Wednesday, 18 January 2023

Moulin Rouge! the Musical, Piccadilly Theatre | Review


Moulin Rouge the Musical 
The Piccadilly Theatre 
Reviewed on Tuesday 17th January 2023
★★★★

A tale of two halves, Moulin Rouge the Musical is both a spectacular spectacular and a chaotic conundrum. Based on the 2001 film of the same name, it tells the story of fated lovers Christian and Satine, who despite the hardships which surround them, just want to be free to love one another. This musical adaptation takes elements from the film but also puts an extreme jukebox spin on the whole thing.


The real issue with Moulin Rouge is the clunky, all over the place book, which, especially in act one, feels basic. Random lines of dialogue are interspersed with pop songs that come out of nowhere and elicit awkward laughter from the audience; and the show feels confused, as if it can’t decide whether to lean into the comedy or try to be a serious show. There are also a number of side character arcs woven in to further the plot, each of which feel too random and under-developed to really elevate the show in any way. The heart of the story is Christian and Satine love and it would be more effective if we only followed their story.


However, on the other side of the coin, the musical is a visual masterpiece which completely astounds. It's the epitome of razzle dazzle, and the set certainly the most spectacular in the West End right now. Derek McLane has created a sumptuous backdrop which has details hidden in every corner of the auditorium, from the elephant who towers over, to the mini Moulin Rouges embossed in the golden decadence of the facade. Paired with Catherine Zuber's divine costumes, you really couldn't ask for more in terms of aesthetics.

Also, after a pantomime-esque Act One, the musical really steps up a gear. In Act Two the stakes get higher, the performances get more intense and it really becomes the show you'd expect. As leading man Christian, Jamie Muscato is absolutely glorious, serving divine vocals throughout and also bringing a charming, comedic side to the role. Crazy Rolling is a superb stand out moment, as is El Tango de Roxanne, which includes both breathtakingly good vocals, and fantastic dancing by Amy Thornton and Elia Lo Tauro

Both Ben Richards and Matt Rixon as the Duke and Harold Zidler respectively, are good as the 'baddies' but do lack a darker level of menacing that would really add to their performances. As Satine, Melissa James has some great moments, especially her duet of Come What May, a moment where I felt things levelled up and I became much more invested in the story.

Perhaps the most effective part of the musical are the group numbers where the ensemble come together with upmost energy to perform Sonya Tayeh's abundant choreography. The opening Lady Marmalade number is particularly impressive and there's no denying how talented this cast are.

Overall, a three star act one, a five star set, and a four star act two make this a distinctly middle of the ground show and there's definitely elements of style over substance, but when it's good, it's really good and worth seeing for the Act Two opening number alone.

Friday, 13 January 2023

Kurios, Cirque du Soleil, Royal Albert Hall | Review


Kurios, Cirque de Soleil 
Royal Albert Hall 
Reviewed on Thursday 12th January 2023 by Olivia Mitchell
★★★★

Since its creation forty years ago, Cirque du Soleil, the Quebec based circus, has performed a number of shows with a variety of themes, always including their spectacular aerial and acrobatic routines. Currently playing at the Royal Albert Hall, Kurios is more of a traditional circus show, mixed with a whole heap of steampunk elements.

The storyline is incredibly loose and doesn't really matter, but it basically follows a 19th century inventor who creates a machine that opens the doors to a mystical new world. The cabinet of curiosities reveals a number of oddities that truly amaze and have you on the edge of your seat.

Thanks to Stéphane Roy's set design, The Royal Albert Hall has been transformed in to a vintage wonderland, with old-school lightbulbs and suitcases adorning the stage, while music is poured out of record players; all creating a transformative atmosphere that sets the tone without overpowering the performances. There's also some excellent lighting (Martin Labrecque) which helps to further the esoteric vibes of the whole thing.

Performance wise you couldn't really ask for more in terms of skill and energy, and I can only imagine what the physio and insurance bills must be for such an über talented cast. From trampoline somersaults to otherworldly contortion, there are tricks which have you holding your breath and hoping for the best. The precision with which the cast perform is impeccable to watch and the sheer amount of acts is quite impressive. At the start of the show, it's such a maelstrom of action that you need a hundred eyes to not miss anything.

It's hard to discuss the show's contents much more because a lot of the magic comes from being surprised so I don't want to give too much away. What I will say is that this show is a steampunk extravaganza, with some incredible wow moments, and Kurios is absolutely worth a visit for an evening like no other.

Tickets for Kurios are available at https://www.londonboxoffice.co.uk/

Thursday, 12 January 2023

The Commitments (UK Tour), New Wimbledon Theatre | Review


The Commitments (Tour
New Wimbledon Theatre
Reviewed on Wednesday 11th January 2023 by Olivia Mitchell 
★★★

35 years after the publication of Roddy Doyle's popular novel The Commitments, the stage adaptation is making its way round the UK and Ireland to bring soul to the masses. Set in Dublin in the mid 1980s, it tells the story of a group of working class friends and acquaintances who are trying to start a soul band. Featuring classic songs from the 50s and 60s the musicals has got some real toe tapping moments but doesn't strike the right chord throughout.

The musical score is a mile a minute, with the likes of Tina Turner, The Beatles and Aretha Franklin filling it out, and whilst the performances are great, the structure and use of musical numbers leaves something to be desired. There's no variety; the songs are either performed as a rehearsal or performance and just fill a gap every so often. Instead of adding anything to the story, they are shoehorned in, therefore making the whole thing feel a bit clunky and surface level. The performances themselves are excellent and as a concert you'd be more than happy with what's on offer, but as a theatrical piece it doesn't flow in a particularly cohesive or captivating way. 

That being said, the highly talented cast do a great job of working with what they've been given. Namely, Ian McIntosh who's vocals are outstanding as Deco. He gives an arena worthy performance and is a joy to watch. The show especially excels in its ensemble moments, when the band come together to really show what they're made of.  Ciara Mackey showcases some lovely vocals as Imelda, Stuart Reid is fabulous as Joey, Connor Litten has some fantastic musical solos and Ronnie Yorke is hilariously over the top as Mickah.

Also impressive is Tim Blazdell's set, which reminiscent of Billy Elliot, uses various levels and moving elements to transform into multiple venues such as the bar and Jimmy's home, allowing some motion throughout and providing visual entertainment. Equally, Jason Taylor's lighting is extremely effective, especially towards the closing of the show.

Throughout the show there are moments that are really special but they are purely musical. Unfortunately the inconsistent and sort of abrupt script makes it very hard to connect to the characters and their plight in any way.  The stakes are never high enough and there's a distinct lack of fluidity throughout any of the plot line. There's some semi-romantic moments and some lowkey drama but nothing to really sink your teeth into and after an abrupt ending that seemingly comes out of nowhere, the show closes with a long encore that is one of the most enjoyable parts and makes a strong case for this to be purely a concert musical without bothering with a plot or script.

All in all, whilst it may not be everyones full cup of tea, there's absolutely an audience for this style of show and overall The Commitments is a feel-good celebration of soul that has you clapping along and feeling good. The strong performances make it worth a watch and whilst you won't be emotionally invested, it’s a harmless, musical way to wile away a few hours.

photo credit: Ellie Kurttz

Wednesday, 11 January 2023

Six the Musical, Vaudeville Theatre | Review


Six the Musical
Vaudeville Theatre
Reviewed on Tuesday 10th January 2022 by Olivia Mitchell 
★★★★★

Entering the Vaudeville theatre last night there was a bustling energy, not just because everyone was excited to see Six but because the cast of the highly addictive tv show, the Traitors were in the audience. Murmurs of “traitor” and “faithful” filled the air and the buzz was certainly something, who knew we’d all be so starstruck!? However, once the curtain was drawn it was all eyes on the Queens and a glorious 75 minutes followed.


Going into a new year it’s great to see that Six the Musical is as vibrant and wonderful as ever. The current queens of the castle do an outstanding job of keeping the energy of the show fresh and truly engaging so that both first time audiences audiences and longtime Six fans can feel like they’re experiencing something special. 


The cast, made up of Rhianne-Louise McCaulsky, Baylie Carson, Claudia Kariuki, Dionne Ward-Anderson, Koko Basigara and Roxanne Couch are a complete group of powerhouses who give stellar solo performances as well as backing up and complementing each other brilliantly. The camaraderie on stage is clear to see and really adds to the overall message of empowerment and support which is at the heart of the show. Special mention must go to Baylie Carson who is an absolute dream to watch as they bring something completely fresh and charming to the role of Anne Boleyn; I cannot wait to see all their future theatrical endeavours (Fangirls UK please!)


Having been playing at the Vaudeville theatre since 2021 the show feels completely settled and has perfectly upgraded from its first long term home, the Arts, to now filling the space on the Strand. The bigger space allows more to witness to wonder of the musical but the clever, cosy set design means none of the intimacy is lost. Emma Bailey's design is the ideal backdrop for this concert style musical. The simplistic framework really allows the performances to shine but there are also some really clever elements such as the throne which rises up grandly. Paired with Tim Deiling's lighting, you really do get the fully visceral concert experience.


A Tudor tale like no other Toby Marlow and Lucy Moss' show continues to get better and better and there's no end in sight for its reign of brilliance. Six the Musical will have you bowing down to the queens and then on your feet to dance along with them- go see this show.


photo credit: Pamela Raith