Showing posts sorted by relevance for query British Theatre Academy. Sort by date Show all posts
Showing posts sorted by relevance for query British Theatre Academy. Sort by date Show all posts

Tuesday, 31 December 2019

Olivia's Top Shows of 2019



This year I saw 150 shows, from glitzy West End productions to smaller fringe pieces and many UK tours. Before we step into the new decade, I want to feature some of my favourite pieces of the year and those which have stuck with me in some way.



Dolly Parton has been a family favourite growing up so this musical ticks all the boxes for me. 9 to 5 is a catchy, colourful celebration of girl power. With another tour planned for next year, this show is sure to delight audiences in 2020 and beyond.



Six featured in last year's Top 10 list, but having seen it a few times this year, I thought it warranted a place once again. The fantastically, feminist musical is pure joy on stage and a complete treat. Enthralling audiences around the world with its pop/musical theatre crossover sound and the heart which is retained in all its incarnations, Six's world domination is only just beginning. 



I mentioned the Broadway production of Come From Away last year, but 2019 saw the triumphant West End transfer of this show which is completely spectacular and special beyond compare. Telling the heartfelt story of the unity formed in a small village in Canada during the traumas of 9/11, the Celtic sounds and complete ensemble feel of the piece make it effective and oh so powerful.



Performed by members of the British Theatre Academy (BTA), the young cast transported audiences on a mystical journey of love and magic. Lee Proud and Harrison Clark created a production worthy of much acclaim and showcased some of the future stars of UK theatre.



Having missed the Open Air production of Jesus Christ Superstar, I was thrilled to get the chance to see it at the Barbican and it did not disappoint. Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice's score soared thanks to the ingenious staging which made the space feel as though it was outside, and Lee Curran's lighting which made the atmosphere both electric and intimate. Amazing performances all round made this a production not to be forgotten.



Not only was it a treat to see this enchanting song cycle by Dave Malloy brought to life by such talented actor-musos, but getting to experience the new space of the Boulevard Theatre was a delight in itself. The whole space feels fresh, welcoming, modern and all in all a wonderful addition to the London theatre scene. Ghost Quartet was a wacky mish-mash, but there's something about it that was truly enchanting.


The Cher Show | Neil Simon Theatre

If you'd told me at the beginning of the year that The Cher Show would be in my top shows, not just of 2019 but ever, I doubt I would've believed you. The cast were amazing but as someone unfamiliar with Cher's music and kind of bewildered by the whole idea, I didn't expect to come out beaming after one of the best night's ever at the theatre. The biopic musical tells the story of the superstar's rise to fame via three Cher's representing different times in her life. The performances are other worldly and the humour hits all the right spots. This is the embodiment of a grand musical and I can only hope it comes to the West End sometime soon!


The Jungle | St Ann's Warehouse

This is another show I missed in London but was lucky enough to catch in New York at the incredible setting of St Ann's Warehouse in Brooklyn. This is the most striking piece of theatre I have ever witnessed, and I can't even explain how spectacular the entire production was. The community feel that was created within moments of entering the theatre is like nothing I've ever experienced and every element of theatricality was so perfectly used to highlight the stories of those on stage.



The Adam Guettal musical was on my 'To See' bucket list, so it was a complete joy to experience the sumptuous score performed by such a stellar cast this year. The story about young Clara falling in love with Fabrizio on a trip to Italy is beautiful and made me want to go to and have my own romantic holiday accompanied by a beautiful classical soundtrack.



Fiver played a brief run at the Southwark Playhouse and earned itself much praise and many fans. With a fantastic score by Alex James Ellison, the musical follows the story of a £5 note and how it's value changes in the hands of various people. This was a completely unexpected treat of a show which completely enraptured me and left me feeling joyous, thanks to the wonderful mix of musical styles and fantastic array of stories involved. The superb cast of five gave everything and made it a real gem of a piece. A delightful musical, lets hope we see more of Fiver in the future.

Friday, 17 August 2018

Spring Awakening, Stockwell Playhouse | Review


Spring Awakening
Stockwell Playhouse
Reviewed on Thursday 16th August 2018 by Olivia Mitchell 
★★★★★

I would hazard a guess that there aren't many musical theatre fans of my age that didn't go through a Spring Awakening phase. For me it went a little like this: watched the Glee pilot episode, became obsessed with Lea Michele, watched everything related to her entire career, found the bootleg of Spring Awakening, watched said bootleg obsessively, downloaded the cast recording, sung Mama Who Bore Me on an endless loop and never looked back. For someone who went through the phase hard, it's surprising that  despite a number of revivals in the past few years, I'd never seen an actual production of the show so when the opportunity arose to see the British Theatre Academy's (BTA) production, I couldn't resist.

The show follows a group of German teens as they find themselves and their sexuality and discover how tough growing up really is. The BTA have done an absolutely outstanding job of bringing this Tony Award winning show to life in the confined space of the Stockwell Playhouse. For a production that is only running for three days, it's truly impeccable how well staged, polished and rounded it is.

In the lead roles of Wendla and Melchior we have Charlotte Coe and Max Harwood who give truthful performances, both individually and in unison. Charlotte brings Wendla's childlike innocence to life whilst Max as the 'educated' Melchior portrays a perfect combination of knowledge and youthfulness, that's especially effective throughout the arc of his story. With Ben Platt-esque subtle riffs and fantastically subtle acting choices, it's hard to take your eyes off Max and I'm certain he has a bright acting career ahead of him.



As Moritz, James Knudsen is exceptional. His nervous energy and frenzied eyes are perfect for the character who is struggling with school, family and sexuality. Ginnie Thompson is great as Ilse, providing an almost angelic vibe which is especially effective towards the end.

This truly is an ensemble show and what's so special is that the cast seem to have genuinely created a community feel in a very short space of time. The way they move as a whole and in waves is remarkable to watch and creates a constant sense of movement and discovery. Mention must go to Dafydd Lansley as Georg/Rupert who draws the eye throughout ad he commits fully to his role with his nuanced twitches and movements throughout. James Dodd and James Heward as Ernst and Hanschen also give wonderfully subtle performances that make the characters feel real and easily relatable for anyone facing the same struggles.



Matt Nicholson's choreography is minimalistic but effective throughout. The dance in The Dark I Know Well is especially moving and well performed. Dean Johnson has done a wonderful job of directing Spring Awakening so it has a perfect balance of humour and sadness and enough subtlety to be emotive without being over dramatic. The vocals in this production are all you could wish for, Jordan Li-Smith has done a brilliant job alongside the five-piece band who accompany the action with faultless music.

With tears still filling my eyes, I left the Stockwell Playhouse feeling moved, inspired and overjoyed at the talent of this amazing production. Whether you're a Spring Awakening fan or just someone who's curious about the show, I'd throughly recommend seeing this production.

Spring Awakening runs at the Stockwell Playhouse until August 18th

photo credit: Eliza Wilmot

Wednesday, 8 August 2018

Bring It On, Southwark Playhouse | Review


Bring It On 
Southwark Playhouse 
Reviewed on Tuesday 7th August 2018 by Olivia Mitchell 
★★★★

If like me, you're constantly in a state of missing In The Heights then the British Theatre Academy's production of Bring It On is just the energetic, humourous, heart-felt fix you need. Based on the 2000 hit film, Bring It On follows follows cheer-royalty Campbell who's  future is looking bright. She's just been named cheer captain for her senior year and is hoping to lead her team to National's glory. However, a sudden redistricting means she has to transfer to neighbouring Jackson High School where everything she knows is turned upside down...

With music by Tom Kitt and Lin-Manuel Miranda it's no surprise that the score is incredibly catchy and fast-paced; hip-hop influences are seamlessly intwined with classic musical theatre tunes. Whilst the plot line is nothing new it is suitably modern and has the overarching messages of teamwork and empowerment which are always welcome.

Once Campbell is thrown into her new school world, things really get going. Former cheer mascot Bridget finds a new lease of life and an acceptance that she's never previously experienced, whilst, Campbell begins to realise that social conformity isn't all it's cracked up to be.


The young, vibrant cast do an outstanding job of bringing the school halls and cheer routines to life. Robyn McIntyre is wonderfully emotive and vocally stellar as the front-woman who drives the story onwards. Alongside her, Kristine Kruse provides not only comic relief, but great vocals and brings the message of unity to life. Isabella Pappas is brilliantly and brutally expressive as the token mean girl Skylar, also providing some shining vocal moments. 

Other standouts include Clark James, Mary Celeste and Haroun Al-Jeddal who all draw the eye throughout and add a mountain of energy to an already highly spirited production. 


Ewan Jones' choreography is sharp and works well in the small space of the Southwark Playhouse, providing enough movement to keep both the audience and the cast always on their toes and with enough cheer movements to keep the theme without it becoming tacky. Tom Paris' set alongside Ben Jacobs' lighting add even more fun and brightness to the show. 

Of course this isn't a groundbreaking story but performed in such a vigourous and dynamic way, you can't help but love it. The entire cast give phenomenal performances and Bring It On is the high-kicking, fun-for-all show to put a smile on your face and a pep in your step.

Bring It On runs at the Southwark Playhouse until September 1st.

photo credit: Eliza Wilmot

Thursday, 15 August 2019

Once on This Island, Southwark Playhouse | Review


Once On This Island 
Stockwell Playhouse 
Reviewed on Wednesday 14th August 2019 by Olivia Mitchell 
★★★★

The British Theatre Academy's production of the Caribbean-inspired Little Mermaid adaptation, Once On This Island is an enchanting show with dynamic, heart-wrenching performances, energy in spades and a glorious uptempo score. Through beautiful harmonies and high-intensity choreography, the young cast bring sunlight to rainy London and infuse a gust of tropical warmth into the magical story and score by Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty.

Once On This Island tells the legend of Ti Moune, a young orphaned peasant girl raised by Tonton and Euralie, who falls in love with a boy from a wealthy family on the other side of the island, Daniel. Guided by four Gods, Ti Moune rescues Daniel from a life threatening car crash and nurtures him back to health. However, though they may be divided by only a few miles, they are worlds apart and after promises made to the Gods, Ti Moune must see whether love can conquer all, including death. 

At the heart of it, Once On This Island is a much needed delivery of the message of the need for inclusion for people from all walks of life. In a world doused in prejudice, where literal walls are being built and we are continually bombarded with stories of segregation, it's crucial that we speak loudly and take a stand to highlight the necessity for equality. The diverse BTA cast do an outstanding job of this and deliver the heart-warming but emotionally raw tale with grace and cohesiveness you would expect to see from older, full-time West End performers.


The BTA team have done an outstanding job of bringing the Tony Award Winning show to life in the pretty intimate space of the Southwark Playhouse. An ever versatile venue, it's fantastic to see it transformed to house a traverse stage where the performers integrate themselves into the audience, and interact as though they are locals wandering the streets. Lee Proud and Harrison Clark's dynamic choreography fills the space and works with the Calypso sounds and rhythms to create an upbeat party feel, as well as highlighting the more deeply emotive parts of the story. Thanks to the ensemble, there isn't a moment that feels under-energised and it's both enthralling and authentic to watch.

In the role of Ti Moune, eighteen year old Chrissie Bhima is otherworldly. Maintaining a poise and depth of someone much older, whilst imbuing the character with an innocence that draws the audience to her; she is a certain star in our midst. Bhima's killer vocals earn rapturous applause after her first solo and set the tone for the nuanced but electric performance she continues to give throughout. 

Aviva Tulley as Erzulie is clearly born to perform and she brings the ethereal Goddess of Love to life with a vocal and physical warmth that calms the room. On the other hand, Jonathan Chen is the embodiment of energy as he brings Asaka to life. As the other gods, Kyle Birch (Agwe) and Martin Cush (Papa Ge) embody their elements well.  


Sam Tutty is charismatic and sincere as Daniel, who shows genuine heartbreak as the pair struggle through their relationship, whilst, Marie-Anna Caufour oozes affection alongside divine vocals as Ti Moune's adopted mother Euralie. Special notice must go to Elliot Gooch who plays Armand among a variety of ensemble characters and stands out throughout thanks to his energy, facial expressions and witty interactions with both the cast and the audience. At the core, this is really a piece about community so it's a winning factor that the ensemble are so strong. The tight knit group work incredibly hard throughout and are consistently strong. Mention goes to Ella Biddlecombe and Grace Venus who draw the eye throughout.

Despite a few technical issues at the start with sound, the cast's energised portrayal of this provoking, mystical piece keeps the audience in the palms of their hands, and Simon Wells' simplistic but detailed set transports us to an island where magic really happens. The sweet story directed with a winning touch by Lee Proud, alongside vast vocal talent and and an authenticity that courses through, is a must see show this summer.

photo credit: Eliza Wilmot