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

Thursday 21 November 2019

&Juliet, Shaftesbury Theatre | Review

Shaftesbury Theatre 
Reviewed on Wednesday 20th November 2019

What if Juliet didn't die? And what if the story of reclaiming her life was told through the music of Max Martin, aka the writer and producer of some of the most iconic pop music of the last two decades. Well that's &Juliet, a wild, sparkling, energetic piece of musical theatre which has burst onto the scene at the Shaftesbury Theatre.

When the cast come in with 'Larger Than Life' and 'I Want It That Way', there's certainly a moment of unsettled bafflement, but soon the numbers become part of the story and you forget Shakespeare wasn't really bopping along to 90s pop songs whilst writing his iconic tragedies. That being said, there are times where the songs feel added in for the sake of being added and don't flow particularly well but most of the time it doesn't matter because they are performed with a vigour that engages. 

David West Read's book is smartly self-aware and knows exactly when to hold back and acknowledge the pop-culture craziness that's occurring. The meta-theatrical plot works well, with us first meeting William Shakespeare and Anne Hathaway as they bicker about the ending of Will's latest play, Romeo and Juliet.  Anne persuades her husband to let her do a rewrite and from here we are taken to Verona where Juliet begins her journey of self discovery and goes on an adventure to Paris with her besties. Full of puns, panto lines and pageantry, the show does teeter on the edge of being too childish at times but David's book and Max's songs marry up well with Luke Sheppard's direction to create a musical which doesn't take itself or its content too seriously. 

As the leading lady Miriam-Teak Lee brings sass in spades. Her vocals are mostly strong and she really does embody the confidence that this reimagined Juliet is full of; but whether due to the lack of character writing or limited acting in the pop-concert atmosphere, Juliet is just a bit distant. I personally didn't warm to her as a character and whilst I appreciate all this modern lady stands for, there is a distinct lack of sincerity in how she's written. However, this is not so true when Juliet and her best friend May are together. It's in these brief moments that compassion flies and we see a more realistic character in front of us. Arun Blair-Mangat is sweet and enticing as May, who discovers love and friendship. 

Oliver Tompsett is the boy-band Shakespeare of dreams, who hilariously bigs himself up and brings an instant charm to the stage. As his steely, compassionate and fizzy wife, Cassidy Janson gives a fantastic performance. Her stage presence is magnetic and I found myself wanting a spin-off purely focussed on (the only) Anne Hathaway. Jordan Luke Gage is suitably self-absorbed from the moment of his bombastic entrance and gives a great vocal performance as Romeo.

The ensemble of players are top notch, adding interest and motion throughout. Jocasta Almgill gives a stand out performance and Lady Capulet, with Dillon Scott-Lewis, Grace Mouat and Antoine Murray-Straughan really shining from the ensemble.

The whole show is exemplary of production value and there's no denying that the energy on stage could power all the theatres on Shaftesbury Avenue. Bill Sherman's lighting is concert goals; Soutra Gilmour's set is a dreamland and Andrzej Goulding's projections bring each scene to life creatively and effectively. The female empowerment, LGBT representation and romantic moments are all enjoyable and important to be seen on stage, but a significant lack of character development means you feel little empathy for the characters and at the end just don't really care. 

This is definitely a show which will be enjoyed after a prosecco or two and it doesn't try to be anything else than a fun night out. If you want theatrical integrity and a moving storyline then this isn't for you, but if you want an explicitly queer, feminist musical that's funny, entertaining and scored by songs that you grew up listening then go see it. If music be the food of love, &Juliet provides a feast that will satisfy anyone looking for a bit of fun.

Monday 21 February 2022

New Cast Announced for & Juliet

Tom Francis is to play Romeo in & Juliet, as the award-winning show today announces new cast. Tom, who starred in the recent acclaimed production of Rent, will join the company next month, in the joyous musical which won 3 Olivier Awards and 6 Whatsonstage Awards.

Julius D’Silva will also join the cast as amorous Frenchman Lance, opposite Keala Settle as Nurse. Keala - internationally renowned for her starring role in the global smash hit movie The Greatest Showman in which she performed the iconic song “This Is Me” – will be making her West End debut.

They will all join the production from Tuesday 29 March 2022 at the Shaftesbury Theatre, where the show recently extended its booking period through until Saturday 24 September 2022.

Miriam-Teak Lee – who was awarded the Olivier Award for Best Actress in 2020 for her performance as Juliet – leads a cast including Cassidy Janson, who also won an Olivier Award for Best Supporting Actress for her portrayal of Anne Hathaway, Oliver Tompsett as William Shakespeare, Tim Mahendran as Francois and Alex Thomas-Smith as May.

David Bedella continues his Olivier Award-winning performance as Lance until Saturday 26 March, as does Jordan Luke Gage as Romeo and Melanie La Barrie as Nurse.

The new ensemble includes Ebony Clarke, Bessy Ewa, Collette Guitart, Cassandra Lee, Nathan Louis-Fernand, Zara MacIntosh, Carl Man, Christian Maynard, Rachel Moran, Owen Saward, Aaron Shales, Benjamin Terry and Suki Wong, who join Ivan De Freitas, Rhian Duncan, Alex Tranter, Sophie Usher and Rhys Wilkinson who continue with the show.

Romeo who?! With her bags packed and ready to escape Verona, Juliet recovers from heartbreak in the best way possible… by dancing the night away with her best friends by her side! But when the sparkle fades, the confetti falls and reality catches up, it’s clear that Juliet needs to face her past in order to find her future. Can she reclaim a story that has been written in the stars? Is there really life after Romeo… or could he be worth one more try?

Come along for the ride as the original Anne Hathaway takes on her husband William Shakespeare to remix his legendary play. As comedy meets tragedy, will Juliet get the ending she truly deserves? And most importantly, can their love survive this battle of wills?

Fabulously fresh and riotously funny, & Juliet explodes with dozens of pop anthems by legendary songwriter Max Martin, including … Baby One More Time, Since U Been Gone, Roar, It’s My Life, I Want It That Way, and Can’t Stop the Feeling! The show also includes the brand new song One More Try, written especially for the show by Max.

Brought to life by an award-winning creative team, this vibrant, colourful and timely musical is directed by Luke Sheppard (In the Heights, Rent and What’s New Pussycat?) with a story by David West Read (Netflix’s Schitt’s Creek), electrifying choreography from Jennifer Weber and stunning set design from Soutra Gilmour.

Max Martin and Tim Headington present & Juliet, which is produced by Martin Dodd, Tim Headington, Max Martin, Jenny Petersson and Theresa Steele Page.

Friday 15 September 2023

The Little Big Things at Soho Place Review: Shines as a Celebration of Disability

The Little Big Things
Soho Place

The Little Big Things at Soho Place presents an emotional journey that triumphs in depicting the resilience of the human spirit. Based on the story of Henry Fraser as told in his 2017 memoir of the same name, the musical tracks his journey from a budding rugby player, to being paralysed from the neck down after a freak diving accident on holiday in Portugal. This production is a testament to the power of adaptation and determination, and instead of being a somewhat patronising portrayal of becoming an inspiration after a life trauma, it showcases the transition from the person Henry was pre-accident to who he became post-accident. It also looks at how Henry's family deal with the changes and features the work of the NHS as well as a small romantic subplot. Each aspect makes this a truly uplifting and charmingly British musical, which feels like it's actively trying to shy away from the typical style of storytelling that often surrounds the stories of disabled people.

Nick Butcher (music) and Tom Ling (music and lyrics) clearly have a talent for writing high energy songs and ballads that tug at your heartstrings. The music is primarily upbeat and big however, while deeply engaging during the performance, the songs don't engrave themselves into memory once the curtains fall. The performances are undoubtedly and unanimously captivating, enriching the scenes and evoking a range of emotions. However, a few standout, memorable tunes would have elevated the overall experience and resonated long after leaving the theatre.

The integration of projections and lighting (Howard Hudson) in The Little Big Things is nothing short of remarkable. The creative use of light and visuals immerses the audience into the heart of the story, enhancing the emotional impact of the narrative. The play of light and shadows amplifies the depth of the characters' struggles and triumphs, leaving a lasting visual impression.

Director Luke Sheppard fearlessly pushes the limits of accessible theatre, infusing innovation, vitality, and charisma into an already poignant narrative. The staging is in constant motion, driven by Mark Smith's lively choreography, which ingeniously integrates moments of BSL (British Sign Language) and embodies the joy and celebration which is infused throughout the show.

Despite the undeniable power of the narrative, there are moments when the production grapples with sudden transitions and dialogues that could benefit from a smoother flow. The pacing occasionally feels a bit clunky, disrupting the overall rhythm. However, this doesn't detract significantly from the musical's poignant message of resilience and adaptation.

The cast's performances are stellar, embodying the characters with authenticity and dedication. Their portrayals breathe life into the story, allowing the audience to connect deeply with the struggles and triumphs of the characters. The musical shines as a celebration of disability, showcasing the strength and adaptability required to navigate a new life.

The Little Big Things is a moving musical that speaks to the resilience of the human spirit. The impeccable use of projections and lighting, along with a talented cast, creates a poignant theatrical experience. Despite minor pacing and memorability concerns, the musical stands as a heartfelt celebration of perseverance and a glowing portrayal of adapting to life's challenges. The little faults don't take away from the big things that make this show as glowing and special as it is and I wholeheartedly recommend it to anyone seeking a meaningful and uplifting night at the theatre, just make sure you take some tissues with you!

Reviewed on Thursday 14th September by Olivia Mitchell
Photo Credit: Pamela Raith
{AD PR Invite- tickets gifted in exchange for honest review}

Thursday 15 October 2015

In The Heights, King's Cross Theatre | Review

From the moment I stepped into the King's Cross theatre and was transported from the busyness of London rush hour to a bustling Subway station in New York, I knew this show was going to be something special. I'd heard the buzz since previews began and with all the hype around Hamilton I was expecting great things from the brainchild of Lin-Manuel Miranda, and oh boy, I was not let down at all!

In The Heights is set over the course of 3 days and centres on a small community living in Washington Heights in the Northern tip of Manhattan- a place where the doors are always open, the music is always flowing and theres always gossip to be heard. The community is full of the hopes and dreams of those trying to build a better life whilst keeping their traditions with them. In The Heights won four Tony awards in 2008, a Grammy Award and was also nominated for the 2009 Pulitzer Prize for Drama.

Miranda's mix of typical musical theatre melodies with a rap score perfectly creates an energy and story that you can't help but fall in love with. Combined with Drew McOnie's athletic, racy and hip-swivelling choreography the show has an urban salsa vibe which totally complements the West Side Story-esque plotline.

Each musical number is delivered impeccably by the stellar company and superb band. Sam MacKay's Usnavi tells the struggles of wanting to leave but needing to keeps his roots exquisitely; whilst Joe Aaron Reid's Benny combines both comedic and emotional scenes in a seemingly flawless way whilst interacting perfectly with the other characters namely Kevin (played by David Bedella) and Nina (played by Lily Frazer) both of whom's killer acting and vocals make every scene pop and flow. Jade Ewen's incredible belting skills are shown off in her portrayal of Vanessa and a special mention must go to Victoria Hamilton-Barritt who despite being heavily pregnant still manages to dance and sing like crazy! The whole company are harmonious and truly feel like the community they are portraying.

Luke Sheppard's production creates the perfect night out with an electrifying energy that will leave you wanting to salsa your way to the box office to book another night in Washington Heights.

***** 5 out of 5 stars

Friday 23 February 2024

Just For One Day at the Old Vic REVIEW: Pitch Perfect Peformances

Just For One Day: The Live Aid Musical
The Old Vic

Written by John O'Farrell, Just For One Day transports audiences back to 1985, to the historic Live Aid concert held simultaneously at Wembley Stadium and JFK Stadium. Through the eyes of various characters, including musicians, organisers, and fans, the musical captures the spirit of unity and hope that defined this iconic event. Against the backdrop of global issues and personal struggles, the show celebrates the power of music to inspire change and bring people together.

With direction by Luke Sheppard, the musical is a poignant homage to the legendary Live Aid concert, offering a nostalgic journey through one of music's most iconic moments. While the musical may not reach the heights of the original event, it nonetheless succeeds in capturing its essence and paying tribute to the artists and activists who made it possible. It's definitely a musical that can appeal to and appease a wide range of audiences; as someone who wasn't alive during the original concert, I completely felt the importance and excitement that surrounded it, whilst my mum who regaled her story of watching the concert on a tiny screen in Cyprus during her honeymoon, wholly felt the nostalgia and related in a different way.

The strength of Just For One Day lies in its stellar cast, who deliver powerful performances that breathe life into the characters they portray. Craig Els leads the show as Bob Geldof and does a stellar job, bringing a brilliant amount of humour but also a sense of gravitas when discussing the atrocities of the Ethiopian famine which put the whole thing in motion.

Danielle Steers shines every moment, bringing her usual astoundingly soulful vocals, whilst Jack Shalloo is a complete standout as Midge and Abiona Omonua is charming as Amara. At this performance Margaret Thatcher was played by Kerry Enright who is absolutely fantastic, providing some of the most hilarious and well characterised moments of the show. Vocally this is a cacophony of powerhouses, with everyone providing killer moments but special mention goes to Olly Dobson and Collette Guitart who really shine, I wish they got more solo moments! Rhys Wilkinson also brings fantastic characterisation to all of the roles he plays.

Unsurprisingly, the musical's soundtrack is another highlight, featuring an array of classic hits from the 1980s that have audiences tapping their feet and singing along. Accompanied by a talented live band, the music transports viewers back in time, evoking the same sense of excitement and camaraderie that defined the original Live Aid concert.

Where the show doesn't quite work is with it's book. The production takes a deliberate approach to steer clear of hero worship towards Geldof, opting instead to spotlight the unsung heroes who contributed behind the scenes. However, while the inclusion of fictionalised narratives aims to showcase the efforts of everyday individuals, these characters often come across as shallow and their dialogue occasionally falls into clichéd one-liners. The sentiment is lovely, but it's not hugely impactful. However, the way music is woven into these stories is really admirable; songs aren't just shoehorned in, they're used to develop the stories being told and even seem to take on new meaning in the context of the show.

Another aspect which falls flat is the actual trauma which prompted the concert. There are some attempts at highlighting the pain and horrors of the famine but it feels a bit sanitised and brushed over, so as not to detract from the feel-good feeling the show pushes. Of course no one wants to fetishise the suffering of others, but in omitting a lot of the horrors, it doesn't allow the show to have quite as strong of an emotional impact.

Visually, this show is a feast for the eyes, with dynamic staging (Soutra Gilmour) and vibrant costumes (Fay Fullerton) that capture the spirit of the 1980s. Creative use of multimedia elements (Andrzej Goulding) and striking lighting (Howard Hudson) further enhances the experience, immersing audiences in the sights and sounds of the era. This is a show that really lends itself to touring and could certainly thrive and develop in that capacity, it will be interesting to follow where it goes after this initial run.

Just For One Day may not be without its flaws, but it's a heartfelt tribute to Live Aid and its message of hope and solidarity make it a worthy addition to the stage. For fans of 1980s music and those who fondly remember the original concert, this musical is sure to strike a chord.

Reviewed on Thursday 22nd February 2024 by Olivia
Photo Credit: Manuel Harlan

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

Wednesday 1 February 2023

My Son's a Queer (But what can you do?), Ambassadors Theatre | Review

My Son's a Queer (But what can you do?)
Ambassadors Theatre
Reviewed on Wednesday 1st February 2023 by Olivia Mitchell 

Let’s start off by saying that this show is the most joyous and heartfelt 75 minutes I’ve maybe ever experienced in the theatre. Rob Madge has taken the highs and lows of their childhood to create a show which celebrates individuality in the most spectacularly jubilant way.

During lockdown, Rob became an online sensation after sharing their childhood home videos of the shows they’d put on with the help of family, and now these performances have been brought to stage in a flawless way. The show is a manifesto on being authentically who you are, and really couldn't do a better job at highlighting the joy and freedom that the Arts can bring. 

There are a number of incredibly poignant parts to the show, especially when Rob discusses the harsh way they were treated growing up by both pupils and teachers. They showcase how incredible their family have been and put forth such a strong message of acceptance. Whilst not everyone may have such a positive experience, the show has the lovely message that found family can be even better than those related by blood and if we all support one another, the world will be a much brighter place.

The great writing (Pippa Cleary), outstanding comedic timing, brilliant direction from Luke Sheppard and insurmountable talent of Rob Madge mean there truly aren’t enough adjectives to describe how moving and entertaining My Son’s a Queer is. Not only is it narratively successful, it also includes some wonderful vocal moments, as well as a spectacular array of costumes by Ryan Dawson Laight and the whole package is faultless; every element just works.

Rob is a natural storyteller and entertainer who has the audience in the palm of their hand from the get go. They'll have your cheeks hurting from laughing and your nose running from crying and it’s all worth it to experience this gem in the crown of brilliant British theatre. My Son's a Queer (But what can you do?) is everything theatre should be.

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

Friday 5 July 2019

The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole Aged 13 and 3/4 – The Musical, Ambassadors Theatre | Review

The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole Aged 13 and 3/4
Ambassadors Theatre
Reviewed on Wednesday 3rd July 2019 by Olivia Mitchell 

This joyous musical is based on the first book of Sue Townsend's well-loved series of the same name. Featuring music and lyrics by Pippa Cleary and book and lyrics by Jake Brunger, it's a marvellous gem of a show, that is truthful, optimistic and a whole lot of fun.

As the school holidays begin, this is the ideal family show, with humour for both adults and children, as well as universal issues that are delivered in a fresh, colourful way. The small Ambassadors theatre is a perfect fit, as it feels intimate and intricate at once. The audience are transported to the Mole's family home and whisked up in the trials of being 13 and 3/4.

Luke Sheppard has managed to capture a true warmth with this production. From start to finish there is a perfect balance between truthful characters and caricatures of real life people, and the heart never waivers. The cast do an exceptional job of encapsulating what it means to grow up. Rufus Kampa leads the show with a fantastic combination of awkwardness and charisma. Kampa instantly draws the audience in and gives a performance very truthful of a young teen. In contrast, new girl at school and love interest Pandora (Rebecca Nardin), is confident and over the top in all the best ways.  Nardin provides stellar vocals, bright eyes and a very well characterised performance. 

The whole cast are very impressive, with Jeremiah Davan Waysome giving a charming performance as Adrian's best friend Nigel. Amy Ellen Richardson is tender and witty as Adrian's mum, Pauline and John Hopkins is hytrical as Mr Scruton and Mr Lucas.  

With Rebecca Howell's choreography which fills the stage, Tom Rodger's slickly designed set which features beds coming out of cupboards, the on the ball cast and highly catchy songs, this is a Brilliantly British show.

The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole Aged 13 and 3/4 is an expressive and animated production, full of heart and energy. The superb cast deliver humourous one liners and more emotional moments with grace and truth, and bring the vivacious score to life well. It's definitely a must-see for families this summer and is sure to delight throughout its run.

photo credit: Pamela Raith