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

Sunday, 24 September 2017

Mack and Mabel (LMTO), Hackney Empire | Review


Mack and Mabel
Hackney Empire
Reviewed on Saturday September 23rd 2017 by Olivia Mitchell
★★★★

The London Musical Theatre Orchestra (LMTO) have done it again. Another fantastic celebration of a beautiful score performed by a beautiful orchestra and a beautiful cast. It was just a whole lot of beautiful, okay! This time we were treated to the delights of Jerry Herman’s, Mack and Mabel which chronicles the story a young deli girl who miraculously ends up a film actress and falls in love and into a tumultuous relationship with her director, Mack Sennett who is so obsessed with making his next picture that he doesn't see what's right in front of him.

Opening the concert, Freddie Tapner (founder of the LMTO) explained that the music was going to speak for itself and he was so right. Having seen the show previously at the Chichester Festival Theatre I thought I knew what I was in for but seeing it so stripped back, I developed a new love and appreciation for Jerry Herman's stunning virtuosic moments and really realised what a stunning piece of work this is. 

I was lucky enough to be part of an LMTO sing-through and completely fell in love with the way Freddie conducts; making the players and singers feel comfortable whilst giving tonnes and tonnes of energy. His love of music and conducting is evident and, from watching the orchestra play with beaming smiles, obviously infectious. It was truly joyous to see so much excitement from the orchestra as they played, especially in the epic Hit 'Em On The Head instrumental break which is a maelstrom of astonishing musical moments. With no action on stage it's clear just how wonderful the music is as you could picture each movement the keystone cops would have been making without having to see a thing. With many shows cutting back on orchestra size and some even having recorded music, it's an absolute joy to be able to relish in the decadence of hearing a full orchestra in all their glory. 



Tiffany Graves was fabulous as Lottie Ames with her beautiful and powerful voice ringing out wonderfully and her facial expressions cracking the audience up! Her tap number in act 2 was certainly a stand out moment. I fell in love with Liam Tamne's voice every time he had a solo moment; so clear and lovely- I just wish we'd heard more! Will Arundell and Matt Harvey were great as the businessmen Kessel and Baumann, suitably dorky and humourous, especially in Hit 'Em On The Head, as was Jack Edwards as Fatty Arbuckle.

Taking the titular roles of Mack and Mabel we had David Bedella and Natasha J Barnes who both pulled them off expertly. David played the regretful, extravagant Mack with sincerity and full of glorious vocal moments, especially during the finale, I Promise You A Happy Ending. However, it was Natasha who completely stole the show with her utterly magnificent masterclass performance as the excitable, loved-up, Mabel who falls into darkness. Her rendition of Time Heals Everything physically gave me heart palpitations. Natasha took the ending up the octave which completely took my breath away and gained an instant mid-show standing ovation from the entire audience. It was a truly magnificent moment of musical theatre that I won't be forgetting soon. There aren't even words to describe how spectacular Natasha is; she's truly a gift from the musical theatre gods!



The LMTO chorus and dancers just like everything else, were fantastic. The hundreds of girls moment was a spectacle choreographed by Anthony Whiteman and the cherry on top of an exceptional production. I honestly can't fault anything.

Overall this was just an impeccable night of musical theatre and despite only being a concert performance, was one of the best shows I've seen in a while. The LMTO are going from strength to strength and I can't wait to see everything they tackle in the future. This performance of Mack and Mabel was a truly glorious presentation of a spectacular score with a completely and utterly faultless cast and orchestra. Sensational. 

Saturday, 3 November 2018

Girlfriends, Bishopsgate Institute (LMTO) | Review


Girlfriends
Bishopsgate Institute
Reviewed on Friday 2nd November 2018 by Olivia Mitchell
★★★

The London Musical Theatre Orchestra are taking a short residency at the Bishopsgate Institute whilst they perform a concert version of Howard Goodall's Girlfriends which follows a group of women as they join the Women's Auxiliary Airforce during World War Two.

Complete with new orchestrations specifically for the LMTO, Girlfriends has some beautiful virtuosic moments which are wonderfully showcased by the orchestra, led by Freddie Tapner. As always, the orchestra give a sleek performance, however, compared to previous concerts where the LMTO have had solo showcase moments playing musical interludes such as the police scene in Mack and Mabel, there weren't any moments where we could purely appreciate the orchestra. These concerts always tend to provide a platform to appreciate stripped back music which of course we could still do, but this particular production lacked some of the "wow" orchestral moments previously experienced.

Whilst the orchestrations are lovely, a lot of the music feels similar and there are a lot of songs which are repetitive. Many of the melodies are catchy but when heard time are time again, become ineffective in conveying the mood/drama they intend to and I believe the whole piece would be much more moving emotionally and technically sleek if it was cut down and smoothed out. That's not to say that there weren't some outstanding moments, especially when the women join together for tight choral moments of chromatic harmony which effectively push the pain and confusion felt by everyone during the war.


The cast are the best of the best who work well as a team and individually. As best friends leaving their "ordinary" lives to join the WAAF, Lucie Jones and Lauren Samuels show off their divine vocals and natural chemistry with effortless talent. Natasha Barnes is vocally stunning, whilst Vikki Stone gives both a humourous and heartbreaking performance and BrontĂ© BarbĂ© gives a memorable performance of The Chances Are. Rob Houchen and Chris McGuigan both give strong performances which showcase their talents whilst perfectly framing the women, as they should in a show focussed on female strength.  

Despite the dramatic content, the show itself never reaches a boiling point and somewhat lacks intensity. During act one, I couldn't help but think the show was romanticising war with the various love affairs that formed; however, a moment of text in act two changed that view and brought the stark reality of war back to the heart. Victoria Gosling MBE explains that she was born in a free world and grew up hearing "All You Need is Love" whilst for her grandparents, "All They Had is Love". This reminds us the importance of relationships both romantic and non-romantic as well as how lucky we all are to be able to watch this show without having experienced the pain and turmoil that accompanied the women featured.

Despite this not being my favourite production form the LMTO, there is no denying that the wealth of talent on offer gave remarkable performances. The melodic, complex music does provide moments of power and if anything, this show serves as a fantastic celebration of women and the crucial roles they had in the Second World War. 

photo credit: Nick Rutter

Tuesday, 14 March 2017

Honeymoon in Vegas (LMTO), London Palladium | Review


Honeymoon in Vegas
London Palladium
Reviewed on Sunday 12th March 2017 by Olivia Mitchell
★★★★

Founded in June 2015, the London Musical Theatre Orchestra (LMTO) prides itself on giving beautiful music a place to be heard and showcasing lesser known talent and works. On March 12th 2016 the orchestra accompanied a stellar cast who performed Jason Robert Brown's short lived 2015 Broadway musical, Honeymoon in Vegas

Samantha Barks and Arthur Darvill led the cast as the engaged Betsy and Jack who are on their way to finally getting married. They've been a couple for five years but Jack is afraid to commit to marriage as he believes he's under a curse from his dead mother. Her dying wish was for him never to marry and he's taking any measure he can to ensure this is kept, despite this, he suggests an elopement to Vegas. Once again he gets cold feet and makes his way to a poker game organised by Tommy Korman. Unbeknownst to him, Korman wants Betsy (a dead ringer for his late wife) for himself and is ready to offer Jack an ultimatum.

The story is bizarre but that's what makes it exciting. The absurdity allows all kinds of craziness to take place on stage and makes the production truly hilarious and impressive. The LMTO's musical director, Freddie Tapner introduced the performance, stating that the music and score would be telling the story and that it was up to the audience to imagine dances, costumes, set changes and a herd of parachuting Elvis'! This worked wonderfully and it was surprising how little was lost by this being a concert rather than a full blown glitz and glam production.  

BWW Review: HONEYMOON IN VEGAS, London Palladium
Each member of the cast, chorus and orchestra worked harmoniously together to pull of an effortless performance. Simon Lipkin is a brilliant performer and he stole the show each time he appeared on stage, leaving us all laughing and feeling thoroughly entertained. Maisey Bawden was hilarious as the Hawaiian Mahi and had the audience in the palm or her hand as she caused everyone to laugh out loud.


Samantha Barks and Arthur Darvill's chemistry was evident throughout and they seemed to really enjoy performing together, bringing the loved-up couple to life charmingly. Barks' voice seems to get better and better and after her success in The Last Five Years it was an absolute joy to see her perform another of Jason's scores which suit her voice so perfectly.  She gave a truly stellar performance. Darvill's voice was a surprise to me, it's effortlessly smooth and fits the easy swing feel of Honeymoon in Vegas to a tee, he gave a brilliant heartfelt and comedic performance.

If the outstanding performances weren't enough, this production was made even better by the fact that it was conducted by Jason Robert Brown himself as the LMTO's first ever guest conductor. Brown is funny, witty and animated and brought a wonderful sense of style to the whole performance. He even stepped down from his podium and played the ukulele at one point which was a real treat.  

The various standing ovations were a sign of how well done this production was and how much the audience loved this rarely performed piece. I don't think anyone would be complaining if it made a return to the West End stage and I hope we can keep Brown and his brilliant writing on this side of the pond!

Tuesday, 11 December 2018

A Christmas Carol (LMTO), Lyceum Theatre | Review


A Christmas Carol (LMTO) 
Lyceum Theatre
Reviewed on Monday 10th December 2018 by Olivia Mitchell 
★★★★★

The London Musical Theatre Orchestra are fast becoming a staple part of my Christmas tradition, with their glorious performances of A Christmas Carol really bringing the joy and festivity of the season to life, and of course, providing a wonderful night of top quality musical theatre.

Based on the classic novel by Charles Dickens and with music by Alan Menken and Lynn Ahrens and a book by Mike Ockrent, A Christmas Carol tells the tale of Ebeneezer Scrooge as he's visited by the ghosts of Christmas Past, Present and Future and is forced to evaluate the way he lives his life. 

Under the expert hand of Freddie Tapner the LMTO bring out all the best parts of this beautifully virtuosic score. Alan Menken's music brings a Disney-esque vibe to the story which actually broaches some dark subjects such as homelessness and poverty, and manages to evoke a whole range of emotions. 


Griff Rhys Jones brings the miserable but endearing Scrooge to life with a wonderful and fresh portrayal. His performance is supremely entertaining and he manages to enthral, even in this semi-staged concert production.

As the hilarious Mr and Mrs Fezziwig (among other characters) Nicolas Colicos and Rosemary Ashe have the audience in the palms of their hands whilst they give supremely humourous and vocally powerful performances. 

The vocal delights on offer in this concert are second to none, with Cedric Neal providing smooth riffs and a delicate but powerful tone that's to die for and Jeremy Secomb bringing the ultimate scrooge to life in a menacing but humourous rendition of Link By Link, in which he shows off his booming voice.  David Hunter is charming as Bob Cratchit alongside the fantastic Caroline Sheen as his wife and Jon Tarcy gives a memorable performance as Young Scrooge.


I'd like to be visited by the three ghosts just to be serenaded by them. Miriam-Teak Lee is sass embodied as the brings the Ghost of Christmas Past to life. Her vocals are super strong and she really brings magic to the stage with her performance. Lucie Jones' voice continually astounds; her clear as can be vocals and stellar diction bring Emily and The Blind Old Hag to the forefront of the show and equally, as the ghost of Christmas Future who never utters a word, Lucie still magnetises the audience and gives a subtle performance that you can't be drawn away from.

The young cast are great, as are the LMTO Chorus who are perhaps the strongest chorus at an LMTO concert yet. Completely in sync throughout their humourous numbers and close harmony pieces, they ground the piece and bring a magnificent Christmas choral feel to the show.

The true festive kindness was shown when two young girls in front of us beamed from start to finish and shared a single sweet between them during the final song. Cheer and love enveloped the theatre throughout this magically festive, and brilliantly performed evening. Get yourself to the Lyceum Theatre next Monday for a jubilant night of theatre. 

A Christmas Carol is on at the Lyceum theatre on Monday 17th December at 4pm and 7.30pm

photo credit: Nick Rutter

Tuesday, 19 December 2017

A Christmas Carol (LMTO), Lyceum Theatre | Review


A Christmas Carol (LMTO) 
Lyceum Theatre
Reviewed on Monday 18th December 2017 by Olivia Mitchell 
★★★★

The London Musical Theatre Orchestra have a stellar reputation and provide theatrical treat after treat, this time in the form of Charles Dickens' festive favourite, A Christmas Carol. With the shows composer Alan Menken in attendance, the Lyceum theatre was a buzz of excitement and festivity and the LMTO provided a wonderful night of music and jovial entertainment.

A Christmas Carol is simple and easy to follow, telling the story of a rich, isolated man who is visited by the ghosts of Christmas past, present and future as they show him the error of his ways and the importance of love and sharing. A heart-warming tale, it's perfect for people of all ages during the build up to Christmas.

Robert Lindsay reprises his role as the money-hungry Ebenezer Scrooge and is perfect for the role.  He is miserable but endearing at once as he brings humour to the "bah humbug" persona. I would love to see how Lindsay would perform in a fully staged production, I imagine his stellar portrayal would be even more entertaining and bold.

The entire cast are stellar with standout performances coming from Gemma Sutton as the Ghost of Christmas Past, Lucie Jones as Emily and Nicolas Colicos as Mr Fezziwig. Each performer gave their all both vocally and acting wise, really allowing the audience to use their imaginations and immerse themselves in the world Dickens created, despite the lack of sets and props. The children of the cast were equally brilliant with Ivy Pratt a vocal stand out for me.

The music truly does speak for itself and is really shown off when it's so stripped back. Seeing musicians, led by Freddie Tapner, enjoy what they're doing so much really transfers to the audience and provides a warm, intimate feeling throughout and it's always special to hear a score played by a full orchestra.

The LMTO give consistently brilliant performances and A Christmas Carol is no exception. A delightful production with glorious music it really is a treat and I would love for it to become a regular feature every festive season.

photo credit: Nick Rutter

Wednesday, 3 August 2022

Chess the Musical in Concert, Theatre Royal Drury Lane | Review


Chess the Musical in Concert
Theatre Royal Drury Lane
Reviewed on Tuesday 2nd August 2022 by Olivia Mitchell 
★★★★

After the success earlier in the year of Bonnie and Clyde in Concert, the bar has been set rather high for what concert productions at the Theatre Royal Drury Lane can provide, and this most recent one certainly hits the mark.

Chess, last seen in London in 2018 at the Coliseum, is set in the 1970s/80s amid the Cold War. Two chess masters meet in Bangkok to fight it out for the world championship title, but also end up in political and romantic competitions. 

By Tim Rice's own admission in the programme notes, the music is the heart of this show, with many finding fault with the book that is sometimes all over the place. Thankfully in this production everything is fairly sleek and issues with the book can be overlooked thanks to the sumptuous cast, choir and orchestra.

Director Nick Winston put on the show in a previous iteration in Japan and has superbly brought it to the London stage with a version that puts the focus strongly on storytelling, both through the music and the buoyant choreography by Alexzandra Sarmiento and Tara Young

This is further helped in no small way by the outstanding LMTO Orchestra, directed expertly by Freddie Tapner. The sumptuous, melodically complex, beautifully syncopated score is showcased to the highest degree. There's a sensitivity given to the more pared back moments whilst the rousing, dramatic pieces of score are stretched to their full extent to provide real wow moments. The LMTO Chorus also bring add excellent power and oomph to the proceedings.

There were some songs which were cut from the show, namely the song Talking Chess between Anatoly and Freddie and Commie Newspapers which I think would have helped the plot be a bit clearer, especially for those seeing the show for the first time. But of course given the short turnaround and runtime for the concerts, I can certainly understand why some pieces had to be cut and shifted and what was still included was excellent. Any plot issues really fly under the radar when you have such a wonderful team on stage and offstage making everything else so enjoyable.

This onstage team is made up of some musical theatre heavyweights and there are standout performances throughout. Samantha Barks' rendition of Nobody's Side and the Anthem Reprise are definitely at the top. Joel Harper-Jackson's Pity The Child, Hadley Fraser's Anthem also bring the house down, and Frances Mayli McCann and Barks also compliment one another beautifully in the classic I Know Him So Well.

Having first seen Chess in concert version at the Royal Albert Hall in 2008 and falling in love with it at age 10, seeing this production of equal strength was an absolute treat to witness. Here's hoping we see more of this outstanding adaptation and the stellar cast who brought it to life!

photo credit: Mark Senior

Wednesday, 10 August 2022

Kinky Boots the Musical in Concert, Theatre Royal Drury Lane | Review


Kinky Boots the Musical in Concert
Theatre Royal Drury Lane 
Reviewed on Monday 8th August 2022 by Olivia Mitchell 
★★★★

After the success of last week's Chess in Concert, the Theatre Royal Drury Lane have once again opened their doors, this time for concert versions of the acclaimed Kinky Boots, starring an all-star cast. When deciding on musicals to transform into concert editions, Kinky Boots may not be the most obvious choice but the pop score lends itself wonderfully to the setting and really strips everything back to highlight the heartwarming and empowering messages which the show gives out in spades. Plus, the LMTO orchestra, conducted by Freddie Tapner help to showcase all the best parts of Cyndi Lauper's musical score.

Returning to the concert scene after his star turn as Freddie in Chess is Joel Harper-Jackson who once again shows off his vocal chops and wonderfully dynamic acting. As Charlie Price, the son who inherits his father's failing shoe factory, Joel is utterly endearing. He embodies the role and you can physically see his transformation from an unsure man to a strong, sure of himself leader. 

As his co-star, Cedric Neal is vocal perfection as Lola/Simon. His portrayal of Lola feels deeply thought through, with some extremely poignant moments; hopefully we'll get another chance to see him shine in the role in the future.

In one of the most wonderfully witty stage performances, Courtney Bowman is outstanding as Lauren. The comedic role is given extra oomph and feels completely fresh under Courtney's command. Other standouts include Kayleigh McKnight and Nikki Bentley who give stellar vocal moments. This is a really solid cast who have done a great job of putting on such a well rounded production in such a short time.

Whilst billed as a concert, there is some staging and choreography throughout and under Omar F. Okai's direction there's a great balance between subtlety and grand moments which really elevate the concert. Ben Cracknell's lighting is a star in its own right, providing a visual treat which is all things bold and absolutely brilliantly backs up the onstage action.

This is a fantastic showcase of the great cast as well as the heartwarming story that works surprisingly well in concert form. I can only imagine how great this ensemble would be in a fully staged production with all the glitz and glam the show deserves.

Monday, 24 February 2020

Zorro, Cadogan Hall | Review


Zorro
Cadogan Hall
Reviewed on Sunday 23rd February 2020 by Olivia Mitchell
★★★★

Fiery, Latin, wacky, soulful and brilliant, Zorro made a triumphant return to London last night, 12 years after its West End premiere. The story of Diego De La Vega who becomes the illusive Fox aka Zorro, to save his town from the tyrannical reign of his childhood friend Ramon, is the classic good vs evil that can't help but invest you with its sincerity and heart of gold. Add to this a score by the Gipsy Kings and a fantastic cast and you've got a great night on your hands.

The plot is wafer thin but in this concert setting, we really had the chance to go beyond that to focus on the fantastic Spanish music and the wonderful characterisation from the whole cast. Even in a full setting, I would imagine that the self-awareness of this show, means you can pretty much overlook the plot faults and just enjoy it for what it is- a heap of fun! There are many 'deep' moments peppered throughout the production, but they're equally balanced with camp humour and wit which lighten the tone and allow us to go on a pretty much carefree journey.

Ricardo Afonso was incredibly convincing and powerful as Zorro/Diego, giving a completely marvellous vocal performance and enrapturing the audience of Cadogan Hall. Delightfully tongue in cheek, with a great balance of sincerity, swagger and playfulness, there's not much more you could ask for from the debonair hero. In great contrast, Robert Tripolino was truly evil as the rapacious ruler Ramon and completely commanded the stage in every moment. Zubin Varla and Jo Parsons, gave solid performances and it's just a shame we didn't get the chance to see and hear more from them.


The love interest Luisa was performed with tenderness by Emma Williams, who revived her West End role and showcased her vocal dexterity, namely in her touching rendition of The Man Behind the Mask.

Also reviving her (Olivier Award Winning) role, was Lesli Margherita who deservedly garnered much applause as the vivacious, smouldering gypsy Inez. Lesli's rendition of Bamboleo will be a memorable moment for everyone at Cadogan Hall and we can only hope she'll be back on London soil soon!

Under the baton of Freddie Tapner, the LMTO orchestra brought vibrant energy to the Hall, with exceptional guitar and percussion woven throughout the entire score. The foot stomping music was fully realised thanks to Paul Smith's sound design which was wonderfully balanced and showcased every single performer and musician brilliantly.

Entertaining and enthusiastic, Zorro was a perfect way to spend a Sunday. Hopefully the rapturous reception is enough to bring this musical back to London very soon. Viva el Zorro!

photo credit: Darren Bell

Monday, 21 October 2019

Cinderella, Cadogan Hall | Review


Cinderella
Cadogan Hall
Reviewed on Sunday 20th October 2017 by Olivia Mitchell 
★★★★

Yesterday, Cadogan Hall played host for a one-night-only staged concert of the much loved musical, Cinderella. Written in the 50s by Rodgers and Hammerstein for television, the musical has since been adapted for various stage productions but until now, hasn't been seen in London. Thanks to the exceptional London Musical Theatre Orchestra and stellar cast, that changed last night and those in attendance were treated to a sparkling night of magic.

Upon entering the auditorium bathed in purple light, the mystical scene was set and as the cast stepped out we were transported to a kingdom where kindness wins and anything is possible. Directed by Jonathan O'Boyle, this really was a stunning production which hopefully paves the way for future Cinderella-filled magic in the West End.

Thanks to the LMTO under the baton of Freddie Tapner, the sumptuous score was really the star of the night. Evoking fairytale vibes, causing laughter and creating a romantic atmosphere even before the stellar performers joined in, the performance just reminded us how excellently sumptuous Rodgers and Hammerstein's work is.

The semi-staged concert was brought to life by George Reeve's projections which fit the space exceptionally and looked as though they were drawn straight from a long lost storybook. They transported us from setting to setting and breathed life into moments which would be grand spectacles in a fully staged production.


With a group of some of the biggest names in the West End, it was expected that the performers would be top notch and boy they did not disappoint. The stunning cast took us on a romantic journey filled with socially relevant comments and a boat load of whimsy. Mazz Murray was fantastically malicious and biting as the evil stepmother, whilst Dianne Pilkington was her contrast and the crazy but magical and airy fairy godmother. Zoe Rainey gave a sweet performance as Ella's "kind" stepsister Gabrielle, and Jodie Jacobs completely blew everyone away with her killer vocals and fantastically characterised portrayal of Ella's other sister Charlotte. 

As our leading lady for the night, Christine Allado gave a beautifully strong performance. With a grace and elegance any Princess would be proud of, Allado was a joy to watch on stage and her pristinely clear vocals filled Cadogan Hall with ease, power and wonder. In the role of the royal suitor Jack Yarrow was perfection. With an absolutely astounding voice, it's clear why he has begun taking the West End by storm.

This production of Cinderella is very much for a modern audience as it showcases the need for kindness alongside social reform. Ella's alertness to injustices outside those she faces in her family home is moving to see and works well alongside the romantic plot that is not all roses and chocolates. The political slant feels highly relevant, as well as allowing for extra comedic moments and I don't doubt this show would have a welcome place in the West End.

photo credit: Darren Bell