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

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

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