Tuesday, 28 February 2017

REVIEW: Ghost at the New Victoria Theatre in Woking

The new touring production of Ghost: The Musical hit headlines when it was announced that Sarah Harding, of Girls Aloud fame, would be taking on the lead role of Molly, originally played by Demi Moore in the 1990 film. After an array of terrible reviews, Harding quickly departed the production to make way for Carolyn Maitland, a more well-practiced and reputable stage performer. Joining Maitland in Ghost is Hollyoaks alum Andy Moss as Sam, Jacqui Dubois as Oda Mae Brown and Sam Ferriday as Carl. 

“Walking back to their apartment late one night a tragic encounter sees Sam murdered and his beloved girlfriend Molly alone, in despair and utterly lost. But with the help of a phony storefront psychic Sam, trapped between this world and the next, tries to communicate with Molly in the hope of saving her from grave danger…”

Monday, 27 February 2017

REVIEW: Murder for Two at The Watermill Theatre, Newbury

The Watermill at Newbury is one of those small gems, a producing house that turns out great theatre in a small space for a loyal audience base. Every visit to the old mill sees the stage transformed into a different space as a setting for the productions. On this occasion we are transported to a dark chaotic detective’s office in which we meet the detective and a host of suspects.

The musical was written as parody, Raymond Chandler meets Cluedo. What sets this production as different from the normal murder mystery genre is that all the suspects are played by one actor played by Jeremy Legat and he interacts with the aspiring detective played by Ed MacArthur. Much of this interaction takes place around the upright piano they both play which faces upstage and the story unfolds with a limited number of props, a door to set the room and hats to distinguish characters.

REVIEW: Boy Stroke Girl at Etcetera Theatre

How important is the gender of a person to fall in love with them? Is gender identification a biological requirement or just a social labelling?

Written and directed by Ian Dixon Potter, Boy Stroke Girl tries to answer some of these questions by presenting a tale of unconditioned love, which goes entirely over the boundaries imposed by society. In part metaphorical and in part naive, it presents the story of Blue (Ilaria Ciardelli) and Peter (Giambruno Spena) – I don't think that's coincidental – who meet one day in Caffè Nero and discover to be both huge fans of Doctor Who. After a brief chat, they agree to meet again and go to the movies together, but there is a problem. Blue's deliberately ambiguous appearance doesn’t allow Peter to work out whether he has met a boy or a girl. What is just an insignificant detail for the young man, though, turns out to be a much bigger issue for his friends and family, who don't make a secret of their disapproval for the growing relationship. 

REVIEW: Orbits at Drayton Arms Theatre

Within the eclectic and diverse offering of the London theatre scene, I always appreciate when a pub theatre decides to host a play that draws from the repertoire. This demonstrates that the pleasure and duty of keeping the tradition alive is not only down to the playhouses and that classical culture can be shared everywhere. I'm convinced that there are always new ways to see 'old stuff' and learn from it, whilst reaching an audience that isn't necessarily familiar with the mainstream channels. 

This has been the case for Wally Sewell, a playwright who was commissioned, in 2014, a self-referential play on Bertolt Brecht's Life of Galileo for the Ealing Autumn Festival. Invited to write a Pirandelloesque script on what Galileo thought of how Brecht had depicted him, Sewell found an even more self-referential insight in the relationship between the dramaturg who fled Nazi Germany for his Marxist ideas and the closeted Broadway actor Charles Laughton. Bringing his contribution to the English version of Life of Galileo, the latter hoped to find in Brecht's genius a help to revive his career, whereas Brecht saw in his collaborator a much needed link to the American theatre scene. Little is known about their personal friendship, except for the fact that, before heading back to Berlin, Brecht wrote for his friend a special book of poems.

Wednesday, 22 February 2017

REVIEW: Evita at the New Wimbledon Theatre

Evita premiered in 1978 in London’s West End, making a star and legend out of Elaine Paige who starred in the title role. Since then such woman as Patti LuPone, Siobhán McCarthy, Madonna, Louise Dearman, Rachael Wooding and Elena Roger have tackled this mammoth of a role. And now its Emma Hattons turn, fresh from her acclaimed run as Elphaba in the London production of WICKED. And not only does she knock it out of the park, she knocks it out of this world! 

Emma Hatton brings so much to the role of Eva, at the start she sounded a little too poppy for the score but as the story went on she sang beautifully. Her ‘Don’t cry for me Argentina’ was simple but stunning. I’ve never experienced tension like that in a theatre. You could hear a pin drop. And for such a tiny lady, she sure has a huge stage presence. Make sure you catch this girl in this show, a performance I’ll remember for a long time.

Tuesday, 21 February 2017

REVIEW: WhatsOnStage 17th Annual Awards

It’s one of the highlights of any theatre-goers year – The WhatsOnStage Awards. This year’s 17th Annual concert was packed to the brim with the biggest and brightest stars of London’s West End. With Harry Potter and The Cursed Child leading the nominations, closely followed by Half A Sixpence, the evening promised to be filled with the crème de la crème of theatre.

The Prince Of Wales Theatre - featuring 1100 goodie bags
for every guest at the awards
The evening was hosted by Simon Lipkin (Avenue Q, Guys and Dolls) and Vikki Stone who has previously been described as “the bastard love child of Victoria Wood and Tim Minchin”! These two musical theatre buffs were so at ease and wonderfully charming hosts. Quick witted jokes and sharp comedy injected a relaxation into the evening which was gratefully received. Lipkin in particular seemed to pride himself on his close-to-the-belt gags. For example, he introduced the evening by saying “This of this like the Oliviers or the Tony’s, just without all the gravitas” and later in the evening revived his old friend Trekkie Monster (Avenue Q) and proceeded to have a conversation with a wall which began “Oh, hello Russell Crowe. I thought you were great in the Les Mis movie”. Needless to say, the audience were in stitches. 

Sunday, 19 February 2017

Full list of Winners and Nominees from the 2017 WhatsOnStage Awards

The winners were announced this evening at the Prince of Wales Theatre for the 17th Annual WhatsOnStage Awards, presented by Simon Lipkin and Vikki Stone, celebrating the best of the UK’s theatre over the past year. The awards are the only major theatre prizes to be voted for entirely by the audience.

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child leads the awards this year with eight victories, a WhatsOnStage Award record for a play, including Best Actor in a Play for Jamie Parker, Best Supporting Actress in a Play for Noma Dumezweni, Best Supporting Actor in a Play for Anthony Boyle, Best New Play, Best Director for John TiffanyBest Set DesignBest Lighting Design and Best Video Design.

In the other acting awards, Billie Piper claims Best Actress in a Play for Yerma, her second WhatsOnStage Award in three years following her 2015 Best Actress in a Play victory for Great Britain.Amber Riley is named Best Actress in a Musical for her performance in Dreamgirls and Best Supporting Actor in a Musical goes to Trevor Dion Nicholas for Disney’s Aladdin, which also saw success in the Best Costume Design category. 

20th Anniversary production of HONK! at the Union Theatre announce full cast

This Easter, Honk! the musical returns to London in a brand-new, actor-musician egg-stravaganza, filled with puppetry, magic and illusions. And water guns!

This heartwarming reimagining of Hans Christian Andersen’s The Ugly Duckling tells the story of Ugly, a plucky little bird who gets picked on by the other farmyard animals because he’s different. Pushed out of the flock, he embarks on an adventure across the marsh, meeting an array of characters who teach him that it takes all sorts to make a world, and that he is much more than just his fowl looks.

Surprising everyone - including its own composers - by pipping The Lion King and Mamma Mia to the post to win the 2000 Olivier Award for Best New Musical, Honk! has gone on to receive over 8,000 productions around the world, and is now returning to London in its 20th anniversary year.

Friday, 17 February 2017

REVIEW: Bucket List at Battersea Arts Centre

My admiration for the Battersea Arts Centre grows every time I get a chance to visit it. Not only, this beautiful building has survived a disastrous fire in 2015, but it has also risen from its ashes even stronger and keeps offering a wide programme of initiatives that promotes the local community and its diversity. Bringing up the most urgent matters of our times, BAC uses various art forms to explore topics like migration and international politics, sending out a clear message of inclusion and social justice. 

Within this vision, the ongoing Cash, Capitalism and Corporations season hosts, until the 4th March, Bucket List, a powerful insight on the political relationships between US and Mexico. Written and directed by Nir Paldi, Bucket List highlights how the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) worsened the Mexicans' quality of life, as experienced directly by Milagros (Tamsin Clarke), a young girl born on the very day the treaty was signed.

Tuesday, 14 February 2017

REVIEW: Dead Simple at The Mill at Sonning

The theatre at the Mill at Sonning offers Dinner Theatre for up to 215 people and always presents an appealing season of plays. First up this year is an adaptation of a Peter James’s novel set in Brighton and based around his detective superintendent Roy Grace, first presented at the Dartford Orchard Theatre in 2015 followed by a nationwide tour.  Peter James’s novels detective mysteries with twist and turns that are said to mean you can’t put the book down. This tale certainly keeps you guessing.

This story is based around the stag night prank on Michael Harrison that goes horribly wrong and sets up an ever changing set of events that spiral towards the dramatic conclusion.

REVIEW: The White Devil at the Sam Wanamaker Playhouse at the Globe

This was my first visit to the wonderful Sam Wanamaker Playhouse, the reconstructed 17th century style theatre squeezed into the foyer of the Globe on London’s South Bank and with a capacity of 340 it is an intimate space where the audience feels part of the performance.  The candlelight auditorium and stage creates an atmospheric environment which intensifies the experience and the drama.

John Webster’s dark tale of The White Devil, based on real events from the 1580’s,is re-envisaged here by Annie Ryan in a future dystopian time where in these families the corruption , lust and random killing is a way of life! With a stripped back setting, using the candles to set scenes and with no stage furniture it is the twelve cast members (6 male, 6 female) who must drive the story using Webster’s language to engage the audience . This they do with great skill and clarity creating logic to the madness of killings and treachery.

REVIEW: How (Not) to Live in Suburbia at the Soho Theatre

Funny, brutal and uncomfortably autobiographical. This is the self-appointed slogan of the Edinburgh Fringe transfer, given mid-show by Annie Siddons, the intelligent writer and principal performer of How (Not) to Live in Suburbia.

This amusing, but oddly touching piece shares a much more profound story than is initially suggested by the sporadic, comedy sketch-like recreations of Siddons’ anecdotes pre-filmed and projected onto a screen behind her during the performance. Richard DeDominici’s clips capture hilariously Siddons’ experiences after moving to “Twickenham – home of rugby” where she is made to feel isolated and ostracised and which is what ultimately leads to her struggle with chronic loneliness.

Samantha Barks and Arthur Darvill to star in London Musical Theatre Orchestra's 'Honeymoon in Vegas'

After the resounding success of Rodgers & Hammerstein’s State Fair (Cadogan Hall November 2016) and the sell out concert of Alan Menken & Lynn Ahrens' A Christmas Carol (Lyceum Theatre, December 2016), with numerous five star reviews for both performances, The London Musical Theatre Orchestra is delighted to announce the initial casting for its first concert of the 2017 season, the hit Broadway musical Honeymoon in Vegas

Samantha Barks is to take on the role of Betsy and Arthur Darvill will play Jack, with full casting to be announced in the coming weeks.  

Friday, 10 February 2017

MOTOWN the musical announce new cast and releases over 200,000 tickets

The hit West End production of Motown the Musical today (10 February 2017) releases over 200,000 new tickets for sale with the show now booking at the Shaftesbury Theatre to 24 February 2018 as the production celebrates its first birthday in London.

With music and lyrics from the Motown catalogue and book by Motown founder Berry Gordy the production features a sixteen-piece orchestra playing 50 Motown tracks including Ain’t No Mountain High Enough, I’ll Be There, Dancing In The Street, Stop! In The Name Of Love, My Girl and I Heard It through the Grapevine.  Charles Randolph-Wright’s production tells the story behind the classic hits.

With just $800 borrowed from his family, Motown founder Berry Gordy, goes from featherweight boxer to heavyweight music mogul, discovering and launching the careers of Diana Ross, Michael Jackson, Stevie Wonder, Smokey Robinson, Marvin Gaye and many more.  Motown the Musical uncovers the true story of the legendary record label that changed music history and created the soundtrack of a generation.  

Thursday, 9 February 2017

REVIEW: Focus Group at Ovalhouse

Inspired by Mister Squishy – a short story by David Foster Wallace – Focus Group (or How to Stare Down and Transfigure Loneliness) is an insight on the melancholic and work-centred life of Terry (Terry O'Donovan). Employee of an advertising agency, he's a focus group moderator in charge of researching on the brand image of Mr Kipling individually wrapped cakes. 

When the auditorium doors open, we are invited by Terry and his colleagues Clare (Clare Dunn) and Stu (Stuart Barter) to choose a side of the traverse stage and take a seat. Right in the middle is a yellow table on a large yellow carpet and, by the edges, a microwave on top of a filing cabinet, an armchair and a couple of foldable chairs. Jackie Shemesh's stage is based on primary colours and the same guidelines generally apply to the costumes. The elementary props are counterbalanced by an elaborate sound and lighting design which moulds the scenes producing a cinematographic time-lapse effect. This is a play that shows rather than tell, putting the right emphasis on simple but meaningful gestures. 

Wednesday, 8 February 2017


Today WILTON’S MUSIC HALL announces a revival of the award-winning, critically-acclaimed Broadway musical comedy How To Succeed In Business Without Really Trying, opening for a limited run from 08 April. The amusing tale, which first debuted on Broadway in 1961, charts the journey of J. Pierrepont Finch as he joins the World Wide Wicket Company, climbing his way to the top in New York City, 1950. 

All Finch wants is to be more successful, to get ahead, to change the world for the better – is that really so difficult? Luckily Finch has a copy of the book ‘How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying’, teaching him everything he needs to know about the science of success. This anarchic, musical romp is jam-packed with sharp humour and has its tongue placed firmly in its cheek as it follows Finch’s rise from lowly window cleaner to Chairman of the board.

Tuesday, 7 February 2017

REVIEW: We Raise Our Hands In the Sanctuary at The Albany

We are in the early 1980's and the LGBT crowd is becoming more open and unashamed but social acceptance is far from being a reality and AIDS is considered a gay plague. It is during these years that the clubbing scene becomes the platform where gay people can express themselves and music is their first language. Particularly within the black community, homosexuality receives a strenuous opposition, starting from the family, and this discrimination adds up to a more generalised racism. 

First developed with the support of the Albany Theatre's Hatched new writing programme, We Raise Our Hands In the Sanctuary tells a story of struggle with inclusion, employment and self-establishment, where friendship oscillates between convinced brotherhood and crude opportunism. Part drama and part cabaret, it witnesses the raise to fame of DJ Michael (Jahvel Hall), inseparable from his mate and future business partner Joseph (Oseloka Obi), a trainee stage electrician. Employed by club promoter Paul (Dean Graham) and lead (or mislead) by the extravagant drag performer Brandi (Carl Mullaney), the two friends are called throughout the 1980's to face the ups and downs of the entertainment industry and their relationship won't remain unscathed.

Thursday, 2 February 2017

REVIEW: The Depraved Appetite of Tarrare the Freak at Wilton Music Hall

The Wilton Music Hall is a perfect setting for this atmospheric dramatisation of the life of Tarrare, a 18th century freak who suffers from an insatiable appetite for everything he can lay his hands on.

The old partially renovated walls, minimalistic lighting and performers dressed as 18th century stage hands provides the backcloth to the story telling by a group of bizarre characters presented as hand puppets.

Wattle and Daub puppets are cleverly designed, simply dressed with rough skulls but in the hands of the skilled puppeteers, they engage the audience and become the sole centre of attention. Plucked from the specimen jars that set the laboratory scene, the puppets live out Tarrare life and his journey from freak show, to revolutionary spy to the clinic that tries to save his life.

Wednesday, 1 February 2017

London Musical Theatre Orchestra announce HONEYMOON IN VEGAS & CANDIDE as next shows in 2017

After the resounding success of Rodgers & Hammerstein’s State Fair (Cadogan Hall November 2016) and the sell out concert of Alan Menken & Lynn Ahrens' A Christmas Carol (Lyceum Theatre, December 2016), with numerous five star reviews for both performances, The London Musical Theatre Orchestra is delighted to announce the first concerts of its 2017 season.

At the London Palladium in March, LMTO presents the UK premiere of Jason Robert Brown and Andrew Bergman’s hit Broadway musical, Honeymoon in Vegas. This will be followed in July by Leonard Bernstein’s classic Candide which will see LMTO return to the splendour of Chelsea’s famous Cadogan Hall.

These are the first two shows to be programmed in 2017, with a further three to be announced in the spring.
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