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Tuesday, 19 September 2023

REVIEW: Rebecca at the Charing Cross Theatre

From the first chilling note to the final fiery scene, Rebecca is an all-out melodrama, complete with sinister plots, a soaring score, and characters that wouldn’t look out of place in a panto – but that’s all part of its charm. It’s an over-the-top, entirely gorgeous piece of outlandish theatre, and I absolutely loved it. However, that’s not to say there aren’t a few issues.

One of the biggest problems with Rebecca is that something seems to have been a little lost in translation. The story still makes sense (although perhaps knowing the Daphne du Maurier novel or the 1940 Hitchcock adaptation with Laurence Olivier and Joan Fontaine does help with that), but some of the lyrics just seem too on the nose, or just not clever enough to be memorable. Perhaps the original German gives a different feeling, but in English, there are a few moments that get lost and aren’t as strong as they might be.

Sunday, 22 January 2023

REVIEW: Allegiance at the Charing Cross Theatre

There are significant moments in history that are not taught in schools or generally known in the public domain, somehow, they’ve been conveniently erased. Worldwide screen and stage icon George Takei is determined that his family's story is not forgotten, a story that happened to over 120,000 people living in America who were of Japanese origin. Thanks to Mr. Takei, their story is being told in the form of a musical that has arrived in the West End for the New Year. After a triumphant world premiere in San Diego, a run on Broadway and various worldwide productions, it finally lands in London’s Charing Cross Theatre. As a self-confirmed Anglophile, George announces in the show’s programme that performing on a London stage has been a lifelong ambition that he at last gets to live out.

Upon arrival into the auditorium the faint sound of a stereo plays in the background and the stark stage gives several clues to the ominous nature of the upcoming action. To the side of the stage are several wooden poles topped with strips of barbed wire. The theatre has members of the audience on both sides of the stage giving the feeling of being in the round, this helps to enhance the overall experience. 

Wednesday, 9 November 2022

REVIEW: From Here to Eternity at the Charing Cross Theatre

From Here to Eternity was one of the biggest Hollywood hits of the 1950s. Directed by Fred Zinnemann, it won eight Oscars including best picture and best supporting actor for Frank Sinatra. The film also featured the iconic embrace of Burt Lancaster and Deborah Kerr on the beach with the tide lapping around them. There's absolutely no question it works on the big screen; but how does an epic movie work on stage as a musical?

The action begins at Schofield Barracks on the island of Oahu in November 1941. Captain Holmes (Alan Turkington) is anxious to move up the military hierarchy and the regimental boxing championship could provide the means of achieving his aims. When Private Prewitt (Jonathan Bentley) transfers to G Company he is earmarked as an outstanding welterweight who can make a difference. Prewitt is adamant he doesn't want to fight and has his reasons for abstaining. However, Holmes is outraged by a soldier who doesn't want to fight. Sargent Warden (Adam Rhys-Charles) acts as a peacemaker between the warring pair, but is complicated by a passionate affair with Holmes' wife Karen (Carly Stenson). Prewitt does at least have a friend in barrack fixer Private Maggio (Johnny Amies). Simmering tensions come to a boil on the eve of Pearl Harbour on 7 December 1941 and their lives will never be the same again.

Thursday, 7 July 2022

REVIEW: The Throne at the Charing Cross Theatre

We're all familiar with icebreakers on training courses. One question that often crops up is 'who would you least like to be stuck in a lift with?' Some may opt for the positive alternative, but the nightmare scenario is always more challenging and mischievous. The Throne presents the same proposition in an unusual and novel plot. What if an avowed anti-monarchist was trapped in a toilet with the Queen during her Golden Jubilee? It's certainly on message with the Platinum Jubilee celebrations still fresh in the memory. This new play by John Goldsmith is a witty take on extremes and how common ground can still be found. But it also raises valid questions about the value and role of the monarchy.

The action takes place in 2002 as Dudley Goring School is excitedly planning for a visit by the Queen (Mary Roscoe). However, Derek Jones (Charlie Condou), the school's Head of Science can muster no such enthusiasm. A committed republican and dedicated socialist, the last thing he needs is a royal visit. Meanwhile, headmaster Peter Carr (Michael Joel Bartelle) can barely contain himself as he surveys a specially installed Portaloo for the Queen's personal use. With impeccable timing, Derek uses the Portaloo just as the visit begins. Inevitably she catches Derek on the throne. But they are subsequently locked in by terrorists who have planted a bomb underneath. Any attempt to escape will detonate the bomb. As they wait for fate to take its course how will they cope in such close proximity to each other?

Wednesday, 20 April 2022

REVIEW: Zorro at The Charing Cross Theatre

Having had to close after just two previews in 2020 due to the pandemic, Aria Entertainment’s Zorro the Musical has finally had its long-awaited opening at The Charing Cross Theatre with director Christian Durham. From its seductive and passionate story to its swash-buckling and heroic coups, Zorro is simply a feast of vocal triumphs, hypnotising dance numbers and thrilling adventure. 

Based on the 1919 fictional character Zorro by American writer Johnston McCulley, Zorro, set in 1805, tells the tale of Diego, a young wealthy caballero, who is sent from his home in California by his father Don Alejandro to school in Spain. His older and incredibly jealous brother Ramon, destined to become captain of the army, is enraged as he believes it is he who should be the academic. As ten years passed, Diego abandoned his studies to join a band of gypsies and perform in the backstreets of Spain. Simultaneously Ramon has taken over from his father who he pronounced dead and is acting a tyrant, destroying his home town with cruel and brutal ways. When Luisa, Diego’s childhood sweetheart locates him in Spain, she convinces him to return to California to save the people from his brother. The gypsies accompany them, including Inez, Diego’s lover, sparking an escapade of fervour and rebellion.

Friday, 18 February 2022

REVIEW: Broken Wings at the Charing Cross Theatre

Adapted from Khalil Gibran’s 1912 poetic novel ‘Broken Wings’, the new musical is set in Beirut, Lebanon. The story is biographical and follows the life of Gibran as he returns to Beirut at the age of 18, after spending the last 5 years studying in America, where he finds love for a girl and for his country. Gregor Donnelly’s set captures the warmth of the city and the hustle and bustle of people with the rotating set.

Written by Nadim Naaman; who stars the 40-year-old Gibran, shadowing his younger self, played by Lucca Chadwich-Patel, Broken Wings initially had a limited run at the Theatre Royal, Haymarket in 2018, followed by a few performances in Lebanon and Dubai. Director Bronagh Lagan has brought it back to London to share poems and stories from the Middle East. 

Thursday, 18 November 2021

REVIEW: Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike at the Charing Cross Theatre

The overwhelming sensation I got from my two hours and twenty in Charing Cross Theatre, was nostalgia, but the good kind. The nostalgia that feels like a hug, the kind that feels like a Nora Ephron movie. We enter an open stage with a cosy house set, squishy Ephron esque interior, the lighting feeling like a warm autumnal glow over the wooden house. You can almost smell the pine and coffee. It's everything a British person would assume that prolific American period felt like. 

As most Chekhovian plays are, Vanya (et al) is about everything and nothing. The action plays out in one room over around 48 hours, and we see our characters drink coffee, talk about soup, clean the house, and prepare for a party. But the characters are what drive the piece, as well as Christopher Durangs’ frothy, quick script. 

We see Masha return home to see her siblings, after a busy time in New York being fabulous, although we quickly discover the real reason she is in town is to show her face at a ‘famous people only’ party and to assess their childhood home, which she bankrolls for her brother and sister. Masha, the successful actress sister, is played masterfully by Janie Dee, giving us desperation and insecurity below her glamour and command. Her brother and adopted sister, Vanya and Sonia, are found to be just existing at home, watching the garden for the heron each morning. 

Tuesday, 30 March 2021

REVIEW: GHBoy at the Charing Cross Theatre (Online)

GHBoy was originally due to play over the Christmas period at the Charing Cross Theatre in London, but sadly due to another wonderful lockdown (I say that with the greatest sarcasm), it had to close on the 16th of December, cutting this wonderful production short. Filming this on 15th the team for GHBoy did a wonderful job getting it all filmed and released this on 1st March to be streamed. So first off a fantastic job getting this together and finding a way to keep this story being told!

Paul Harvard delicately delves into dark topics by writing GHBoy as a response to a chilling true story of the Grindr Killer, who killed four men and raped many more people whilst they were under the influence. It’s not the easiest of topics to address, but without going too dark this production addresses the aftermath that one of this Killer’s rape victims experiences, battling self-sabotage, addiction and hoping he’ll break the cycle of infidelity. 

Sunday, 13 December 2020

REVIEW: The Elf Who Was Scared of Christmas at The Charing Cross Theatre

The festive season is upon us and as we head towards the end of what has been an unusual and extraordinary year, the need for some Christmas fun is more relevant than ever. This December such an event arrives at The Charing Cross Theatre with the festive family show, "The Elf who saved Christmas!" Before arriving at the theatre, I pass by the Trafalgar Square Christmas tree and the London lights putting me in the festive spirit. This jolly atmosphere continues to the sound of festive hits from Slade, Dolly Parton and Band-Aid as you take your seat. 

From my arrived at the theatre I was reassured by the safety measures the theatre are adhering to in social distancing times. My temperature was checked outside before being encouraged to apply some hand gel. Masks were kept on throughout the show whilst seats and rows were spaced out for extra safety. 

The set of a sofa, rocking horse and side cabinet created a cosy wintery abode vibe with a backing screen adding to the scene. One child was so excited about the set that the second their parent wasn't looking he managed to rush onto to stage to have a go on the rocking horse. From the start, you felt that a happy environment had been set up as an appealing festive treat for children.

The show is a Christmas Elf two-hander with Neil McDermott playing the effervescent Figgy opposite Gina Beck as enthusiastic Cupcake. Neil and Gina met 20 years ago and the friends not only star as the two elves but they wrote the show too, adding an extra charming quality to the show.

Wednesday, 30 October 2019

REVIEW: Soho Cinders at the Charing Cross Theatre

Old Compton Street in the heart of London is the setting for this modern twist on a classic tale. Robbie, the Cinderella of this story, is stuck working in a Laundrette after the passing of his mother and is forced to pay rent to his ugly step sisters. The two best things in his life come in the form of his best friend and colleague, Velcro, and his secret lover, James Prince; who incidentally is married to a woman and also running for Mayor of London.

Unashamedly camp, Stiles and Drews show takes pride in showcasing both light and dark sides of the LGBTQ+ community. From rent boys and sugar daddies to lap-dancing and simulated orgasms, Soho Cinders certainly isn’t as family friendly as its classic pantomime counter-part. That being said, the sharp wit and zinging one-liners make for some good laughs for a more age-appropriate audience.

Tuesday, 20 August 2019

REVIEW: Queen of the Mist at Charing Cross Theatre

Queen of the Mist is an operatic treat for anyone who’d like to spend an evening surrounded by beautiful voices, live music, a kick ass main character and lots of emotion. I say “surrounded”, as the audience is split into two parts, and seated on both ends of the stage. This creates quite an interesting effect of looking through a glass ball into this very particular time.

We are in upstate New York at the turn of the 20th century, in 1901. This is the story of 63 year-old Anna Edson Taylor who, in an era of daredevils and sensational performers (Houdini’s reputation was growing across Europe), announces she will be the first person to cross the Niagara in a barrel, even going over the edge, something no one has ever come out alive from before. Many tried in various forms of boats, but the barrel is a new idea. With the help of her manager Frank Russell (Will Arundell), she will spread the word, and succeed, not even hurting herself. 

In the second part of the show, things take a slightly darker turn. We see Anna getting older, losing her eyesight, and trying to hold onto her dignity by refusing to share her emotional memories about this unique experience.

Friday, 10 May 2019

REVIEW: Amour at the Charing Cross Theatre

Despite closing after just two weeks on Broadway, Amour, a beautifully sweet piece, garnered several nominations at the Tony’s. Endlessly romantic, this musical adaptation of Marcel Ayme’s Le Masse-Muraille follows the tale of Dusoleil, a nobody who becomes the talk of the town when he develops the ability to walk through walls.

Amour harnesses a perfect balance of romance and comedy, with some of the funniest lyrics hidden within delicious ballads. Michel LeGrand’s score is meticulous, with constant changesof time-signature and style, and lyrics that rival that of Sondheim. It takes a while to acclimatise, but by the end of the show we are left yearning for more of its twists and turns.

The entire company is a joy, expertly assembled by Danielle Tarento. This is a real ensemble effort and Hannah Chiswick’s direction allows every cast member to shine throughout. She and choreographer Matt Cole ask a lot of their cast, cycling and climbing walls, all whilst delivering stunning vocals.

Thursday, 21 June 2018

REVIEW: Daisy Pulls it Off at the Charing Cross Theatre

Usually, when I see an invitation to an actor musician show in the inbox I dread answering it due to seeing so many lazy and unfitting productions who try to pull this style off. Within this production it’s stunningly staged and cleverly used by Phyllida Crowley-Smith who is responsible for the musical staging, I just wanted more! There were many moments they laid all their cards on the table and the instruments were bare with the cast on stage; this was beautiful, and the talents of the cast were showcased immensely. However I craved more! So much music was used throughout, but I wanted to see it, it was as if they were teasing us. With the style it’s so much nicer to actually see it rather than it be hid, especially after dangling it in front of us. 

It’s hard to believe this production has been picked up straight from a drama school showcase; yes, it is a young cast but they play it with an energy and maturity that is what we desire when seeing a professionally produced show, which is somewhat lacking in some bigger commercial shows we’re seeing around at the moment. So, to see this enthusiasm is refreshing and fulfils my desire to see people enjoying themselves and playing on stage. 

Tuesday, 10 April 2018

REVIEW: Harold & Maude at The Charing Cross Theatre

Adapted by Colin Higgins from his black comedy film, ‘Harold & Maude’ tells the story of the unlikely friendship between Harold, a 20yr old man obsessed with death and the macabre, and Maude, a nearly 80yr old kleptomaniac spinster with an unparalleled zest for life.

In the hands of Charing Cross Theatre’s artistic director Thom Southerland, the revival is in a word; absurd, but in a lot of good ways. Southerland has masterfully assembled an ensemble of exceptional actor-musicians who expertly underscore the entire play for exquisite dramatic, and comedic affect. Andrew Johnson’s sound design is flawless in ensuring Michael Bruce’s impressive score fills the Charing Cross Theatre in an effortlessly balanced way. Accompanied by pitch perfect vocals they transport you through each scene seamlessly helping to perfectly reflect the emotional journey of Harold & Maude’s relationship, providing a sense of otherworldly storytelling. 

Tuesday, 27 February 2018

REVIEW: Harold and Maude at the Charing Cross Theatre

It seems slightly odd to be seeing a UK premiere of a 1974 stage play based on a 1971 cult Hollywood movie both written by Colin Higgins in the intimate setting of the Charing Cross Theatre but be in no doubt that this is a marvellous quirky play. It is a perfect vehicle for Shelia Hancock who so charmingly plays the 80 year old Maud opposite the naive peculiar Harold played with equal skill by Bill Milner. They make an odd couple in every way possible but this provides a relationship to explore the meaning of life and love.

Though the programme sets the action in the seventies in the US, and references to World War II place it there, this is a timeless piece set in an abstract world of muted colours and curious theatrical devises. It flows from scene to scene with gentle underscoring by six actor musicians who observe the action and play the minor roles. It creates an ethereal feel, a place where life begins and ends.

Thursday, 11 January 2018

INTERVIEW: Chris Peluso, currently starring in The Woman in White at the Charing Cross Theatre

Chris is currently starring the the new revival of The Woman in White at the Charing Cross Theatre. He made his West End debut, direct from working on Broadway, playing Chris in Miss Saigon at the Prince Edward Theatre. Since then he has gone on to star as Gaylord Ravenal in Showboat (New London), Nick Arnstein in Funny Girl (UK tour) and Death in Death Takes a Holiday (Charing Cross Theatre). His American credits include Mamma Mia, Beautiful, Wicked and Assassins. After opening the show in December, Chris takes a little time to chat to us about this revival of the Andrew Lloyd Webber classic. 

You first came over to the UK to play Chris in Miss Saigon, and have now become one of London’s favourite leading men. What made you want to hang around after Miss Saigon? 

I love London! The charming historic aesthetic is surreal. There is no greater city. Also the parks are all pet friendly! Since the majority of my life is spent with my awesome dog Peety this is a game changer. 

A lot of the shows you’ve done over on Broadway and over America are currently playing in the UK, would you ever like to return to any of these shows? 

I would love to get a change to be in Les Mis as either of the older male leads! I’d also love a change to play Gerry Goffin in beautiful some day! I love the role and the show! 

Tuesday, 5 December 2017

REVIEW: The Woman in White at the Charing Cross Theatre

The Woman in White opened on the West End at the Palace over 10 years ago in 2004, with a star cast that included Maria Friedman and Michael Crawford. The story is based on the 1859 Victorian novel by Wilkie Collins, “A tempestuous tale of love, betrayal and greed, adapted from Wilkie Collins’ haunting Victorian thriller, this is the premiere of Andrew Lloyd Webber and David Zippel’s revised score.” The Charing Cross Theatre has its flaws as a building, where I was sat I felt very out of the action and the chance to really immerse yourself was sort of lost by tunnel vision from my seat. 

The story itself is lacking in content, the show moves very fast but nothing really happens most of the time. Even though the content may be a little empty, the performances and direction knew exactly what they were trying to achieve and this is where the heart and success of the production lies. 

Thom Southerland directs this production, the ups and the downs were portrayed beautifully and this innovative production, with Morgan Large’s set design, gives us drama and heart all in one. 

Wednesday, 13 September 2017

REVIEW: The Knowledge at Charing Cross Theatre

Originally written as a screenplay by the late Jack Rosenthal, The Knowledge is one of Britain's most beloved films and, in 1980, was also nominated for a Bafta award for the Best Single Play. 

In this adaptation for the stage, the author's vividly human portrayals are perfectly translated by Simon Block and devotedly preserved by Maureen Lipman, as a director and Rosenthal's wife of over thirty years.

Studying for one of the most difficult examinations in the world, four aspiring black cab drivers are followed in their personal and professional struggles, whilst they attempt to obtain the prestigious green badge of the trade. For them, the long preparation for The Knowledge of London becomes a real journey, at the end of which their lives won't come out unscathed. 
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