Tuesday 19 March 2024

I Should Be So Lucky on tour at the New Victoria Theatre REVIEW: A Misguided Melange of 80s Madness

I Should Be So Lucky (Tour)
New Victoria Theatre

In the sun-drenched world of I Should Be So Lucky: The Musical, there's a flicker of potential, but sadly, it fades quicker than the sparkle of a disco ball. The show, buoyed by a strong cast and glitzy staging, is fun but struggles to hit the high notes it aims for.

Let's start with the positives: the cast. They're the shining stars of this production, injecting life and energy into every scene. With their talent and charisma, they manage to elevate even the most lacklustre moments. Each member deserves applause for their efforts in salvaging what they can from the material. To name a few, Scott Paige brings hilarity to every moment of his stage time, Kayla Carter as Bonnie provides some wonderful vocals and her blossoming relationship with Ash played by Giovanni Spanò is one of the highlights of the show. Giovanni is laugh out loud funny and get to briefly show off his killer vocals. It's a bit of theme in the show that the amazing vocal talents of the cast don't get to really be shown off, due to the hundred other things that are happening throughout. This is definitely the case with Melissa Jacques as Shelley who is wonderful, but having seen her in Everybody's Talking About Jamie, I would've loved some more chances for her to sing and soar.

As I mentioned, there's a LOT going on. There are a heap of side plots and vague character references and development which never have enough time to really mean anything. It sort of feels like every idea made it into the show and there was no development or streamlining to make it work. Another issue is that the show borders between being super sincere and not taking itself too seriously, so at times you're unsure whether you're laughing with or at the show. There's certainly potential, but in it's current form, it feels like a strange fever dream.

Now, onto the staging. It's undeniably flashy, dripping with sequins and neon lights reminiscent of a Kylie concert. The set (Tom Rogers) is really good, and there's a certain thrill in watching the glitzy spectacle unfold. However, as the show progresses, the excitement begins to wane, revealing a repetitive pattern that feels more like a recycling of ideas than a deliberate artistic choice. The 80s music video vibes are real, but there's only so many times you can get joy from the heart shaped bed rolling onto the stage. 

Despite these glimmers of promise, I Should Be So Lucky: The Musical ultimately falls flat. While it may provide a momentary escape into a world of pop music and glamour, it lacks the substance needed to sustain interest beyond the surface. Thankfully the cast do wonder with what they're given, but even the most talented performers can't fully save this misguided show. Much like an 80s tune, it's enjoyable in the moment but quickly fades from memory.

Reviewed on Monday 18th march 2024 by Olivia
Photo Credit: Marc Brenner

I Should Be So Lucky plays at the New Victoria Theatre until 23rd March and then continues its tour

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

Sunday 17 March 2024

Instructions for a Teenage Armageddon at the Garrick Theatre REVIEW: Charithra Chandran makes a moving stage debut

Instructions for a Teenage Armageddon
Garrick Theatre

In a transfer from the Southwark Playhouse to to the Garrick Theatre, Instructions For a Teenage Armageddon sees Charithra Chandran making her stage debut after her notable appearance on screen in Bridgerton.

Written by Rosie Day (who previously starred as Girl), Teenage Armageddon revolves around a witty, introspective teenager coping with the loss of her sister amidst the tumult of teenage betrayal, manipulation, and trauma. Despite the dark undertones, Day lightens the mood by framing each section with the protagonist's quest for new scout badges. The story is moving, if at times predictable and is a good way of supporting teens and putting them at the forefront of a story.

In this 75-minute journey directed by Georgie Staight, Chandran deftly navigates through a poignant social satire, tackling a myriad of emotional themes. Her characterisation is good, breathing life into a variety of personas throughout the performance. While her comedic and emotional timing may not always deliver the biggest punch, Chandran's portrayal remains commendable, particularly given the emotional depths demanded by the role; and it's highly impressive that her first foray into theatre is with a one-girl-show.

Having seen the show in its previous iteration I knew what to expect but this version certainly felt different. Mainly in terms of staging, the show has moved away from the campfire setting as it's main framework and instead the action physically takes place in a muted bedroom which doubles as all the other locations. Video projections by Dan Light add depth and interest, especially with the extra on screen characters played by Shelley Conn (Mum), Philip Glenister (Dad) and Isabella Pappas (Ella). At times the show does feel a little too staged and as though its lost some of the real childishness which was so charming during its last run, however it retains it's heart and sincerity which really make it sparkle.

The show is adorned with quick, clever prose and such dark humour, you never quite feel certain you should be laughing as loudly as you are. The play is a poignant exploration of real childhood trauma, with relatable themes that will certainly resonate with audiences, particularly girls and women navigating societal pressures and concealing pain behind humour.

Instructions For a Teenage Armageddon serves as a cautionary tale, urging for open conversations about mental health and the importance of supporting one another. Chandran's performance is really admirable and the show's West End transfer is a testament to Rosie Day's brilliant writing.

Reviewed on Sunday 17th March 2024 by Olivia
Photo Credit: Danny Kaan

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

Saturday 9 March 2024

Reneé Rapp 'Snow Hard Feelings' Tour in London and Intimate Acoustic Show REVIEW

Reneé Rapp's Snow Hard Feelings Tour
Eventim Apollo, Camden Roundhouse and Banquet Records

Having followed Reneé Rapp since 2018 and attending her debut London show last year, I snapped up tickets for her London residency in an instant and waited with extreme levels of excitement to see her perform again. It's funny having watched someone for so long, you feel a strange sense of pride without even knowing them personally. Perhaps with Reneé it's even stronger because of her connection to us fans that makes her feel almost like a friend, even on the other side of the Atlantic. So, going into the weekend I knew it was going to be special, but it turned out to be so much more than that.

From her breakout role as Regina George in Mean Girls on Broadway and then the recent film adaptation, to her portrayal of Leighton in the charmingly relevant The Sex Lives of College Girls series, to her acclaimed debut album, Rapp has grown from strength to strength, gaining an adoring fanbase along the way, and always staying true to her values of honesty and integrity. Last year her first full length album was released to much critical acclaim (snubbed by the Grammy's, but we move) and this tour was a testament to her evolution as an artist, and a celebration of her impressive musical intuition and writing skills. I won't go into depth because we'd be here forever but for me it's a no skip album that perfectly blends elements of pop, rock, and theatre to create a spellbinding journey. Lyrically it hits hard and musically it offers variety and so much melodic interest whilst still retaining a very Reneé feel.

Watching last year's concert, with music from Rapp's EP 'Everything to Everyone' it was hard to imagine it could get better but with time, it seems Renee has grown in confidence and truly proves to be born for the stage. Two of the shows I saw (Hammersmith Apollo and Camden Roundhouse) were part of the Snow Hard Feelings Tour, which included a mixture of songs from both releases. During these full production concerts, Rapp commanded attention with her dynamic vocals and infectious energy, delivering unforgettable performances, supported by her brilliant band and excellent lighting and video design. 

But it was Rapp's acoustic performance at Banquet Records that truly showcased her vocal prowess and artistry. Stripped of elaborate production, Rapp delivered soul-stirring renditions of her songs, allowing her powerhouse vocals to take centre stage. With each note, she demonstrated remarkable control and nuance, effortlessly navigating through intricate melodies and emotive lyrics. Her performance was a masterclass in vocal performance, with faultless transitions between delicate falsetto and powerful belting.

I've always been in awe of Reneé's vocal technique, from her rounded vowels, to her impeccable breath control, phrasing and healthy belt, so getting a chance to witness it close up felt really special. Vocally she shone in all three shows, but there's really something magical about an acoustic show, with only a few hundred people all living in the moment and experiencing someone's innate talent. This show's version of 'Snow Angel' will go down as one of my favourite live vocals I've ever heard. 

Throughout the shows, Rapp's authenticity and vulnerability were palpable. Whether sharing personal stories or engaging in playful banter with the crowd, she created an intimate connection that made everyone feel like old friends. Despite the occasional interruptions caused by fainting fans, Rapp handled each moment with grace and humour, turning potential disruptions into endearing anecdotes. Plus, her ability to convey emotion through her vocals and infuse each lyric with depth and sincerity, creates an intimate connection with her audience. Part comedy show, part concert, you're sure to be laughing out loud and probably crying during a Reneé Rapp concert.

Music is such a community former, and these shows were testament to that. From standing in the queues to waiting in the venue for the concert to start, I got chatting to so many people and felt like I was in a room of likeminded people who just wanted to have a good time. The ethos of acceptance and friendship which Reneé fosters, trickles down to her fans, allowing the creation of a brilliantly welcoming environment. There are also a number of excellent audience chants which when screamed out, really unite the crowd, and I must say, as a Brit I feel like we really excel at these, thanks to our years of assemblies and pantomimes. The signs held up by fans added to the sense of community, but unfortunately there were many which veered into objectification. Sign culture and boundaries is a whole topic of it's own but Reneé navigated these situations with poise, reminding fans of the importance of respect; let's just hope people chill out for her next performances.

The support acts, Towa Bird and Sekou, brought their own energy to the stage, setting the perfect tone for Rapp's captivating performances. Towa Bird, with their soulful melodies and infectious energy, warmed up the crowd with their genre-bending sound, seamlessly blending elements of indie-pop and R&B. Their dynamic performance left a lasting impression, showcasing their undeniable charisma and artistry. Meanwhile, Sekou captivated audiences with his powerful vocals and heartfelt lyrics, delivering an electrifying performance. At only 19 years old, he's sure to go from strength to strength and I can't wait to see him flourish in the music industry.

As the final notes of 'Snow Angel' echoed through the venues and confetti rained down, it was clear that Rapp's London shows had left an indelible mark on all who were lucky enough to witness them. With her unparalleled talent, genuine connection to her fans, and unwavering authenticity, Reneé Rapp has proven once again why she is a force to be reckoned with. And as London basks in the afterglow of her triumphant performances, one thing is certain: the star of Reneé Rapp is only just beginning to rise. Bring on the Reneésance.

Reviewed on 1st, 2nd, 3rd March by Olivia Mitchell
Photo Credit: Olivia Mitchell

Friday 1 March 2024

Standing at the Sky's Edge at the Gillian Lynne Theatre REVIEW: A Perfect Tale of Hope and Connection

Standing at the Sky's Edge 
Gillian Lynne Theatre 

Standing at the Sky's Edge is a captivating journey that swept me off my feet and left me utterly spellbound. From the moment the lights dimmed and the first notes filled the air, I was transported into a world where every emotion felt raw and real.

The story, set across three generations, unfolds with such grace and authenticity, drawing the audience into the lives of the characters living in Sheffield's iconic Park Hill estate. Through their joys and struggles, their dreams and disappointments, I found myself rooting for each one of them as if they were old friends.

Whilst this is technically a jukebox musical, it doesn't feel clunky as is so often the case. Richard Hawley's compositions, with Tom Deering's orchestrations are a beautiful fusion of rock, folk, and soul, each melody weaving its way into the narrative to really capture the essence of the musical. The lyrics are so poetic and heartfelt, they brought tears to my eyes and chills down my spine. This is a masterfully crafted musical that is so different to other West End offerings, in all the best ways.

Set wise, Ben Stones has done a glorious job, bringing the industrial feeling of Park Hill to life, but also capturing the warmth which filled it. Mark Henderson's fantastic lighting design also contributes to this realistic feeling, with even the first scene literally brining the sunrise to life. From the bustling streets of Sheffield to the towering heights of Park Hill, every detail is so meticulously crafted that I felt like I was actually there, witnessing the story unfold before my eyes. In my opinion this is a show which needs multiple visits because there's just so much to see, every nook of the stage is filled with action and there are so many stories going on that you could watch ten times and still spot something new!

But what truly struck me was the way this musical resonated with me on a personal level. Despite never having set foot in Sheffield, I felt a deep connection to the characters and their journey. Their struggles felt familiar, their triumphs felt like my own and whilst I didn't directly relate, the emotions portrayed are so genuine and truthful, you can't help but be moved by the tales of hurt and hope.

These intense feelings are a testament to the vast ensemble cast who are outstanding in every way. Elizabeth Ayodele as Joy brings subtle but effective character growth that melds to her surroundings, whilst Samuel Jordan is every level of charming as Jimmy, both also give brilliant vocal performances, a common theme throughout the cast. Opening the show, Jonathon Bentley sets the tone for the piece and showcases his beautiful voice which equally shines during his other solo moments. Perhaps the character with the biggest arc is Harry, portrayed with such nuance and integrity by Joel Harper-Jackson. Mesmerising is a word which gets thrown around a lot but Joel's performance is utterly the embodiment of it, as he brings to life a character that feels so multi-dimensional and showcases his innate acting ability. As his loving housewife partner who slowly finds her voice, Rachael Wooding is a powerhouse, with another slow burn performance that peaks in the second act and has sniffles filling the auditorium. Laura Pitt-Pulford gives one of my favourite vocal performances of the show with 'Naked in Pitsmoor' and again, brings to life her character Poppy perfectly. Lauryn Redding is her ideal counterpart, serving some wonderful vocals, especially during the title song and also bringing some lightness amongst the heavy themes of the show. The entirety of the cast bring this world to life and they're all stars. Mention must also go to the booming bassist who growls and grounds the Act two opening number 'Standing at the Sky's Edge'.

In the end, Standing at the Sky's Edge isn't just about the music or the set design – it's about the human experience. It's about love, loss, and the resilience of the human spirit. It's a reminder that no matter where we come from, we're all connected by our shared humanity.

Standing at the Sky's Edge touched me in a way that few musicals ever have. It's a testament to the power of storytelling and the magic of theatre. If you have the chance to see it, don't hesitate – it's an experience you won't soon forget, and the act one opening is one of the best theatrical moments possible to see on stage right now.

Reviewed on Thursday 29th February 2024 by Olivia
Photo Credit: Brinkhoff-Moegenburg

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

Friday 23 February 2024

Just For One Day at the Old Vic REVIEW: Pitch Perfect Peformances

Just For One Day: The Live Aid Musical
The Old Vic

Written by John O'Farrell, Just For One Day transports audiences back to 1985, to the historic Live Aid concert held simultaneously at Wembley Stadium and JFK Stadium. Through the eyes of various characters, including musicians, organisers, and fans, the musical captures the spirit of unity and hope that defined this iconic event. Against the backdrop of global issues and personal struggles, the show celebrates the power of music to inspire change and bring people together.

With direction by Luke Sheppard, the musical is a poignant homage to the legendary Live Aid concert, offering a nostalgic journey through one of music's most iconic moments. While the musical may not reach the heights of the original event, it nonetheless succeeds in capturing its essence and paying tribute to the artists and activists who made it possible. It's definitely a musical that can appeal to and appease a wide range of audiences; as someone who wasn't alive during the original concert, I completely felt the importance and excitement that surrounded it, whilst my mum who regaled her story of watching the concert on a tiny screen in Cyprus during her honeymoon, wholly felt the nostalgia and related in a different way.

The strength of Just For One Day lies in its stellar cast, who deliver powerful performances that breathe life into the characters they portray. Craig Els leads the show as Bob Geldof and does a stellar job, bringing a brilliant amount of humour but also a sense of gravitas when discussing the atrocities of the Ethiopian famine which put the whole thing in motion.

Danielle Steers shines every moment, bringing her usual astoundingly soulful vocals, whilst Jack Shalloo is a complete standout as Midge and Abiona Omonua is charming as Amara. At this performance Margaret Thatcher was played by Kerry Enright who is absolutely fantastic, providing some of the most hilarious and well characterised moments of the show. Vocally this is a cacophony of powerhouses, with everyone providing killer moments but special mention goes to Olly Dobson and Collette Guitart who really shine, I wish they got more solo moments! Rhys Wilkinson also brings fantastic characterisation to all of the roles he plays.

Unsurprisingly, the musical's soundtrack is another highlight, featuring an array of classic hits from the 1980s that have audiences tapping their feet and singing along. Accompanied by a talented live band, the music transports viewers back in time, evoking the same sense of excitement and camaraderie that defined the original Live Aid concert.

Where the show doesn't quite work is with it's book. The production takes a deliberate approach to steer clear of hero worship towards Geldof, opting instead to spotlight the unsung heroes who contributed behind the scenes. However, while the inclusion of fictionalised narratives aims to showcase the efforts of everyday individuals, these characters often come across as shallow and their dialogue occasionally falls into clichéd one-liners. The sentiment is lovely, but it's not hugely impactful. However, the way music is woven into these stories is really admirable; songs aren't just shoehorned in, they're used to develop the stories being told and even seem to take on new meaning in the context of the show.

Another aspect which falls flat is the actual trauma which prompted the concert. There are some attempts at highlighting the pain and horrors of the famine but it feels a bit sanitised and brushed over, so as not to detract from the feel-good feeling the show pushes. Of course no one wants to fetishise the suffering of others, but in omitting a lot of the horrors, it doesn't allow the show to have quite as strong of an emotional impact.

Visually, this show is a feast for the eyes, with dynamic staging (Soutra Gilmour) and vibrant costumes (Fay Fullerton) that capture the spirit of the 1980s. Creative use of multimedia elements (Andrzej Goulding) and striking lighting (Howard Hudson) further enhances the experience, immersing audiences in the sights and sounds of the era. This is a show that really lends itself to touring and could certainly thrive and develop in that capacity, it will be interesting to follow where it goes after this initial run.

Just For One Day may not be without its flaws, but it's a heartfelt tribute to Live Aid and its message of hope and solidarity make it a worthy addition to the stage. For fans of 1980s music and those who fondly remember the original concert, this musical is sure to strike a chord.

Reviewed on Thursday 22nd February 2024 by Olivia
Photo Credit: Manuel Harlan

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

Thursday 22 February 2024

Hadestown at the Lyric Theatre REVIEW: A Soul-Stirring Journey to the Depths of Hell

Lyric Theatre

There are musicals that touch your soul and for me that’s Hadestown. I first saw the show in 2018, where I went in completely blind and came out gob smacked and awed. Tonight after the official West End opening night, I feel equally awed as well as inspired, moved, astounded, heartbroken and overjoyed. There really aren’t adjectives to describe how heartfelt and special this show is. Not only is it a piece of fantastic quality theatre but it’s also a poem, a concert, a celebration of life and humanity, an ode to music and above all, a love story.

Hadestown tells the tale of young Orpheus and Eurydice as their tales intertwine. It's a musical retelling of the ancient Greek myth of the duo and follows the journey of Orpheus as he descends into the underworld, determined to rescue his beloved Eurydice from the clutches of the charismatic but menacing Hades. Despite the various iterations and productions this musical has gone through, one constant is how scarily relevant the themes it explores feel in our modern world. Hades, ruler of the underworld and the mines, ostensibly grants "freedom" through employment while simultaneously confining his subjects behind a barrier. Why We Build The Wall is certainly one of the most pertinent songs of the production, its relevance hits all too close to home in the current world.

The musical borders the line between acting as "the world we live in, and the one we dream about", in thanks part to Rachel Hauck's set. Scaled down slightly from the National Theatre production, it still evokes Depression-era vibes and cleverly frames the story. Bradley King's lighting literally highlights some of the most astounding moments of the show, especially during Hades' peak moments, as well as casting shadows to create an almost cinematic feel; overall it's just an incredibly cohesive show that has a vibe and aesthetic that matches it so well.

This undefined world is perhaps best showcased by Anaïs Mitchell's incredible score which combines so many styles a creates such special storytelling. The intricate lyrics allow layers upon layers of emotions to form as Anaïs weaves a musical tapestry that is charming and delightful at times, but gritty and painful at others. Mitchell has truly crafted a musical masterpiece that transcends time and genre and creates a theatrical experience like no other.

Director Rachel Chavkin has meticulously pored over each performer, set element, musician, and lighting effect to craft a production that leaves us suspended between despair and hope. This version of the show also feels perfectly tweaked for the West End, with the use of the performer’s natural accents making the whole thing feel very real and grounded, an inspired change! David Neumann's precise choreography fits seamlessly with the revolving stage, continually moving between frenetic energy and poignant stillness that works so well. This is a piece which is so reliant on balance, the balance between good and bad, love and hate, light and dark, loud and quiet, beauty and pain, among others, and the entire cast and creative team have perfectly understood and managed this balance to form a musical that leaves you not quite sure what emotion you're experiencing, but 100% sure you experienced something special.

At it's core this is a story about people, and the people who lead it are wonderful. As the headstrong Eurydice, Grace Hodgett Young is everything you could ask for in a leading lady, her calm is as strong as her passion and she fills every moment with charisma. There’s often mention of “stage presence” but it’s rare you see the phrase as outwardly displayed as with Grace who commands even the smallest of moments. Of course she’s also vocally dreamy, showcasing all layers of her voice and perfectly bringing the vocal grit that’s so necessary for the role. Her easy swagger and playfulness is a perfect balance to Orepheus' more nervous persona. Taking on the role of this heartstrong counterpart, Donal Finn is delightfully whimsical and charming. Donal's Orpheus truly comes into his own during act two when his passion for his partner and also his music are on full display and his voice becomes a beacon of hope cutting through the darkness of despair. It's utterly heartbreaking when we reach the expected conclusion, a testament to the emotion the cast pour out to get us to that point.

As the enigmatic Hermes, Melanie La Barrie is all parts wonderful, her presence commanding the stage with every word and gesture and bringing humour and gravitas in equal measure. Her performance weaves together the threads of myth and legend with an all knowing wisdom that seems to transcend time, she truly gives everything on stage and is a marvel to behold.

Hadestown is more than a musical—it's an experience, a testament to the enduring power of art to touch the very depths of our souls. It's a rare gem that shines brightly in the landscape of contemporary theatre, a reminder that sometimes, even in the darkest of times, there is still beauty to be found.

In the hallowed halls of the Lyric Theatre, you can bear witness to something truly extraordinary. Hadestown is a triumph in every sense of the word and it needs to be seen.

Reviewed on Wednesday 21st February 2024 by Olivia Mitchell
Photo Credit: Marc Brenner

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