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

Monday, 24 July 2017

I Loved Lucy, Arts Theatre | Review

I Loved Lucy
Reviewed on Monday July 24th 2017 by Olivia Mitchell

Just transferred from the Jermyn Street theatre to the Arts Theatre, I Loved Lucy is an autobiographical play, adapted from Lee Tannen's memoirs about his relationship with cultural icon, Lucille Ball.

A massive fan of the comedy star, Tannen uses obscure family ties to meet and form a friendship with Lucy. They bond with stories and fantasies over their games of backgammon as Tannen becomes a close confidant and sees a side of 'Auntie Mame' that very few got to see.

As someone who wasn't alive during any of Ball's life and who until writing this review, had never seen an episode of I Love Lucy, I don't suppose I'm the target audience for this play. There were a number of anecdotes and names which meant nothing to me purely because of my age and I felt I was an outsider looking in on the jokes. However, for most of the times I didn't laugh, something else came along which had me in hysterics proving you don't need to be a Lucy fan to enjoy this show. Tannen's script is witty and uses repetition extremely well to generate laughs.  Alongside the laughs there are also more heartfelt moments, especially in act two when Lucy realises she has peaked and can never achieve the same levels of fame and love again.

Tannen as the narrator is humorous and he doesn't shy away from showing his dark side as well as Lucy's but I found it strange at times how closely he paints the relationship. Tannen is shown as being one of Lucy's only confidants and the only person in her life. With her children and partners barely mentioned I feel that Tannen is an unreliable source and although it may have been true that Lucy had very few other relationships, it would be interesting to see why the others are so absent.

Sandra Dickinson captures Lucy's mannerisms and iconic laugh perfectly. She gives a truly wonderful performance and remains committed to the role throughout. Her comedic timing, although sometimes ever so slightly off is good and she delivers Lucy's slicing asides and witty quips with ease.

As the celebrity obsessed, excitable, Tannen, Matthew Scott is great and he gives a beautifully emotive performance. He not only plays his main role but a number of smaller roles such as the hotel receptionist and chauffeur where he shows off his versatility well. Dickinson and Scott's chemistry is great and although the stalkerish fan becoming best friends with the star is kind of strange, it somehow works and comes across in a natural way.

Anthony Biggs' direction makes good use of the black box Arts Theatre and he is unafraid of stillness for dramatic effect. Gregor Donnelly's simplistic set design adds just enough drama whilst keeping the flow of the piece.

I Loved Lucy is a joy to watch- great fun with an air of drama, glitz and glam.

I Loved Lucy runs at The Arts Theatre until September 2nd 2017

Thursday, 14 September 2017

Hairspray (UK Tour), Bord Gais Energy Theatre | Review

Hairspray (Tour)
Bord Gais Energy Theatre, Dublin
Reviewed on Monday 11th September 2017 by Damien Murray 

Despite highlighting serious issues such as prejudice and intolerance, this show remains a popular, light-hearted and fun night of musical theatre and this latest touring production – courtesy of Mark Goucher, Matthew Gale and Laurence Myers – certainly kept it in this now famous ‘feel-good’ vibe.

Set in Baltimore in 1962, against a backdrop of racial segregation, the simple scenario of wanting teenagers of all colours to be able to dance together on a local TV dance programme with a campaign for integration on the show reflects the wider problem of racial segregation and to a welcomed social change at that time.

Opening with a look down at teenage Tracy in bed before hitting hard with one of the show’s most popular songs, 'Good Morning Baltimore', this production got off to a bright up-tempo start in a busy street scene with the dancers quickly establishing the two main communities of the piece, and – under Paul Kerryson’s direction – this theme was reinforced throughout (e.g. there was the telling line that “the TV is black and white” and the costumes in the jail scene were all black and white for the protesters as opposed to the colourful costumes that were used in the rest of the show).

Staged with a practical and realistic brick house set at either side, this production used mobile trucks and effective projected scenery throughout to keep its fast-moving pace in place, while Philip Gladwell’s bright and colourful lighting plot brought a lot to the show and I loved, at the start of each Act, how the audience was flooded in moving coloured lights to create a fun atmosphere.

As a dance-orientated show, Drew McOnie’s choreography and movement was always slick, lively, entertaining and of its time and it was a brave decision to do a routine at one stage with several basketballs being thrown about on a crowded stage.

While the costumes were overly bright (probably for staging purposes to increase the fun and escapism elements of the production), they – like the hairstyles – were authentic for the era.

The mostly up-tempo score was varied with 60s Pop, Rhythm & Blues, Doo-Wop and Gospel influences, and Musical Director, Ben Atkinson, and his 7-piece on-stage band did well in keeping things moving at a lively pace and with such a full-on sound, despite this show being written for a much larger instrumentation line-up.

While the comic duet, 'You’re Timeless To Me', proved popular with audiences, songs like 'Mama, I’m A Big Girl Now' and 'I Can Hear The Bells' were well staged; the latter having a particular magical feel to it.

However, the big production numbers that really stood out were: 'Welcome To The 60s', complete with the female vocal trio’s sparkling dresses and the floor gobos and wallpaper displaying a popular pattern of the era; the glorious piece of Gospel, 'I Know Where I’ve Been', which almost lifted the roof; and the all-singing, all-dancing finale, 'You Can’t Stop The Beat', with its totally infectious feel-good factor.

Sometimes there is something about the way a particular show is written, or cast, that is simply annoying and, for me, it is why there is a tradition of playing Tracy’s mother, Edna, as a ‘drag-role (i.e. always played by a man), as the character is not a drag queen, but was first played by one).
I feel it adds nothing to the show and is unnecessary … maybe it is just me and I am missing something obvious, but I just don’t get it.

However, that said, this is certainly no reflection on the talents of Matt Rixon, who played the role of the large, kind and shy Edna superbly in what could best be described as a towering performance, especially against the physically smaller, Norman Pace, as her ever-joking but loving husband, Wilbur (maybe that is the reason for the ‘drag-role’?).

Brenda Edwards’ super soulful vocals made her perfect for the part of the sassy and determined Motormouth Maybelle, while the experienced performance by Gina Murray, as the producer and controlling mother, Velma, was a show-stealer here and this scheming villainess must surely be the most glamorous ‘baddie’ of them all.

If Velma was the baddie, then young Rebecca Mendoza was a real ‘goodie’ here, making an impressive professional debut as the big-hearted and teenage Tracy.

All were well supported by the lively ensemble and others like Jon Tsouras’ self-loving Corney, Layton Williams’ energetic and popular, Seaweed, Edward Chitticks’ heart-throb pop star, Link, Aimee Moore’s not so talented and selfish wannabe, Amber, and Annalise Liard-Bailey – another recent theatre graduate – as the dim but beautiful, Penny.

Hairspray is at the Bord Gais Energy Theatre until September 16th before continuing on its tour.

Photo Credit: Darren Bell

Wednesday, 10 August 2022

Callum Scott Howells and Madeline Brewer Announced to Join Cabaret From 3 October 2022

The producers of the multi award-winning, critically acclaimed production of CABARET at the KIT KAT CLUB in London’s West End are thrilled to announce that BAFTA Award nominee Callum Scott Howells will play ‘The Emcee’ and Emmy Award nominee Madeline Brewer will play ‘Sally Bowles’ from 3 October 2022 until28 January


Callum Scott Howells said today “I can't wait to work with the incredible team and company, and follow on from two actors who I hugely respect and admire. I feel very lucky and excited to be taking on such an iconic role within this widely celebrated and unique production. It's going to be a ride.”


Madeline Brewer said today Rebecca’s vision is the most magical and emotional and exciting Cabaret I’ve ever seen. It’s a Sally and a Kit Kat Club so thrillingly fun and humbly prescient. I’m beyond honored to be invited to the party.”


Callum Scott Howells is best known for playing Colin in Russell T Davies’ hit Channel 4 drama It’s a Sin. For his performance as Colin, Callum won the BAFTA Cymru Award for Leading Actor and the Royal Television Society Award for Best Male Actor. For the same role, he was twice nominated at the 2022 BAFTA Television Awards; for Best Supporting Actor and Virgin Media’s Must See Moment. Later this year, he will be seen in the Netflix film The Beautiful Game opposite Bill Nighy. Callum’s theatre credits include She Loves Me at the Menier Chocolate Factory and Matthew Bourne’s production of Lord of the Flies.


Madeline Brewer has starred as Janine Lindo in all four seasons of Hulu’s hit drama The Handmaid’s Tale, for which she was nominated for the Emmy Award for Best Supporting Actress in a Drama Series. She will star in the fifth season of the show, due to premiere this September. Madeline began her career portraying Tricia Miller in the Netflix series Orange is the New Black. Her film credits include Hustlers alongside Jennifer Lopez and Cam for Netflix. Madeline’s other credits include Netflix/Channel 4’s Black Mirror and Apple TV’s Shining Girls. 


At certain performances, the role of Sally Bowles will be played by Emily Benjamin.


As a member of the original cast of this production, Emily has been a swing and understudy to the role of Sally Bowles since the show opened last year. Her other West End theatre credits include Bat Out of Hell The Musical at the London Coliseum and The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe at the Bridge Theatre.


Also joining the cast on 3 October 2022 will be Sid Sagar as ‘Cliff Bradshaw’, Danny Mahoney as ‘Ernst Ludwig’ and Michelle Bishop as ‘Fraulein Kost’. Vivien Parry and Richard Katz continue to play ‘Fraulein Schneider’ and ‘Herr Schultz’ respectively.


The cast is completed by Gabriela Benedetti, Charles Croysdill, Laura Delany, Sally Frith, Matthew Gent, Ying Ue Li, Ela Lisondra, Chris O’Mara, Grant Neal, Hicaro Nicolai, Adam Taylor, Toby Turpin, Patrick Wilden and Sophie Maria Wojna.


The Prologue Company currently includes Rachel Benson, Laura Braid, Asmara Cammock, Julian Capolei, Celine Fortenbacher, Reuben Greeph, Samantha Ho, Andrew Linnie, Carys McQueen, Kate Robson-Stuart and Sally Swanson


This unique production of CABARET opened in December last year to critical and audience acclaim, widely praised as the ultimate theatrical experience. In April this year, the production won a record-breaking seven Olivier Awards, the most for any musical revival in Olivier history, as well as three prestigious Critics Circle Awards.


In a time when the world is changing forever, there is one place where everyone can be free… Welcome to the Kit Kat Club, home to an intimate and electrifying new production of CABARET. This is Berlin. Relax. Loosen up. Be yourself. 

Transforming one of London’s most famous theatres with an in-the-round auditorium and reimagined spaces, before the show guests are invited to enjoy and explore the Kit Kat Club with pre-show entertainment, drinks and dining all on offer. When booking, guests receive a 'club entry time' to allow enough time to take in the world of the Kit Kat Club before the show starts. But of course, the show really starts when you first join us in the club…


One of the most successful musicals of all time CABARET features the songs Wilkommen, Don’t Tell Mama, Mein Herr, Maybe This Time, Money and the title number. It has music by John Kander, lyrics by Fred Ebb, book by Joe Masteroff. Based on the play by John Van Druten and stories by Christopher Isherwood.


CABARET is directed by Rebecca Frecknall, set and costume design is by Tom Scutt with choreography by Julia Cheng. Musical supervision by Jennifer Whyte and musical direction by Ben Ferguson with lighting design by Isabella Byrd and sound design by Nick Lidster. The casting director is Stuart Burt and the associate director is Jordan Fein.


CABARET at the KIT KAT CLUB is produced by Ambassador Theatre Group Productions and Underbelly.

Thursday, 23 January 2020

Sex/Crime, Soho Theatre | Review

Soho Theatre
Reviewed on Wednesday 22nd January 2020 by Jake C Macpherson

The show opens to a simplistic set draped in plastic sheets and not much else but a single sofa – so many questions were initially made as an audience member as to what was going to happen throughout the next 60 minutes. This added to the complete suspense that was felt from the get go.

The production opens with the sudden entrance of ‘A’ and ‘B’. ‘A’ offers a service to recreate the killings of famous serial killers for the pleasure of random men. Enter ‘B’ who has booked himself in for an ‘authentic experience’ this doesn’t quite turn out to be what he has paid for…

Alexis Gregory, who plays ‘B’ in the production also wrote the show. Combined with the direction of Robert Chevara they have created this dark, new piece of theatre, which at moments is so relatable and humorous for a London audience. Names of well-known London locations are scattered liberally throughout the piece, giving the audience a real sense of place and time. This generally gives an immersive feeling. Gregory has a very unique style of writing and is very straight to the point in what he wants the audience to hear. The cut-throat reality of what is being said is jarring, but at moments feels almost poetic.

Multiple themes are explored throughout the show: the age of social media, violence, sexual fantasies and queerness to name a few. I don’t particularly feel as though all of the themes are easily translated and it is left to the audience to make personal conclusions throughout. But I do feel as though this adds to the performance. The sharp-witted humour often carries the piece and is well received by the entire audience.

Jonny Woo (‘A’), and Alexis Gregory (‘B’) play the two polar opposite characters in acting style and personality. During the show it's clear their relationship grows closer together and finds a balance between their emotional states. Both Woo and Gregory work well to hold an entire audiences’ engagement and towards the end, the audience do begin to connect with both characters. The chemistry between them was clear from the moment they entered the stage, and they both remain strong throughout.

It's hard to imagine this show re-staged in a bigger venue, as the Soho Theatre really offers a sense of intimacy and the tension of the piece really translates well in a black box studio Theatre. In essence Sex/Crime is a vulnerable and intimate piece of theatre which tackles the fetish of sexual violence in a modern society.

SEX/CRIME runs at the SOHO Theatre until 1st February 2020

photo credit: Matt Spike

Friday, 13 December 2019

Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (Pantomime), Richmond Theatre | Review

Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (Panto)
Richmond Theatre 
Reviewed on Thursday 12th December 2019 by Nicola Louise

It seems like yesterday I was sent to review my first pantomime, but here we are again a year later. This time its Snow White at Richmond Theatre where the stars are big and -evident from the multitude of advertising and glitzy theatrical splendour- so is the budget!

We all know the story of Show White and how she was ordered to die at the hands of her evil stepmother; and this story is no different even if it does start a little unusually. Prince Harry arrives at the palace where Snow White is due to celebrate her 21st birthday, as childhood sweethearts they’re drawn to each other once again after having been apart for so long.

James Darch is great as the charming Prince Harry, with a pantomime hero look about him. Mia Starbuck is as sweet as Snow White can be, with her flowing black hair and porcelain skin she glows with beauty and shines when she sings. Panto’s by nature are a bit cheesy, especially with the panto prince, however, this isn't the case with Richmond’s production. Both Snow and Harry are not your typical panto hero’s, some may say this won’t do but as a lover of panto’s for many years, I felt this gives it an edge above the others.

Jason Sutton as the dame is as funny as ever, along with John Clegg  as played Muddles, the son. The pair are a great double act who bounce off each other with chemistry that sparks on stage.

Some may remember Clegg from Britain’s Got Talent where he wow’d audiences with his talent for impressions and it isn’t hard to see why. Clegg's rendition of ‘You’ve Got a Friend in Me’ where he portrays a range of different characters is something I did not expect, and is an excellent moment in the production.

Each year Richmond has a big name to draw people in to it's festive offering, this year its Jo Brand as the evil Queen Lucretia. As funny as she is, her incredibly dry humour often feel misplaced within the tone of this panto. However, Brand's ‘I don’t care’ attitude brings something new to the show and is certainly entertaining. The director and producers have clearly worked around Brand's lack of singing talent and focused more on her wit, a stellar choice on their part.

Like all Pantos, there's a mish mash of popular music, in this case Ed Sheeran amongst others. Some songs seem out of place and a bit cliché, as if the writers are trying to reach out to the teenagers in the crowd, so to say ‘look, we’re hip as well’.

With a talented bunch of actors and great performances from the 7 men who portrayed the Dwarfs, (this year Richmond opted for tall actors rather than go for actual Dwarfs), this show protrudes enough sweetness and glitter than you can shake a stick at.

Fun for all the family and even the little ones get involved at the end.

Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs is running at Richmond Theatre until Sunday 5th January 2020

photo credit: Craig Sugden

Friday, 14 September 2018

Misty, Trafalgar Studios | Review

Trafalgar Studios
Reviewed on Thursday 13th September 2018 by Olivia Mitchell

Misty is an outstanding, relevant, vibrant and moving piece of theatre written and performed by a theatrical genius. Arinzé Kene's use of spoken word, movement, rhythm and singing is masterful and makes you feel as though you are with him every step of his journey. 

Despite being in a formal setting of audience separate from the performer, this show feels immersive and the regular breaking of the fourth wall feels natural and fresh. It's evident that this show is so intricately planned, that it feels unplanned. We find ourselves constantly questioning whether an action was an accident but it soon becomes clear that everything is part of the beautifully woven fabric of the show.

The dual-narrative script written by Kene is a masterclass in effect. The balance between political/racial tensions, intensity and passion is perfectly found and combined with laugh out loud humour magnificently. The structure of the entire piece is so exhilarating and exactly what the West End needs right now.

Kene is one of the most deft storytellers I have ever encountered. The way he captivates the audience and wraps us around his finger with a faultless intensity and honesty is an impeccable thing to witness. His performance pulls together a number of theatrical/storytelling devices which create a visceral performance that gives visibility to crucial issues that constantly need addressing. The fact that this is only the second black British play to be in the West End is enough to show that change is needed and I sincerely hope and believe that Misty will reach those that are able to influence change and will be a step towards opening conversations that will lead to positive outcomes.

The stunning performance of Kene is accompanied by incredibly deft musicians: Shiloh Coke and Adrian McLeod. The lighting (Jackie Shemesh), sound (Elena Peña) and video (Daniel Denton) are all part of creating the perfect package of Misty

Misty is unique, theatrical perfection, written and performed by a master of his craft. This show needs to be seen and experienced. Don't miss it.

Misty runs at Trafalgar Studios until 20th October 2018

photo credit: Helen Murray