Wednesday, 26 April 2023

Toby Sebastian at Omeara review: A stellar first headline show

Toby Sebastian

Since originally releasing music in 2013, Toby Sebastian has been firmly carving his name in the music industry and this year has embarked on his first ever headline tour, which last night reached London's Omeara in a spectacular fashion.

A wonderful showcase of Toby's vocals and stellar song writing, the evening provided a mixture of fan favourite songs, as well as material from his upcoming album; all of which was received with warmth by the crowd who bopped along throughout. Also well received was a surprise appearance by Bridgerton star, Simone Ashley who got to showcase her hauntingly beautiful vocals in a duet of Rusty Snare. Fingers crossed we'll see the duo pair up again in future.

Striking throughout the evening was Sebastian's innate musicality which shone through as he poured his heart into the performance. His unique blend of indie and rock perfectly matches the raw, emotional sound of his voice, which particularly soars in his falsetto moments. These virtuosic sections were some of the best and most captivating of the set. In a bigger venue, with a slightly better sound system, one can only imagine how spectacular Toby would sound.

Equally, the evening had some really high octane moments, especially in the closing rendition of Train To Mexico which felt like a party and was certainly a fan fave. Sebastian really lets the music speak for itself and doesn't interact a huge amount with the audience which means sometimes there's a feeling of disconnect, however, his charisma still shines through and he really gives his all musically.

The three piece band work together like a well oiled machine and everyone seems like they're genuinely having fun on stage which is a real treat to see. 

Mention must also go to Louis Oliver who performed a super solid opening set and really charmed the audience through his raspy, incredibly powerful vocals. 

Overall a well-curated set list, and a solid and evident appreciation for music and performing made this a really special night. Whilst there's no release date yet for Toby's next album, the sneak peeks say it's going to be a really enjoyable listen; and the next tour which will hopefully accompany it will be so worth attending!

Reviewed on Tuesday 25th April 2023 by Olivia Mitchell
Photo credit: Mike Palmer

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

Friday, 21 April 2023

Ain't Too Proud at the Prince Edward Theatre review: A tumultuous tale told through stellar performances

Ain't Too Proud
Prince Edward Theatre

A hit on Broadway, Ain't Too Proud: The Life and Times of The Temptations, has finally opened in the West End and is a thoroughly entertaining, charismatic and soulful journey. The musical, with a book by Dominique Morisseau is a breathtaking celebration of the legendary Motown group, The Temptations, and their iconic music. Taking you on a journey through the highs and lows of stardom, it showcases how some of the most famous music was created and provides a really really fun night out.

The heart and soul of this musical are the performances which are unanimously nothing short of spectacular. The cast deliver powerhouse vocals that charm and mesmerise throughout and there are so many standout moments. The whole cast are spectacularly strong but mention must go to Cameron Bernard Jones, Tosh Wanogho-Maud, Ryan Carter and Michael James Stewart who really shine in their solo and ensemble moments. Each member who becomes part of The Temptations, does so with a real sense of nuance and the varying personalities and talents are showcased throughout; really capturing the essence and ethos of the original group.

Above all this is an ensemble piece, with some of the strongest moments coming when the cast unite both vocally and choreographically. Sergio Trujillo's choreography is some of the best in the West End right now, the sheer slickness and precision is a wonder to behold and the energy created on stage is supremely infectious. Featuring iconic hits like My Girl, Papa Was a Rolling Stone, and Ain't Too Proud to Beg, the show is a top-tapping fest of gusto and spirit.

The storytelling is mostly compelling, and the narrative (led by Sifiso Mazibuko) is engaging from the start. Spanning the long and tumultuous history of The Temptations, from their humble beginnings to their rise to stardom the show has a lot to fit in, and especially in the first act it feels a bit too much. Whilst every performance is engaging, it does feel a little too long and seems to keep going even when there's a natural break point. However, the story is a poignant and emotional one that delves into the personal struggles, triumphs, and dynamics of the group and includes some powerful messages. Alongside the musical elements, the show touches on themes of friendship and brotherhood, as well as shedding light on the social and political challenges faced by The Temptations and African American artists during that era. A poignant reminder of their impact on American music history and the enduring legacy they left behind, Ain't Too Proud is a strong celebration of The Temptations.

Ain't Too Proud is a wonderful addition to the West End that features dazzling production value, and timeless music. A celebration of The Temptations and their impact on Motown, it will leave you humming their hits long after the curtain falls. 

Reviewed on Wednesday 19th April 2023 by Olivia Mitchell
photo credit: Johan Persson

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

Wednesday, 12 April 2023

The Mousetrap (Tour), New Victoria Theatre | Review

The Mousetrap (Tour) 
New Victoria Theatre 

“The World’s longest running play”, The Mousetrap is a classic whodunit play that has been running for 70 years in London’s West End and is now embarking on a UK tour. Seeing this touring iteration, it's easy to see why it has stood the test of time and continues to charm audiences.

The play is well-written and tightly plotted, with plenty of twists and turns to keep the audience guessing until the very end; Agatha Christie proves again why she continues to be one of the most lauded and loved mystery writers. The characters are interesting, and the performances by the cast are generally strong. Todd Carty as Major Metcalf and Kieran Brown as Mr Paravicini give especially strong performances and really engage the audience.

One of the things that impressed me about The Mousetrap is how it manages to keep you engaged and guessing throughout the entire performance. The play does an excellent job of setting up the mystery and then slowly unraveling it, with each new revelation leading to more questions and intrigue. Not only this, but sprinkled amongst the mystery of it all, are some really humorous moments which go down very well and make the pacing really work.

The set design and staging of the play are simple yet effective, and the use of lighting and sound helped to create a suitably ominous atmosphere, without being gimmicky or over the top.

Overall, The Mousetrap is a fantastic play that is definitely worth seeing for two hours of escapism. Whether you're a fan of murder-mysteries or just enjoy a good story, this play will not disappoint. I would highly recommend it to anyone looking for a thrilling and entertaining night out at the theatre. Find out for yourself Whodunit at your local touring theatre!

Reviewed on Tuesday 11th April 2023 by Valerie Field

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

Tuesday, 4 April 2023

Vikki Stone on her Olivier Award Win | Hey Duggee Live | Interview

Vikki Stone is a British composer, comedian, actress and musician who has had huge success in tv, radio and theatre. She recently won an Oliver Award for her adaptation of the popular children's TV show, Hey Duggee. Vicki sat down to talk to us about her process when taking something from screen to stage, and how important it is for young people to experience theatre...

Firstly, congratulations on being an Olivier Winner 2023! Where were you when you found out you were nominated?
I was at the gym. (I didn’t share my excitement with anyone around me, as I’m not sure they’d have fully understood what I was excited about.)

You won for Hey Duggee which is a show that entices young audiences/families to the theatre, perhaps for the first time. What was the process like for creating a show, made to entertain and engage children?
Hey Duggee is a well loved kids TV programme, and there are 300+ episodes, so the very first thing myself and co-adaptor Matthew Xia did was sit down in a room with a massive whiteboard and write down all the things that audiences would expect to be in the show. We also wanted to surprise audiences, and deliver an experience that lifts the 2D cartoon into a 3D theatre world. We were also aware that this show would be many people’s first time in the theatre, so we wanted to make it magical and memorable too. We kept that list of audience expectations in our minds throughout the whole process and I think it paid off.

Why do you think it’s so important to involve people of all ages in theatre?
Family co-viewing, which is where Hey Duggee Live sits, is such an important genre of theatre. Those shows where 3 year olds can sit* down with parents, and grandparents and everyone has a good time.

*In Hey Duggee Live there’s no pressure that the under fives have to sit. There’s probably more bouncing around with joy, than sitting.

Within theatre you’ve had a pretty diverse career, what draws you to a project?
When I first started writing theatre it was whoever would pay me! There’s an advantage in the arts for those that can write without the pressure of needing to earn a living, and they can afford to be more choosy, I was not one of those people. I don’t think we talk about that enough in the arts. I wrote anything and everything. These days I do have passion projects that I’m working on that don’t have any finance attached, and you have to believe in those much more, and hope that at some point in the process someone will come along and help get it off the ground.

If you could create your next dream job, what would it include?
I’ve got something “in development” that is pretty much my dream job. I’d really like to work on an on-screen musical theatre show next! Watch this space.

What advice would you give to other female writers who want to break into the industry and forge out a path like yourself?
My advice would be to keep pushing and pivot if necessary. My whole career has been formed out of pivoting, and all the skills I gathered along the way - classical music, stand-up, composing - all form part of who I am as a writer now.

Thank you so much, congratulations on the award!