Showing posts sorted by relevance for query Bill Kenwright. Sort by date Show all posts
Showing posts sorted by relevance for query Bill Kenwright. Sort by date Show all posts

Friday, 3 August 2018

Evita (UK Tour), Grand Opera House, Belfast | Review


Evita (UK Tour)
Grand Opera House, Belfast 
Reviewed on Wednesday 1st August 2018 by Damien Murray 
★★★★

When the idea of a musical based on the life of Eva Peron was first suggested back in the 1970s, many people were dubious about its chances of success… fast forward to today and it has become a modern classic with major theatres like Belfast’s Grand Opera House playing host to an extended run of Bill Kenwright’s 40th Anniversary Touring production of the show. 

As last week marked the 66th anniversary of her untimely death from cancer at the age of 33, the show has not only been a success, but has already outlived the real Evita by quite a few years. 

A sung-through musical story of her short life, the show takes us from her humble beginnings through to a life of wealth and power, dubbed as the ‘spiritual chief of the nation’ by the Argentine people. 

From its dramatic opening with Eva’s funeral juxtaposed with Che’s angry and cynically mocking song, Oh What A Circus, and going full circle through her eventful life back to her lying in state, this must be one of Bill Kenwright’s best ever productions. 


Jointly directed by Kenwright and Bob Tomson, this excellent touring revival of Andrew Lloyd Webber & Tim Rice’s relatively early musical about the former Argentine dictator’s wife – which, like Jesus Christ Superstar, originated as a concept album – may be slightly scaled down from the original… but, you would never realise it. 

For this was a classy staging boasting basic, practical, but opulent, settings in a well-dressed and extremely well-lit production, which also included some child performers for added realism. 

Strong tango rhythms encouraged fiery and passionate performances, especially in choreographed ensemble pieces like Buenos Aires as the hard-working ensemble brought the ideas of Choreographer, Bill Deamer – ranging from passion-filled tango to militaristic movement – to life. 

Thanks to Musical Director, Tim Whiting, and his 10-piece orchestra, Webber’s sung-through format threw up many memorable musical highlights, including: great vocal clarity from young Cristina Hoey as the teenage Mistress in Another Suitcase In Another Hall; and from Oscar Balmaseda as the nightclub tango singer, Magaldi, during On This Night Of A Thousand Stars, while the rousing chorus of A New Argentina also stood out, as did the young girl’s beautiful singing of Santa Evita; Che’s expressive interpretation of High Flying Adored and the ailing Eva’s heartfelt and moving rendition of You Must Love Me. 


Mike Sterling provided a commanding Peron, while Glenn Carter really impressed in the demanding role of the ever-present Che, the self-styled narrator of the story. 

Carter’s diction, clarity and, at times, almost patter-style of delivery were vital to this show, as – being sung-through – those new to the story or with any hearing difficulty needed such clarity to put everything in context, especially during songs like Oh What A Circus and High Flying Adored. 

In addition to her beautiful singing voice (particularly in the show-stopper, Don’t Cry For Me Argentina), The Voice finalist and musical theatre songstress, Lucy O’Byrne, turned in a very confident performance as the ambitious backstreet actress whose ascendancy was unstoppable, because she was so loved and adored by so many that she almost rose to the dizzy heights of sainthood. 

My only small criticism was that, as Eva Peron was enigmatic, manipulative and charismatic; I would have liked to have seen a little more charisma throughout, as it did take a little longer than usual to warm to the character of Eva. 


This may have been because O’Byrne was more operatic in style than some others I have come across in this role, although her display of humanity during You Must Love Me at a time of critical physical weakness was heart-breaking and probably the best and most moving ever, as was the touching death scene. 

All dressed and decorated in a rich tapestry of sumptuous sets, authentic costumes and wigs, and attractive, mood-inspiring lighting, this production was a visual treat with some beautiful theatrical pictures at the end of most songs. 

Forty years after its West-End premiere, this fast-moving production is a high standard revival of a passionate and powerful piece of musical theatre. 

Evita runs at the Grand Opera House, Belfast until 11th August before continuing it's tour.

photo credit: Keith Pattison

Wednesday, 14 March 2018

The Sound of Music, Palace Theatre | Review


The Sound of Music (UK Tour) 
Palace Theatre
Reviewed on Tuesday 13th March 2018 by Becca Cromwell
★★★


The Bill Kenwright production of The Sound of Music has embarked on another UK tour, but this time with Lucy O’Byrne and Neil McDermott at the helm. Based on the 1959 Rogers and Hammerstein musical of the same name, the film became one of the highest grossing films of all time. 

The well-loved story shows Maria Rainer, a young Postulant at the Nonnberg Abbey who is sent to be the Governess for the Von Trapp Family after not fitting in at the Abbey. It is there that she meets Captain Georg von Trapp and his seven children Liesl, Friedrich, Luisa, Kurt, Brigitta, Marta and Gretel. During her time as Governess, the Anschluss begins where the Germans invade Austria, and the second act of the show depicts the struggles and changing moods during this time.

Lucy O’Byrne is known for becoming runner up on ITV’s The Voice in 2015 and landed the role of Maria in the previous UK tour of this production. Since then, O’Byrne has gone on to play Fantine in Les Miserables in the West End, and has now thrown herself back into the iconic role of Maria von Trapp for the 2017/2018 UK Tour. Originally played by Julie Andrews in the 1965 film, she has big boots to fill. The vocals were impressive and her portrayal of Maria was fantastic. It was well acted and believable.

Neil McDermott plays the Naval Captain Georg von Trapp, who after the death of his wife lost touch with his children. McDermott is known for playing Ryan Malloy in BBC’s Eastenders, amongst many other theatre roles. With a strong voice, McDermott gave a fantastic performance.


A stand out however, was Megan Llewellyn as the Mother Abbess. Her voice was absolutely astounding. Even though she does not make too many appearances in the show as the Reverend Mother, you certainly knew about it when she did. 

The child cast were superb, providing incredible vocals for their ages. They were true professionals from the beginning through to the end and I hope to see them go far in their careers. The rest of the company all gave very good performances, leading to a fantastic performance of the show. 

I was pleasantly surprised with the production, and it deserved a bigger audience than the one it got. I would recommend seeing this when it comes to a theatre near you in the future, as it is a highly enjoyable family show.

The Sound of Music UK Tour unfortunately comes to an end this week; however I hope to see it tour the UK again in the next few years.

Wednesday, 4 April 2018

The Case of the Frightened Lady (UK Tour), New Victoria Theatre | Review


The Case of the Frightened Lady (UK Tour)
New Victoria Theatre 
Reviewed on Friday 20th October 2017 by Melanie Mitchell 
★★★

The Case of the Frightened Lady is the second production by Bill Kenwright's Classic Thriller production company. Originally written by Edgar Wallace the play is a new adaptation by Anthony Lampard. It is directed by Roy Marsden whom you may know as televisions Inspector Dalgliesh.

This classic whodunnit is set in 1932, the story takes place in the Baronial hall of Marks Priory, the ancestral home of the Lebanon family. Beautifully created by set designer Julie Godfrey. The opening scene begins with a fancy-dress party, where we are gradually introduced to the characters. It is at the party a horrifying murder takes place, putting everyone under suspicion.

When Detective Inspector Tanner, played by Gray O’Brien, probably best known as Tony Gordon in Coronation Street, is bought in to investigate the crime he soon realises that things are not what they seem.  Along with his assistant Detective Sargeant Totti, Charlie Clements, of Eastenders fame, they begin to uncover a closely guarded secret.


Rula Lenska is well cast as Lady Lebanon, a mother obsessed with marrying her son Lord Lebanon, played by Ben Nealon to his cousin Isla Crane. This is to be a marriage of convenience, not wanted by either party but purely to fulfil Lady Lebanon’s wish for a son and heir to carry on the Lebanon title. Miss Lenska plays the part with an aristocratic haughtiness, whilst April Pearson is very believable as her terrified niece and secretary Isla.

Adding to the suspicious goings on are Denis Lill as the horribly lecherous family physician Dr Amersham with Glenn Carter and Callum Coates as Gilder and Brook, 2 rather sinister footman. 

I felt that the first act was rather slow and although we were introduced to the various characters, apart from the murder not very much happened. I certainly wasn’t on the edge of my seat.


However, the second half picked up pace as the story unravelled and secrets were revealed. The plot was full of red herrings, with almost everyone a suspect. I for one didn’t solve the case until very near the end, which added to the enjoyment. 

Don’t expect to be scared witless by this production although there were several very unexpected claps of thunder and gunshots, with sound by Dan Samson, that alongside some clever lighting effects, by Chris Davey, certainly made me and many other audience members jump out of their seats.

If you like a good old fashioned whodunnit then this is definitely a show for you. 

The Case of the Frightened Lady runs until Saturday 7th April 2018 at the New Victoria Woking.

Saturday, 9 December 2017

Evita (UK Tour), Palace Theatre Manchester | Review


Evita (UK Tour) 
Palace Theatre, Manchester 
Reviewed on Thursday 7th December 2017 by Jeni Skirrow 
★★★★


Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd-Webber have written some truly captivating, catchy musicals and Evita is of course iconic and no exception to this. An ever popular rags-to-riches type of story based on the life and demise of Eva Peron, wife of Argentine president, Juan Peron. The plot follows her rise to iconic status heralding her as the ‘spiritual leader of the nation’, heroine of the Argentine people, and of course her untimely premature demise.

Straight from the West End, Manchester was privileged to be the first stop in the new twelve month tour of Bill Kenwright’s production. Eva Peron’s role is a demanding performance and Madalena Alberto is mesmerisingly magnificent, with not just unfalteringly consistent vocals, but how beautifully she captures the fledgling radio star’s glamour, seduction, hope and steely desperation. 'Don’t Cry For Me Argentina' is undoubtedly the most highly anticipated song in the show and Madalena’s performance did not fail to give me goose bumps- exquisite. “As for fortune and for fame, I never invited them in”... until the final curtain there’s something very dubious about this statement.

The narrator Che deserves a mention, heroic Gian Marco Schiaretti’s presence (and biceps) were suitably foreshadowing- he is perfect for the role. His strong and versatile performance was a joy to watch.

Each scene was beautifully realised through expert choreography, cleverly slick staging and continual costume changes for Eva, telling a story within itself. This production was everything I hoped it would be and more. Emotional, beautiful and inspiring it was an ideal theatrical experience.

Evita is a moving story, with a mixture of up-beat, high intensity numbers as well as slower, more emotionally moving pieces. This balance and contrast makes it flow smoothly and provides a wonderful night out at the theatre. With beautiful music, great staging and fabulous performances all round, I implore you to get along to this show if you can.

Photo credit: Keith Pattison

Thursday, 10 February 2022

Blood Brothers (Tour), New Wimbledon Theatre | Review


Blood Brothers (Tour)
New Wimbledon Theatre
Reviewed on Wednesday 9th February 2022
★★★★

Willy Russell's award winning musical Blood Brothers has been wowing audiences around the world for forty years and is also one of the few shows to have run for over 10,000 performances in the West End. It's a regular feature of the theatre touring circuit and 2022 is no exception as it once again hosts Bill Kenwright's brilliant production.

The emotive and dramatic show tells the story of Mrs Johnstone, a single mother in Liverpool who is bringing up a large family alone and has just found out she'll have more mouths to feed as she's expecting twins. She really can't afford this, so in a snap decision she gives away one son to a wealthy lady who cannot have children of her own. They make a deal that the brothers will never know of one another and won't be part of each others lives. But when the two boys meet accidentally aged seven, they form an instant connection becoming 'Blood Brothers'. The story follows them across the years as we see how economic background and nature vs nurture affects the pair; and how it leads to their eventual tragic demise which opens the show.

I think what makes this such an enduring show is a mixture of both its observations on human nature/privilege and the way it swings effortlessly from comedy to tragedy and takes you along on the journey so well. At times it can be melodramatic but it's balanced so well with deep genuine pain that you can see past it.


The show's cast are exceptional, with the core performers showing depth and growth and the rest of the cast nimbly juggling a variety of roles and supporting the action brilliantly. As the son Mrs Johnstone keeps, Sean Jones is outstanding as Mickey. His character development is masterful as he goes from a cheeky seven year old, to a teen learning to love (and dance), all the way to an adult struggling with addiction. Every second is believable and engaging and he's just fantastic. As the other brother, Eddie, Joel Benedict is charming and sweet. His character isn't as multi-layered as Mickey but he does a great job with what he's given and the pair bounce off of one another like real childhood friends. Carly Burns also gives a touching performance as the final addition to the friendship trio. Her portrayal as Linda is nicely nuanced and it's heartbreaking to see her role in the tragedy.

As Mrs Johnstone, the boys' birth mother, Niki Evans is unparalleled. Her portrayal is the definition of honest and the vocals which accompany it are magnificent. Her acting is incredibly natural and you don't doubt for a second that she's really experiencing the highs and extreme lows of her life. Niki's performance of Tell Me It's Not True is astoundingly moving and has the audience raring to give their final standing ovation.

The show is dated in parts but it kind of adds to the charm and history of it all. It's an exhausting journey of a musical but well worth a watch. Pack some tissues and get yourself along to your local theatre to witness the magic and misery that is Blood Brothers.

Blood Brothers plays at the New Wimbledon Theatre until 12th February 2022 and then continues its tour

Wednesday, 18 April 2018

Evita (UK Tour), Storyhouse | Review


Evita (UK Tour)
Storyhouse 
Reviewed on Tuesday 17th April 2018 by Becca Cromwell
★★★★

Set mostly in 1940s Argentina, Evita focuses on the life and death of Argentinian actress turned political figure Eva Perón. Eva Duarte is a budding actress who tries her luck in Buenos Aires and ends up dating and eventually marrying Juan Perón. The first act of the show tells the tale of the Peróns’ rise to power in Argentina, with the focus on Juan Perón’s election as president and Eva becoming the First Lady of Argentina. In the second act, we see the aftermath of Eva’s ‘Rainbow Tour’ of Europe, which ends in her health declining, and eventually her death. 

From the beginning, I was captivated by the sheer talent on the stage. The entire cast gave an utterly heartbreaking and incredibly moving performance, which will take me a long time to forget. As with a lot of Bill Kenwright’s productions, the set was minimalistic, but it worked. Although there were a few technical issues, which are expected from the first night, the show ran smoothly. The ensemble and child cast were astounding, with all of them giving great performances. The dance sequences were mesmerising and the harmonies were more than impressive. 


Eva Perón was played by Madalena Alberto, who made it look completely effortless. Madalena is known for playing Eva in the Dominion Theatre and London Palladium productions and on a previous UK Tour of Evita. From the beginning she gave an impressive performance, even managing to keep her vocals flawless as she was crying. 

Che, played by Gian Marco Schiaretti, is the narrator of the show. He spends most of the show observing and narrating the public’s view of what is happening, which brings depth to the story and the characters. Known for playing this role in previous productions, Gian gave a convincing performance and hit the high notes flawlessly. 

Perón himself is played by none other than Jeremy Secomb, who is most known for his impressive list of West End credits, including hit roles such as Javert and Sweeney Todd. Jeremy gave a vocally fantastic performance, and exuded raw emotion throughout. He brought the part to life and made us really feel for him towards the end of the show. 

Evita is definitely not a show to miss, and the UK Tour continues until June. Grab your tickets whilst you can.

photo credit: Pamela Raith