Showing posts sorted by relevance for query stiles and drewe. Sort by date Show all posts
Showing posts sorted by relevance for query stiles and drewe. Sort by date Show all posts

Wednesday 13 November 2019

Mary Poppins, Prince Edward Theatre | Review

Mary Poppins
Prince Edward Theatre
Reviewed on Tuesday 5th November 2019 by Olivia Mitchell

Since she landed umbrella in hand, the mystical nanny Mary Poppins has been a much loved character. From the hit Disney film to a number of revivals and performances around the world, there's something universally adored about the feel-good story of the Banks family, so it's no surprise that the musical is once again gracing the West End. It's a musical full of sparkle, magic and wow factors but at times feels as though it's on just for the sake of being on.

In this musical, co-created by Cameron Mackintosh, with additional songs by Stiles and Drewe and a book by Julian Fellowes, the moral aspect of the story is strongly highlighted, as are the darker sides of the original book. The story of Mr Banks' redemption and the importance of making the correct moral choices for those around you remains ever relevant but much of the secondary plot feels somewhat dated and not relevant for a modern audience. Of course this isn't the making of a show, and with something like Mary Poppins it's mostly about the nostalgia and feel-good-factor but for a show that runs almost three hours long, some tweaks to make it more engaging wouldn't have gone amiss. 

However, this is a show about compassion and the cast do a joyous job of bringing the story to life with energy, wonder and colour. Thanks in part to Bob Crowley's sets and costumes which are structured, colourful and all around excellence. The house which opens like the pages of a pop-up book is magnificent each time it's seen; and the plain park which becomes a psychedelic garden of amusement is completely brilliant. Sparkly costumes and beautifully tailored coats adorn the stage and evoke the joy from both the book and film well.

Stiles and Drewe's songs are much darker and sharper than those we've grown up with, with 'Playing the Game' bringing toys to life as the stuff nightmares are made of. Elsewhere scenes are taken from book to stage effectively and interestingly. Overall the musical is a whole lot of sugar with a little bit of spice thrown in for good measure... just how Mary Poppins would like it I assume!

Richard Eyre has directed a show for adults and children which brims with surprise but at times lacks sufficient pace. However, the choreography by Matthew Bourne and Stephen Mear is sophisticated, sharp, witty and utterly first-rate. 'Step in Time' is a complete highlight as the stage comes to life with sweepers and leading man Charlie Stemp literally walks on the ceiling. 

Stemp's entire performance is a masterclass in stage presence. His continually fresh characterisation completely draws the audience in as he moves and speaks with a natural grace and charms everyone who witnesses him. Additionally his rapport with Strallen's Mary is genuine and engaging. Zizi Strallen makes the famous nanny her own as she floats around the stage with a whimsical but grounded air and takes on the leading role excellently. Elsewhere Amy Griffiths is touching and vocally excellent as Mrs Banks and the entire ensemble give top notch performances.

Yes, this show is lacking at times but much of the time it's a feast for the eyes and ears and is sure to be enjoyed by many so why not take a trip to see magical Mary float in on her brolly right in front of your eyes.

Mary Poppins is currently booking at the Prince Edward Theatre until 31st May 2020, tickets are available at

photo credit: Johan Persson

Thursday 17 March 2022

Three Sets of Twins Cast in 'Identical’, the New Musical Adaptation of ‘The Parent Trap’

After a five-year casting search and multiple auditions across the UK, three sets of talented identical twins are about to become Britain’s latest musical theatre stars.

They say you should never work with children or animals but this summer Olivier and Tony award-winning director Trevor Nunn will be doing both, with three sets of identical twins! Kyla and Nicole Fox, aged 12, from County Armagh, Northern Ireland, Emme and Eden Patrick, 12 from Waltham Abbey and Sienna and Savannah Robinson, 12 from Bromley, are the youngsters playing Lottie and Lisa in the world premiere of Identical, a new musical destined for the West End.

Identical is based on the novel ‘The Parent Trap’ by Erich Kästner, which inspired hugely successful Disney films featuring Hayley Mills in 1961 and Lindsay Lohan in 1998.

It will open at Nottingham Playhouse 26 July – 14 August 2022, then transfer to Salford’s The Lowry 19 August – 3 September 2022.
Future dates will be announced.
Identical tells the story of Lottie and Lisa, twin girls separated at birth, reunited by chance at a summer camp 10 years later. In an attempt to re-join their divorced parents, they decide to swap identities.

It has Music and Lyrics by George Stiles and Anthony Drewe, (the multi award-winning writers of the Olivier award-winnig National Theatre hit ‘Honk!’, who also created a new score for the international smash-hit Cameron Mackintosh/Disney production of ‘Mary Poppins’) with a Book by Stuart Paterson.

Identical is co-produced by Nottingham Playhouse and Kenny Wax Ltd (producer of  the new global musical phenomenon ‘SIX’ and the ‘Goes Wrong’ shows) and directed by Olivier and Tony award-winning Trevor Nunn (responsible for some of the greatest hits in the world, including ‘Les Miserables’, ‘Starlight Express’, ‘Cats’ and ‘Sunset Boulevard’).

Producer Kenny Wax says: “Identical is a story about the reuniting of twins separated shortly after birth and the healing of a family which has been fractured. The narrative offers a powerful message for the world right now and under the directorial genius of Trevor Nunn, I have no doubt that Identical will be regarded as one of the great musicals of its generation…..providing that we can consistently cast incredibly talented identical twins!”
Nottingham Playhouse’s Executive Director Stephanie Sirr commented: “We can’t wait to create this show. It’s particularly exciting to give kids from our community the chance to work alongside world class professionals and to take part in the premiere of a newly commissioned musical.”
Stiles and Drewe said: “It’s been a delight to adapt Erich Kästner’s hauntingly beautiful and timeless tale of two identical twins separated as babies, and their wily determination to stitch their family back together. It’s a story packed with wonderful humour and characters which makes it a great canvas to become a musical and retell for a 21st-century audience.”

Director Trevor Nunn
Choreographer Matt Cole
Set Design Rob Jones
Costume Design Jonathan Lipman
Video Design Douglas O’Connell
Lighting Design Johanna Town
Sound Design Paul Gatehouse
Musical Supervisor Caroline Humphris
Musical Director Tamara Saringer  
Orchestrator Tom Curran
Associate Director (with special responsibility for the children) Martha Geelan
Casting Director Anne Vosser
Children’s Casting and Administration Jo Hawes
Wig and Hair Designer Richard Mawbey
Production Manager Digby Robinson
General Management & Marketing Kenny Wax Ltd

photo credit: Alistair Muir

Friday 18 November 2016

Half a Sixpence, Noel Coward Theatre | Review

Half A Sixpence is just what the West End needs

Half a Sixpence is an oh so British musical which really packs a punch. 

Half a Sixpence
Noel Coward Theatre
Reviewed on Thursday 17th
 November 2016 by Olivia Mitchell

Whilst this production, opening for the first time in 50 years, is technically described as a revival, I would say its more of a reinvention. With 80% new material including a new score by Stiles and Drewe and a new book by Julian Fellowes, the show is brought into the 21st century in a refreshing and exciting way.

We follow the story of Arthur Kipps who mysteriously inherits a large sum of money and suddenly finds himself flung into a world of garden parties and riches, a far cry from his childhood days in the countryside with his best girl Ann. Caught in between two worlds and two women, Arthur must decide whether he wants half a sixpence or a fortune.

The plot is somewhat simplistic and predictable which is beautiful but annoying at the same time. Of course simplicity is lovely because it makes it easy to follow and really puts the emphasis on the music and choreography but there were some moments which I would have liked to delve deeper into; such as the mysterious uncle, but overall its a sweet story full of joy and humour.

The set is very simple, with a revolving stage supplemented with decorative additions and projections throughout which work wonderfully to move seamlessly between the changing scenes of the show, from bar, to beach, to garden party and more! This simple staging allows Andrew Wright's choreography to be a focal point of the show. The energetic dances create absolute elation throughout and every fresh faced member of the 24 strong  cast put their all into every step, creating a truly mesmorising sight. Of course the show favourite "Flash, Bang, Wallop" was a standout, with a standing ovation and smattering of applause beginning as soon as the last note was sung.

The entire cast are sublime and completely faultless. Ian Bartholomew is hilarious as the larger than life Mr Chitterlow, bringing out some of the biggest laughs of the night, especially through "The Joy of the Theatre" which felt like a big wink to all us press members sat in the audience! Bethany Huckle is fabulous as the sweet but strong-minded Flo who has fabulous chemistry with each character she interacts with. Helen Walshingham is vulnerable, graceful and tiny bit malicious but Emma Williams manages to make us understand why she makes every decision through her clear and well thought out portrayal.

Obviously the ultimate stand out of the show is the exceptional Charlie Stemp who must have a Best Actor in a Musical award waiting for him in the near future. From the moment we witness his charming, boyish grin, we fall in love with Arthur Kipps. Charlie is a true triple threat star, and its a joy to see him shine on stage in moments of humour and love as well as more serious times. Charlie's voice is beautiful, his dancing is effortless and he is just charming. He makes each move quirky and charismatic and absolutely fantastic. Keep your eye on this man because he is going to be a star for a long time!

Half a Sixpence is exciting, infectious, joyful, glistening and a billion other things. Its most definitely a show you should go and see and a production worth far more than half a sixpence! Experience the joy of the theatre and book tickets for this show which is running at the Noel Coward theatre.

Friday 30 June 2017

The Wind in the Willows, London Palladium | Review

The Wind in the Willows
London Palladium
Reviewed on Thursday June 29th 2017 by Olivia Mitchell

The Wind in the Willows is a perfectly fun, family show. It's not a theatrical masterpiece but it's a cute, heartwarming fable that's sweet enough for both children and adults to enjoy.

Adapted by Julian Fellowes (Downton Abbey) with music and lyrics by George Stiles and Anthony Drewe (Half a Sixpence), The Wind in the Willows is an old school tale given a modern twist. We follow Ratty and his new friend Mole as they venture around the countryside trying to hide from the evil of the Wild Wood and help their friend Mr. Toad curve his need for speed. It's a show which is quintessentially British:lazing by the river, watching the swallows returning home for summer, seeing animals foraging in the woods, each scene conjures up the good old English countryside.

The pastoral feel of the production is guided by the sets and costumes by Peter McKintosh, with each area and animal having its own unique "style" and each set piece combining perfectly to create the world of human-like animals which is both distinctive and mystical. Each animal is instantly recognisable without being too in your face animal. The set also strikes a good balance between being enough of a spectacle whilst still leaving enough room for your imagination to roam a little wild. 

Simon Lipkin's Ratty is suitably funny and stern and despite not being a huge belting role, he really shows off his voice and beautiful tone. Craig Mather has wonderful chemistry with Lipkin as Ratty's partner in crime, Mole. He is the perfect mix of innocence and strength and is pretty perfect in the role. Another sweet and funny character is Mrs Otter played by Denise Welch although we never do find out what happened to her husband! Thankfully some contrast to the sweetness is brought with the baddie of the show, Chief Weasel played by Neill McDermott who is very reminiscent of Rooster in Annie. The Weasel scenes are my personal favourites and add a nice sharpness to the otherwise same level show. The ensemble are tight and bring a lot to the show. An audience favourite seemed to be the adorable hedgehog family who sing a lovely little ditty about the trouble of crossing the road. 

Aletta Collins' choreography fits exactly, adding not only dimension but humour to the show. Especially so with the tap dancing horse!

Of course I have to mention Mr Toad played by Rufus Hound who is great in the role. He is over the top and dramatic but actually very good. I was surprised at how good his voice is and really do think he's the perfect choice for the role.

The Wind in the Willows is good family fun which is certain to leave a smile on your face and at least one song in your head. It's simple, charming and exactly what it says on the tin, what more could you ask for for a family theatre trip? 

The Wind in the Willows runs at the London Palladium until September 9th

Tuesday 29 October 2019

Soho Cinders, Charing Cross Theatre | Review

Soho Cinders
Charing Cross Theatre
Reviewed on Monday 28th October by Olivia Mitchell

It's in the colourful carnival of Old Compton Street that we meet Robbie, our Cinderella in this re-telling of the classic tale. He's a young man trying to find his place in the bustling city as he works in a laundrette once owned by his mother, and struggles with his step-sisters who are trying to take what little he has. Things get even more stressful when Robbie begins seeing mayoral candidate James Prince and having a questionable relationship with a sleazy Lord. He ends up at the heart of a media scandal and faces losing everything... But this is a fairy tale so you can guess how it ends!

Anthony Drewe and Elliot Davis' book has some witty moments and certainly turns the classic tale on its head, as well as featuring more heartfelt moments. The LGBT representation for the most part is strong and the team have done well to modernise the show. However, there are aspects which seem to have been glossed over. The characters discuss knowing a man is straight because he's wearing a wedding ring which just screams dated, as does the implication that these modern online relationships take place over Skype. They're little details for sure, but do detract from a piece that really has the potential to feel relevant and of the time. Similarly, the variety of musical genres and the story itself is certainly representative of Soho but it would be nice to see some of that diversity reflected in the cast.

As Robbie, Luke Bayer is the standout. His charming personality and smooth vocals make him a protagonist the audience roots for and he really is the heart of the story and all it stands for. Bayer's performance of They Don't Make Glass Slippers is especially enrapturing. As Velcro, his best friend and partner in crime, Millie O'Connell gives a strong performance. Despite being underused in act one, O'Connell really comes into her own in the second half and provides some of the most touching and realistic moments. Her quick wit and sarcastic nature are entertaining to watch and the playful banter and easy chemistry between the pair can surely remind us of our own friendships. Two friends supporting each other is wonderful to see and really grounds the often over-the top-piece.

George Stiles music and Anthony Drewe's lyrics are a combination of upbeat laugh-a-minute numbers, forgettable babbles and fairy tale sweet duets. The Stepsisters' duet Fifteen Minutes is especially energetic and well performed. Natalie Harman and Michaela Stern do a great job of bringing the characters to life and only occasionally teeter on the edge of overacting. O'Connell's duet with Tori Hargreaves is another touching moment and a real highlight of the second act.

Thematically, this seems to be a piece which will remain ever relevant but it needs an extra touch of magic to keep audiences coming back. The political and sexual harassment aspects permeate the musical but it's the importance of love and friendship which reigns strong at the end. Soho Cinders isn't life-changing but it allows us to experience tongue-in-cheek, energetic performances which will entertain for the duration of the show.

photo credit: Pamela Raith