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Friday, 1 July 2022

REVIEW: Beauty and the Beast at the London Palladium

The musical that started Disney’s screen to stage path, Beauty and the Beast returns to the West End after touring the UK in a new production at London’s famous Palladium. This 1991 animated classic is a staple for any Disney fan and is a perfect film for a stage adaptation, the West End hasn’t seen this show since 1999 so its return is very much welcome! 

In this new production, directed and choreographed by Matt West, the Disney magic fails to translate onto the stage. That classic spectacle we expect from a huge Disney production is still there but lacks drama and power, for example, the wolf chase scenes are done with projections and whilst the design and illusions are impressive they feel empty and too reliant on the projected images to do the work. The same goes for the big group numbers, whilst ‘Gaston’ was absolutely brilliant, the big show-stopper ‘Be Our Guest’ fails to really give us the punch we want. The cast works very hard but the overall design of this number doesn’t enter us into the world of Beauty and the Beast and the everyday objects who breathe life, instead we have people in top hats and tails in a tap number. 

REVIEW: Singin’ in the Rain at the New Wimbledon Theatre

With the current trend of reviving golden-age musicals, we are being blessed with classic and wholesome shows gracing stages across the UK; and Singin’ in the Rain is no exception. This timeless musical movie to theatre musical ticks all the boxes and encapsulates all the elements of ageless, crowd-pleasing theatre that thrills every time. This production is a feast of gorgeous storytelling and impressive musical numbers.

Based on the 1952 Gene Kelly film of the same title, Singin’ in the Rain tells the story of famous silent movie stars Don Lockwood and Lina Lamont, on-screen lovers who in reality couldn’t be further from romance, despite Lamont’s deluded, starry-eyed fantasies. As Hollywood progresses with technology, the new and innovative ‘talking picture’ takes off, using devices which sync music and dialogue with the motion picture. This causes a slight problem for Monumental Studios as their leading lady Lamont cannot act, sing and has the voice of a whiny strangled cat. To the rescue come Kathy Selden, the bright-eyed leading lady with beautiful vocals and personality to match, as she dubs her voice over Lamont’s. The plot is light-hearted and simple but kept the audience engaged throughout, the spectators rooting for the romantic leads Don and Kathy, played by Sam Lips and Charlotte Gooch.

Thursday, 23 June 2022

REVIEW: Fantastically Great Women Who Changed The World at the Theatre Royal Stratford East

The celebration of sisterhood can take many forms, but we don’t need to flip back very far in the history books to see how women have changed the world. This new musical is based on the award-winning picture book by suffragette descendent Kate Pankhurst. It seems the influence of Six is bearing fruit as an all-female ensemble brings to life some of history’s greatest women. This show is bursting with sass and attitude as they deliver a large slice of edutainment; that delectable blend of entertainment and information. The Theatre Royal Stratford East unsurprisingly drew a youthful contingent as this tight 90-minute musical kicked off with a real sense of purpose.

The story begins with the instantly familiar and infamous school trip to the museum. Jade (Kudzai Mangombe), an inquisitive 11-year-old has slipped away from her party. She is coping with her parents’ separation and wishes people would notice her. Wandering into the Gallery of Greatness she enters a space devoid of time. Jade encounters a range of fantastic women who have changed the world. Twelve characters burst on stage and show Jade how she too can be great and change the world just like they did. Emmeline Pankhurst (Kirstie Skivington) emerges in a funky, glittering military uniform while Amelia Earhart (Renee Lamb) is the super confident aviator. Marie Curie (Jade Kennedy) is the genius who discovered radium and Jane Austen (Christina Modestou) is the wordsmith with crystal clear delivery.

REVIEW: A Murder is Announced at the New Victoria Theatre, Woking

Agatha Christie remains the Queen of Crime and her 66 detective novels are still masterful examples of the genre today. She adapted several herself very successfully for the stage including of course both Mousetrap (in 1952) and Witness for the Prosecution (in 1953). Indeed, both are still in the West End today. The latest production of Witness for the Prosecution which started in 2017 is a wonderful atmospheric production. The tour of A Murder is Announced (written as a book by Christie in 1950) which has wound its way around the county visiting over 50 venues before arriving in Woking, started too in 2017 and many of the same cast are still involved. Adapted from the book by Leslie Darbon in 1977 the stage version is a slow burner with a complex plot of hidden identities and plenty of exposition without any of the truly great characters of Murder on the Orient Express or any of the thrilling moments of Witness for the Prosecution. It seems at times to be uncertain whether to play it for laughs and even the (spoiler alert) two deaths lack drama, one played out on a darkened stage and the other comically overplayed.

It is set in the “two drawing rooms” of an early Victorian House in Chipping Cleghorn which on the wide New Victoria stage is a sprawling room in which all the chairs seem lined up in a straight line across the mid-stage, good for the audience to see the characters who are often sat down but rather unconvincing as a realistic residential room. Worse still from my seat, I could not see the stage right wall which I believe contained another exit to the Garden and where two shots embedded themselves in the wall. Characters occasionally disappeared from sight as they moved towards this wall. Furthermore, the full box set had no masking above it allowing us to see through to the rear wall and into stage left flies which distracted from the otherwise well-dressed set.

Monday, 20 June 2022

REVIEW: A Dolls House, Part 2 at The Donmar Warehouse

After walking out on her husband 15 years ago, Nora (Noma Dumezweni) is back to face her Ex-Husband Torvald (Brían F. O'Byrne). Except there’s one problem, Despite thinking she was no longer married and conducting herself outside the marriage, Torvald never filed for divorce.

The show is very central to Nora’s attempt to persuade Torvald to file for divorce. Nora’s feminist writing has landed her in trouble with a lot of people, one, in particular, threatening to expose the pseudonym she writes under, in turn exposing the fact she’s not acted within the marriage. 
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