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

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

Friday, 9 December 2022

Newsies, Troubadour Theatre | Review


Newsies 
Troubadour Theatre
Reviewed on Thursday 8th December 2022 by Olivia Mitchell 
★★★★

As temperatures soar below zero, the heat is definitely up at the Troubadour theatre in Wembley as their long awaited production of Newsies sizzles and soars.


The musical with a book by Harvey Fierstein has become somewhat of a cult classic in the musical theatre world, with many fans around the globe despite the show only previously being performed in America and Canada. The 2017 Broadway pro-shot brought the show within touching distance but now London finally get to see it in the flesh, and the good news is, it was completely worth the wait. 


Telling the story of the New York Newboys and Girls who went on strike over unfair work conditions, it’s an unlikely plot for a musical but it mostly works so well. More than anything this is a show with dance at its core and it’s quite astounding to see so many talented dancers on stage, even more so when you hear their divine vocals which accompany the moves. Matt Cole’s choreography is fierce, sharp and so so strong. The energy and precision is truly mesmerising to see and is so appreciated by the audience who give several standing ovations throughout.


It's the plot of this show which lets it down somewhat. The pretty formulaic story doesn't exactly thrill and whilst it does touch on important issues, there's a lack of depth so you don't fully connect with the characters and their plight. Due to this there are moments where the pacing feels a bit slow, however this is quickly fixed every time a big dance number is performed. 


What is great is that despite some stilted moments in the story, the show as a whole is continuously moving. Morgan Large's semi-immersive set allows for action to be taking place at all times, whether through actors walking along sides or quite literally soaring into the audience. The grey-toned backdrop somehow feels gloriously colourful as various shades leap across the stage. The multi-level design allows for varying sight lines and there's something to discover in every nook and cranny. Mark Henderson's lighting design works in complete harmony with all of this and really brings some wow moments to life; it's a very well oiled machine.


The incredibly strong cast who make up this show (and must have a physio bill to rival any other) are the beating heart of it all. The varying characters of the Newsies all get small moments to shine and their interactions are very touching to watch. Leading the pack Michael Ahomka-Lindsay is charming as Jack Kelly, at moments too cool for school, and others afraid of his circumstance, his performance is really moving. Alongside him Bronté Barbé is sparky and witty as Katherine Plumber; her performance of Watch What Happens is a real stand out (although it could be a touch faster) and her portrayal of the role allows you to really engage and connect with her. Ryan Kopel as new newsboy Davey is delightful too. 


This has got to be one of the strongest casts in theatre right now and the astounding performances really need to be seen to be believed. Newsies is a hugely welcome addition to the London theatre scene and it's sure to delight anyone who sees it!


photo credit: Johan Persson

Tuesday, 8 March 2022

Disney's Newsies to have UK Premiere


Producer Runaway Entertainment is delighted to announce that Disney’s NEWSIES, the award-winning Broadway musical with music by Alan Menken, lyrics by Jack Feldman and book by Harvey Fierstein, will have its UK premiere at London’s Troubadour Wembley Park Theatre, where the strictly limited season will run from 28 November 2022.
Based on a true story, NEWSIES is set in New York City at the turn of the 19th century. It’s the rousing tale of a ragged band of teenage newspaper sellers, who dream of a better life far from the hardship of the streets. After newspaper magnate Joseph Pulitzer hikes up the prices for his papers charged to the newsies, Jack Kelly rallies his fellow newsboys in an attempt to protest the change, falling in love with young reporter Katherine along the way. These young newsies from across the city come together and rise up against the exploitation of wealthy publishing tycoons and fight for justice using the only power they have – solidarity. 
The original production of NEWSIES opened on Broadway in 2012 and was slated to play only 100 performances but went on to play over 1,000 performances before touring and winning two Tony Awards®, including Best Original Score. The original production was filmed live on stage and released in cinemas in 2017.
Now for the very first time, audiences in the UK have a chance to enjoy the thrill of one of the biggest Broadway hits of recent years. In an innovative and brand new immersive production ‘in the round’ at Troubadour Wembley Park Theatre, theatregoers will be thrust right inside the action as the newsies dance, sing, jump and fly around the streets of a booming 19th century New York City. 
Alan Menken said: “I am OVER THE MOON about Newsies opening in London!! I’ve been wishing and waiting for this for soooo long.  I truly cannot wait!
Matt Cole, Director & Choreographer, said: “As a huge fan of the original Disney film and the Broadway production, I am extremely honoured and thrilled to be reimagining this brand new version for London and the UK. With an incredible score by the legendary Alan Menken and book by Harvey Fierstein we will bring this all-singing, all-dancing show to Troubadour Wembley Park Theatre. This site-specific version of the show provides an exciting opportunity to present the piece in a non-traditional format. Set in the round, the audience will be thrust into turn-of-the-century New York, where the action and choreography will weave its way in and out of the audience. I cannot wait to work with this talented creative team on delivering this wonderful and exciting show to the UK.” 
This new production of NEWSIES will be following on the recent successes of large scale shows at Troubadour Wembley Park Theatre such as the National Theatre’s productions of War Horse and The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time.
Oliver Royds, CEO of Troubadour Theatres, said: “We are thrilled to be hosting the UK Premiere of Disney’s much loved musical in Wembley and look forward to showing audiences just how versatile and flexible our venues are. We are sure this will be one of the theatrical events of the year."
Casting is to be announced.
Tickets will be going on sale in May 2022. To receive priority booking sign up at www.newsiesthemusical.co.uk
NEWSIES will be Directed and Choreographed by Olivier nominee Matt Cole, with Set Design by Morgan Large, Musical Supervision, Dance Arrangements & Musical Direction by Nigel Lilley, Costumes by Natalie Pryce, Lighting by Mark Henderson, Sound by Tony Gayle, Performer Flying by John Maddox for Suspended Illusions Ltd, Casting by Lucy Casson, Children’s Casting by Jo Hawes, Fight Directors Rachel Bown-Williams & Ruth Cooper-Brown for RC Annie, Associate Choreographer Jane McMurtrie, Associate Musical Director Chris Ma and Production Management by Lee Batty and Andy Fox for Setting Line.
NEWSIES is produced by Tristan Baker & Charlie Parsons for Runaway Entertainment with Kater Gordon and Dianne Roberts, by permission of Disney Theatrical Productions.

Thursday, 29 June 2017

Lady Day at Emerson's Bar and Grill, Wyndhams Theatre | Review


Lady Day at Emerson's Bar and Grill
Wyndhams Theatre
Reviewed on Wednesday June 28th 2017 by Olivia Mitchell

Honestly, I don't know how to start this review because I'm still in shock and awe of what I saw last night. Seeing a six time Tony award winner up close on stage is already a spectacle but seeing her transform into Billie Holiday and embody a heartbreaking character was just another level of incredible. The queen of Broadway, star of screen and most recently the wardrobe in the Beauty and the Beast remake, Audra McDonald is the embodiment of talent and to see her perform on stage is an honour.

Lady Day was originally meant to make its, and Audra's, West End debut almost a year ago exactly but with a surprise pregnancy turning things around, the opening of the show was cancelled.  Whilst this was a huge disappointment at the time, the extended wait for Miss McDonald to perform our side of the pond just built up the excitement and made her debut even more triumphant. 

Originally premiering in 1986 at the Alliance Theatre, Atlanta, the play by Lanie Robertson tells a version of a concert performed by Billie in a dive bar with a tiny audience just a few months before her death. Visibly drunk and high its a story about a star falling so low in her last moments.  Robertson described it as "a monologue; a continuation of her thought process." Whilst the plot of the play may sound boring- starting before Holiday enters the stage and concluding 90 minutes later with her final song- it doesn't drag at all and is so affecting and powerful that you could keep watching and listening forever.


Audra McDonald is without a doubt the reason this play is so brilliant, can we give her every award going right now!?  However, when I first heard she would be playing Billie I was a little skeptical, as I learned, was Audra when she was first approached with the role. But from the moment the first note came out of her mouth, there was an audible gasp from the audience and we were wrapped round McDonald's finger. Audra transforms her voice to present Lady Day's elusive phrasing and raw timbre perfectly. This transformation is even more impressive when you know Audra's natural singing voice as a soaring, powerful, high soprano. She is so real in her performance, not only performing Billie but living and breathing her with every fibre of her being. She's truly in a league of her own. 

Of course the music of Billie Holiday would be a fraction of itself without the fantastic band supporting it. The trio of musicians- Neville Malcolm on bass, Frankie Tontoh on drums and Shelton Becton on piano and playing the role of Jimmy Powers- are wonderful and show off jazz music in a stunning way. 

A one woman show, set in a single dive bar is unusual and could become stagnant but Lonny Price's direction allows a flow and movement throughout, which along with little audience interactions creates a truly stunning piece of theatre. This is helped by the wonderful set and lighting by Christopher Oram and Mark Henderson which combined, create not only a wonderful set to look at but, but immerse you into the world and allow you to feel a part of the magic happening on stage.

Billie Holiday is brought back to life on the stage of the Wyndham's theatre as Audra McDonald gives a masterless in acting and musicianship in Lady Day at Emerson's Bar and GrillAudra's performance is completely faultless and you know she's a star when even the adorable pup Pepi can't steal her moment! This is certainly a highlight of this theatrical season and I will be shouting from the rooftops for everyone to go and see this masterpiece on stage. 

Lady Day at Emerson's Bar and Grill runs at the Wyndhams Theatre until September 9th.

Tuesday, 28 May 2019

Tosca, Royal Opera House | Review


Tosca
Royal Opera House 
Reviewed on Monday 27th May 2019 by Olivia Mitchell 
★★★★★

The Act One finale of Puccini's swooping opera has got to be up there on the list of the best theatrical moments ever. The curtain comes down on Scarpia singing his menacing lament and we enter the first interval feeling utterly wrapped up in this glorious production; a feeling which continues until the very end. 

Kristine Opolais strongly performs Tosca, with all the shrieks needed and a wonderfully characterised lovers tiff in act one where she is a flirty and and playful diva. At times her vocals feel a little light purely due to the power of Vittorio Grigòlo's booming Caravadossi but overall the vocals are as soaring and emotive as you desire. Opolais balances the diva and naive sides well both characterisation and vocal performance.

Grigolo gets the passion and vulnerability of Caravadossi to feel natural and all-encompassing at once. The tenor gloriously performs Puccini's music finding explosive moments at the top of his range, as well as drawing us in with his highly controlled legato and dynamics; E lucevan le stelle is a particular, chill-inducing highlight.


Ironically it is a delight to see and hear Bryn Terfel as he brings the cruel, lascivious character of Scarpia to life. Despite being one of the most evil opera villains, one can't help but want him on stage more as his performance is so strong. The role requires not only serious vocal chops, but serious acting ones as well, Terfel provides both to create a perfect performance.

Paul Brown's set seems to get more beautiful with each act. Beginning in the Church, there are hints of magic and mystery, as well as small details of the trails being faced in the outside world. Scarpia's apartment is big, dark and overwhelming. Bookshelves devoid of books and an intimidating statue of a man crushing an opponent are signs of the way this cruel man runs his life. The final act is the barest of them all, featuring sharp angles in muted tones, the emotion is really the focus. Mark Henderson's lighting helps bring to life the love and hated which seeps through this production.

Alexander Joel's conducting brings out every ounce of tenderness and cruelty from the divine score as the Royal Opera House Orchestra soar through every moment. Jonathan Kent's production of Tosca is a must-see and is a perfect introduction to the drama and beauty of opera. 

photo credit: Catherine Ashmore