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

Friday, 25 November 2022

Elf The Musical, Dominion Theatre | Review


Elf The Musical
Dominion Theatre
Reviewed on Thursday 24th November 2022 by Olivia Mitchell 
★★★★

If you're looking for some festive magic this year, look no further than the Dominion Theatre for their gloriously Christmassy, sparkly production of Elf The Musical. Based on the cult classic film, it tells the story of Buddy the Elf who finds out he's really a human, so makes the journey from the North Pole to New York City to meet his biological father and experience the world. This musical adaptation has all the most iconic parts of the film plus a heap of theatrical magic that makes it the perfect festive treat.

This version of the show does a superb job of being laugh out loud funny and completely joyous without overstepping into pantomime territory; it's entertaining for all the family but not in a way that has you cringing at the jokes. Of course it's saccharine and over the top but isn't that what Christmas is all about?! At the heart of the story and its success is Simon Lipkin as Buddy, who takes on the role with complete joy and authenticity. Having previously given a starring performance in Nativity The Musical,  Lipkin clearly has the Christmas magic which makes him such a dream to watch.  From shredding paper to create snow to joyfully rollerskating, Buddy is an exuberant and endearing character who you can't help but love. 

Alongside the humour, Lipkin also plays Buddy with a lovely vulnerability which comes across at various points, especially during his encounters with Jovie (played brilliantly by Georgina Castle) when he is completely overwhelmed by her "miraculous" self. His naivety comes across in an authentic and touching way, that doesn't stray into slapstick and gives a real depth to the plot. 

The rest of the cast are incredibly strong throughout. Rebecca Lock is treat as Buddy's step-mum who's heart is slowly opened to Christmas; her duet in Act Two with Buddy's brother (Logan Clark) is absolutely outstanding. Tom Chambers is good as the businessman, absent father whilst Kim Ismay has some really witty moments as his secretary and the pair are great together. Another stand out performance comes from Dermot Canavan who is hilariously entertaining as the Macy's Manager. The ensemble give a really punchy performance, especially when performing Liam Steel's choreography. There's great variety in the show from jaded Santa's giving an impassioned, Newsies-esque display to a full company tap number which is marvellous.

Philip WM. McKinley's direction brings abundant joy to the stage as well as a healthy dose of magic. Tim Goodchild's set is suitably whimsical and there are some certified wow moments through a recreation of the Rockefeller Centre ice rink and some real life snow.

As a whole Elf The Musical is a perfectly packaged Christmas show, which has commercial elements to appeal to the masses as well as some theatrical gems for regular theatre goers. It's a wonderfully enjoyable show that's well worth a visit. Take a trip to the Dominion Theatre, have your elf a very Merry Christmas and feel the festive spirit from your head to your mistletoes!

photo credit: Mark Senior

Elf The Musical, Dominion Theatre | Review

Friday, 25 November 2022

Wednesday, 23 November 2022

Girl From The North Country (UK Tour), New Victoria Theatre | Review


Girl From The North Country (UK Tour)
New Victoria Theatre 
Reviewed on Tuesday 22nd November 2022 by Olivia Mitchell 
★★★★

The UK theatre scene is no stranger to jukebox musicals, but Girl From The North Country which features Bob Dylan's backlog, is a completely different and outstanding take on the genre. Dylan's work is the definition of storytelling, with each song creating a mood and narrative to follow so it really lends itself well to being interspersed into a show. 

Writer and Director Connor McPherson has taken the songs and set them in Minnesota (Bob Dylan's birthplace) against the backdrop of the depression; this leads to a dark show but it's surprisingly filled with a lot of light and humour and ultimately manages to be uplifting. McPherson's writing is truly wonderful, his rich, multi layered plot sweeps you up and takes you on a hugely moving but also intimate journey. Although at times things can be a little confusing you can't help but be drawn into the world of the characters and the story manages, much like life, to be both simplistic and chaotic at once.

The setting is an old boarding house run by Nick Laine, who is struggling to look after his wife Elizabeth who has dementia. Also struggling to make ends meet we see him try to stay afloat alongside the various others who come through his doors. Frances McNamee is breathtaking as Elizabeth, giving vocals that are so superbly soulful and smooth you're completely enamoured. Her performance is also amazingly witty and mischievous, often proving hilarious one liners and always keeping you on the edge of your seat; it's a real masterclass performance. Alongside her Colin Connor gives a really strong performance as the husband who is trying to hold everything together without falling apart himself.

Marianne (Justina Kehinde) was taken in by the Laines as a baby and now helps out in the guesthouse but is facing her own hardships as she is pregnant. Her father therefore is desperate to marry her off to alleviate some of the financial and social burden. Whilst his biological son (Gregor Milne) is an alcoholic wannabe writer who is completely stuck in a rut. It's really a portrait of a family who are struggling, which feels very relevant given the huge struggles today with the cost of living crisis and recession. Despite this, the musical (although its more a play with songs) isn't particularly maudlin, instead it's almost a celebration of resilience and relationships. 

Without giving too much away, there are also a number of other romantic and friendship relationships showcased, all of which are well rounded and beautifully nuanced. One of which is that of Gene Laine and Katherine Draper (Eve Norris) which is a small part of the show but one of the standout moments with their performance of I Want You being a vocal delight.

As a whole the performances are incredibly strong. Justina Kehinde conveys Marianne's youth and vulnerability in a brilliantly natural way. Joshua C Jackson is mysterious and imposing but also tender as Joe Scott and Owen Lloyd is wonderful as bible seller Elias Burke. The ensemble performances make this show as moving as it is, with every song being performed in perfect conversation with the script. Like A Rolling Stone is a definite stand out, as are the moments of silence. The cast are so in sync that rests feel like a communal breath and it's magical to experience.

Girl From The North Country is raw and poetic show which quietly sneaks up on you and leaves you pondering the important things in life. It's intimate, energetic, entirely engaging and a really great theatrical experience.


Girl From The North Country (UK Tour), New Victoria Theatre | Review

Wednesday, 23 November 2022

Friday, 11 November 2022

The Nutcracker, (Northern Ballet Tour) New Victoria Theatre | Review


The Nutcracker (UK Tour)
New Victoria Theatre
Reviewed on Thursday 10th November 2022 by Olivia Mitchell 
★★★★

Returning to the New Victoria Theatre, Woking after its triumphant run in 2018, Northern Ballet's The Nutcracker is just as magical as ever and a must see this festive season. This enchantingly magical show is brought to life by a stunningly talented cast and completely embodies joy and magic.

David Nixon's choreography makes this a spectacle of a show that fits perfectly on a touring stage whilst still providing a wow factor. Whilst it's not quite as intricate or dark as other productions, it's a real sweet treat that's perfect for all ages and thanks to the talented dancers every step is performed to perfection.

Not a moment of Tchaikovsky's glorious score is wasted in this show, from the overture we are introduced to a number of characters who scurry around the front of the stage preparing the grand house for its Christmas party. Small details are a real feature of this production, especially during Act One when there are multiple engagements and mini plot lines going on between characters. This attention to detail makes it really engaging and makes the whole Christmas party feel incredibly realistic- there's even Grandpa (Wesley Branch) drunkenly falling over!

We're soon introduced to Clara who is played wonderfully by Rachael Gillespie, who's beaming smile and childlike wonder exude from the stage and make the audience share in her joy.  As her Nutcracker Prince, Harris Beattie is dashing to watch and he sparkles on stage like the glitter he was created with. The duo's Pax de Deux against the snowy backdrop is truly magical.

It in Act Two when a lot of the real magic happens, with a number of absolutely breathtaking moments. Perhaps the most magical being the Sugar Plum Fairy (Saeka Shirai) solo and Pax de Deux with her Cavalier (Jonathan Hanks), both of which are completely mesmerising. Despite the stage being filled with opulent sets, the audience can't help but watch only the dancers, and Saeka's solo especially, is a true showcase of ballet at its finest.

As Drosselmeyer Gavin McCaig is mystical and a dream to watch as his magical, glittering cape flows around him. Bruno Serraclara is witty as the Mouse King and each and every soloist is wonderful.

Aside from the dancing, this is a visually and aurally pleasing show. The Northern Ballet Sinfonia do complete justice to the glorious music, and under the baton of Jonathan Lo they sound utterly virtuosic. Charles Cusick Smith's set alongside Mark Jonathan's lighting are a design match made in heaven; perfectly balancing magic and spectacle, whilst also allowing dance to be the star of the show.

The Northern Ballet's production of The Nutcracker is everything you could want in the lead up to Christmas. Enchantment paired with stellar dancing means you'll have a captivating time, whether you're an adult or child.

photo credit: Emma Kauldhar


The Nutcracker, (Northern Ballet Tour) New Victoria Theatre | Review

Friday, 11 November 2022

Thursday, 10 November 2022

From Here To Eternity, Charing Cross Theatre | Review


From Here To Eternity
Charing Cross Theatre 
Reviewed on Wednesday 9th November 2022
★★★

Based on the novel by James Jones and the classic film adaptation, From Here to Eternity follows the soldiers of G Company in the days leading up to the Pearl Harbour attack. There are dramas, romance and social commentary galore, and this production at the Charing Cross Theatre showcases it all with stunning performances, but a mishmashmed plot. 

There have been a number of musical changes from the previous London production with songs being cut and some new additions made; the first act is very plot heavy and almost feels like a play with songs as opposed to a full blown musical. However, the score (lyrics by Tim Rice, music by Stuart Brayson) definitely has some stand out moments and the consistently strong cast give their all and provide absolutely divine harmonic moments throughout.

As Prewitt the leading man, Jonathon Bentley is astounding. In a vocally and physically demanding role, he completely excels and exudes star power. As Maggio, Jonny Aimes is incredibly enjoyable to watch, showcasing his versatility, beginning as the cheeky comedian before becoming beaten down by army life and what it entails. The entire male cast are strong and this is certainly a show which thrives in its ensemble moments where everything comes together in harmony and synchronicity. The female cast is small but mighty. Desmonda Cathabel as Lorene, Eve Polycarpou as Mrs Kipfer and Carley Stenson as Karen are uniformly formidable and give some great solo and trio moments. However, as with most of the characters there's limited development to their storylines so it's difficult to really root for them. Also, most of their action is just in reaction to the men and they aren't given much agency of their own which is a shame.

This is a show which pack a lot in but it's not all successful. With such a vast number of stories going on throughout and not enough time for their background exposition, there's a distinct lack of connection which means the drama never fully hits. That being said, this is a real powerhouse of a show vocally and is worth seeing for the sheer talent on display.

Another great aspect is the combination of Adam King's lighting and Stewart J Charlesworth's set design which work in unison to create  a very cinematic feeling production. There are some visually striking moments and the small space of the theatre is used to its full potential. Cressida Carré's choreography also fits well and is perfectly sharp and clean.

From Here to Eternity has some faults but is ultimately a show which delivers oomph thanks to its completely committed cast. The story is a bit all over the place but the moments which hit, really do so well and it's great to see a much loved British musical back on stage.

photo credit: Mark Senior

From Here To Eternity, Charing Cross Theatre | Review

Thursday, 10 November 2022

Wednesday, 26 October 2022

Five Reasons to see Bat Out of Hell on Tour


On its last tour stop with its current cast, Bat Out of Hell remains a fiery, energy-packed explosion of a show which is drawing audiences in and providing a rocking night out. For a full review of the touring production, click here, but for today I'm sharing with you my top five reasons to take a trip to see the show at its current venue, the New Victoria Theatre, Woking.

It's a Complete Escape From Reality: I don't think I've seen a show which is as larger than life as Bat Out of Hell. Not only is the story completely futuristic and flamboyant, but the staging, special effects and performances are like nothing else. From fire, to confetti this show has it all and is a spectacle to behold.

It Has Comedy in All the Right Places: The show is set in an apocalyptic world where groups of people are stuck at 18 years old so spend their days hiding out in an underground world and riding around on Harley Davidson's, so needless to say, you need to suspend your belief while watching. Thankfully, the show helps you do so by providing humour in moments which could be otherwise phoney. This is mostly done through the outstanding performances by Rob Fowler and Sharon Sexton as Falco and Sloane who continually poke fun at one another. Through a series of one-liners and silly interactions the humour runs throughout and also adds to their character depth. Plus their vocals are stellar.

There Are Backstories Woven In: A personal favourite aspect in a show is when there's a story beyond the main story. This is extremely prevalent in Bat and adds a whole level of interest that just expands each time you see the show. All of the ensemble not only have names, but have their own stories figured out. Depending on who you watch you can see romances blossom and fall apart, jokes carry on and so much more. 

The Performances Take the Roof Off: A show like this couldn't be performed with lacklustre vocals, thankfully it's the complete opposite. The entire cast are face-meltingly good and are the definition of energy throughout. Written by the late Jim Steinman this show was always written to be performed as a jukebox musical so the songs just work in this setting when performed by such a unanimously strong cast.

It's Fun For All Ages: While it may not seem it on the tin, this really is a show which caters for everyone. Of course there are a few risqué moments which parents might not want their kids to see but overall it's just a whole lotta fun and they'd probably go over their heads anyway. For those who grew up with the music of Jim and Meatloaf, the show is a fantastic way to reminisce and hear the songs in a new light and for those new to it, it's a perfect introduction. The audiences are made up of a whole variety of people who are all brought together by this wacky and wonderful show.

After the deaths of both Jim Steinman and Meatloaf, the musical is even more poignant and provides even more of a reason for you to visit and share in the legacy of the musical icons. If the joyous audiences are anything to go by, you'll thoroughly enjoy this show!

Bat Out Of Hell runs at the New Victoria Theatre until 5th November

photo credit: Chris Davis

Five Reasons to see Bat Out of Hell on Tour

Wednesday, 26 October 2022

Monday, 24 October 2022

A Gig For Ghosts, Soho Theatre | Review


A Gig For Ghosts
Soho Theatre
Reviewed on Friday 21st October 2022 by Olivia Mitchell 
★★★★

As you enter the upstairs space at the Soho Theatre, you instantly feel welcomed. The bustling audience seem so joyous to be together and it's almost as if you're in a room full of long lost friends. This feeling becomes even more poignant as you watch A Gig For Ghosts unfold in front of you as it tackles a number of emotive topics which make you want to hug those around you a little tighter.

A Gig For Ghosts is a heart warming and heart breaking tale of the romance between Lily and Amy, two ladies living in London who feel alone in the world. Amy (Hanora Karmen) has the dark job of administering the deaths of people who have been left alone and forgotten; while Lily (Rori Hawthorn) is new to London and finds herself temping whilst desperately searching for her rom-com love story. The two seemingly opposite characters (Amy is dealing with the realities of death while Lily is facing impermanence in her work life) end up falling in love. Their sweet romance evolves as they struggle to truly find their place and balance with one another.  

This is a glorious show which creeps up on you and envelopes you in emotion out of nowhere. Fran Bushe's script expertly finds harmony between intense emotion and light-hearted humour, and paired alongside Becky CJ's wonderful score it just provides a treat of a show. A combination of full out folk songs, humourous songs and more intimate pieces, the score perfectly fits the story and never detracts from the emotion and pacing of the show.

The cast are incredibly talented, playing instruments as well as singing and acting; the gig theatre style really is perfect for this type of show. Completing the trio of performers is Liz Kitchen as Maud who is hilarious as she multi-roles throughout and provides an excellent through line to the story.

One of the most heart warming pieces of theatre I've seen this year, A Gig For Ghosts is a brilliant way to spend 80 minutes which will leave you feeling warm and loved.

photo credit: Mercedes Assad


A Gig For Ghosts, Soho Theatre | Review

Monday, 24 October 2022

Thursday, 20 October 2022

But I'm A Cheerleader, Turbine Theatre | Review


But I'm A Cheerleader
Turbine Theatre 
Reviewed on Wednesday 19th October 2022
★★★

Since its opening in 2019, the Turbine Theatre in Battersea has been a leading player in showcasing new musicals, while providing a safe space to try out modern and exciting work. Their most recent is a musical version of the cult classic film But I'm a Cheerleader. Producer, Paul Taylor Mills has been championing this show for several years and after personally seeing it as a workshop version at MT Fest, it's great to see how the musical has developed and progressed to its current form.

But I'm a Cheerleader tells the story of a seventeen year old wannabe professional cheerleader whose world is thrown into turmoil when her family and friends suspect she's a lesbian so send her to a rehab centre. It's a show which focusses on some real emotional topics, but does so on a way that is witty, enjoyable and oh so current, if at times a little cringe.

There's certainly heart to the story and the basis is good but a chunk of the show feels shoehorned in and doesn't really add to the story, At two and a half hours it could definitely be cut down to be more concise and effective. Despite lacking material, the cast are made up of stars who do the absolute best with what they've got. Jessica Aubrey is charming as Megan, giving a really heartwarming performance with killer vocals to match. In the role of the grungy Graham, Megan Hill is humours and engaging, but also shows a softer side at various points in act two, plus their vocals are effortless throughout. Ash Weir is especially entertaining as she multi-roles as a cheerleader and a larger than life Australian campmate; whilst Michael Mather is also hilarious is both his roles and gets a laugh every single time he steps on stage.

Bill Augustin and Andrew Abrams' score has some strong points and some weak points. There's a level of character that fits perfectly with the show and some of the songs are great, namely Seeing New Colours which is glorious, but on the other hand, much of the music blends into itself and becomes repetitive. 

Overall that's really the theme of the show: some stand out moments amongst a lot of sameness. That being said, there's certainly a loving group of fans for But I'm A Cheerleader and after some further development it's sure to improve. For it's first real run, it's a pretty solid start with a strong core.

But I'm A Cheerleader, Turbine Theatre | Review

Thursday, 20 October 2022

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

Wednesday, 10 August 2022

Kinky Boots the Musical in Concert, Theatre Royal Drury Lane | Review


Kinky Boots the Musical in Concert
Theatre Royal Drury Lane 
Reviewed on Monday 8th August 2022 by Olivia Mitchell 
★★★★

After the success of last week's Chess in Concert, the Theatre Royal Drury Lane have once again opened their doors, this time for concert versions of the acclaimed Kinky Boots, starring an all-star cast. When deciding on musicals to transform into concert editions, Kinky Boots may not be the most obvious choice but the pop score lends itself wonderfully to the setting and really strips everything back to highlight the heartwarming and empowering messages which the show gives out in spades. Plus, the LMTO orchestra, conducted by Freddie Tapner help to showcase all the best parts of Cyndi Lauper's musical score.

Returning to the concert scene after his star turn as Freddie in Chess is Joel Harper-Jackson who once again shows off his vocal chops and wonderfully dynamic acting. As Charlie Price, the son who inherits his father's failing shoe factory, Joel is utterly endearing. He embodies the role and you can physically see his transformation from an unsure man to a strong, sure of himself leader. 

As his co-star, Cedric Neal is vocal perfection as Lola/Simon. His portrayal of Lola feels deeply thought through, with some extremely poignant moments; hopefully we'll get another chance to see him shine in the role in the future.

In one of the most wonderfully witty stage performances, Courtney Bowman is outstanding as Lauren. The comedic role is given extra oomph and feels completely fresh under Courtney's command. Other standouts include Kayleigh McKnight and Nikki Bentley who give stellar vocal moments. This is a really solid cast who have done a great job of putting on such a well rounded production in such a short time.

Whilst billed as a concert, there is some staging and choreography throughout and under Omar F. Okai's direction there's a great balance between subtlety and grand moments which really elevate the concert. Ben Cracknell's lighting is a star in its own right, providing a visual treat which is all things bold and absolutely brilliantly backs up the onstage action.

This is a fantastic showcase of the great cast as well as the heartwarming story that works surprisingly well in concert form. I can only imagine how great this ensemble would be in a fully staged production with all the glitz and glam the show deserves.

Kinky Boots the Musical in Concert, Theatre Royal Drury Lane | Review

Wednesday, 10 August 2022