Showing posts sorted by relevance for query Jenny O'Leary. Sort by date Show all posts
Showing posts sorted by relevance for query Jenny O'Leary. Sort by date Show all posts

Thursday 13 September 2018

Heathers, Theatre Royal Haymarket | Review

Theatre Royal Haymarket
Reviewed on Monday 10th September 2018 by Olivia Mitchell

Every so often a show comes around which receives an exceptional amount of hype and has the West End buzzing. Heathers is currently that show and the good news is that it truly lives up to it. Based on the 1989 film starring Winona Ryder, this musical adaptation is full of energy and humour as it balances the line between political correctness and incorrectness. We find ourselves drawn towards the darkness but also cringing at the atrocities that go on.

Laurence O'Keefe had huge success with his adaptation of Legally Blonde and has applied his winning formula once again to bring this show to life with a camp, sassy and at times melancholic score. The plot follows Veronica Sawyer, a girl who is 'different' to the others at her school and longs for unity between all cliques and social standings. However, in order to make it through High School, she befriends the rulers of the school, the "lipstick gustapo" made up of three girls named Heather. Our protagonist then meets a brooding new boy, Jason J.D Dean who turns out to be a kill happy psychopath. From there on there are deaths, parties, funerals and a whole lot of destruction.

When the movie came out in 1989 it became an instant hit and then received a cultish following when it opened off-Broadway in 2014. The show's transition to the West End has been no different as teens and young adults flood to the theatre with scrunchies in hair and  pleated skirts on to see this wildly fun but disturbing musical brought to life.

The entire cast bring this show to life with vivacious passion and immense talent. Leading the gang, Carrie Hope Fletcher is a powerhouse as she battles between what's right and wrong and what she wants to do to boost her social standing/love life. Carrie steps  on stage to well deserved cheers and blows the roof of with her entire performance, especially her new song 'I Say No' which gives her a backbone and the rough 'Dead Girl Walking Reprise'. Veronica's moments of strength are certainly where Carrie shines but she is also humourous and likeable as she swoons over JD.

Under Andy Fickman's direction, Jamie Muscato plays the mysteriously murderous JD with an intensity that you can't help but be drawn to. Whilst it's not wise to partner up with a murderer, we all love a bad boy and the combination of JD's smooth talking and Jamie's perfectly rough voice make us feel for him a little bit, even though he becomes a monster before our eyes. Muscato's frenetic energy in 'Meant To Be Yours' is certainly a theatrical highlight of the year.

The three Heathers waltz around the stage as one but have quirky personality traits which are owned and embodied by each. As leader of the pack, Heather Chandler who "floats above it all", Jodie Steele is brilliant. Her permanent scowl, sharp movements, sublime vocals and stellar comedic timing make her perfect for the role. Sophie Isaacs brings an innocence to Heather McNamara which is interesting to play out. Whilst she is part of the mean girl group, it's clear from the outset that she is merely following the pack and wishes to break away. Isaacs' rendition of Lifeboat is a pin-drop silence moment which stands out in the show. As the final Heather, Duke, T'Shan Williams is feisty and aggressive, with her solo Never Shut Up Again earning her laughs and cheers from the audience. 

Stand outs of the cast also include Jenny O'Leary who gives a moving performance of Kindergarten Boyfriend, Rebecca Lock who brings the entire theatre to life with her fiery, belt-tastic Shine a Light and Christopher Chung and Dominic Andersen who are humour embodied as the jocks who combine to create Kram. Ensemble members Lauren Drew and Olivia Moore also catch the eye throughout.

Gary Lloyd's choreography is especially effective with the Heathers, namely during the iconic Candy Store which sees them sashaying round the stage but in true Heathers style, being in complete control the entire time and never stepping out of sync with one another.

Mention must go to Ben Cracknell's lighting, which like the music, intensifies every emotion on stage. Particularly effective are the varying tones of light between the characters. The Heathers are of course lit in their iconic colours (brought to life vibrantly through David Shields' costumes) but whats most striking are the moments when Veronica is lit in warm spotlights whilst JD is basked in stark, almost grey tones. This highlights the contrast between the true evil and the kind-of-forced-into-evil in a clever way.

Most of the subject matter of this show is uncomfortable but sadly ever present: bullying, suicide, murder, depression. Heathers does a good job of satirising the sensationalism of them and shines a light (pun intended) on the fact that unity and kindness are always the way forward.

Whilst this isn't a light hearted show in content, the songs are crazily catchy, the talent level is ridiculously high and it's just a really good night out. For Big Fun, get down to the Theatre Royal Haymarket!

Heathers runs at the Theatre Royal Haymarket until 24th November

photo credit: Pamela Raith

Thursday 16 November 2023

SuperYou! the Musical in Concert at the Lyric Theatre Review: Potential to be Otherworldly

SuperYou! the Musical in Concert
Lyric Theatre 

Having made its UK debut performance at MusicalCon in October 2022, where it was an audience hit, SuperYou went on to do two days of workshop performances in London last year and last night had its West End premiere concert performance. With music, lyrics and book by Lourds Lane, the show tells the story of Katie White, a comic book author whose superheroines aid her in navigating through grief, discovering self-love, and embracing the strength of her own voice.

After being lucky enough to catch one of the workshop performances, I was incredibly excited to follow the development of this show and see how it grows and evolves over its various iterations. Whilst this concert version didn't quite live up to the expectations I'd built up in my head, it did have a number of stand out moments and showcased the potential of this beautifully heartfelt musical, and hopefully paved the way for future outings.

What I love about this show is how much passion and care has clearly gone into telling the tale of embracing your differences and being true to yourself. The energy is next level throughout and the performances are so earnest you can't help be charmed by it all.

Musically there's an array of styles, from rock songs to country ballads, all of which are performed with vigour and power, just as you'd expect in a show about superheroes. Leading the gang, SuperLu-cie Jones once again soars, delivering larynx lifting vocals with ease, sincerity and heart. Her shining voice matched with greatly witty and endearing characterisations once again cement her as a star of musical theatre. As her brother and fellow comic enthusiast, Matty, Jonty Peach gives a wonderful performance, I only wish we got more chance to see and hear him. His chemistry with young Katie (gloriously played by Aaliyah Monk) is really lovely and the pair create a convincing back story to root the show.

Completing the hero squad are Joni Ayton-Kent as Seven, Sharon Ballard as Blast, Lourds Lane as Rise and Jenny O'Leary as Ima-Mazing, who all give strong, well characterised performances. The roles themselves are quite stereotyped and not hugely well-rounded but they're performed well and bring some killer vocals. Luke Brady as Jay is really engaging and gets to really soar vocally in act two.

Choreography is a big part of this show, with Maddy Brennan (Mom) and Will Bozier (MiRoar) communicating almost solely through JoAnn M. Hunter's choreographed dance/movement, to great effect. The concert setting doesn't quite allow the movement to soar as it would in a full production but it's certainly a great way to tell the story and is quite striking at times. I do feel that it sometimes covers for a lack of character development, especially with the Mom who is pretty one dimensional but there's a lot of promise and a number of ways for the movement to elevate the storytelling. 

There were also a few balancing issues, with the vocals sometimes being overpowered by music, so crucial lyrics were lost. Also, the setup of music stands across the stage meant the audience were physically disconnected from the action. Moments when it really shone were when these were stepped in front of, such as the closing of act one. Of course, this is a show put on with a week of rehearsal so a lot of issues can be forgiven but it would be great to see and hear the musical in it's full, fine-tuned glory.

Whilst the musical owes a lot to social media, having achieved huge popularity on tiktok during lockdown, something about the social media portrayal in the show doesn't quite work. Compared to the workshop showing, this version regularly mentions virality and tiktok, and whilst this does push the story along, it also feels somewhat cringey and awkward. It does provide opportunity for a discussion on the impact of social media but that doesn't feel necessary in a show like this which already has so many other messages to put across, so instead it just comes across as an underdeveloped layer. Perhaps it's an attempt to appeal to younger audiences but the show has so much to offer in terms of heart, and performances, it really doesn't need anything else to be appealing to a wide range of theatre patrons. 

In transitioning the show to be more "mainstream" and 2023 relevant, it has lost a lot of the charm and sincerity which was so abundant before. The changed plot also means the character development is diminished. Previously, Katie had a clear journey from an unconfident girl, brought down by various traumas, to eventually finding herself and making her own choices; however this time, her journey feels less well rounded and the actual big moment of discovery sort of comes from nowhere. 

Despite its flaws, SuperYou is a genuinely good show that deserves a future life. The potential is overflowing and I hope it gets a chance to develop further. SuperYou is a life affirming show with some wonderful messages, performances, energy and music and with some tweaks to supercharge it, the show could be a really glorious addition to the theatre scene. 

Reviewed on Wednesday 15th November by Olivia
Photo Credit: Matt Marlin and Simona Sermont for Shooting Theatre

 {AD PR Invite- tickets gifted in exchange for honest review}

Tuesday 31 May 2022

We Will Rock You (Tour), New Wimbledon Theatre | Review

We Will Rock You (Tour)
New Wimbledon Theatre
Reviewed on Monday 30th May 2022

Back for its 2022 tour, We Will Rock You is set in a dystopian future where "real" music has been outlawed and replaced with manufactured pop. Society is lived online and it's up to a group of Bohemians to travel across the Seven Seas of Rye, declare themselves the champions and bring back rock and roll and freedom for all.

This truly is a show about the music so you can somewhat overlook book issues but in terms of pacing it's a little clunky. The first act is chockablock with world-building including long winded character and plot introductions; and act two is a game of musical tetris where all the popular tunes we haven't already heard, are fired one after the other. In this production the book also has some modern updates thrown in here and there (some of which fall flat), but the rest of the set and staging doesn't match up and it certainly feels like it missed a chance to be revamped for 2022. There's an element of the outdated screens that does feel fitting but coupled with the budget wigs and costumes, it lacks the sparkle you expect with a tour of this scale.

The heart of We Will Rock You is certainly the cast and the show would be equally as good if it was just a concert of Queen's greatest hits performed by the superstars on stage. As leading man and hero Galileo, Ian McIntosh is wonderful. His vocals soar with so much power behind them and he really embodies the spirit of Queen. Alongside him, Elena Skye as Scaramouche is a dream. Giving major Kerry Ellis vibes, albeit in a different role, Elena's voice is outstanding and she really works with the limited script to make it funny and engaging.

As Killer Queen, Jenny O'Leary is a vocal powerhouse. Her command of the stage is enthralling to watch and she rightfully earns some of the biggest applause of the show. Michael McKell, David Michael Johnson and Martina Ciabatti Mennell also give strong performances. The rest of the cast and ensemble are also very good vocally but there is at times a lack of tight synchronicity that detracts from the clone message which is being put across.

The performances are absolutely top notch but the production itself gives more 'high-school final show' as opposed to 'big-buck tour' and for a show with such bold songs and ideas, there's no continuity or backup given through the sets or costumes, and they feel lacklustre in comparison to the score. 

Faults aside, if you want face melting vocals and all your favourite Queen songs, absolutely take a trip, but for a show that feels luxe and finessed, you'll need to look elsewhere.

photo credit: Johan Persson