Friday, 25 August 2023

Love Never Dies in Concert at the Theatre Royal Drury Lane Review: Musicality Reigns Supreme

Love Never Dies in Concert
Theatre Royal Drury Lane

Once again, the LMTO and Fourth Wall Live have joined forces to bring a musical to life in concert form with a stellar cast and stunning music. This time, it’s the much discussed and dissected Love Never Dies, which hasn’t been staged in the West End since 2011. For two days the Theatre Royal Drury Lane played host to the latest iteration of the show which mesmerisingly took audiences back to the world of the Phantom and Christine. With the spotlight on a talented cast, and powerful orchestrations, this concert rendition really let the music shine and provided a memorable theatrical experience for those in attendance.

With such a brilliant cast, it’s no surprise that the performances were broadly nothing short of exceptional, capturing the essence of the characters and their emotions. Celinde Schoenmaker stepped back into the role of the beloved songbird, Christine Daae and did so in an utterly magical way, with her soaring soprano perfectly bringing the score to life and dazzling throughout her time on stage. Alongside her, Broadway veteran Norm Lewis put mask back on (in this case a swanky gold number) and became the musical Phantom of the Opera once again. His gorgeous baritone vocals provided some spectacular moments, especially in the rousing Till I Hear You Sing and it’s always a treat to see him on a West End stage. It did however seem that the rock number The Beauty Underneath was not performed live, which is a bit disappointing in a show of this calibre, and it would be interesting to know what prompted this decision from the creative team. This isn’t a criticism of anyone in particular, but perhaps opens a wider conversation about how these concert versions are rehearsed and put together. Of course it’s a massive task to create such strong shows in a short amount of time and given their minimal runtime it’s understandable that the turnaround has to be fairly quick, but it would be curious to know if it’s possible to create a rehearsal process that works for everyone involved and doesn’t leave the audience feeling shortchanged.

Aside from this, the music was incredibly strong, with a number of stand out moments that brought to life the deeply evocative and emotive feelings which course through this show. As Meg Giry, Courtney Stapleton brought a lovely buoyancy and freshness which showed the character in a new and engaging light, whilst Matthew Season-Young provided some strong vocal moments as Raoul. The supporting cast, including the London Musical Theatre Chorus deserve commendation for their remarkable vocals which truly soared in the Theatre Royal Drury Lane.

Staging wise, this was one of the less full-out concerts compared to others but it still did an excellent job of evoking the world of Phantasma and showcasing some of the whimsy of Coney Island. Rebecca Brower’s costumes were very in keeping with the gothic vibes and cleverly mirrored some of those from the original Phantom production, overall creating a dynamic atmosphere which cleverly set the place and time, without overshadowing the music.

The LMTO orchestra, under the baton of Freddie Tapner, masterfully captured the intricate emotions of the music, underscoring the characters' journeys with every note. The majestic melodies and haunting refrains were a testament to the timeless quality of Lloyd Webber's composition and it was such a treat to hear the score performed by such a large group of highly talented musicians.

While Love Never Dies has faced criticism for its narrative depth, the concert format seemed to address some of these concerns. The live performance allowed the characters to shine and their relationships to be explored with greater nuance. A lot of the plot is quite frankly ludicrous and the characters have taken complete 180s from their initial iterations but this concert format seemed to be a perfect vehicle for highlighting the strengths of the piece while minimising its perceived weaknesses.

Overall Love Never Dies in Concert, was a captivating and emotionally resonant experience. The talented cast and impeccable orchestral accompaniment combined to create a theatrical event that honoured the legacy of its predecessor while standing as a powerful production in its own right. Many of the original book issues still stand but from the audience reaction, it’s clear that this is still a show which many hold close to their hearts.

Reviewed on Tuesday 21st August 2023 by Olivia 

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

Tuesday, 22 August 2023

Death Note the Musical in Concert at the London Palladium Review: An Ambitious and Engaging Evening

a testament to the creative team's dedication to translating the essence of Death Note to the stage"

Death Note the Musical (Concert) 
London Palladium

In its first ever English language performance Death Note the Musical in Concert provides an engaging experience, that beautifully combines a concert style show with the allure of a full-fledged production, including captivating staging, meticulously designed costumes, and expertly executed choreography. Drawing inspiration from the iconic Death Note franchise, which originated as a manga series written by Tsugumi Ohba and illustrated by Takeshi Obata, this musical adaptation pays homage to the rich history and context of the source material.

The exceptional cast, which include remarkable talents such as Frances Mayli McCann as Misa Amane, Dean John Wilson as L, Aimie Atkinson as Rem and Adam Pascal as Ryuk, deliver performances that breathe life into the characters. Their portrayal of the characters showcasing both their impressive vocal prowess and their deep understanding of the emotional complexities within the story which questions morality, justice and power.

While the storyline can be a bit challenging to follow, particularly for those not acquainted with the original Manga, the production's sleek execution manages to pack in a lot without feeling overwhelming. The adaptation skilfully navigates the intricate plot points, a testament to the creative team's dedication to translating the essence of Death Note to the stage.

The translation of various elements from the manga to the stage is nothing short of impressive in this truly ambitious concert debut. The show's director, Nick Winston, and the rest of the creative team, including choreographer Alexzandra Sarmiento and costume designer Will Skeet, deserve commendation for their remarkable work in seamlessly integrating these elements into the live performance. The audience's palpable elation is a testament to the success of this collaborative creative endeavour.

The pre and post-show buzz, along with the audience's enthusiastic reactions, clearly indicate that Death Note the Musical has found its niche. Wonderfully, it manages to attract those who might not typically be drawn to musicals, thanks to its connection to the established Death Note franchise and the efforts of the cast and creatives. This broad appeal speaks volumes about the production's ability to engage and captivate diverse audiences.

Admittedly, the sound balance did exhibit some issues on opening night, which can be expected with such an ambitious score. While it occasionally detracted from the overall experience, it's understandable for a complex production. Once the sound balance is finely tuned, there's no doubt that this show will achieve the impactful resonance it aims for.

Death Note the Musical in Concert at the London Palladium showcases the successful fusion of storytelling, outstanding performances, and production design. By highlighting the talents of the cast, and thanks to the creative vision, the musical celebrates the legacy of the Death Note franchise while crafting a unique and captivating theatrical experience. The show's potential to become an unforgettable sensation is evident, and with further refinements, it's poised to leave a lasting mark on the world of musical theatre and is a must see for fans of the source manga.

Reviewed on Monday 21st August 2023 by Olivia 
Photo Credit: Mark Senior

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

Friday, 28 July 2023

The Choir of Man at the Arts Theatre Review: A Musical Celebration of Humanity

a true testament to the power of music and its ability to bring people together"

The Choir of Man
Arts Theatre 

I recently had the pleasure of making a return visit to see The Choir of Man at the Arts theatre, a show which celebrates humanity, pubs and music in a truly joyous way. 

Although the onstage beer wasn't working at this particular performance, the setup of the Arts for this show is so well done. The audience are truly made to feel like they've entered a community hub and the pre-show interactions perfectly pave the way for the impressive show that's to follow. 

The show's concept is simple, it portrays a group of men coming together in a pub setting, sharing their stories and bonding through music. The songs are a bit random and there's not much of a through line but the seamless blend of humour, heartfelt moments, and raw emotions make this a truly memorable show, perfect for a lighthearted, fun night out.

This really is a show about friendship and the cast's camaraderie is evident throughout, with little interactions throughout coming across as truly genuine. There's also a really special connection created with the audience. The interactions with spectators, make you feel like you're part of the lively gathering, further enhancing the immersive experience.

The set and lighting design (Richard Dinnen) perfectly complement the show's no frills ambiance, transporting us to the cozy pub atmosphere where the magic unfolds. It's simple yet effective, allowing the spotlight to remain on the performers and their exceptional talents. The whole show is a vocal treat, with handfuls of glorious harmonies as well as some great dance and movement moments.

The Choir of Man is a true testament to the power of music and its ability to bring people together. It not only showcases the incredible vocal abilities of the cast but also celebrates the sense of community and brotherhood, leaving the audience with a heartwarming feeling. It's not the most cohesive or polished show, and it probably won't change your life but the overall joyous experience is exactly what we all need right now. 

This show is the perfect embodiment of live theatre. It's a really unique show that has rightfully carved out a space in the West End and deserves to be seen and celebrated. If you love music and want an hour and a half of feel-good-fun then this is the show for you!

Reviewed on Wednesday 26th July 2023 by Olivia Mitchell
Photo Credit: The Other Richard

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

Tuesday, 25 July 2023

Ride at the Southwark Playhouse Elephant Review: A Triumph of Story Telling

While it may not boast the grandeur of a West End spectacle, its simplicity and sincerity are what set it apart"

Southwark Playhouse Elephant

Embarking on a wondrous return, the dynamic musical Ride, crafted by Freya Catrin Smith and Jack Williams, is back to captivate audiences with an enchanting odyssey like no other. Having previously seen this show as part of the Vault Festival in 2020, it's amazing to see how it has developed and become even more of a theatrical gem.

This thrilling new production delves into the extraordinary escapades of Annie Londonderry, an indomitable spirit who shattered barriers in 1895 by becoming the first woman to cycle around the globe. Fearlessly challenging societal norms and religious expectations, Annie spins a captivating tale that dances on the edge of truth and fiction, skillfully molding narratives to serve her greater cause. She fearlessly embraces her convictions, even if it means bending the boundaries of morality. Wrapped around Annie's finger from the moment the metaphorical curtain is raised, we are spellbound by her storytelling prowess.

This British masterpiece takes us on an emotional rollercoaster ride, filled with hearty laughter and unflinchingly honest revelations about life and society, leaving a profound impact. With every twist and turn, the characters' raw emotions and vulnerabilities are beautifully portrayed, drawing us into their world and ensnaring our hearts until the closing moments.

The brilliance of Ride shines through the remarkable performances of its two-person cast: Liv Andrusier as Annie and Katy Ellis as Martha. Their chemistry is palpable, and they breathe life into their characters with heartfelt authenticity. Liv's portrayal of Annie is a multi-dimensional masterpiece, blending determination and defiance as she navigates a male-dominated world, striving to be heard. Her captivating Bostonian drawl lures us in, and her vocal prowess keeps us enchanted as she flawlessly delivers the demanding score, showcasing a masterclass in acting through song.

Under the direction of Sarah Meadows, Liv's performance radiates authenticity, leaving no doubt that this role was destined for her. Her portrayal of Annie exudes old Hollywood star quality, and her stage presence is truly remarkable.

Katy Ellis skilfully takes on the role of Martha. With comic flair and charming wit, Ellis brings Martha's thoughts to life, infusing the character with delightful nuance. While Annie weaves the narrative, Martha's hesitance and humorous antics provide the perfect balance, eliciting laughter from the audience. Throughout the show, Katy astounds as she embodies various characters in Annie's story, infusing each with unique purpose and unveiling layers of compassion, empathy, and a hint of romance.

Both Liv and Katy breathe a profound humanity into these characters, capturing the hearts of the audience. Their nuanced performances are a testament to their immense talent and dedication, leaving us in awe of their emotional range.

The minimalist yet ingenious set design by Amy Jane Cook effortlessly transports us to multiple locations, aided by clever use of props and set pieces that set our imaginations free. Matt Powell's projections expand the space, while Andrew Johnson's sound design adds an extra layer of brilliance, spotlighting the subtlest of sounds.

At the heart and soul of Ride lies its soul-stirring music. The mesmerising melodies and emotionally charged lyrics take us on an unforgettable journey, resonating deeply within us. While some musical moments may seem repetitive, they ultimately deliver an emotional and vocal punch, showcasing the brilliance of new British compositions.

Ride is an absolute triumph of storytelling, talent, and artistic vision. This emotionally charged musical takes us on a profound journey of self-reflection and connection. While it may not boast the grandeur of a West End spectacle, its simplicity and sincerity are what set it apart. Ride showcases the very essence of what theatre can offer, leaving us yearning to relive this magical journey again and again.

Reviewed on Monday 24th July by Olivia Mitchell
Photo Credit: Danny Kaan

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