Friday, 28 April 2017

New cast announced for LES MISERABLES

From Monday 12 June 2017, there will be major cast changes at the West End production of “LES MISÉRABLES” at the Queen’s Theatre, which is now in its record breaking 33rd year.

Cameron Mackintosh is delighted to announce that Killian Donnelly will star as ‘Jean Valjean’. He joins “Les Misérables” fresh from Broadway where he is currently playing the lead role of ‘Charlie Price’ in “Kinky Boots”. West End leading lady and former Hollyoaks star Carley Stenson, will join the company as ‘Fantine’ and Hayden Tee returns to play ‘Javert’ from 17 July having performed the role at The Queen’s Theatre until 22 April this year. 

Also joining the company are Steven Meo as ‘Thénardier’; Karis Jack as ‘Eponine’, Jacqueline Tate as ‘Madame Thénardier’ and Hyoie O’Grady as ‘Enjolras’. Paul Wilkins will continue in the role of ‘Marius’ and Charlotte Kennedy will continue in the role of ‘Cosette’ having both originally joined the company in 2015.

Thursday, 27 April 2017

AN AMERICAN IN PARIS extends booking until Saturday 27 January 2018

Christopher Wheeldon’s stunning reinvention of the Oscar® winning film An American in Paris has been ecstatically received by audiences and critics since opening at the beautifully restored Dominion Theatre on 21 March 2017. The smash hit production has now extended booking, with tickets on sale until Saturday 27 January 2018.

The sumptuous new musical about following your heart and living your dreams is written by Craig Lucas and features the timeless music and lyrics of George Gershwin and Ira Gershwin, including I Got Rhythm, ‘S Wonderful, I’ll Build a Stairway To Paradise and They Can't Take That Away from Me, together with George Gershwin’s sweeping compositions including ‘Concerto in F’ and ‘An American in Paris’

LEGALLY BLONDE announce cast for new UK tour

EastEnders’ Rita SimonsLucie Jones, who is representing the UK in the Eurovision Song Contest with ‘Never Give Up On You’ on Saturday May 13, and Bill Ward, star of Coronation Street and Emmerdale are to star in a major new UK tour of  the smash-hit Broadway and West End musical Legally Blonde The Musical

Legally Blonde The Musical also has two dogs in the cast, a Chihuahua called Bruiser and another called Rufus, a big, brutish, dog that only its mother could love! Bruiser is already cast and will be on the road but producers have decided to hold auditions for ‘Rufus’ in every town and city on the tour - more details to follow.


Wednesday, 26 April 2017

REVIEW: Funny Girl at the New Victoria Theatre in Woking

Natasha J. Barnes shines as the funniest of the lot in this new touring production of Funny Girl, direct from London’s Savoy Theatre. 

Having been fortunate enough to see the original staging of this production at the Menier Chocolate Factory with Sheridan Smith, I was curious to see how it had been adapted for a much larger stage and I am happy to say, it flourished! The ensemble numbers were given the space they truly needed for them to marry appropriately with the seismic score, and Fanny Bryce was given the grand, Broadway stage that her voice had always craved and made her triumph all the more satisfying in her final, defying moment. 

REVIEW: Idle Women of the Wartime Waterways at Cruising Association of Limehouse

I believe the best way to enjoy Idle Women of the Wartime Waterways will be once the good weather has kicked in and audiences watch and discuss the origins of the expression “Idle women” with its performers for long after the shows, preferably in a garden at the back of a pub overlooking a canal!

Idle Women of the Wartime Waterways is a storytelling event presented by writers and performers Kate Saffin and Heather Wastie. Their two-part show presents different stories of women working on narrow boats on the canals between Limehouse and Birmingham during World War II. 75 years ago, the Women’s Training Scheme started: young women, from mostly middle class backgrounds learned to handle 72′ narrowboats with 50 tons of cargo. Just another example of women stepping up to the mark and taking on jobs no one thought they could do (although generations of women from the working boat families had been doing just that for years).

Monday, 24 April 2017

REVIEW: Half a Sixpence at the Noël Coward Theatre

Transferring from the Chichester Festival Theatre with Cameron Mackintosh behind it, Half a Sixpence plays at the Noël Coward Theatre.

The production, as a whole, could have been simpler. As much as we were treated to an expensive and glorious production value one does wonder wether some expense could be spared and some parts could be slightly stripped back. Too much was going on most of the time.

The piece is out dated but has been salvaged by Stiles and Drewe who add a fresh take on the music. Keeping the classic feel to the show but also adding their stamp onto it. 

Sunday, 23 April 2017

REVIEW: Romeo and Juliet at Greenwich Theatre

What a wonderful exercise Merely Theatre has created for actors, in that five out of ten in the company are picked out randomly for a new show every night. In their second year of rep theatre, they are presenting Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet and Twelfth Night. I had the joy of witnessing the former, a highly energetic 90-minute production with laughs, high energy and heartbreak.

Merely Theatre are not only bringing repertory theatre back, they also employ men and women equally, meaning that an actor from any gender could be playing any character. With the help of costumes and of course imagination, gender falls away, leaving even more space for the characters.

Our favourite Backstage Blogs! is every theatre nerds must have in their youtube subscriptions. Michael Xavier is representing the UK in the Broadway revival of Sunset Boulevard and here he shows us the journey of taking the production from London to New York. And whilst doing that, still managing to have the time to have a weekend away at Glenn Close's house! 

This Classic vlog is from one of our favourite Broadway Stars, Laura Osnes. She shows us what its like to be a proper Broadway Princess from the start of the 2013 Broadway production of Rodger's and Hammerstein's Cinderella. 


REVIEW: The Woman in Black at the New Victoria Theatre in Woking

Celebrating nearly 30 years as an award winning stage show, the Woman in Black has won a legion of new fans since a certain Harry Potter star led a movie adaptation.

The play is significantly better and stronger than the film and this new UK tour continues to delight and scare its audience. Despite performing for three decades, the Woman in Black continually finds new scares and thrills in this tight script and adapts to the space well. 

This version has more humour and wit than fans of the film would expect and this is a great device to lure the audience into a relaxed and false sense of security. Once their guard is down, the horror has more impact and there are many well placed jumps and gasps amongst the audience.

Tuesday, 18 April 2017

Full cast announced for All star Productions 110 IN THE SHADE

Penned by Harvey Schmidt and Tom Jones (the songwriting team behind the Worlds Longest Running Musical THE FANTASTICKS) the show is based on N. Richard Nash's 1954 play THE RAINMAKER.

The show focuses on the unmarried Lizzie living in a small western town besieged by a long drought. Lizzie is dealing with another type of drought: her love life. Intelligent yet plain, she is worried that she will soon become an old maid with no one to love her. When a charismatic man named Starbuck arrives and claims the ability to make rain, Lizzie believes he is a con man with no abilities whatsoever. Little does she know that this man will change her life forever. 

Containing a lush soaring score, 110 IN THE SHADE centers on Lizzie’s quest for self-acceptance and her choice between two suitors: the rainmaker Starbuck and the divorced Sheriff File.

Monday, 17 April 2017

REVIEW: Threads at Hope theatre

The Islington and Highbury is an exciting vibrant theatre scene with The Pleasance Theatre to the west, The Park Theatre to the north, The Almeida to the south and The Hope Theatre above the Hope and Anchor pub just a short walk from the underground. These hidden gems deserve publicity for their efforts and creativity.

Up at The Park Theatre, RADA graduates, Hot Coals Theatre are staging the (d)Deaf accessible Finders Keepers and at The Hope Theatre it is the turn of Mountview Academy graduates to challenge and enthral the 50 seat audience with a new play by David Lane, Threads.

Charlie, played by Samuel Lawrence has lived alone for 5 years in his flat apparently without food, drink or sleep and without a pulse. He is metaphorically dead and his flat has become a prison from which he can only gaze at outside world through a small window. He has finally tracked down Vic, played by Katherine Davenport, who walked out on him 5 years ago and invited her to see him in the flat. She has moved on in her life and changed everything to break the link with him.

Sunday, 16 April 2017

REVIEW: Joan at Ovalhouse

In 1429, Joan of Arc was at the head of the French army that lifted the siege of the English and facilitated the return of the crown of France to its rightful owner Charles VII. Two years later, Joan was tried for claiming to have visions of the Archangel Michael, St. Catherine and St. Margaret, but escaped the stake, thanks to a last minute retraction. Only a few days later, though, she was again arrested for dressing in soldier's clothes and, considered a relapsed heretic, she was burned at the stake in the marketplace. Twenty-five years later, a posthumous retrial established her innocence and, almost 500 years after her death, she was declared a saint. 

Questioning the boundaries of gender roles and aesthetics, Joan of Arc remains in our social imaginary for her masculine appearance and fierce defiance of feminine duties, having taken her father to court to nullify her arranged marriage. How well her martyrdom fits into our modern society is made clear in Joan, a 75-minute show written and directed by Lucy J Skilbeck, and performed by the fiery Lucy Jane Parkinson. Joan can be hardly classified within a genre and offers a lineup of cheesy pop songs, dramatic monologues and moments of semi-improvised interaction with the audience. Better as a singer and stand-up comedian than as a dramatic actress, Parkinson's charismatic persona holds the piece together, despite its noticeable lack of structure. She is engaging, sparkling and a perfect modern alter-ego to the Maid of Orléans, to whom she gives new flesh and blood.

REVIEW: Sh!t-Faced Shakespeare: Much Ado About Nothing at Leicester Square Theatre

If you still remember with a certain nostalgia the excitement you had as a kid when attending a pantomime and that sense of participation that gave you the thrills, then you shouldn't miss Sh!t-Faced Shakespeare. Treading the boards since 2010, this close-knit group of friends and professional Shakespearian actors is now at the Leicester Square Theatre for its very own take on Much Ado About Nothing. 

The concept is simple: all performers have rehearsed an abridged version of the play but one of characters – chosen in turns – has been drinking for four hours before the show and appears on stage, as they like to put it, completely sh*t-faced. Two audience members are given a bugle horn and a gong to stop the performance when they reckon the drunk actor is getting too sober and needs a top-up, whereas a third one is in charge of a large bucket (no explanation needed there). The outcome is quite unpredictable and the audience is free to hiss at the villain, make loud comments and cheer uproariously during this 90-minute pantomime for over-18s.

Monday, 10 April 2017

REVIEW: Macbeth at the Jack Studio Theatre

A ten-minute stroll from Honor Oak Park station, the Jack Studio Theatre is a hidden gem in the south of leafy Brockley. Tucked in at the back of the Brockley Jack Pub, the spacious 50-seat venue offers an excellent programme of new writing and classic plays at very affordable prices. Also, thanks to its welcoming staff and warm environment, it's a great place to mingle, where I felt at home from my first visit. 

For this production of Shakespeare's Macbeth, the AC Group and director Thomas Attwood offer a fresh and original combination of high technical values and strong acting that make the play feel engaging and genuinely heartfelt. The several roles are covered by a close-knit cast of eight, which appear entirely committed to the script. Attwood has overseen every detail of this two-hour long tragedy and, thanks to his thorough direction, every line takes shape through the voice and the smallest gestures of the performers. Relying heavily on non-verbal language, in his hands Macbeth acquires a creeping psychological resonance and even the presence of blood is not meant as a shock-factor and is limited to its essential role within the play.

Sunday, 9 April 2017

Full list of WINNERS and NOMINEES from the 2017 Olivier Awards

Best Actor in a Supporting Role in a Musical

Ian Bartholomew for Half A Sixpence at Noël Coward Theatre 

Adam J Bernard for Dreamgirls at Savoy Theatre

Ben Hunter for The Girls at Phoenix Theatre

Andrew Langtree for Groundhog Day at The Old Vic

Best Actress in a Supporting Role in a Musical

Haydn Gwynne for The Threepenny Opera at National Theatre - Olivier

Victoria Hamilton-Barritt for Murder Ballad at Arts Theatre

Rebecca Trehearn for Show Boat at New London Theatre

Emma Williams for Half A Sixpence at Noël Coward Theatre


REVIEW: Posh at the Pleasance Theatre

You love us, you want to be us, states Alistair Ryle in Posh to the owner of the pub where he and his mates are having dinner, before kicking him unconscious. This kind of phrase is often heard in plays or films in which a disgusting human being is also charismatic and intriguing.

Posh, the play by Laura Wade, is a guilty pleasure. While the characters are virtually insulting the audience, as was the case in Richard Bean’s Great Britain which portrayed the British journalists involved in hacking people’s phones for headlines, we laugh and this makes us feel like we are connected to the plot while it is actually disrespectful. 

REVIEW: Wonderland at the New Victoria Theatre in Woking

Wonderland rolls into Woking as part of a 30 venue UK tour following successful runs in Tampa, Texas and Tokyo and is a modern re-working of the Lewis Carroll stories Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through The Looking Glass.

A large, impressive cast are led by household names Kerry Ellis, Wendi Peters and Dave Willets and the ensemble dazzle throughout in a variety of roles. Vocally and musically, this was a very strong production with the original music largely feeling very fresh. 

Natalie McQueen shone as the Mad Hatter, belting her way through musical highlights such as I Will Prevail and This Is Who I Am with ease. Advice From A Caterpillar was effortlessly cool with Kayi Ushe beautifully supported by his Legs as he slinked across the stage in a mesmerising scene early on. 

REVIEW: Finders Keepers at the Park 90 Theatre

Hot Coals Theatre is celebrating their 5th anniversary with a residency at the Park 90 theatre in Finsbury Park for the month of April. This innovative and imaginative duo of Jo Sargeant and Claire-Louise English are creating a reputation for excellent physical theatre and clowning and their latest show Finders Keepers will appeal to all ages. 

Directed by Caroline Parker MBE, in this production they play a father and a daughter living in a junkyard whose daily routine is disrupted by an unexpected delivery and together they have created an integrated (d) deaf accessible show which is charming and touching to watch and full of good physical gags and business. Jo and Clare-Louise delight in playing the cartoonish twits and without words convey their story and emotions while interacting gently both with a cute puppet and with the audience. In particular a charming sequence when they react to audience laughter and silently ask for quiet to let the puppet sleep which simply creates more laughter.

Tuesday, 4 April 2017

FIRST LOOK : Rehearsal Photos for the UK & Ireland Premiere of THE ADDAMS FAMILY

Aria Entertainment and Music & Lyrics Limited are delighted to announce the full cast for the UK and Ireland tour of the musical comedy, The Addams Family.

Cameron Blakely will be joining the family in the role of Gomez Addams. 

Cameron’s previous theatre credits include the role of Thenardier in Les Misérables, a role he played for two years in London’s West End. Cameron was also part of the 25th Anniversary at the O2, where he played Bamatabois. Other credits include Smee in Stiles and Drewe’s Peter Pan at the Adelphi Theatre and Fagin in Oliver! at The Watermill Theatre. He has also appeared in many productions at Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre, including A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Hamlet, Romeo and Juliet and The Taming of the Shrew.

REVIEW: HONK! at the Union Theatre

“Out there, somewhere, someone’s gonna love ya. Warts and all!” If there was ever a more universal message, in lyric form, its this. Based on the Hans Christian Anderson fairytale, “Honk!” is a musical retelling of the classic, “The Ugly Duckling”. Set against the back drop of a farm, involving all sorts of poultry and feline folk, its a children’s story with themes many can relate to; namely, the struggles of being different.

Written by the talented musical duo, Stiles and Drewe (Half a Sixpence, Mary Poppins, Wind in The Willows), “Honk!” celebrates its 20th Anniversary with this latest production at The Union Theatre. A blacked out studio, The Union Theatre is an open and intimate space, using minimal set, that gave the impression of an old derelict barn.

REVIEW: Escape the Scaffold at Theatre503

With an opening scene that seems an open reference to Hideo Nakata's horror film Ringu, Escape the Scaffold confirms the thriving collaboration between playwright Titas Halder and director Hannah Price. Earlier this year, their work on Halder's debut play Run the Beast Down at the Finborough Theatre received four stars from The Independent, Time Out and the Stage, with all the critics agreeing on the talent of the playwright and Price's original direction, which included a live DJ set throughout the performance. Consolidating this prolific partnership, Escape the Scaffold demonstrates the ability of the award-winning director to regale life, sounds and colours to the nightmarish script on the relationship of three university best friends.

'We're not friends.' says Marcus (Charles Reston) to his former housemate Aaron (Trieve Blackwood-Cambridge), when they meet again five years later. 'We used to be friends. We were only friends because we were in the same place at the same time' he adds. Charles Reston is remarkable in the challenging role of Marcus, which is depicted as a judgemental young man who gradually becomes a sly and manipulative husband. His wife – and former housemate – Grace (Rosie Sheehy) is a weak and eternally undecided artist-wannabe, who shares many views on society and politics with the activist and troublemaker Aaron. Once again reunited in the house they used to share in their university years, the three characters bring depth to this two-hour long drama, where water is slowly filling the basement and darkness relentlessly creeping into their minds.

REVIEW: Chinglish at Park Theatre

Winner of The Stage's Fringe Venue of the Year 2015 and aptly described as 'a neighbourhood theatre with global ambition', Park Theatre was a lovely surprise. Its brand-new interiors and quirky layout on split floors have all the features of a professional theatre but the warm and welcoming vibe of a community venue. Open since 2013 and committed to a mix of new writing, classics and revivals, the venue has quickly gained a prestigious reputation, thanks to three West End transfers, two National Theatre transfers and three national tours of its productions. The main thing to keep in mind when booking tickets is that that the second-row benches of the circle (in the main auditorium) take the concept of 'perching' to a whole new level and you should avoid them if you don't feel comfortable with heights.

Written in English and Mandarin by Tony Award winner David Henry Hwang, Chinglish is a witty comedy on the obstacles of cross-cultural communication and the unpredictable consequences of translation faux-pas. Although some of its outcomes might appear quite simplified and relying on clichés, I sympathised entirely with the topic, which I experienced personally when I first arrived in the UK and I wasn't able to speak English.

REVIEW: Kicked in the Sh*tter at The Hope Theatre

Sitting on a bench, somewhere in a corner of town, two young siblings are 'laughing, dreaming and talking sh*t' about their bright plans for the future, like moving to another city and having a good job. The boy is only sixteen and his older sister is quite protective towards him. She is in love with a local guy and she can already see herself having a family with him. But, when the future hits and becomes present, things are completely different from what they had imagined. Unemployment leads quickly to desperation and the lack of opportunities nurtures a looming mental illness. The sister is now a single mother-of-two and her brother suffers from depression and panic attacks, which make him unfit for work. Government benefits are the only thing that keeps them afloat, but the social system is oblivious to their dramatic situation and fails to give the necessary support. In a crescendo of trips to the job centre and ignored cries for help, nothing is left – nothing worth living for.

Kicked in the Sh*tter follows last year's West End success of playwright Leon Fleming and director Scott Le Crass with Sid, and confirms the creatives' ability to depict the young generations with vivid and thought-provoking tones. On a note included in the programme, they both explain how this play contains many autobiographical elements, which they felt the need to share with the audience. 'This is not poverty porn,' writes Le Crass, who considers the derogatory comments on a person's socio-economic situation unacceptable and urges for a more open discussion about mental health.

REVIEW: Natives at Southwark Playhouse

A, B and C are a girl and two boys from three different countries, whose names are never revealed. Today is their fourteenth birthday and we watch them struggling to get on with their families and with their peers. We witness their coming of age and their judgement of the world through the screen of their phones. The distinction between social media and real life is so subtle that, like them, we are tempted to ignore it and, through the screen of their phones, we filter their malaise and interpret their ordeal. Three very different but somehow analogous stories of trolling, online shaming, exposure to violent and pornographic contents and need for social approval, which converge at breakneck speed toward the same desperate solution. Their stories don't involve any grown-ups. The adults aren't there to help, too busy building their careers, mourning their losses or focusing in their daily routine. 

Glenn Waldron's Natives is an insistent reminder of the wall we often raise between us and the younger generations. A barrier that in our grown-up minds separates our important issues from their teenage problems, which we don't see as a big deal. The difficulty to communicate with the other side of the barrier can only be solved if we are ready to listen and if we are willing to adopt their ever-changing channels and languages. Albeit the depiction of the three characters might appear shallow, this should be considered as Waldron's deliberate attempt to outline the personalities of fourteen-year- olds, with their endless doubts and sudden mood changes.

Monday, 3 April 2017

REVIEW: The Strike a Light festival

The Strike a Light festival is an exciting Gloucester based cultural event which take place twice a year and promotes local work and brings high quality programming to new audiences in Gloucester with year round projects. 

Creatively it is led by a young energetic and exciting group with Co-Artistic Directors Emma-Jane Benning and Sarah Blowers and producers Ellie Harris, Christina Poulton, Malaki Patterson. 

The support of The Arts Council England, Battersea Arts Centre/Collaborative touring network, the Esmee Fairburn Foundation underpins the festival and gives it a confidence to experiment and plan for growth. The resident and council of the City of Gloucester have a little gem to support and nurture. 
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