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

Tuesday, 29 March 2022

Gemma Collins to Star as Mama Morton in Chicago


David Ian in association with Barry and Fran Weissler are delighted to announce TV personality Gemma ‘The GC’ Collins will star as ‘Mama Morton’ in the acclaimed UK and Ireland tour of the international smash hit musical Chicago. Gemma will join the tour at the Sunderland Empire from Tuesday 31 May 2022, ahead of playing Cardiff New Theatre, Blackpool Winter Gardens, Sheffield Lyceum, Norwich Theatre Royal and New Theatre, Oxford.

 

David Ian said today, “We were completely stunned by Gemma’s audition for the role. She’s an undeniable force both on and off stage, and we can’t wait to see her portrayal of ‘Mama Morton’ on tour. Audiences across the country are in for a treat.”

 

Gemma Collins is best known as a media personality and businesswoman, having first featured in the reality series The Only Way Is Essex. She was awarded the 2021 winner of the Best Female Personality at the National Reality Television Awards. Since ‘Essex’ Gemma has appeared in numerous television shows including, I’m A Celebrity, Get Me Out of Here!, Celebrity Big Brother, Dancing on Ice and All Together Now in which she was a finalist. Most recently Gemma was seen on screens with her intimate Channel 4 documentary, Gemma Collins: Self-Harm & Me. Before finding fame on The Only Way Is Essex, Gemma was a keen performer having studied dance and winning a place at the renowned Sylvia Young Theatre School.

 

Gemma joins Faye Brookes as ‘Roxie Hart’, Djalenga Scott as ‘Velma Kelly’, Jamie Baughan as ‘Amos Hart’ and B.E. Wong as ‘Mary Sunshine’. The role of ‘Billy Flynn’ will be announced soon. Full tour schedule below. www.chicagothemusical.com

 

The cast is completed by Ishmail Aaron, Michelle Andrews, Gabby Antrobus, Delycia Belgrave, Joel Benjamin, Tanisha-Mae Brown, Daniel Clift, Callum Fitzgerald, Emily Goodenough, Billie Hardy, Aaron Jenkins, Liam Marcellino, Theo Reece, Hollie Jane Stephens and Harrison Wilde.  

 

Faye Brookes (Roxie Hart) reached the final of last year’s series of ITV’s Dancing On Ice. She is best known for her role as Kate Connor in ITV’s Coronation Street, for which she won a National Television Award. Her theatre credits include Princess Fiona in Shrek and Elle Woods in Legally Blonde, both on national tour, Ann/Edna in That Day We Sang directed by Victoria Wood at Manchester’s Royal Exchange, Liesl in The Sound of Music at Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre and Frenchy in Grease at the West End’s Piccadilly Theatre. Faye’s other TV credits include Agnes Franklin in Our Girl and Helena in Atlantis, both for the BBC.

 

Djalenga Scott’s (Velma Kelly) West End credits include Lily St Regis in Annie at the Piccadilly Theatre, Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat at the New London and Chicago at the Adelphi, Cambridge and Garrick Theatres. Her other credits include Anita in the national tour of West Side Story, Rizzo in Grease at Curve Leicester, Magenta in The Rocky Horror Show and Carmen in Fame, both on European tours, the US tour of Batman Live and Bombalurina in Cats at Kilworth House. Djalenga’s screen credits include Scarlett/Esme in Trapped for the BBC and Alexandra in the film I Give It A Year. 

 

Set amidst the razzle-dazzle decadence of the 1920s, Chicago is the story of Roxie Hart, a housewife and nightclub dancer who murders her on-the-side lover after he threatens to walk out on her. Desperate to avoid conviction, she dupes the public, the media and her rival cellmate, Velma Kelly, by hiring Chicago’s slickest criminal lawyer to transform her malicious crime into a barrage of sensational headlines, the likes of which might just as easily be ripped from today's tabloids. 

 

Created by the musical theatre talents of John Kander, Fred Ebb and legendary choreographer Bob Fosse, Chicago’s sexy, sassy score includes the show-stopping songs “Razzle Dazzle”, “Cell Block Tango”, and “All That Jazz”.  Winner of six Tony Awards, two Olivier Awards and a Grammy, Chicago is the longest running American musical in Broadway and West End history.

 

Since it opened in New York in 1996, Chicago has played in 36 countries worldwide and has been performed in English, Dutch, German, Swedish, Spanish, Portuguese, Italian, French, Danish, Japanese and Korean.  Worldwide it has been seen by an estimated 33 million people, grossed over $1.7 billion and played over 32,500 performances.

 

Chicago, which is based on the play by Maurine Dallas Watkins, has a book by Fred Ebb and Bob Fosse, music by John Kander and lyrics by Fred Ebb.  The 1996 Broadway revival of Chicago was choreographed by Ann Reinking in the style of Bob Fosse, directed by Walter Bobbie, and produced by Barry and Fran Weissler.

Wednesday, 18 April 2018

Chicago, Phoenix Theatre | Review


Chicago
Phoenix Theatre
Reviewed on Tuesday 17th April 2018 by Olivia Mitchell 
★★★

Everyone knows Chicago so it has a lot to live up to. For me personally it holds a special place as it was one of the first West End shows I saw and really fell in love with. I also saw the 2016 UK Tour which I loved so I was extremely excited to see what the current production at the Phoenix Theatre has to offer. Unfortunately, I left feeling a little deflated and let down.

This show isn't bad but it definitely doesn't have the energy and pizazz that's expected with a show as big, bold and sexy as Chicago. The production is almost identical to the 2016 tour, with basic staging and a focus on the choreography and singing but it seems that over two years it's gotten a little tired. It's almost as if the creatives decided Chicago is now in it's finest form and needs no edits. Of course the choreography is still sleek and the stage with the band in the forefront works well but instead of being an energetic extravaganza, its a bit... old.

Taking the leads as Roxie and Velma are Sarah Soetaert and Josefina Gabrielle who do a stellar job. Vocally Sarah is great but it's her facial expressions which steal the show. Channeling Kristin Chenoweth at times, she is funny and light-hearted but also calculating.  Josefina is suitably sexy and vivacious as Velma. When the ladies combine forces such as in My Own Best Friend, they compliment each other wonderfully and create moments of magic.


Other than the name and legacy of Chicago itself, there's no denying (especially from audiences cries) that Hollywood star, Cuba Gooding Jr. is selling seats and drawing people in. It's a shame that Cuba falls flat. Gooding has charisma and stage presence when speaking and acting but his singing feels somewhat strained and is underwhelming especially in his money-number: Razzle Dazzle.

Chicago veteran Ruthie Henshall is vocally great as Mama Morton but looks like more of a sister and unfortunately seems too much of a 'walk-on' role. I saw Ruthie play Roxie in 2009 when I was thirteen and she has definitely been one of my musical theatre inspirations since then, so I was looking forward to seeing her take on her third role in this classic. Therefore it was a shame that she was a little underused and under-developed. 


A D Richardson gives a convincing performance as Mary Sunshine and Paul Rider is suitably pathetic but loyal as he gains the audience's sympathy through his performance as Amos. The ensemble do a fantastic job of keeping the action moving, with my eye continually being drawn to Frances Dee as she moved around the stage with ease and drama.

The lack of changes or focus on quality make this production feel a bit like a money making machine instead of an stunning piece of theatre. It's clear that Chicago and certain names will draw a crowd  which is clearly what's wanted, so the show has lost some of it's magic. Although Chicago is still a fun night out that's sure to please and delight many loyal fans and people who just want a chilled theatrical experience, for me it felt too flat in its current form.

photo credit: Tristram Kenton

Thursday, 13 October 2016

Chicago (UK Tour), Churchill Theatre | Review

Chicago (UK Tour)
Churchill Theatre
Reviewed on Monday 10th October 2016 by Olivia Mitchell
★★★★

Chicago is one of those classic musicals that everyone knows. It was one of the first ones I ever saw and it certainly holds a special place in my heart so I was thrilled when I heard about its UK tour. The overall production is fantastic and its one of the few shows I've given a five star rating!

The Churchill Theatre, Bromley provided a wonderful setting for this over the top, fabulous show. The music is of course fantastic and having the band on stage and involved in the action was wonderful and engaging. The staging is classic, elegant and sexy just like the show; with a simple tiered setting, a few extra chairs and two ladders coming in and out from the wings of the stage. Along with the faded mood lighting, the overall effect is simple but perfectly fitting for the show.

The whole cast is fantastic. Sophie Carmen-Jones embodies Velma Kelly to a T, giving a sultry, dramatic and slick portrayal and really shining in the production. Hayley Tamaddon gives Miss Roxie Hart a cheeky edge and truly manages to capture Roxie's development to a scheming seductress desperate for fame. I felt she really settled into the character as the show progressed and was extremely confident in her singing, dancing and acting- an all round great performance! John Partridge plays the sleazy Billy Flynn extremely well and you could tell from the audience reaction how engaged they were with his performance. Jessie Wallace also demonstrates her vocal abilities which I certainly didn't know she had and Mama Morton was wonderfully suited to her.

The 1920s setting of Chicago gives it a vintage feel which you can't help but feel attracted to. The swinging jazz numbers have you tapping your feet and make you feel as though you've been pulled into to a secretive speak-easy like environment. Chicago must be one of the sexiest shows around so if you're looking for inspiration to go to the gym just look at this cast! Everything about them is enviable, including the killer leg kicks and ridiculous figures!

I adore this show and if the full house was anything to go by then I think a lot of people do. If you can manage to snap up a ticket for the tour then you are guaranteed a sublime, sexy, sultry and sparkling night out!

Monday, 12 October 2020

The Show Must Go On, The Lost Alhambra | Review


The Show Must Go On (Chicago)
The Lost Alhambra 
Reviewed on Friday 9th October 2020 by Olivia Mitchell 
★★★★★

With the fate of theatre hanging precariously right now, in a happy medium and potential loophole, cabaret style nights out appear to be one of the few ways live theatre can still go ahead. One venue which is making this happen (and happen in style) is The Lost Alhambra in Leicester Square. The Show Must Go On is an immersive, cabaret dining experience which packs a punch. The night is complete with a 3 hour show, a 2 course meal, welcome cocktail and bottomless prosecco, you couldn't really ask for more!


Drag performer Poppycock hosts the night alongside some of musical theatre's best stars as they take us through a show via the score and some of the text. At this performance we got the treat of Chicago, which fits wonderfully into the dimly lit space of The Lost Alhambra; upcoming performances include Hairspray, Mamma Mia, Rocky Horror and Priscilla Queen of the Desert.


In theory, this is like any other cabaret but it feels so much stagier than anything I've experienced before. As you walk in you are greeted background music from some of the most popular and current shows, the staff all seem to love theatre and the whole thing feels like an immersive show, full to the brim with theatricality.




The venue itself is an instagrammer's dream, with pink decor, vintage feeling bathrooms and a Photo Booth to document the night (it's £4 and you get an email with the photos and gif as well as your print out keepsake).  The luxurious space is perfect to let your troubles slide away, and the unlimited prosecco which starts flowing from the moment of entry doesn't hurt either! Mention must also go to the staff who are excellent at not only being attentive but also create a wonderful atmosphere from the get go. You really feel part of something special and this only helps to get the room buzzing for the upcoming night of performance.


At this performance, Poppycock was the hostess with the mostest, welcoming us with a rousing rendition of Don't Rain on my Parade, before heading full throttle into the night, taking on various roles and perfecting the balance between ringleader, comedian and vocal dynamo. Laura Tyrer reprises her West End role as Velma Kelly, with Haley Flaherty as her partner in crime, Roxie Hart and Oliver Tompsett as the quick talking lawyer, Billy Flynn. Poppycock takes on basically every other role from Amos Hart to Mary Sunshine.


Each of the performers show off their impeccable talent and really transport us to the world of Chicago. An audience full of prosecco can definitely be noisy but the cast do an exceptional job of keeping everyone engaged and giving a truly top notch performance. Particularly impressive is the three-person Cell Block Tango and the energetic, high-kick filled I Can't Do It Alone.




The tickets start at £50 for everything and 1 hour of prosecco, with the top price being £65 for 2 hours of prosecco. It sounds a little pricey but for the amount and quality of the evening it's well worth it; plus the 10pm curfew means you can have an excellent night out and still be in bed at a reasonable time! I would certainly love a trip back, would weekly be too excessive?


The Chicago theme was excellent and the future performances are sure to be just as good. If you're looking for a way to get your theatre fix, look no further than The Show Must Go On. Not only is this a spectacularly wonderful night out but it's also a beacon of hope for the future of theatre. Get yourselves down to Leicester Square and live your best stagey life.

Thursday, 20 October 2016

Chicago (UK Tour), New Victoria Theatre | Review


Chicago (UK Tour)
New Victoria Theatre
Reviewed on Monday 17th October 2016 by Melanie Mitchell
★★★★

On Monday the 16th of October I was fortunate to be invited to see Chicago at Woking theatre. The show is based on the play by Maurine Dallas Watkins and the original stage production, directed and choreographed by Bob Fosse.


The show remains true to the original with all the familiar songs and routines, performed with enthusiasm and gusto by all cast members. The dancers both male and female are all amazing, lithe, slick and extremely flexible; performing complexly choreographed routines on a fairly small stage.
The reason for the lack of space is that the Orchestra share the stage with the performers, playing a pivotal role in the production, making it a lot of fun to watch, keep your eye on the conductor.

Roxy Hart is played by Hayley Tamaddon of Emmerdale fame. She makes the role her own with a combination of cuteness and humour accompanied by a lovely singing voice. A very talented and accomplished performance with excellent comedic touches, perhaps lacking somewhat in sex appeal
Jessie Wallace, is perfectly suited to the role of Matron ‘Mama’ Morton, she played the role extremely convincingly. I was completely surprised by her amazing voice, strong, clear and powerful. I completely forgot her as Eastenders Kat Slater.




John Partridge also an ex Eastender takes the role of Billy Flynn, he is suave and sophisticated and suitably cold in the role. Again I was surprised at his singing voice, very good projection although I felt that diction could be improved at times. He holds the longest, in tune note I have ever heard in a stage production, amazing.

A D Richardson gives a convincing performance as Mary Sunshine! You’ll see what I mean if you go to the show. Neil Ditt as Amos is suitably pathetic, downtrodden and loyal gaining sympathy and support from the audience, his rendition of Mr Cellophane is heartfelt. Sophie Carmen – Jones takes the role of Velma Kelly and in my opinion steals the show. Amazing singer and dancer a vivacious performance that oozes sex appeal. Sophie is definitely one to watch.

The staging of the whole show is very cleverly done for a fairly small stage, my only criticism would be that when some of the performers are caught in the ‘green lighting’ it makes them look rather ill. That might have been to do with the angle of my seat though.

Chicago is on at Woking New Victoria Theatre until Saturday 22nd of October, I would urge you to get a ticket for a most enjoyable, fun, feel good show.

Sunday, 15 July 2018

A Stagey Guide To Singing... Josefina Gabrielle | Chicago | Stagey Sunday

Welcome back to Stagey Sunday! I hope you're all well and not too saddened by the football... although if you're reading this, the chances are that you were at the theatre instead of in front of a TV! Anyway, this weeks guide to singing is brought to you by the female lead of Chicago the musical, Josefina Gabrielle who plays Velma. Josefina started her career as a dancer before transitioning into the world of singing so it's really interesting to hear how she built up her voice and stamina to be able to perform such a demanding role...


Can you tell me a bit about your vocal journey? 
Well I went to a theatre school, Arts Educational school, from about the age of 10 so we had an all round performing arts education. It incorporated singing, ballet, jazz, modern, tap, drama, you name it! So I had that in my life for as long as I can remember. 

Then I specialised in Classical ballet, so I danced only for quite a few years and, I worked abroad. When I came home to London after about 8 years, I joined Carousel the musical which was being done at the National Theatre. They needed strong ballet dancers so there was this perfect break from one world into the next so then I was surrounded by singing again and kind of got back on the saddle with that. 

I had been a soprano and hadn’t really experimented with the musical theatre sound, mixing or belting or anything like that so I learnt a lot about that during my time at Carousel. I learnt a lot about different voice types as I joined different companies and slowly developed a belt voice which was quite daunting at first because it’s quite muscular, you know you can push the wrong way and make yourself hoarse. So that was quite an interesting journey and I think having a typical dancer mentality I pushed it quite a lot which made it strong but compromised it’s flexibility. So that’s been my journey into different sounds! 

I went to a singing teacher for a little while who gave me all the knowledge on how to belt but it felt painful, so I shied away from it. But as I came to acquire, note by note slowly, I was able to process what she’d told me to do. But at the time it felt scary. It’s like doing push-ups! Twang and tilt are also an important part of that- I’ve learnt all the terms along the way! 


Was there anyone or anything that got you into music in the first place? 
I’ve always enjoyed music, my primary school before I went to ArtsEd- my mum has since told me cause you don’t think about these things as a child- focussed a lot on the arts so we did have a lot of musical appreciation. I remember playing all the percussion stuff and recorder and clarinet and things. So I’d already started that journey at my primary school so I think it's always been a part of my life. 

And then in the classical ballet world you dance to so much music. I feel like I’ve got quite a nice, wide variety of music that I appreciate and it’s quite wonderful to identify and recognise composers easily because I’ve acquired it as opposed to studied it. Rodgers and Hammerstein are a musical duo that I absolutely adore and Stephen Sondheim as well because there’s so much research and such an education while you're performing and learning the subjects and your journey. It's fascinating. And the structure of the way they write just does it for you really. 

I think maybe because I’ve come through dance, I’ve been a little gung-ho with my singing and sometimes I've not thought “well this is as good as it gets”; I've dared to be a bit rough on my voice and sort of thought, well, I’ll just face the consequences… I don't find that pure singing comes easily to me so I focus very much on telling the story through song and that seems to find my voice; so there’s always the thing of juggling the X and the Y, the technique and the emotion and I think I focus more on the emotion and hope the technique will follow! 

Josefina Gabrielle and Hugh Jackman as Laurey and Curly in Rodgers and Hammerstein's Carousel

You've had a long career with Chicago now so you must know a lot of it like the back of your hand but are there any moments you still find hard or have to put extra focus on? 
I do find every every show that I do, I play my voice in, I’m not a person that can just pick something up and sing it beautifully. I need to almost dig a trench in my voice so once it’s played in I can do it. I’ve found that if I just treat it with respect but don’t get too fixated on it, it will find it’s way. I find a lot of that is once the breathing becomes choreography, you automatically prepare in the right way and you know when to hold, when to let go and when to not step on the gas. That just comes with repetition. I think that the moment my breathing has sorted out it’s choreography then I’m in safe hands. I also feel that I'm very much a voice that works with a mic. So the mic informs how I’m going to hold back or let go. 


You've recently had Mazz Murray join the cast of Chicago as Mama who your character Velma is very close to; what’s your process like when you work with someone new in terms of figuring out how to blend and balance one another? 
Again that comes with time, we’re early on so we’re still blending. But she's a wonderful musician and has one of my favourite voices. You know you're in fantastic hands and you just you feel and you listen and that’s how you come together, just like any orchestra would really. 


What are your tips for maintaining good vocal health? 
Drink a lot of water, the usual. Sleep, always get a decent amount of sleep. I have to be careful with acid reflux so I try not to eat too late at night. If I do eat too late at night or am feeling full or even just in case, I’m never far from Gaviscon Advance. Until you know about acid reflux, you may not even know you have it; it’s basically where the acid comes up your oesophagus and can sit on your cords and swell them. I didn’t realise but I’d often wake up coughing at night and I now know it’s because of the acid so now I'm very aware of that as it got me a lot of trouble in the past. 

I have an excellent warm up tape from by singing teacher Mark Meylan which I do religiously before every show and even when I'm not working, I’ll try and do that warm up regularly because my singing muscle needs to be looked after regularly. I’m not a person that can just sing, I need warming up well for flexibility. 


Who would your dream duet partner be? 
I’ve never really though about that! Well I just had the most amazing time singing with Ruthie Henshall; that felt wonderfully organic and I enjoyed it enormously. I'm now having a wonderful time working with Mazz and we're on a new journey. I even put this in Mazz Murray’s card on opening night that I have a laminated wish list of leading ladies I'd like to work with and two of them have come along at once! 


Could you tell me your top piece of advice for aspiring performers in terms of finding and maintaining their voice? 
Well I’ve kind of already blended those answers into my others but I’d say, don’t get upset because the emotions really affect your voice, they’re both in the same place so it can hinder performance. Breathing is terribly important and don’t push something they doesn’t want to go there- coax it gently and it will come!


A huge thank you to Josefina for taking the time to give her stories and advice on singing. You can catch her in Chicago at the Phoenix Theatre until 5th January 2019.

See you next Sunday for the final instalment of our singing guides!

Friday, 27 July 2018

In Conversation With... Ian Stroughair aka Velma Celli | Interview

Ian Stroughair aka Velma Celli has the voice of an angel, is as hilarious as they come and truly knows how to put on a show. After seeing Velma Celli's West End Christmas I was completely overwhelmed and have since been following Ian's career (and life) on twitter. His latest venture is Iconic- A History of Drag which will be playing at the Edinburgh fringe...


How did Velma Celli come about?
Well, I have always been a singer much to my siblings annoyance. At age 14 I auditioned for a new musical called ‘Kes’ at The York, Theatre Royal. It was a professional show which needed an ensemble of kids. Much to my surprise I was cast. It was my first time on stage. I joined a Ballet school in York just before my sixteenth birthday. 3 months later my Ballet teacher sent me for an audition for a Theatre School. I got in and started that summer. 

After 2.5 years I was out into the world and working as a singer/dancer/actor. I have appeared in West End and musical productions of Cats, Fame, Chicago, Rent and also appeared on Eastenders as myself…. I know, CAMP!!!!

When I was in Chicago I was asked out for an evening of drinks by the “girls" In La Cage and Priscilla. I bought a dress and some makeup and dragged myself up and out of stage door and met them in Madame Jojo’s. Apparently I ended up on stage belting out some queen and dropping into the splits. I can’t remember this, #gin! When I was leaving the manager asked me back the following week and I have never looked back!


You've had a very varied career, what's your favourite part of performing as Velma and creating your own show?
The freedom. When you are in a West End musical it's very strict. You are directed to give the same show every night and there is little room for your own creativity and interpretation. Velma is mine and she can do whatever she wants. Sing whatever songs she like. It’s very freeing!


You're taking your show, Iconic- A Brief History of Drag to Edinburgh. What can people expect from the show? 
Iconic - A Brief History of Drag is a journey through my most favourite moments in drag history, whether it be music, pop culture, film or theatre it's those Iconic unforgettable drag events that inspired me to do drag and cultivate me into the queen I am now. They can expect to laugh (a lot) cry (a bit) and learn a bit about drag, things that people may not know. The past hero’s. A blooming good night if anything else!


Can you sum up A Brief History of Drag in 5 words?
Heartfelt, funny, camp, belt and emotional 


You have a stunning voice. How do you keep it strong and healthy whilst facing the strains of touring?
Thank you. Lost of water and vocal rest. Healthy food!


If you could go back to any era, when would you go to and why?
I would have to say the 1960’s. I believe I am quite the hippy! 


What's your number one piece of advice for aspiring performers who would like to carve their own, unique career?
WORK HARD. Work harder then repeat. This business is not for the faint hearted. It’s tough at times and the competition is high so armour yourselves with as much knowledge and learn as many skills as possible. Bring something to the party too. The odds of getting cast are extremely slim so I encourage all my students to write their own material and / or shows.

Thank you to the incomparable Ian Stroughair/Velma Celli for your amazing advice and story. Iconic- A Brief History of Drag will be at the Edinburgh Fringe from the 1st-26th August, at Assembly Checkpoint.  

Interview by Editor, Olivia Mitchell

Wednesday, 7 June 2017

Rachel Tucker, Live at Zedel | Review


Rachel Tucker (concert)
Crazy Coqs, Zedel
Reviewed on Tuesday June 6th 2017 by Olivia Mitchell
★★

Rachel Tucker is a superstar of the stage and is currently on a long awaited tour around the UK before heading to New York for a stint at the iconic, 54 Below. Now I knew Rachel's voice was good from the I'd Do Anything days, videos online and of course from seeing her in Wicked but I was completely blown away when I saw her solo performance last night. Rachel's voice is powerful, emotive, beautiful and her overall stage presence is that of a true star.

Rachel's set consisted of a number of upbeat songs to more balladic slow pieces with the flow from jubilation to tears completely smooth and seamless. The whole concert seemed so well put together and like a huge amount of thought had gone into each song and placement, it was really a night of everything. Opening the show with "Miss Otis Regrets", Rachel immediately created a bond with the audience and won over the room with her huge presence and personality.

Moving wonderfully into a rendition of "Candyman", Rachel kept the atmosphere bright and warm and set the stage for an evening of glorious entertainment. The segway into each song was done flawlessly, a sign of Rachel's stage training from a young age. The transition from "Waving Through a Window" (beautiful) to "Climbing Uphill" was particularly entertaining with Rachel reenacting a bad audition before giving a hilarious performance of the Jason Robert Brown classic.

As her special guest for the night, Rachel introduced Samantha Barks (who we all know I love) at the end of act one for a rendition of "Nowadays/All That Jazz" from Chicago. This was a particular treat for us Londoners who didn't get to see Samantha as Velma Kelly in Chicago at the Hollywood Bowl and it was a marvellous end to the first half.

The second half of the concert was just as seamless and brilliant as the first, with little anecdotes sprinkled throughout and an absolutely hilarious tribute to Tina Turner which Rachel explained was her unique selling point when she used to perform with her dad.  Needless to say, the audience loved the ridiculously fantastic and energetic performance of "Proud Mary/River Deep Mountain High".

Samantha and Rachel joined forces again with a beautiful, heartfelt rendition of Wicked's "For Good" which was lovely to hear and joyous to see the two friends performing such a beautiful song in the intimate setting of the Crazy Coqs, Zedel.

Not only is Rachel's singing top notch, but her acting and interpretation of music is outstanding. Able to go from elation to heartbreaking sincerity in a matter of bars. Act two saw Rachel perform "The Man That Got Away" which was just phenomenal and left the audience in pin-drop silent awe. Rachel closed the show with "Goodbye Yellow Brick Road" and the Ed Sheeran favourite, "Castle on a Hill" which really summed up the evening and gave the audience the whole spectrum of emotions once again and gave Rachel her third and final standing ovation of the evening.

Rachel is just a sensational performer and last nights concert was completely faultless. I honestly couldn't have asked for anything more from Rachel or Samantha except for them to sing more and serenade me for the rest of my life! Rachel is truly remarkable, a joy to watch and a brilliant inspiration for anyone wanting to perform. If you get the chance to see Rachel in concert, or in any other show then 100000% take the opportunity as you do not want to miss the chance to be blessed be her performance of dreams and pipes from heaven!

Read my interview with Rachel here: https://goo.gl/FyfrTy

Saturday, 9 February 2019

The Bodyguard (UK & Ireland Tour), Grand Opera House, Belfast | Review


The Bodyguard (UK & Ireland Tour)
Grand Opera House
Reviewed on Wednesday 6th February 2019 by Damien Murray
★★★★

Literally starting with a bang… before Karen Bruce’s super-charged choreography ensured that its fiery opening number set the quality bar high for the remainder of the show, this latest touring production of the ever popular musical is another winner.

This romantic thriller, peppered with some of the best of Whitney Houston’s hits, is back in town for its third sell-out run in recent years … and it is easy to see why.

Offering the right balance of romance, suspense, dance, humour and music, this award-winning musical based on Lawrence Kasdan’s blockbuster film, which starred Kevin Costner and Whitney Houston, gives audiences everything they want wrapped up in a quality-filled ‘night out’ to keep them coming back for more.

For those who are unfamiliar with the successful film, the story centres around singing superstar and budding film star, Rachel Marron, and her changing relationship with personal bodyguard, Frank Farmer, who has been hired by her manager to protect her after a series of threatening notes have been found.

Many people go to this show only to hear the music as the plot has been criticised for being too far-fetched, but, sadly, stars with stalkers of some degree or another are more common than one might think.


As someone who was once involved in protecting a performer from a stalker, I could really identify with the storyline here (although my experience was without the romantic elements of this piece!).

Played out on Tim Hatley’s clever and ever-changing sliding-door set, which not only aided the seamless flow of the show but also reinforced the ever-changing situation of the gripping story-line, this was a well-paced production, which made effective use of projections.

Yet again, the star of this show was former X-Factor winner, Alexandra Burke, in the role of the controlling diva-style star, Rachel Marron, and – having recently performed in such musicals as Sister Act, Chess and Chicago and having been so successful in television’s Strictly Come Dancing – it was an even more confident and experienced performer this time that filled both Marron’s shoes and the auditorium with great vocals in Houston’s many hits. 

Playing opposite Burke as her equally controlling, bodyguard, Frank Farmer, Benoit Marechal was a much calmer and more controlled character who took his job very seriously. So, the karaoke scene was nice in that it showed a different side of his character while providing a degree of humour to lighten the mood of the piece. 

Although I didn’t get any sense of fear from Phil Atkinson’s chilling character in his early appearances (maybe due to his direction), the sinister stares of the stalker became appropriately more threatening and unsettling as the show progressed and Atkinson developed into a truly menacing stalker, especially when he rose from the orchestra pit in his final scene.

Resentful of her life playing second-fiddle in the shadow of her successful sister, Micha Richardson was impressive as the talented, but jealous, sister, Nicki; her vocal talent getting a solo chance to shine in Saving All My Love For You.


Musical director, Michael Riley, and his eight-piece orchestra did wonders in supplying such a big and full sound for the varied score of power ballads and up-tempo dance numbers, while Mark Henderson’s versatile lighting designs complemented all aspects of the production, and both combined – especially Riley’s perfect incidental music and Henderson’s wonderful use of white light effects – to heighten tension and suspense at appropriate moments of the show.

Thea Sharrock’s direction was also spot-on throughout, but particularly in emphasising these elements of what is, after all, a thriller. A good example of this was the use of slow motion and freeze action in the club scene and at the awards ceremony. 

What surprises me is that, despite being one of the few who do not even like the music of Whitney Houston (really!), this is my third time seeing this show … and, thanks to high production values and talented performances, my third time enjoying the productions.

Musical highlights included: I’m Every Woman and How Will I Know?, while the defining moment in the story was captured during One Moment In Time and Burke’s perfectly staged finale song, the emotionally-charged rendition of I Will Always Love You, proved to be the undoubted show-stopper ahead of the full company mega mix encore. 

Overall, power ballads combined with powerhouse performances and strong choreography to make this a truly powerful production. 

The Bodyguard runs at the Grand Opera house until 16th February 2019

photo credit: Paul Coltas

Thursday, 3 February 2022

Peter Andre to play Vince Fontaine in Grease at the Dominion Theatre


Peter Andre will make his West End debut playing the role of Vince Fontaine at certain performances in a new production of Jim Jacobs & Warren Casey’s iconic musical GREASE opening at the Dominion Theatre on Tuesday 17 May 2022, with previews from Tuesday 3 May 2022. GREASE is directed by Nikolai Foster and choreographed by Arlene Phillips. 

 

Dan Partridge (Link Larkin in Hairspray UK tour & Pepper in MAMMA MIA! West End) and Olivia Moore (Waitress at the Adelphi Theatre & Heathers at Theatre Royal Haymarket) will star as Danny and Sandy respectively, with Jocasta Almgill (& Juliet at Shaftesbury Theatre) as Rizzo, Paul French (GreaseUK tour) as Kenickie, Mary Moore (Little Women at Park Theatre) as Jan, Jake Reynolds (professional debut) as Doody, Lizzy-Rose Esin-Kelly (A Chorus Line at Curve) as Marty, Damon Gould (Pretty Woman: The Musical at Savoy Theatre) as Sonny, Eloise Davies (Be More Chill at The Other Palace) as Frenchie, Jessica Croll (Hairspray UK tour) as Patty Simcox, Katie Lee (Matilda The Musical at Cambridge Theatre) as Cha Cha, Ronan Burns (West Side Story at Curve) as Johnny Casino and Corinna Powlesland (An Officer and A Gentleman at Regents Park Open Air Theatre as Miss Lynch. Darren Bennett (Dirty Rotten Scoundrels at the Savoy Theatre) will play Officer Mailie and Vince Fontaine at certain performances. 

 

They are joined by Jack Harrison-Cooper, Pearce Barron, Rishard-Kyro Nelson, Ellie Kingdon, Remi Ferdinand, Kalisha Johnson, Imogen Bailey, Kevin O’Dwyer and Carly Miles. Further casting is to be announced.

 

Peter Andre said “I'm beyond excited to be making my West End debut playing Vince Fontaine in Grease at the beautiful Dominion Theatre. Grease is such an iconic musical and we can guarantee audiences will have the most wonderful evening listening to songs we all know and love. We can't wait to see you there!"

 

GREASE originally opened in Chicago in 1971, followed by a move to Broadway in 1972, where it received seven Tony Award nominations, including one for Best Musical. During the show's eight-year run at the time, little known actors including Peter Gallagher, Patrick Swayze and John Travolta all appeared in the production, with Richard Gere understudying many roles before going on to star as Danny Zuko in the 1973 London premiere. GREASE was first performed at the Dominion Theatre in 1993 before transferring to the Cambridge Theatre in 1996. It returned to the West End, opening at the Piccadilly Theatre in 2007. 

 

The 1978 film adaptation starring John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John is the fourth highest-grossing live action musical of all time. The musical features beloved songs, including Summer NightsGreased Lightnin’Hopelessly Devoted To Youand You’re The One That I Want.

 

GREASE has designs by Colin Richmond, orchestrations and musical supervision by Sarah Travis, lighting design by Ben Cracknell, sound design by Tom Marshall and Richard Brooker, video and projection design by Douglas O’Connell and casting by David Grindrod CDG.

 

This production of GREASE is produced by Colin Ingram for InTheatre Productions, Donovan Mannato, Playing Field, Gavin Kalin, and Curve.

Thursday, 5 March 2020

The Last Five Years, Southwark Playhouse | Review


The Last Five Years
Southwark Playhouse
Reviewed on Wednesday 4th March 2020 by Olivia Mitchell 
★★★★

Originally premiering in Chicago in 2001 and then transferring to off-Broadway, Jason Robert Brown's song cycle musical was last seen in London in 2016 at the St James theatre. Chronicling a couple's passionate but ultimately doomed relationship, it is a brilliant exploration of life and cleverly plays with time; having one partner starting at the end of their story and the other at the start. They only overlap during their proposal and marriage mid way through.

This Southwark Playhouse production is a completely transfixing showcase of a spectacular musical. Jonathan O'Boyle's production is wonderfully staged and feels completely fresh in it's approach to the score and story. 

Lee Newby's set provides a fantastic canvas for the emotional drama to evolve, with small props effectively emphasising moments but always leaving the focus on the characters and their story. At times these props do feel a little too literal but they are so briefly used that it's barely an issue. There's always a sense of momentum in this piece thanks to the varying styles of Jason Robert Brown's music which keep the pace up. Additionally in this production, there is the use of a revolve which physically adds drive as it often seems to move clockwise for Jamie's plot and anti-clockwise for Cathy's- a very clever touch.

Jamie Platt's lighting is an especially enjoyable element of this musical, with contrast and darkness being used extremely well. A particularly effective moment is when the sun rises and the space is gradually transformed from a blue tinge to a warm orange.


Oli Higginson brings a great sense of journey to the up and coming writer, Jamie. Genuinely loving Cathy at the start, his self-absorbed personality and wandering eye soon become his, and the relationship's downfall. There's often an argument as to who was really in the wrong in this pairing and of course, both are to blame, but in the end Jamie really is a jerk and Oli does a great job of showing it. The contrast between the whimsy and elation in The Schmuel Song and the downright aggression in If I Didn't Believe in You, is highly effective. Higginson's accent does falter at times and occasionally the theatrical facade is broken, but overall his performance is joyous and enraging to watch.

As Cathy, Molly Lynch is just radiant. Rewinding from the bitter breakup to the jubilant start, Molly is consistently magnificent to watch. Vocally her performance is as clear as glass and beautifully controlled in her strong mix, but it's her acting which really brings her character to life. A mixture of nuanced and grand moments showcase the skills Molly possesses, and completely wrap you up in her journey. 

Plus, both actors bring their musician skills to the table, deftly swapping places at the piano. Their incompatibility is even highlighted as they aggressively accompany one another and often give particular attention to the discordant parts of the music, or the melodies which are repeated throughout but are continually out of sync with each other.

With humourous sequences (Jamie on facetime during A Summer in Ohio) and devastating moments of relationship failure, this really is a roller coaster gem of a piece. Brown's music gives so much to work with and the team on this production have really done an excellent job. The two leads are esteemed in their performances as they give a masterclass in acting through song that will break you and build you at once.

The Last Five Years plays at the Southwark Playhouse until 28th March

photo credit: Pamela Raith