hate, light and dark, loud and quiet, beauty and pain, among others, and the entire cast and creative team have perfectly understood and managed this balance to form a musical that leaves you not quite sure what emotion you're experiencing, but 100% sure you experienced something special.

At it's core this is a story about people, and the people who lead it are wonderful. As the headstrong Eurydice, Grace Hodgett Young is everything you could ask for in a leading lady, her calm is as strong as her passion and she fills every moment with charisma. There’s often mention of “stage presence” but it’s rare you see the phrase as outwardly displayed as with Grace who commands even the smallest of moments. Of course she’s also vocally dreamy, showcasing all layers of her voice and perfectly bringing the vocal grit that’s so necessary for the role. Her easy swagger and playfulness is a perfect balance to Orepheus' more nervous persona. Taking on the role of this heartstrong counterpart, Donal Finn is delightfully whimsical and charming. Donal's Orpheus truly comes into his own during act two when his passion for his partner and also his music are on full display and his voice becomes a beacon of hope cutting through the darkness of despair. It's utterly heartbreaking when we reach the expected conclusion, a testament to the emotion the cast pour out to get us to that point.

As the enigmatic Hermes, Melanie La Barrie is all parts wonderful, her presence commanding the stage with every word and gesture and bringing humour and gravitas in equal measure. Her performance weaves together the threads of myth and legend with an all knowing wisdom that seems to transcend time, she truly gives everything on stage and is a marvel to behold.

Hadestown is more than a musical—it's an experience, a testament to the enduring power of art to touch the very depths of our souls. It's a rare gem that shines brightly in the landscape of contemporary theatre, a reminder that sometimes, even in the darkest of times, there is still beauty to be found.

In the hallowed halls of the Lyric Theatre, you can bear witness to something truly extraordinary. Hadestown is a triumph in every sense of the word and it needs to be seen.

★★★★★
Reviewed on Wednesday 21st February 2024 by Olivia Mitchell
Photo Credit: Marc Brenner

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Hadestown at the Lyric Theatre REVIEW: A Soul-Stirring Journey to the Depths of Hell

Thursday 22 February 2024

Thursday 1 February 2024

Bronco Billy the Musical at the Charing Cross Theatre REVIEW | A Delightful Musical Romp


Bronco Billy the Musical
Charing Cross Theatre

Bronco Billy the musical, is a rollicking ride through the Wild West, that brings a unique blend of sincerity and high camp to the Charing Cross Theatre. It's a show so full of heart, you can't help but be charmed by it, as it provides a theatrical escape that is genuinely marvellous.

As the title suggests, the musical tells the tale of Bronco Billy, a performing Cowboy as he leads his troupe around America, aiming to make enough money to keep them afloat. Along the way he meets Antoinette, an heiress who's on the run from her money grabbing stepmother and a host of other characters wishing for her demise. It's as random and wacky as it sounds but truly it's a tale of heart, friendship and dreaming, all wrapped up to create a rootin' tootin' good show that thrives through it's melodramatic highs.

The cast are full of absolute joys. Star on rise, Emily Benjamin shines as the chocolate heiress on the run, Antoinette, injecting the role with gumption, charm and vulnerability, plus sweltering vocals to match. Her delightful partnership with Tarrin Callender as Bronco Billy, provides some of the show's standout moments. Callendar's effortless charisma and soaring baritone vocals fill the Charing Cross Theatre, making it evident why the troupe is so drawn to him, and showcasing a performance that is beautifully vulnerable and volatile.

The leading duo are complemented by a supporting cast of well-defined characters, each with small arcs and interests that really bring them to life. Between them, the group also showcase a variety of killer circus tricks, from juggling, to supremely impressive rope-wielding and magical wild-west wizardry. A big part of the show is the aspect of found family and the entire cast do a really fantastic job of portraying this loving unit, and together bring some sweet, sincere moments to an otherwise wild show.

Heaps of praise must go to Victoria Hamilton-Barritt portraying the gold digger, murderess stepmother, Constance, as she delivers a performance that is nothing short of perfection. Her comedic timing rivals the best in the business, and her astounding physicality, faultless facial expressions, and hilarious vocal inflections create a dynasty-esque portrayal that keeps the audience in stitches. Barritt's magnetic stage presence draws in the crowd, and she expertly milks every moment for maximum laughs and somehow still leaves us yeehawing for more.

Amy Jane Cook's set design and Sarah Mercade's costumes are commendable, wonderfully capturing the essence of the Wild West with authenticity and providing some surprising moments whilst utilising all of the limited space available. Alexzandra Sarmiento's choreography is undeniably fun and while there's potential for more in a larger space, it fits the Wild West vibe exceptionally well and is two-step away from perfection, though I'd trade my hat for an encore tap dance number.

The upbeat score by Chip Rosenbloom, John Torres and Michelle Brourman is continually engaging, with a number of quirky ear-worms and vocal gems. It may not be a musical masterpiece, but it's intelligent and inventive enough to fit perfectly with the style of the show and deliver exactly what it needs to.

Bronco Billy is a delightful musical extravaganza that successfully balances sincere moments with high camp theatrics. It isn't groundbreaking, but with charismatic leads, touching found family dynamics, and a hugely fun Wild West atmosphere, it is a silly stampede of a show that guarantees you'll leave with a prairie sized grin and joy to share. Who knew that what London theatre needed was a disco cowboy musical?!

★★★★

Reviewed on Wednesday 30th January 2024 by Olivia
Photo Credit: The Other Richard

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Bronco Billy the Musical at the Charing Cross Theatre REVIEW | A Delightful Musical Romp

Thursday 1 February 2024

Thursday 18 January 2024

Rehab the Musical at Neon 194 Review: Struggles to Find Its Narrative Harmony


Rehab the Musical
Wyndham's Theatre

Written by Elliot Davis with music and lyrics from Grant Black and Murray Lachlan Young, Rehab the Musical follows 26-year-old pop star, Kid Pop (Christian Maynard), who finds himself in court, after being caught red handed in a drug fuelled tabloid sting. A judge gives Kid the choice between jail time or a rehabilitation centre for six weeks. Kid chooses to go the Glade rehab centre where he meets a host of characters and has to face some harsh realities about himself.

The musical tries to seamlessly weave together an array of elements that, unfortunately, leave the overall production feeling a bit scattered. The emotional journey is a rollercoaster, evoking heartfelt moments that pull at the audience's heartstrings, only to be swiftly followed by chaotic, feverish musical interludes that seem to materialise out of thin air. This tonal inconsistency gives rise to an emotional whiplash, making it a bit challenging for the audience to fully immerse themselves in the unfolding narrative.

Amidst the theatrical mosaic are intriguing plot line crumbs, teeming with the potential for impactful developments. Regrettably, these narrative threads are left hanging, never fully explored or developed. The overarching structure of the production yearns for a more streamlined approach, as the multitude of introduced ideas creates an unfocused and somewhat in-cohesive storyline. The musical teeters between being sincere and heartfelt, whilst also really leaning in to over the top humour, a balance which in this instance doesn't quite work.

However, within the ebb and flow of its narrative, Rehab the Musical has some luminous moments. The production sparkles with genuinely hysterical instances and unforgettable one-liners, thanks to the standout comedic performances by Keith Allen (Malcolm Stone) and Jodie Steele (Beth Boscombe). Steele's solo number is particularly striking, a testament to her vocal prowess, even though the character she portrays lacks the nuanced depth required for a fully rounded portrayal.

The undeniable chemistry between Maiya Quansah-Breed (Lucy Blakeand Christian Maynard (Kid Pop) adds a dreamy allure to the stage. Both actors deliver performances that resonate, yet the dialogue between their characters falls short of allowing for a fully realised emotional connection. That being said, their duets and solos are truly some of the high points of the show, with vocals that float and soar around the venue.

Commendation is due to the set design (Simon Kenny), which functions seamlessly in the round. Stairs metamorphose into drawers, and a minimalist aesthetic facilitates smooth scene transitions, preventing the physical aspects of the production from feeling cumbersome. It's not particularly inventive or exciting but really works in the confines of the space. On the flip side, while the choreography (Gary Lloyd) offers visual interest from every angle, it fails to weave itself significantly into the overarching action or storyline, missing an opportunity to enhance the narrative through movement.

Mica Paris, once again, graces the stage with a stellar vocal performance but finds herself in a role that echoes with underdevelopment. Her undeniable talent radiates- especially in her duet with Maiya, Museum of Loss which is a true theatrical treat- but again, the character lacks the narrative depth necessary to fully showcase Paris's abilities.

A standout moment in the production is the glorious gospel song that concludes the first act Letters Goodbye/Don't Eat Your Feelings, etching itself into the collective memory of the audience. It underscores the musical's potential for powerful and emotionally resonant moments. 

While Rehab the Musical boasts strengths, including comedic brilliance, dreamy performances, and impressive set design, it falls short of deciding what sort of show it wants to be and fails to achieve a cohesive narrative.

★★★
Reviewed on Wednesday 17th January 2024 by Olivia
Photo Credit: Mark Senior


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Rehab the Musical at Neon 194 Review: Struggles to Find Its Narrative Harmony

Thursday 18 January 2024

Sunday 17 December 2023

Stranger Things: The First Shadow, Phoenix Theatre London | REVIEW


Stranger Things: The First Shadow
Phoenix Theatre 

As someone who ventured into the realm of Stranger Things: The First Shadow without much prior experience with the series, aside from watching a few episodes and a recap, I was pleasantly surprised and thoroughly captivated by this spectacular supernatural spectacle. The Duffer Brothers, with Jack Thorne and Kate Trefry have crafted a story that effortlessly drew me into the mysterious world of Hawkins, Indiana, even as a newcomer to the Stranger Things universe.

From the very first applause inducing scenes, I found myself immersed in the gripping narrative that skilfully combines elements of suspense, nostalgia, and the supernatural. The show's ability to seamlessly introduce me to its characters and the intricacies of their relationships made it easy to connect with the story, and I was quickly invested in the fates of these intriguing personalities.

The prequel introduces both beloved characters and fresh faces, each receiving substantial development and individuality. The performances are exceptional, characterised by universally nuanced and emotionally charged portrayals. Louis McCartney, in his striking West End debut as Henry Creel, delivers a chilling performance that combines twisted actions with an alarming charm. McCartney's masterful physicality, full of spasms and contortions, adds an extra layer of intensity to the role- I can only imagine how much physio he'll need during the run! Isabella Pappas embodies Joyce with fierce brilliance, seamlessly incorporating Winona Ryder's iconic traits while infusing the character with her own spin. Pappas creates a captivating, headstrong persona that garners unwavering support. Alongside her, Oscar Lloyd portrays James Hopper Jr. with suave charisma, delivering witty one-liners and exuding an aura that captivates throughout.

The brilliance of this show lies in the meticulous attention and craftsmanship dedicated to shaping the intricate backstories of every character. Each member is endowed with distinct intentions and personality traits, allowing for intrigue at every turn. There isn't a single weak link to be discovered, but special recognition is deserved for the performances of Christopher Buckley as the endearing Bob Newby and Michael Jibson, who delivers haunting moments as the tormented Victor Creel. Max Harwood as Alan Munson, injects copious amounts of humour, energy, and vitality into the narrative, fashioning a persona that practically begs for its own enthralling spin-off storyline; whilst Patrick Vaill brings eerie menace to the stage as Dr Brenner.

In the hands of Stephen Daldry and Justin Martin, the play unfolds like a blooming flower, or more aptly, the opening mouth of a demogorgon. It moves seamlessly between the whirlwind of action and the rich tapestry of each thoughtfully crafted scene. High-school hallways and bathrooms, the mundane backdrop of everyday life, transform into breathtaking alternate worlds in the blink of an eye, all thanks to the nimble touch of Miriam Buether's set design. Jon Clark's lighting is like a choreographed dance, shifting between mysterious shadows and warm sunlight, mirroring the transformative journey of the characters.

The story takes a deep dive into the shadows, embracing a genuinely dark undertone with jumps and eerie sounds reminiscent of horror films, all expertly blended into the production by Paul Arditti's exceptional sound design. Yet, within the darkness, there's a contrasting brightness—a nostalgic, retro Americana that permeates the air. Sprinkled with snippets of song, it adds layers of emotion and complexity to this multidimensional theatrical experience, making it a journey that feels both supernatural and believable.

Stranger Things: The First Shadow is a testament to the storytelling prowess of its creators. As someone unfamiliar with the series, I can confidently say that this instalment stands alone as a brilliant and engaging piece of theatre. It has ignited my curiosity about the series as a whole, and I am now eager to explore the it to uncover the mysteries that follow this captivating chapter. Whether you're a seasoned fan or a newcomer like myself, this show is a spectacle that you must see. Full of drama, amazing performances and genuine sincerity, it's a Creel-y Creel-y great piece of theatre.

★★★★★
Reviewed on Friday 15th December 2023 by Olivia Mitchell
Photo Credit: Manuel Harlan

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Stranger Things: The First Shadow, Phoenix Theatre London | REVIEW

Sunday 17 December 2023

Tuesday 28 November 2023

Pretty Woman on Tour at the New Victoria Theatre Review: A Perfect Night Out


Pretty Woman (Tour) 
New Victoria Theatre 

A night of laughter; this sexy, fun and wonderfully performed musical grabs attention from the off! 

Based on the famous 1990 film, the show tells the story of Vivian, a prostitute falling on hard times in Beverly Hills. By pure chance, she catches the attention of a Billionaire, Edward. Their instant connection prompts Edward to offer residence to Vivian, in exchange for her services for one week whilst he stays at the famously opulent Beverly Wilshire Hotel. Both are certain that no feelings could grow during this business deal. It seems they are both to be proved wrong…

The leading role of Vivian Ward was of course made famous by Julia Roberts. Needless to say, this iconic role is a hard one to fill. Amber Davies, who gained public attention with her 2017 Love Island win plays the role with brilliance and proves she's much more than a reality star. Her acting, singing and dancing is on point, a true triple threat! Whilst delivering iconic lines from the movie, Amber makes the role her own and creates a charming character who the audience root for. 

Oliver Savile portrays the role of Edward Lewis excellently, which is no surprise considering his extensive theatre experience! Edward’s closed-off attitude and need to hold everyone at arms length, slowly wavers as Vivian wins his affection. The strong chemistry between Amber and Oliver is more than apparent, especially in the few raunchy moments throughout the show. It's a pleasure to see them act together. 

Natalie Paris, who plays Vivian’s best friend Kit De Luca is a true standout with the most incredible vocal range! A continual scene stealer, her ‘Rock and Roll’ style is effortless, and she brings the witty character to life superbly.  The rest of the killer ensemble do a fantastic job of keeping energy high with their multiple dance numbers and general presence. 

With music Bryan Adams and Jim Vallance, a book by Garry Marshall and the film’s screenwriter J.F. Lawton and direction and choreography Jerry Mitchell, the magic of the show is there from the start, and stays throughout. Pretty Woman on tour is a fantastic screen to stage adaptation that has all the moments the audience know and love from the smash hit film, with extra theatrical additions to make it an utterly engaging experience.

The overall design of the show fits the era and flavour of the musical well. The use of bright background lighting (Kenneth Posner and Philip S. Rosenberg) during song and dance numbers keep the overall feeling of the show light and fun. Equally Tom Rodgers's costume design really represents the story well; of course the iconic red ballgown from the movie makes its appearance alongside a number of other fun costumes. David Rockwell's set is simple but effective- one minute you are looking at dingy Hollywood street corner, the next you are in the Penthouse suite of the Beverly Wilshire! 

Overall, the lightheartedness of the story and the fantastic talent onstage makes for a  perfect, adult-only night out. I highly recommend a trip to Hollywood via Woking! 

★★★★★ 
Reviewed on Monday 27th November 2023 by Grace Dickinson
Photo Credit: Manuel Harlan

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Pretty Woman on Tour at the New Victoria Theatre Review: A Perfect Night Out

Tuesday 28 November 2023

Thursday 23 November 2023

The Drifter's Girl on Tour at the New Victoria Theatre Review: Enchanting Performances


The Drifter's Girl (Tour)
New Victoria Theatre

Currently on tour after a West End stint, The Drifters Girl offers audiences a glimpse at an intriguing journey, accompanied by top tapping hits and universally great performances. Showered with acclaim at the 2022 Olivier Awards, the show follows the dramatic narrative of Faye Treadwell, the incredible force behind shaping The Drifters.

While grappling with some visually lacklustre sets, the production compensates with performances that pack a punch and a memorable soundtrack featuring timeless tunes like ‘Saturday Night At The Movies,’ ‘Save The Last Dance For Me,’ and ‘Stand By Me.’

Despite the occasional visual challenge posed by the set design, The Drifters Girl invites audiences to dive headfirst into the heart of the action with an immediate and dynamic narrative approach. This spirited start, while invigorating, might require a bit of time for the audience to acquaint themselves with the characters and their relationships. If you’re not familiar with the story you may be a little dazed, but thanks to the fast pace, you don’t really have time to think about it!

From the energetic get go, the performances are the true stars of the show. Under the compelling portrayal of Faye Treadwell by Carly Mercedes-Dyer, the cast deliver stellar performances that highlight the ambition, determination, and drive which drives the story. The group's seamless transitions, brought to life by Ashford Campbell, Daniel Haswell, Miles Anthony Daley, and Tarik Frimpong, showcase their artistry in navigating the dynamic changes within The Drifters. Vocally, each performer has some stand out moments however don’t often get the chance to really come into their own. Carly Mercedes Dyer perfectly performs the peak moments of the show, with vocals that simmer and then soar.

The musical's charm lies in its unforgettable songs, which act as both a soulful soundtrack and sturdy pillars supporting the narrative. The emotional depth conveyed through these musical moments significantly contributes to the overall impact, and has you rooting for the story. However, it does feel like something is missing, with the short acts skimming over a lot of drama and never quite packing a punch.

Whilst it’s not a life altering night at the theatre, The Drifters Girl has performances that feel authentic, a soundtrack that strikes a chord, and a narrative that unveils the essence of a key figure in music history. Despite the initial visual challenges and a swift plunge into the storyline, the production eventually finds its rhythm, offering an enjoyable experience for fans of The Drifters and musical theatre enthusiasts alike.

★★★
Reviewed on Wednesday 22nd November 2023 by Olivia
Photo Credit:

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The Drifter's Girl on Tour at the New Victoria Theatre Review: Enchanting Performances

Thursday 23 November 2023

Friday 3 November 2023

The Time Traveller's Wife at the Apollo Theatre Review: Time-Bending Spectacle with a Few Melodic Sparks


The Time Traveller's Wife
Apollo Theatre 

Step into the Time Warp with The Time Traveller's Wife, a production that brings Audrey Niffenegger's cherished novel to life on stage. The story revolves around the unconventional love story of Clare and Henry, complicated by his uncontrollable time-traveling abilities. While the show boasts remarkable technical feats, it occasionally stumbles when it comes to character development and narrative cohesion.

One of the standout features of the show is the exceptional use of projections and special effects to depict Henry's time-traveling journeys. The combination of Chris Fisher's illusions and Andrzej Goulding's video design and animation, along with Richard Brooker's sound design, creates a mesmerising experience that truly captures the essence of the novel. Lucy Carter and Rory Beaton's lighting design further enhances the visual impact, making the time-travel sequences truly outstanding.

Anna Fleischle's stage design, characterised by large partitions, may be relatively simplistic, but it proves effective in transforming the stage to the various places and time periods covered in the story. The quick transitions between different settings are seamless and help maintain the audience's engagement.

However, the primary drawback of the musical lies in its plot. The inherent nature of sudden time travel results in a narrative that often feels clunky and choppy, making it challenging to develop a strong connection with the characters. The central relationship between Henry and Clare, which should be the emotional core of the story, lacks depth due to their limited time together as a couple. Instead, most of their interactions consist of Henry visiting Clare throughout her childhood, which raises complex questions, and their adult lives seem marked by unhappiness. This lack of a strong emotional connection between the leads diminishes the impact of their quest to have their love transcend time.

On the flip side, Charisse and Gomez, portrayed by Tim Mahendran and Hiba Elchikhe, serve as the comic relief characters and offer a more compelling relationship with a clearer backstory. Their presence is easier to root for, and the chemistry between Mahendran and Elchikhe is a highlight of the show. The dinner party scene, in particular, stands out as one of the most enjoyable and energetic moments, filled with humour and lively performances.

Individually, the cast members deserve praise. David Hunter, who plays Henry, delivers a convincing portrayal of a man grappling with his unique abilities and provides killer vocals to go with it. Joanna Woodward's Clare exudes warmth and vulnerability, making her character endearing. Tim Mahendran and Hiba Elchikhe, as Charisse and Gomez, steal the show with their fun and charismatic on-stage presence, and their strong vocal performances only add to their appeal.

The costumes by Illona Karas and wigs by Susanna Peretz are a visual delight, successfully covering various time periods with outlandish and wonderful designs. The backstage dressers deserve applause for their efficient execution of numerous quick changes, which contribute to the show's smooth flow.

Joss Stone and Dave Stewart's music adds a unique dimension to the production, featuring a diverse mix of musical styles that range from country-inspired tunes to more conventional pop songs. The entire cast delivers these songs with outstanding performances, showcasing their musical talents. However, the musical score, while competently composed and executed, lacks truly memorable tunes. Most of the songs are lyrically predictable, serving the primary purpose of advancing the storyline. That said, there are moments in the second act that shine, such as "Journeyman," performed by Henry, and "A Woman's Intuition," a trio featuring Henry, Charisse, and Gomez. These standout moments provide a fresh and memorable musical experience within the production and leave a lasting impression. While the music may not be the show's strongest suit, it still contributes to the overall atmosphere and storytelling.

In spite of its narrative challenges and somewhat forgettable music, The Time Traveller's Wife succeeds in creating an engaging theatrical experience, thanks to its outstanding technical aspects, charismatic performances, and a handful of standout musical moments, making it a worthwhile and visually stunning night out at the theatre.

★★★
Reviewed on Thursday 3rd November 2023 by Olivia
Photo Credit: Johann Persson
 
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The Time Traveller's Wife at the Apollo Theatre Review: Time-Bending Spectacle with a Few Melodic Sparks

Friday 3 November 2023

Lizzie at the Southwark Playhouse (Elephant) Review: A Bloody Good Time


Lizzie
Southwark Playhouse (Elephant) 

A transfer from the Hope Mill Theatre, Lizzie boasts a cast that impresses with their strong vocals and well-defined characterisations. The performers do an excellent job bringing their characters to life and infusing the show with their energy and passion, making it an engaging experience for the audience.

The musical takes inspiration from the infamous Lizzie Borden case and the story revolves around Lizzie Borden and her sister; exploring the mysteries and events leading up to the gruesome murders of their parents. It delves into themes of murder, mystery, and the complexities of human nature, all set against a rock opera backdrop. With a gripping narrative, powerful performances, and a thrilling atmosphere, Lizzie invites the audience to step into a world where dark secrets are uncovered, and the truth is as elusive as the swing of an axe.

One of the standout features of Lizzie is the striking lighting design and stage setup by Andrew Exeter, which, particularly during the climactic moments of Act One, leave you breathless with its deathly allure. The lighting and set design effectively create an atmosphere that's visually captivating and in keeping with both the rock musical vibes, and the traditional 1800s setting of the story.

While William Whelton's choreography wields a sharp blade and  is executed very well, it sometimes feels like it's hacking away at a different story, leaving us with a tenuous connection. It adds some movement and visual appeal, but it doesn't fully meld with the narrative.

Direction wise though, Whelton has approached the show at a fun angle, melding massive arena concert energy with traditional musical theatre techniques. The energy is consistently high and despite knowing the ending, you're still on the edge of your seat, awaiting the next thrilling act. The use of handheld microphones is a cool twist on the storytelling, and hung in holsters at their sides it's almost as if the ladies are wielding them as potential murder weapons. However, when they're actually in use, it doesn't always make sense within the context of the show, I think it would be more effective if it was made clear that they were symbolising inner most thoughts or something of the like. 

This really is a girl power musical and each character in the production is well-defined, allowing the audience to connect with their individual stories and motivations. The attention to detail in the character development adds depth to the overall performance, revealing layers like peeling back the pages of a forbidden diary.

The cast deliver exceptional performances, with each woman commanding the stage with finesse. As this performance, Lizzie Borden was played by Emma Louise Hoey who seamlessly transitions from innocence and sweetness to sheer and utter madness. Her expressive eyes, and body tics convey a myriad of emotions, and every movement she makes skilfully illustrates her transformation into the manic killer fully. There's also a real level of innocence woven throughout the character and despite her gruesome act and obvious manipulation, you can't help but root for her. Vocally, Emma is marvellous, providing literal killer vocals with ease and conviction.

Shekinah McFarlane shines as Lizzie's sister, particularly in Act 2, showcasing her superb vocal prowess, that peaks and troughs in all the right places. For vocal masterclasses, this truly is the show to see. It's certainly a trend, as Mairi Barclay also astounds with her killer voice, as Bridget Sullivan. Barclay not only gets to showcase her impressive vocal range but also adds a touch of humour to this otherwise dark drama, often subtly encouraging Lizzie to commit the heinous acts in clever and witty ways, even if her motivations remain somewhat ambiguous. As Lizzie's friend Alice Russell, Maiya Quansah-Breed's performance is nuanced and heartfelt, offering a soothing contrast to the intense and rage-filled numbers that punctuate the show.

Rachel Tansey's costumes are notably well-executed, dressing the characters for their gruesome deeds and helping transport the audience back in time to the historical setting, where every outfit feels like a well-prepared disguise.

Musically Steven Cheslik-Demeyer and Tim Maner have created songs which sound great in the moment but aren't particularly memorable. Lyrically they are fast-paced and super action packed, sometimes to their detriment. So much is crammed in that you don't know what to focus on so things come across somewhat disjointed.

However, despite its minor shortcomings, Lizzie manages to transform the intimate Southwark Playhouse into a high-energy rock concert experience that's a crime of passion, making it a unique and memorable theatrical event that keeps you on edge and engaged.

★★★ 
Reviewed on Thursday 2nd November 2023 by Olivia
Photo Credit: Pamela Raith

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Lizzie at the Southwark Playhouse (Elephant) Review: A Bloody Good Time

Tuesday 24 October 2023

The Bodyguard the Musical on Tour Review: Starts with a bang and thrills throughout!


The Bodyguard the Musical (Tour)
New Victoria Theatre

Demanding your focus from the very first second, The Bodyguard the Musical has it all! Romance, rivalry, and iconic music for all ages to enjoy. 

As per the 1992 movie of the same name, the show tells the story of a famous superstar finding herself to be the unwanted attention of a threatening stalker. As a solution, her team decided to hire a bodyguard to keep her and her family safe. It’s not long before he becomes more invested in his employer than he ever has before. 

The leading role of Rachel Marron was made famous by the legendary Whitney Houston. Needless to say, the bar has been set rather high. Multi-platinum recording artist, Emily Williams (also known as ‘Queen of the High C’s) performs the role with phenomenal ease. Her vocal range is staggering! Emily performs Whitney’s iconic songs so beautifully, whilst making sure to add her own touches here and there. 

Ayden Callaghan portrays the role of Frank Farmer (the Bodyguard) in a distinguishable manner. His character is stern and unwavering, yet begrudgingly, he shows a softer side as his feelings for Rachel grow. Ayden and Emily have fantastic chemistry together, making their romantic storyline so believable! 

Manasseh Mapira, who plays Rachel’s son Fletcher, is an absolute delight to watch. His dancing, vocals and overall charisma have the audience in love! A star in the making…

After a slower-paced first half, things really begin to move in Act Two. The ensemble have a larger part to play, which they do so well; whether it be whilst playing some tone-deaf karaoke singers, or Rachel’s back-up dancers, the energy lifts when they are on the stage. 

The set and costume design by Tim Hatley fit the era and flavour of the musical well. It would have been more effective to see the stage space utilised more, but the potential is definitely there! 

The use of dramatic sound effects and lighting/projections are what you would expect from a 1992 movie. Whilst the connection to the original movie rings true, some modernisation here may have been beneficial.

Overall, the vocal talent of the cast, the iconic music originally given to us by the one and only Whitney Houston, and the passionate storyline, sells this thrilling musical so well. Highly recommend!  

★★★★ 
Reviewed on Monday 23rd October 2023 by Grace Dickinson
Photo Credit: Paul Coltas

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

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