Showing posts sorted by relevance for query Norm Lewis. Sort by date Show all posts
Showing posts sorted by relevance for query Norm Lewis. Sort by date Show all posts

Thursday, 12 April 2018

An Evening With Jason Robert Brown, London Palladium | Review


An Evening With Jason Robert Brown
London Palladium 
Reviewed on Wednesday 11th April 2018 by Olivia Mitchell 
★★★★★


Last night the London Palladium played host to one of the most brilliant concerts I have ever witnessed. American composer, pianist and conductor Jason Robert Brown debuted some of his new songs as well as hits from his various musicals and orchestral works. He was joined by the BBC Concert Orchestra (plus his own rhythm section), conductor Larry Blank, Capital Voices and musical theatre superstars Rachel Tucker, Betsy Wolfe and Norm Lewis in this one night only musical spectacular. Concerts of this caliber are so often confined to the New York scene so to get something like this live in London was truly magical and is not a night I'll forget in a hurry. 


Jason opened the show with an emotive song about finding hope in a hopeless situation which he revealed was written the day after the last presidential election. He followed this with a song from a musical he has yet to complete, which tells the story of a teen in New York who dreams of having a career as a musician. The upbeat, rhythmical song, Melinda had the audience tapping their feet and ready for the concert ahead of them. This song with various musical dance genres entwined in it was the perfect song to show off Jason's musicianship and vocals as well as the clear dexterity of the BBC Concert Orchestra players. The two songs in succession set the tone for what was set to be a joyous as well as moving night. 


The entire concert was of an immense standard and it would be unfair to pick a particular stand out but over the course of just over two and a half hours, we were treated to some of the gems of Jason Robert Brown's career, as well as a glimpse of what's to come with his new album, How We React and How We Recover. Similarly to last year's Kristin Chenoweth concert, this performance made the vast space of the London Palladium feel intimate and warm and proved that whilst donning various hats as singer, conductor and pianist, at the heart of it all Jason is a storyteller. In my recent interview with him, Jason told me that he loves when you can "go on an adventure with a piece of music" which truly sums up what this night was about.

Rachel Tucker who Jason called "the real thing" gave a glorious rendition of Stars and the Moon from Songs For a New World, which Jason described as "a medley of my greatest... hit!" Her rendition of the anthem, Invisible, written by Jason for a young wheelchair bound girl in collaboration with the Ronald McDonald House and Broadway Inspirational Voices was especially moving and energetic. Rachel also brought the house to their feet with her final performance of Flying Home, which although usually sung by a male voice, sounded as though it was written for Ms Tucker.


Norm Lewis performed gorgeous, mellow renditions of It All Fades Away and All Things in Time as well as joining Betsy Wolfe for a beautiful duet of Before and After You/One Second and a Million Miles which proved that the West End needs a production of The Bridges of Madison County, pronto! I know I said I didn't want to name stand-outs but Betsy's act 2 performance of I Can Do Better Than That from The Last Five Years was truly marvellous and proved why she's as adored as she is.

In addition to these songs we also got to experience a whole selection of songs from Honeymoon in Vegas which I saw in it's concert form at the Palladium last year, as well as some beautiful excerpts from Jason's symphony, The Trumpet of the Swan. Not only did this instrumental moment show of the virtuosic playing of the orchestra but showed just how emotive music is. Before beginning, Jason briefly explained the plot of the symphony which is based on a children's book, so we knew what was coming. What I found incredible was how everyone laughed and gasped at the same times despite there being no lyrics to describe the drama. This just proved how powerful music is as an art form and was an especially magical moment for me.


I have to briefly mention the lighting for this concert which was outstanding. For a one night only event which is going out to radio, not television, I was blown away by how much thought and time had clearly gone into every lighting cue. This really added to the warm feeling of the entire night.

At the risk of babbling on for an obscene amount of time, I'm going to wrap up my review here. I'm sorry to say that if you weren't there you missed out of a truly fantastic night but don't worry because you can hear the whole things on this week's Friday Night is Music Night and experience the joy of Jason Robert Brown's music for yourself. I was enchanted, surprised and blown away by every moment of this gem of a concert.

photo credit: Danny Kaan

Saturday, 7 April 2018

In Conversation With... Rachel Tucker | An Evening with Jason Robert Brown | Interview


If you google 'busy people' Rachel Tucker will surely come up. Always working on something new and exciting, Rachel is one of the hottest things both in London and New York. Set to star in the one night only An Evening with Jason Robert Brown concert at the Palladium, Rachel sat down to discuss everything about the concert and gave us an exclusive on what's next for her across the pond!


What’s the rehearsal process been like for this concert?
I haven't actually started yet! I've been rehearsing on my own but we do Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and then the show Wednesday night cause Jason's coming over. We have the scheduling and it's like 10-5.30 so it's gonna be... intense. We have a piano rehearsal with Jason on our own and then all together and there's back-up vocalists and singers and stuff, so, it's gonna be very intense. I'm really excited!


You’ve performed some of Jason’s songs before, can we expect to hear those or new ones in the concert?
Actually a bit of both. I have, what is called my 'handbag song' which I love and it's Stars and Moon that I sing at any given opportunity. It's my favourite classic Jason Robert Brown and... I don't know if I should say what else I'm singing or if it should be a surprise?!

How about a clue?
Okay well there's another old one and two more modern ones...

Very vague!
Okay so one is a really new, updated one that he wrote for a girl in a wheelchair, actually, a 13 year old girl. He wrote it very specifically so I'm really buzzed about that and singing some really lovely, brilliant songs.


Who or which song are you most excited for the audience to hear?
I'm a massive fan of Betsy Wolfe and Norm [Lewis]. I sang with Norm in New York on the Pulse charity single we did over there with Seth Rudetsky. Norm is just fabulous, and Betsy, I just can't wait to hear her sing live and to sing on the same stage as her!

Just to hear it all put together and to hear the best of Jason's work. He's chosen what he wants us to sing so we've had no say in it, he's chosen specifically what he wants to hear... I mean we've a little bit of a choice but it's very much his show and his showcase and that's what's so special about it; to be able to actually do what it is that he would love to be showcased.


If you could be in any Jason Robert Brown musical, which would you choose?
Goodness me! I would love to play the wife in Parade who sings You Don't Know This Man which is a fab song. What else? I love The Last Five Years- there's so many and they're all so good. I'd love to do Bridges of Madison County cause it's so beautiful. He's just so talented and his music stretches so far and into different genres and I love how much he pushes the musicians and the singers at the same time, it's really wonderful.


Why should people come to this concert?
I mean I just cannot wait to hear his stuff played with a 60-piece orchestra- the BBC Orchestra- that for me is just going to be so exciting. I've always been a huge fan ever since I first heard his music and I think the selection of stuff you'll hear with this orchestra and Jason playing -and I'm sure introducing songs and saying how and where they came about- it's going to be electric! It's gonna be like nothing anyone's every seen before, or heard before and it's live, live in London! Come from far and wide and get tickets cause it's gonna be one in a million!

While we’re talking I thought you'd like to plug your upcoming NY concerts?! 
Yeah! So 54 Below, I'm very, very excited to go back in August, in summer so maybe more people can get out and over. I mean I haven't even started thinking about the show but I wanna do a real mixture of my favourites and some new stuff. I've had a lot of experience this last 4/5 months with new music and being sent stuff and learning stuff for auditions that I've just fallen in love with. All this new stuff that I would never have heard; so I'd really love to show that. Yeah I feel very excited about new stuff that has landed on my lap so I'm really excited to put a show together of it!


Sounds very exciting! Will you be coming back or are you planning on staying over there?
I don't know! I've been auditioning like crazy there and here and nothings solid yet so I don't know!? There's a big question around that!

I am doing the Williamstown Festival which is in New York over the summer, so, this is an exclusive!... It's a brand new musical that's happening now called Lempicka! I don't know if you know it?

That's amazing! Yeah it has the song Woman Is in it right? [side note: go listen to Woman Is because it's stunning!]

Yes, a beautiful song! So I'm doing the production of it, playing one of the parts with Carmen Cusack. I don't know who else is involved but it's a brand new piece and I'm really excited. So that's July/August at the Williamstown Festival that I'll be doing that! Then my gigs at 54 Below so a summer in New York!

The dream! Will Woman Is be one of your songs then?
Yeah it will be actually! The stuff from the show is just amazing. I'm really really chuffed to be on it and the creative team is great. The lady who directed The Great Comet, Rachel Chavkin is directing it so the creative team is amazing and it's nice to be involved in something new, so come and watch!


How exciting is all of that!? A huge thank you to Rachel for chatting with me, be sure to book your tickets for An Evening with Jason Robert Brown on Wednesday 11th April

Interview by editor, Olivia Mitchell

photo credit: Danny Kaan


Monday, 9 April 2018

In Conversation With... Jason Robert Brown | An Evening with Jason Robert Brown | Interview

Last week I posted my interview with Rachel Tucker all about her participation in the upcoming concert, An Evening with Jason Robert Brown at the London Palladium starring Betsy Wolfe and Norm Lewis. I was also lucky enough to do a brief interview with the main man himself, Jason Robert Brown, to get you even more excited for the concert!


You're finally coming back to London! I know people are very excited already but what can they expect from this concert?
A little bit of everything! I’m doing songs from most of my shows, two new suites with the orchestra, and lots of stuff from my new album, How We React and How We Recover, which will be out on Ghostlight Records in June.



If you could bring any of your shows over here as a full production in the West End, which would you choose?
Can’t we do them all? In repertory, or something?




Why do you love musical theatre so much?
I probably don’t love it as much as the people reading this article, but I love music and I love theatre, so I can’t really resist the combination. I love it when I can go on an adventure with a piece of music and it helps to illuminate character and story. I really don’t know any other medium that would let me do that.




If you could collaborate with any composer or performer, who would you choose?
I’m still waiting for my moment with Lin-Manuel Miranda. It’ll happen.




What's your number one piece of advice for aspiring composers?
If it doesn’t sound good, fix it. If it doesn’t make sense, fix it. Just because people applaud doesn’t mean it’s good. Make sure it’s always good.

Thanks so much to Jason for taking the time to do this interview. Wednesday's concert is certainly not one to be missed! An Evening with Jason Robert Brown takes place on April 11th

Interview by Editor, Olivia Mitchell

photo credit: Erika Kapin

Saturday, 19 September 2020

Pippin, Garden Theatre | Review


Pippin
Garden Theatre, Vauxhall
Reviewed on Friday 18th September 2020 by Olivia Mitchell 
★★★★

After six months of a world with no in person theatre, it feels almost foreign to see a stage in front of you with real life performers, performing real life music, but ever so slowly it's becoming the norm again. Well, the new, socially distanced norm.

The Garden Theatre in Vauxhall are paving the way for the reopening and reconfiguring of venues as one of the first to put on productions in this post-lockdown world. The latest in their programme being Stephen Schwartz's Pippin; the tale of a boy trying to prove he's extraordinary as he finds his place in the world. A show which often excels by involving the audience could be a strange option given the regulations, but the cast do an outstanding job of making you feels as though you're getting a personal performance and that you're part of the story, without being too close. The team of "players" who are often shown as circus performers, are in this production, a hippie tribe who are telling the tale of young Pippin. Together they weave a story of drama and excitement which feels truly uplifting and joyous during these unpredictable times. 

Thanks to Steven Dexter's Direction, this is a production which highlights all the wonderful parts of fringe theatre and Nick Winston's choreography is overwhelming in all the best ways. Bursting from all nooks and crannies every movement feels both precise and free and it's amazing how much power has been fit into such a small space. Plus, the way so many dance styles (including wonderful homages to Bob Fosse) flow into one another, is truly sensational to experience.

The title role is taken on expertly by Ryan Anderson who relentlessly showcases his brilliant vocals and outstanding dance ability, whilst making Pippin a multi-faceted, endearing, earnest and infuriating character. His renditions of Corner of The Sky and the motif versions which are consequently peppered throughout are beautiful and controlled oh so well.

Pippin's glamourous, manipulative "normal" step-mother is played excellently by Joanne Clifton who also takes on the role of the sweet and sassy Grandmother, Berthe. Each moment of Clifton's stage time is completely electrifying. Whether she's ad-libbing hilariously or leading the audience in a singalong she finds a way to completely draw the audience in.


It would be shameful to not mention the rest of the cast who bubble with energy throughout. Harry Francis is playfully enjoyable as the self-obsessed bother Lewis and sweet Theo who longs for a father figure and also provides vocals which stand out due to their exceptional power and mastery. As Charlemagne Dan Krikler is dominant and impressive and his Gilbert and Sullivan-esque solo is a right treat; he leaves you wanting more from him once his individual moments end . Tsemaye-Bob Egbeis takes on the role of the Leading Player with ease and freedom. Her vocals soaring above the sounds of passing busses and her movement around the stage oozing authority. Completing the cast, Tanisha-Mae Brown thrives in the intimate moments of the show and is in beautiful contrast to the more high-octane, over the top moments of the story.

The only downside to this production is the sometimes questionable approach to social distancing. While the staff are brilliant and it appears lots of measures have been put in place such as temperature checks, table service, copious amounts of hand sanitizer and social distancing before the show, the actual auditorium is somewhat cramped. Seats are very close together which it does feel strange when everything else is so organised. Whilst the audience does only seat 50, it would perhaps be better to have even fewer seats for the moment.

Despite this, the terrific cast of triple threats make this bittersweet, upbeat and consistently enjoyable musical a must see (covid permitting, of course). There's magic to do and the Garden Theatre are certainly doing the most they can in these crazy circumstances to do it.

Photos by Bonnie Britain Photography