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Tuesday 7 March 2023

The Bodyguard the Musical (Tour), New Wimbledon Theatre | Review

The Bodyguard the Musical (Tour)
New Wimbledon Theatre

Literally opening with a bang, The Bodyguard the Musical takes you on an exciting and exhilarating journey of glorious music and a sweet romance, which will have you engaged throughout.

Based on the 1992 movie of the same name, the show tells the story of a Secret Service bodyguard hired to protect a world famous singer/actress from a threatening stalker. When released the movie became one of the highest grossing of all time and this stage adaptation includes all the memorable moments as well as retaining the original 90s vibes which so many love.

The leading role of Rachel Marron was made famous by Whitney Houston and is a huge role to fill. Taking the cup and stepping into the glitzy boots for this production is Melody Thornton of The Pussycat Dolls. Melody absolutely nails the role and provides some killer vocals throughout, really coming into her own and becoming the star in act two. Thornton performs the iconic songs incredibly well, keeping close enough to the originals that the audience are satisfied but also putting her own small twist on them. 

As her love interest and bodyguard Frank Farmer, Ayden Callaghan is an imposing but charming character, easily gaining empathy from the audience through his serious and stern but sensitive portrayal. The chemistry between the pair is pretty strong with some touching moments, especially when the drama really amps up. They're sure to become even more comfortable with each other throughout the tour!

A stand out performance comes from Emily-Mae as Rachel's sister, Nicki. Not only does she portray her unrequited love and upset at constantly being overshadowed extremely well. But her vocal moments are some of the most memorable in the show.

Reneo Kusi-Appauh is equally delightful as Rachel's son Fletcher, especially during act two and the bows when he shows off some killer vocals. Definitely a performer to keep an eye on!

The second act is where things really get going, including the audience getting to see more of the ensemble who are absolutely fantastic. They don't get a massive amount of stage time but when they do, they are outstanding; full of energy they really elevate the show.

The set and costume design by Tim Hatley fit the vibe of the musical well and for a touring production are very effective but at times the space does feel underused and there could certainly be some more wow factor added throughout.

The overly dramatic sound effects and scene transformations are very telenovela/soap opera-esque and the intense thriller aspect doesn't quite transfer, but mostly the show is effective and is a faithful screen to stage adaptation.

The story is well paced and you can't help but revel in the brilliance of Whitney Houston's music from start to finish. The Bodyguard is a well performed show that works well on tour. Run To You-r closest touring venue to see this sparkling production for yourself.

Reviewed on Monday 6th March 2023 by Olivia Mitchell
photo credit: Paul Coltas

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

Tuesday 29 March 2022

Gemma Collins to Star as Mama Morton in Chicago

David Ian in association with Barry and Fran Weissler are delighted to announce TV personality Gemma ‘The GC’ Collins will star as ‘Mama Morton’ in the acclaimed UK and Ireland tour of the international smash hit musical Chicago. Gemma will join the tour at the Sunderland Empire from Tuesday 31 May 2022, ahead of playing Cardiff New Theatre, Blackpool Winter Gardens, Sheffield Lyceum, Norwich Theatre Royal and New Theatre, Oxford.


David Ian said today, “We were completely stunned by Gemma’s audition for the role. She’s an undeniable force both on and off stage, and we can’t wait to see her portrayal of ‘Mama Morton’ on tour. Audiences across the country are in for a treat.”


Gemma Collins is best known as a media personality and businesswoman, having first featured in the reality series The Only Way Is Essex. She was awarded the 2021 winner of the Best Female Personality at the National Reality Television Awards. Since ‘Essex’ Gemma has appeared in numerous television shows including, I’m A Celebrity, Get Me Out of Here!, Celebrity Big Brother, Dancing on Ice and All Together Now in which she was a finalist. Most recently Gemma was seen on screens with her intimate Channel 4 documentary, Gemma Collins: Self-Harm & Me. Before finding fame on The Only Way Is Essex, Gemma was a keen performer having studied dance and winning a place at the renowned Sylvia Young Theatre School.


Gemma joins Faye Brookes as ‘Roxie Hart’, Djalenga Scott as ‘Velma Kelly’, Jamie Baughan as ‘Amos Hart’ and B.E. Wong as ‘Mary Sunshine’. The role of ‘Billy Flynn’ will be announced soon. Full tour schedule below.


The cast is completed by Ishmail Aaron, Michelle Andrews, Gabby Antrobus, Delycia Belgrave, Joel Benjamin, Tanisha-Mae Brown, Daniel Clift, Callum Fitzgerald, Emily Goodenough, Billie Hardy, Aaron Jenkins, Liam Marcellino, Theo Reece, Hollie Jane Stephens and Harrison Wilde.  


Faye Brookes (Roxie Hart) reached the final of last year’s series of ITV’s Dancing On Ice. She is best known for her role as Kate Connor in ITV’s Coronation Street, for which she won a National Television Award. Her theatre credits include Princess Fiona in Shrek and Elle Woods in Legally Blonde, both on national tour, Ann/Edna in That Day We Sang directed by Victoria Wood at Manchester’s Royal Exchange, Liesl in The Sound of Music at Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre and Frenchy in Grease at the West End’s Piccadilly Theatre. Faye’s other TV credits include Agnes Franklin in Our Girl and Helena in Atlantis, both for the BBC.


Djalenga Scott’s (Velma Kelly) West End credits include Lily St Regis in Annie at the Piccadilly Theatre, Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat at the New London and Chicago at the Adelphi, Cambridge and Garrick Theatres. Her other credits include Anita in the national tour of West Side Story, Rizzo in Grease at Curve Leicester, Magenta in The Rocky Horror Show and Carmen in Fame, both on European tours, the US tour of Batman Live and Bombalurina in Cats at Kilworth House. Djalenga’s screen credits include Scarlett/Esme in Trapped for the BBC and Alexandra in the film I Give It A Year. 


Set amidst the razzle-dazzle decadence of the 1920s, Chicago is the story of Roxie Hart, a housewife and nightclub dancer who murders her on-the-side lover after he threatens to walk out on her. Desperate to avoid conviction, she dupes the public, the media and her rival cellmate, Velma Kelly, by hiring Chicago’s slickest criminal lawyer to transform her malicious crime into a barrage of sensational headlines, the likes of which might just as easily be ripped from today's tabloids. 


Created by the musical theatre talents of John Kander, Fred Ebb and legendary choreographer Bob Fosse, Chicago’s sexy, sassy score includes the show-stopping songs “Razzle Dazzle”, “Cell Block Tango”, and “All That Jazz”.  Winner of six Tony Awards, two Olivier Awards and a Grammy, Chicago is the longest running American musical in Broadway and West End history.


Since it opened in New York in 1996, Chicago has played in 36 countries worldwide and has been performed in English, Dutch, German, Swedish, Spanish, Portuguese, Italian, French, Danish, Japanese and Korean.  Worldwide it has been seen by an estimated 33 million people, grossed over $1.7 billion and played over 32,500 performances.


Chicago, which is based on the play by Maurine Dallas Watkins, has a book by Fred Ebb and Bob Fosse, music by John Kander and lyrics by Fred Ebb.  The 1996 Broadway revival of Chicago was choreographed by Ann Reinking in the style of Bob Fosse, directed by Walter Bobbie, and produced by Barry and Fran Weissler.

Friday 17 July 2020

Frozen West End cast and company announced

The leading cast members and company of the West End premiere of Frozen have been revealed, as the show moves its premiere date to spring 2021.
Joining the previously announced Samantha Barks (Elsa) and Stephanie McKeon (Anna) are Obioma Ugoala (Kristoff), Craig Gallivan (Olaf), Oliver Ormson (Hans), Richard Frame (Weselton), and alternating the role of Sven, Mikayla Jade and Ashley Birchall; with Jeremy Batt, Cameron Burt, Lauren Chia, Laura Emmitt, Emily-Mae Walker (Bulda), Danielle Fiamanya (first cover Elsa), Hannah Fairclough, Matt Gillett, Joe Griffiths- Brown, Emily Lane, Justin-Lee Jones, Jason Leigh Winter, Jacob Maynard, Leisha Mollyneaux, Gabriel Mokake (King Agnarr), Sarah O'Connor (first cover Anna), Jemma Revell, Jacqui Sanchez (Queen Iduna), Jak Skelly (Oaken/Bishop), Jake Small, Isabel Snaas, Joshua St. Clair (Pabbie), Monica Swayne, and Anna Woodside. Further casting is to be confirmed.
Frozen, which has music and lyrics by Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez, and book by Jennifer Lee, opened on Broadway in March 2018 and was nominated for a Tony Award for Best Musical. It follows Elsa, who is gifted with ice-manipulating powers, and her relationship with her sister Anna as they try to run a nation.
The show is based on the highest-grossing animated film of all time, which was released in 2013 and won two Academy Awards, a Golden Globe and a BAFTA. The sequel – Frozen 2 – was released last autumn.
The production, which will be presented at a refurbished Theatre Royal Drury Lane will be directed by Michael Grandage with choreography by Rob Ashford, set and costume design by Christopher Oram, lighting design by Neil Austin, sound design by Peter Hylenski, video design by Finn Ross, puppet design by Michael Curry and musical supervision and arrangements by Stephen Oremus.
Michael Grandage said today: "We're thrilled to announce the company for Frozen – an incredibly talented group of people who will be creating the London premiere at the newly refurbished Theatre Royal Drury Lane next spring. As theatres start to open their doors again, we look forward to celebrating the spectacle of this beloved story with audiences everywhere."

Monday 10 February 2020

Twisted, Trafalgar Studios | Review

Twisted (Concert)
Trafalgar Studios
Reviewed on Sunday 9th February 2020 by Olivia Mitchell 

There weren't many reasons to leave the house on Sunday, as Storm Ciara battered the UK, but a dose of musical theatre and Disney were certainly two. The latest in Monsteers' concert series, Twisted provided a chance for performers to sing the Disney songs they've always wanted to, as well as those which they wouldn't typically be cast in. This led to an afternoon of uplifting numbers, belting galore and a great escape from mother nature.

Thirteen performers took to the stage to treat us to a selection of (mostly) contemporary songs, ranging from Poor Unfortunate Souls to Hellfire. Each performance brought something special to the stage and offered a chance for stripped back performances celebrating musicality, Disney, Pixar and general theatricality.

Everyone on stage gave top notch performances, with a mixture of upbeat, chilled and full-out stagey numbers. Emily Mae Walker's rendition of Let It Go, Charlotte Anne Steen's Zero To Hero (complete with super fast mic reflexes) and Cameron Burt's Go The Distance were particular standouts among a group of wonderful performers. Gender swapped numbers proved exceedingly entertaining, with Maiya Quansah-Breed's I'll Make a Man Out of You and Grace Mouat's Proud of Your Boy earning huge applause and showing the audience the songs in a different light.

Completing the male line-up were Aran McRae, Lewis Asquith and Christopher Cameron who all gave brilliantly entertaining performances. On the ladies side, it was Lauren Soley's exceptional performance of Tangled's Mother Knows Best that really impressed, as did Jessica Cervi (who stepped in last minute) giving a luminous rendition of Beauty and the Beast. Also stepping up to the plate just the day before was Esme Laudat who's version of Speechless, closed act one in the best way possible. Josie Kemp and Chloe Hazel also gave strong performances with Hazel's Poor Unfortunate Souls a real highlight.

Although the bare, minimalist approach was effective, perhaps future concerts could include some props just to make the fairly large space feel a little more welcoming and less of a 'stand up, sing and go' affair. I did find that occasionally the speakers were a little loud and the lighting somewhat abrupt, and whilst these issues did not detract from the performances, they are things which could be tweaked to step the next concert up a level. 

Twisted was a great way to spend a Sunday and I'd certainly recommend booking future Monsteers concerts.  Great songs, a fab theme and an outstanding band led by the incomparable Steve Corley made for a thoroughly entertaining afternoon.

Tuesday 1 October 2019

Brooklyn the Musical, Greenwich Theatre | Review

Brooklyn the Musical
Greenwich Theatre 
Reviewed on Monday 30th September 2019 by Olivia Mitchell 

Brooklyn The Musical is a pretty obscure show which opened on Broadway in 2004. It's realtively unknown but features a number of fantastically catchy songs. The musical's European premiere at the Greenwich theatre showcases fantastic talent and reminds us of how magical music can be. Strong direction by Adam Haigh and consistently impressive performances by the cast bring the show to life with vitality and vocal prowess, and make it one to tick off the list.

Set in New York City, a group of street performers perform a "sidewalk fairytale" about a love story and what came of it. We follow a singer from Paris called Brooklyn who is on a quest to find her father and make good of the world she's in. The story itself is minimal and the book is pretty wacky, but the show's spectacular score breathes life into it and shares the characters motivations wonderfully.

The book, music and lyrics are by Mark Schoenfield and Barri McPherson who have adapted the show for various productions including Broadway and a US tour. As a whole, this production really is a grungy, ensemble led, song-fest which features one of the strongest and most vocally tight ensembles in London right now. The sharp harmonies and electric interactions with one another really engage the audience.

It's ideal that Hiba Elchikhe leads the cast as Brooklyn, because she absolutely has one of the best voices ever. The tone, the emotion, the power. Just. So. Good. Her demeanour is charming as she tries to find her father and the audience are instantly able to warm to her beaming personality. It's absolutely worth making a trip to Greenwich just to hear Once Upon a Time sung live by Hiba. Emily Mae gives an equally earth quaking vocal performance as the "aging" Diva, Paradice. Raven is a  particular stand out moment, but Emily captures the audience in the palm of her hand throughout. Smooth and mysterious, Andrew Patrick-Walker makes the Street Singer someone to remember as he acts as a musically enchanting, overseer of the show. Sabrina Aloueche and John Addison add further depth to  the show and the whole cast work exceptionally well together to evoke the feeling of being in New York and searching for a dream. If the Greenwich Theatre were powered by riffs, it would be shining bright thanks to the cast of Brooklyn and Andrew Johnson's sound design which showcases them.

Justin Williams' set design transforms the Greenwich theatre into "a ravaged street corner in Brooklyn, New York" and presents a visual treat for the audience as Brooklyn's story is told. With ladders that are slid around, fairy lights, falling snow and an ever present guitar case, the set, complemented by Jack Weir's lighting manages to invoke both the fairy tale vibes and the gritty feel of NYC. 

A masterful blending of talents allows this production to shine. It's not a masterpiece of theatrical writing but it is a really fun night out and a chance to see a rarely performed show done at a very high standard. Who knows, you might find your miracle too.

photo credit: Pamela Raith

Monday 12 August 2019

Squad Goals, The Other Palace | Review

Squad Goals
The Other Palace
Reviewed on Saturday 10th August 2019 by Olivia Mitchell 

Squad Goals written by Michelle Payne follows Lexi who wants to have the best summer ever playing football with her friends (and foes) before results day comes and they all have to take steps towards their futures. 

What's great about this piece is that each person has a characteristic or emotion the audience can relate to; so whilst football may not be your bag, there are other aspects which will draw you in and entertain. From Mel the theatre fanatic to Missy the wannabe lawyer and Ellie-Mae the social media influencer, there's a whole array of characters, each of whom are well identified and enjoyable to watch.

This is the third play to be performed by students of the Caspa Arts: Acting for New Writing part time course and it's terrific to see a showcase of performers in training, and new British theatre. The 10 strong cast work incredibly well as a  team and it's clear that they are loving working and developing together. 

Whilst the ensemble work is wonderful, there are a number of stand out performances. Firstly Mia Kelly as the hopeful drama student Mel. Mia is fantastically natural on stage and has great comedic timing, her performance is witty and well thought out. As leader of the squad Lexi, Hannah Khalique-Brown gives an ardent and charismatic performance as she races forward to fight inequality between women's and men's football and break barriers between social groups in her local area. As a character, Lexi is very truthful as she steps up to the plate without being over the top or unbelievable, something Khalique-Brown emphasises well. 

The influencers who are forever taking selfies and posting #ad posts are everywhere you look these days and Sophia de Souza brings the squad's resident 'It Girl' Ellie-Mae Hague to life with a marvellous balance of humour and kindness. Whilst Ellie-Mae is extra in every sense of the word, she is also a team player and the bond she has with the other girls is put across very well by de Souza, as is the compassion she shows as she influences the union of the groups. Lauren Cooper also shines as the dippy Sharky who is charming throughout and naturally gets the audience on her side.

Elsewhere, Emily Clark gives a strong performance as Amanda and has a great chemistry with Verona Smith as Missy who delivers some great one-liners and bounces off the other girls well.  Morag Davies is suitably feisty as Scrappy-Doo and Stephanie Stevens gives a well nuanced portrayal of Misha who is consistently fighting for equality but also longs for a group of friends to share her triumphs with. Antonio Ayuso provides comedic moments as he tries to prove himself to be a "man's man", Clara Mainardi is greatly mysterious as Assassina and as a whole the cast are very strong.

The use of movement is very effective in this piece, with the opening scene giving Spring Awakening vibes as the women approach the issues they face not only in football but in life. Throughout there are entertaining passages where the cast transition from one place to another or highlight specific feelings through sharp movement. This does well to both further the story and keep the intensity high from start to finish. 

In a time when the world seems pretty dark, it's lovely to see such an uplifting piece of theatre that highlights the importance of passion, hard work and friendship. Of course this is the beginning stages for Squad Goals and there's certainly room to pad out the story and establish the characters a bit more but overall, this is a really enjoyable hour, with a company of fantastic promise. Hopefully the show gets the further development it deserves and we don't see the end of this female story.