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Friday, 17 August 2018

Spring Awakening, Stockwell Playhouse | Review

Spring Awakening
Stockwell Playhouse
Reviewed on Thursday 16th August 2018 by Olivia Mitchell 

I would hazard a guess that there aren't many musical theatre fans of my age that didn't go through a Spring Awakening phase. For me it went a little like this: watched the Glee pilot episode, became obsessed with Lea Michele, watched everything related to her entire career, found the bootleg of Spring Awakening, watched said bootleg obsessively, downloaded the cast recording, sung Mama Who Bore Me on an endless loop and never looked back. For someone who went through the phase hard, it's surprising that  despite a number of revivals in the past few years, I'd never seen an actual production of the show so when the opportunity arose to see the British Theatre Academy's (BTA) production, I couldn't resist.

The show follows a group of German teens as they find themselves and their sexuality and discover how tough growing up really is. The BTA have done an absolutely outstanding job of bringing this Tony Award winning show to life in the confined space of the Stockwell Playhouse. For a production that is only running for three days, it's truly impeccable how well staged, polished and rounded it is.

In the lead roles of Wendla and Melchior we have Charlotte Coe and Max Harwood who give truthful performances, both individually and in unison. Charlotte brings Wendla's childlike innocence to life whilst Max as the 'educated' Melchior portrays a perfect combination of knowledge and youthfulness, that's especially effective throughout the arc of his story. With Ben Platt-esque subtle riffs and fantastically subtle acting choices, it's hard to take your eyes off Max and I'm certain he has a bright acting career ahead of him.

As Moritz, James Knudsen is exceptional. His nervous energy and frenzied eyes are perfect for the character who is struggling with school, family and sexuality. Ginnie Thompson is great as Ilse, providing an almost angelic vibe which is especially effective towards the end.

This truly is an ensemble show and what's so special is that the cast seem to have genuinely created a community feel in a very short space of time. The way they move as a whole and in waves is remarkable to watch and creates a constant sense of movement and discovery. Mention must go to Dafydd Lansley as Georg/Rupert who draws the eye throughout ad he commits fully to his role with his nuanced twitches and movements throughout. James Dodd and James Heward as Ernst and Hanschen also give wonderfully subtle performances that make the characters feel real and easily relatable for anyone facing the same struggles.

Matt Nicholson's choreography is minimalistic but effective throughout. The dance in The Dark I Know Well is especially moving and well performed. Dean Johnson has done a wonderful job of directing Spring Awakening so it has a perfect balance of humour and sadness and enough subtlety to be emotive without being over dramatic. The vocals in this production are all you could wish for, Jordan Li-Smith has done a brilliant job alongside the five-piece band who accompany the action with faultless music.

With tears still filling my eyes, I left the Stockwell Playhouse feeling moved, inspired and overjoyed at the talent of this amazing production. Whether you're a Spring Awakening fan or just someone who's curious about the show, I'd throughly recommend seeing this production.

Spring Awakening runs at the Stockwell Playhouse until August 18th

photo credit: Eliza Wilmot

Sunday, 3 May 2020

The Return of the Movie Musical

During the Golden Age of Hollywood, movie musicals were abundant and arguably the most popular genre. However, with the move towards pop culture in the 1960s, their popularity dwindled and gave way to a more rebellious style and tone, which meant the all-singing, all-dancing, wholesome stories fell to the side.

Since then, aside from animated films, there have been a handful of live action musicals, with a few big hits such as Hairspray, Chicago and Mamma Mia!, but these have been largely hard to come by and a rare feature at the cinema. However, it seems that things are changing and we are in the midst of musicals coming back into the mainstream!

In some ways, the huge success of La La Land in 2016, a film which combined Old Hollywood with contemporary vibes, marked the return of movie musicals, with A Star is Born, Bohemian Rhapsody and Rocketman following in its footsteps and taking the box offices by storm. Disney's live action adaptations have also proved massive hits with Beauty and the Beast and The Lion King making huge profits. Of course there's also been the occasional flop... Cats.... (which I actually enjoyed) but on the whole, each release has highlighted the demand and appreciation for musical theatre.  

It seems that Hollywood are finally taking note of the power of theatre people and are giving us the sweet, sweet, high quality films we deserve. There are a whole host of movie musicals in the works which are hugely exciting. Some that I'm most looking forward to are:

In The Heights: This is my all time favourite musical and I just can't wait for the summer vibes, incredible music and general wonder of Heights to be played out on the big screen. The film was originally set for release next month but thanks to Miss Rona it's been pushed back to June 2021.

Everybody's Talking About Jamie: This brilliantly British musical is set for release in October and is sure to thrill as it tells the real-life story of Jamie New, the 17 year old drag queen who wants to go against the norm and be true to himself. We'll also get the chance to see wonderful Max Harwood take on the lead role which will be a real treat.

West Side Story: In what's sure to be another 'Star is Born' performance, Rachel Zegler will be starring as Maria in this Stephen Spielberg adaptation. The production photos that have been released so far look amazing and I cannot wait to see this sumptuous film.

The Prom: I saw this show on Broadway so it'll be wonderful and interesting to see a film version. I think this will transfer brilliantly; plus, Meryl Streep is set to star in it so it's already a win in my eyes.

Matilda: The original Matilda film is a complete classic that will always be a heartwarming treat and the musical evokes the same magical and wondrous vibes. Tim Minchin's music is so clever and will no doubt get us all tapping our feet in the cinema!

Merrily We Roll Along: Ben Platt. Beanie Feldstein. Filmed over 20 years. Okay so this isn't going to be out in the near future but I just can't wait to eventually see this movie. The whole concept sounds so exciting and the cast are absolutely stellar.

As well as these there are more live action adaptations in the works as well as a number of current Broadway musicals being transferred from stage to screen. These include Dear Evan Hansen, Tick, Tick... Boom! and Come From Away. All in all, it seems that we can expect a whole lot more musicals in the mainstream and I cannot wait! What upcoming movie musical are you excited to see?

Post by Olivia Mitchell