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Thursday, 2 August 2018

REVIEW: War Horse at New Victoria Theatre, Woking

It’s not often I’m lost for words but after half-an-hour of relentless tears, I believe my first words after this show finished were “I cannot believe what I’ve just seen.” 

War Horse is the story of a 16 year-old lad named Albert from Devon who thanks to a lucky buy from his father at the local market, inherits a foal whom he names Joey. Half thorough-bred, the locals don’t believe Joey has what it takes to help Albert and his family on their farm. “That horse won’t plough” they say. Well, Albert is full of adoration and determination to teach Joey how to be the horse his family needs and in a few short months, he’s done exactly that. However, Joey is lost to a Captain at the outbreak of the First World War. War Horse is Albert’s journey to find his horse; his Joey. 

After a hugely successful stint in London’s West End over 7 years, War Horse is embarking on a UK Tour to bring the magical journey of a boy and his horse to life. Presented by the National Theatre, this production is absolutely faultless. 

Thursday, 19 July 2018

REVIEW: EVITA at the New Victoria Theatre, Woking

The New Victoria Theatre hosted opening night of the new UK Tour of Lloyd Webber’s classic “Evita” this week with Lucy O’Byrne (The Voice) as Eva Peron. This sensational musical takes us back to 1940's Argentina for us to witness the dramatic ascension of Juan Domingo Peron and how his wife, Eva Duarte becomes an international icon for not only his reign but for their country. Featuring classics such as "Oh, What A Circus", "Buenos Aires" and "Don't Cry For Me Argentina" this production is a spectacle from start to finish. 

The Phoenix Theatre in London recently held this new production before jetting off on an International Tour. I was thrilled to see the stunning set is virtually unchanged from its residential stint - a stunning combination of moving staircases and balconies, not least the iconic ‘Don’t Cry For Me Argentina’ one which received a mid-song applause. The lighting is also matched in exemplary fashion adding a new level of intensity to the show which I didn't feel before. 

O'Byrne is new to her role as Eva and her wariness was initially apparent but this Sound of Music and Les Miserables allum is a revelation in this show. Her Eva grows so dramatically throughout the show, taking us on this journey of a street-smart actress who becomes one of the most demanding and manipulative political figureheads in history. “You Must Love Me” was so poignant, the auditorium was absolutely still admiring the performance. This soprano dances on her higher register, but in numbers like "Buenos Aires" and "Goodnight and Thank You", her lower harmonies were almost inaudible however I'm happy to accept this may have just been a mic balancing issue. On opening night of a UK Tour, there were bound to be one or two teething problems.

Wednesday, 27 June 2018

REVIEW: Sh*tfaced Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet at the Leicester Square Theatre

For anyone who is unfamiliar with the concept of Sh*tfaced Shakespeare, it’s really quite simple. In a company of five actors, one is chosen at random before the evening’s performance to get outrageously drunk before taking to the stage. Sh*tfaced Shakespeare declare in any given week, no performer is ever asked to drink on consecutive nights. In addition they are never required to drink more than four times in the course of one month. (They proudly acknowledge that this means they are the probably most sober cast of performers in the West End!) It’s then up to the talented cast of actors surrounding the one drunk performer to try and keep the show running as smoothly as possible. At the Press Night for Romeo and Juliet, it was Beth-Louise Priestley’s ‘Juliet’ who had taken to the gin and lager and little too hard before curtain up. 

Can we be at all surprised with the concept like this that the show did not run smoothly? Juliet forgot to call her beau Romeo, but instead referred to him as Richard (the actor’s name) throughout the show. She wobbled atop her balcony and leant over the edges so brashly, my heart almost stopped. She licked people’s noses. She wrestled with curtains. She spat out her drink laughing at her costars jokes. She was also flagged down by the compère for “dangerous behaviour” and had her dagger taken from her and was instead handed a large stuffed toy snake (which she proceeded to use to re-enact Britney Spears’ iconic “I’m A Slave For U” performance. As the show was beginning to come to the dramatic close, she sprung up from bed to declare “I’m not dead yet!” and skipped off the stage...! 

Friday, 1 June 2018

REVIEW: Shrek the Musical at the New Victoria Theatre in Woking

Brought live to the stage as a family musical, based on the smash-hit animated film, Shrek: The Musical tells the not-so-classic fairytale story of Shrek, a lone ogre who lives in a swamp and how he comes to take on a quest to battle a fire-breathing dragon to save the beautiful princess who lives in the highest room in the tallest tower. By his side is his "noble steed" – a talking Donkey. Wonderfully light-hearted and quick-witted, Shrek The Musical is a delightful family treat for the whole family. 

A Broadway recording of this show is available on DVD Starring Brian D'Arcy James and Sutton Foster, and it's safe to say I could recite along with every word. I loved that production and so was very excited to see what this UK tour brought to the stage. Lots of things have been changed for a British audience which is understandable, however there were cuts and changes made which I simply couldn't understand. For Example, "I Know It’s Today" is a beautiful trio sung by 3 versions of Princess Fiona as she grows up over time. In this production, we had Laura Main's Princess, accompanied by puppets which she has supposedly made during her 8,423 days stuck in her tower. It just didn't work. The beauty of the song was lost and what was supposed to be funny fell flat. This was a reoccurring theme throughout the evening unfortunately. 

Friday, 16 March 2018

REVIEW: Birdsong at New Victoria Theatre, Woking

Birdsong is a tragic war-time tale with love at its heart. Written by Sebastian Faulks, his epic novel takes place primarily on the Western front, France between 1916-1918, with flashbacks to 1910 Amiens, France where the story of Stephen Wraysford is remembered as he meets and falls in love with Isabelle Azaire, a wealthy factory owner’s wife. 

This play is harrowing and emotionally draining (as any good WW1 piece should be). The set was superb – designed to look like the inside wall of a British trench, before magnificently yet simply transforming to underground tunnels, Somme countryside and even a luxury master-bedroom. Director Alastair Whatley (with Charlotte Peters) have done a magnificent job is bringing this stage adaptation by Rachel Wagstaff to life. The underground scenes were very well staged and suitably oppressive. I found myself crooking my neck downwards as if I were underground with the soldiers. Whatley’s job went far beyond Director for Monday night’s performance as he stepped in at last minute to perform the leading role of Stephen Wraysford which must be commended.

Thursday, 1 March 2018

REVIEW: Beautiful: The Carole King Musical at New Victoria Theatre, Woking

My mother has assured me that even in-utrero, I was music mad. I would wriggle around when she played rock music and rest when she lulled me to sleep with the melodies of Classic FM. I may only be 23 but that doesn’t mean my music knowledge started in 1994 – I’ve been a fan of many artists, spanning back decades, but what I didn’t realise that so many of these artists have in common was that some of their biggest hits were all written by the same woman; Aretha Franklin, The Shirelles, The Drifters, Little Eva and The Monkees – she wrote for them all. This writer was none other than Carole King.

Beautiful: The Carole King Musical is a semi-autobiographical show about the life and times of this legendary figure of music, showcasing not only her career but her personal life and those most close to her, including her husband and lyricist– Gerry Goffin. More then 1000 artists have interpreted the songs of Carole King, resulting in 100 hit singles. King is one of the greatest musical influencers you’ve potentially never heard of. I, for one, sat stunned and almost ashamed not realising just how many remarkable songs this one woman penned. 

Friday, 2 February 2018

REVIEW: Julius Caesar at The Bridge Theatre

"Friends, Romans, countrymen... Lend me your ears."

It's not often a modern re-telling of Shakespeare will see people queuing out the door for their chance at grabbing a ticket, but it would seem the Bridge Theatre has nailed it with Julius Caesar. Perhaps its star-packed line up including Ben Whishaw (Skyfall), Michelle Fairley (Game of Thrones), David Morrisey (The Walking Dead) and stage/screen veteran David Calder which has drawn in the crowds? Credit to them though - what sensational performances from them all.

Unlike when you stand in the pit at The Globe, at this production at the Bridge Theatre, you are immersed in the sets and furthermore, where you start won't be where you finish up. This is not an interactive journey, but one where I can guarantee you won't stand still for long as security guards and cast members barge through the mob crowds and when Mark Antony is less than a foot from your face and screams "MOVE!" by God, you do!

Monday, 15 January 2018

REVIEW: The Rat Pack, Live from Las Vegas at Theatre Royal, Haymarket

Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin and Sammy Davis Jr – arguably three of the most renowned showmen of all time and for those who have been living under a rock since the 1950’s, as a collective were affectionately known as The Rat Pack. With voices instantly recognisable and smash-hit songs like I’ve Got You Under My Skin, Mr Bojangles, That’s Amore, Volare, That’s Life and My Way – it’s the perfect combination to create a show in tribute to these three legendary men.

As Frank Sinatra, we were treated to the stylings of Garrett Phillips who encapsulated the smooth-crooner to a tee. Effortlessly charming and suave – just like Frank. He was marvellous. Nigel Casey admirably managed to make Dean Martin’s troubled drinking habits quite humorous and light-hearted! He captured everything Martin was with ease and sang excellently. As Sammy Davis Jr, David Hayes was magnetic: bags of charisma and personality which lit the stage. 

Until February 6th, this show also includes a tribute to the iconic Ella Fitzgerald. Played by Nicola Emmanuel, the nod is all too fleeting. She does not feature in Act 1 and only appears briefly towards the end of Act 2: not nearly enough of this sensational vocalist. 

Thursday, 16 November 2017

REVIEW: Spamalot at New Victoria Theatre, Woking

"Lovingly ripped off from the hugely successful 1975 film Monty Python and the Holy Grail, this spammier than ever production is a riotous comedy full of misfit knights, killer rabbits, dancing nuns and ferocious Frenchmen. Join King Arthur as he travels with his hapless Knights of the Round Table on a divine mission to locate the illusive Holy Grail – with uproarious consequences."

"Spamalot was the winner of the 2005 Tony Award for Best New Musical, while it enjoyed a victorious West End run. This hilarious show is written by Python legend Eric Idle."

On paper alone, Spamalot is outrageously funny and this script has been updated to be as relevant now as it was when it premiered 12 years ago. It's Python's classic style of humour and fans of the films and television shows will love it. With this production, sadly what it's missing is, well, people... 

Saturday, 30 September 2017

REVIEW: The Woman in Black at The Fortune Theatre, London


To celebrate National Ghost Hunting Day, Raw PR invited a host of writers and bloggers to attend a special evening of ghostly fun at The Woman In Black at The Fortune Theatre in the heart of London’s West End. Seating only 432 people, it’s one of the smallest theatres in town, especially when you consider how dwarfed they are by their neighbour is the gargantuan Theatre Royal on Drury Lane which seats 2,196 people. The Fortune is a close and intimate theatre - perfect for a spooky evening of storytelling...

Learning of the tales of paranormal history within the theatre set the mood for the evening. We learned of hauntings and presences seen and felt in different areas of the theatre - onstage, back-stage and in the audience (beware if you ever sit in seat F17 of the Royal Circle in early November…!) The anticipation (and nerves) were amped up to eleven and then the show began.

Thursday, 28 September 2017

REVIEW: The Addams Family, New Victoria Theatre, Woking

Diddly dee *click* *click*

The hottest tour on the UK circuit was welcomed with open arms last night to Woking’s New Victoria Theatre with a packed audience – eager to see what the night ahead would bring. Headlining the tour is Samantha Womack as Morticia, Cameron Blakely as Gomez and Carrie Hope Fletcher as Wednesday. Les Dennis plays Uncle Fester, but at last night’s press performance, the role was played by Scott Paige. 

“Wednesday Addams, the ultimate princess of darkness, is all grown up and has a shocking secret that only Gomez knows. She's fallen in love with a sweet young man from a respectable family. With his cherished Morticia in the dark will Gomez manage to keep his daughter’s secret until the two families meet for a fateful dinner with hilarious consequences? Join them, plus Uncle Fester, Lurch, Pugsley and more for a heart-warming story of love, family and friendship… with a twist!”

Tuesday, 26 September 2017

REVIEW: Mack and Mabel at the Hackney Empire with the London Musical Theatre Orchestra

After a truly sensational concert production of Candide at London’s Cadogan Hall, I had exceptionally high expectations for LMTO’s version of Mack and Mabel. Starring David Badella, Natasha J Barnes and Tiffany Graves, this production was the most entertaining, witty and emotionally-rousing night at the theatre I’ve had this year. 

LMTO’s founder, Freddie Tapner radiates passion and enthusiasm for his art and it is felt throughout the auditorium. Even whilst conducting his orchestra with his back is turned to the audience, we can still see and feel the love of his music. I have pondered for hours about what makes LMTO so special and I think it must just be that this ship is captained by a modern-day musical genius in Tapner. The spectacle of the LMTO on stage in all their glory is a wonderful thing to see so clearly and I can’t imagine I’ll ever tire of it. 

Friday, 8 September 2017

INTERVIEW: James Byng, currently starring in The Woman in Black at the Fortune Theatre

James Byng is currently playing the Actor in the West End production of The Woman in Black, He was also most recently seen playing Toulouse-Lautrec in the Secret Cinema's production of Moulin Rouge! His other theatre credit include: Edgar Rychenkov in Noël (National Opera House, Ireland); Philip Pullman’s Grimm Tales (Bargehouse, South Bank); Nick Willow in Carrie’s War (Novel Productions UK Tour); Posner in The History Boys (West Yorkshire Playhouse/Theatre Royal Bath UK Tour); Frodo in The Lord of the Rings (Theatre Royal Drury Lane); Peter Pan: A Musical Adventure (West Yorkshire Playhouse); Les Misérables (Palace Theatre); Oliver! (London Palladium); Hey! Mr Producer(Lyceum); Oliver! (Theatre Royal Plymouth).

We chat to James after his opening night in his new role...

Is the love of music and theatre something which runs in the family?
Not particularly, though my sister and I starred together as kids in Les Misérables at the Palace Theatre in the 90s, and my brother is a talented musician, and I suppose my grandfather was a bit of a crooner - oh alright, scrap that, I suppose it does, yes.

Where did you train and how has this helped you build your career in the arts?
I didn’t. It hasn’t. I was lucky, I fell into acting at an early age and carried on!
I’m not quite sure what ‘building a career in the arts’ means these days really. It’s all too easy to feel as though one’s building something and then… bam! You’re flat on your backside again. It can happen to any actor, however prominent. It’s an extremely fickle industry and I’m very glad and grateful to be working!

Thursday, 7 September 2017

REVIEW: Dirty Dancing at the New Victoria Theatre in Woking

“Nobody puts Baby in the corner”

It’s been 30 years since the film Dirty Dancing hit screens for the first time, and since then it has become nothing short of iconic. Whether you think of watermelons, dancing on a bridge or being lifted high into the air in a lake, Dirty Dancing is a classic and is much loved by audiences of all ages.

Seen by millions across the globe this worldwide smash hit tells the classic story of Baby and Johnny, two fiercely independent young spirits from different worlds, who come together in what will be the most challenging and triumphant summer of their lives.

This UK Tour is filled to the brim with electrifying energy and fantastic routines throughout.

Wednesday, 12 July 2017

REVIEW: Grease at the New Victoria Theatre in Woking

Whether you’re a musical theatre fanatic or not, chances are you’ve seen the iconic 1978 film “Grease” starring John Travolta Olivia Newton-John. Everyone knows we go together like ram-alama-lama kadingeekadingadong! The latest UK tour sees Danielle Hope (The Wizard of Oz, Les Miserables) and Tom Parker (The Wanted) tackle those world renowned roles: Sandy Dubowski and Danny Zuko respectively. In a show like Grease which is preceeded by such a cult classic film, a stage adaptation is never going to please everyone. Not everyone can be pleased – it will either be too similar to the classic film or not pay enough of an homage. Either way, directors Robert Stigwood, Paul Nicholas and David Ian, alongside choreographer Arlene Phillips have their work cut out with Grease. As performed on the West End stage when the revival re-opened in 2007, this tour takes the best of the 1950’s and reminds us that Grease is, indeed (still) the word. 

Phillips’ choreography is fabulous – it’s hugely energetic and dynamic. The “Born To Hand Jive” moves have been revived beyond recognition, as have the legendary Greased Lightnin’ fist pumps. Nevertheless, the die hard Grease fans in the stalls persisted to perform the choreography they remember from the film (!) The opening number “Grease is the Word” is one of my all-time favourites from any show. I remember being a wide-eyed 12 year old watching the choreography in awe and I’m thrilled to say the moves are the same now as they were then – clean cut, sharp and downright awesome. 

Wednesday, 7 June 2017

REVIEW: La Cage Aux Folles at the New Victoria Theatre in Woking

Now recognised as one of the world’s finest modern musicals, La Cage Aux Folles began life as a French stage farce of the same name. Written by playwright Jean Poiret, the play tells the story of Albin (otherwise known as Za Za) and Georges, a gay couple who make a living running a St Tropez drag nightclub. But behind the curtains of this sparkling extravaganza, all may be about to change. Georges’ son Jean-Michel announces his engagement to the daughter of a notorious right-wing politician determined to close down the local colourful night-life. Drama and hilarity ensue when a meeting of the parents forces them to cover up their vibrant lifestyle.

Bill Kenwright’s latest tour of La Cage is as unashamedly excessive but boy, oh boy, is it brilliant. Directed by Martin Connor and starring John Partridge and Adrian Zmed as Albin and Georges respectively, this production has all the sequins, glamour and glitz a musical could ever need, but beyond this, it brings to the fore a story of identity and acceptance – a moral tale as resonant today as it was when it was first staged in 1983.

Wednesday, 31 May 2017

REVIEW: Jane Eyre at the New Victoria Theatre in Woking

“Following a critically acclaimed season at the National Theatre, this innovative re-imagining of Charlotte Brontë’s masterpiece is a collaboration between the National Theatre and Bristol Old Vic and is directed by Sally Cookson.”

“The classic story of the trailblazing Jane is as inspiring as ever. This bold and dynamic production uncovers one woman’s fight for freedom and fulfilment on her own terms. Jane Eyre’s spirited heroine faces life’s obstacles head-on, surviving poverty, injustice and the discovery of bitter betrayal before taking the ultimate decision to follow her heart.”

Monday, 29 May 2017

ALBUM REVIEW: Golden Days - A Collaboration of Brian May and Kerry Ellis

The Queen of the West End, Kerry Ellis is back with a new studio album – Golden Days. In collaboration with her long-term creative partner Brian May, of Queen fame, this exciting new album brings to the fore an exciting array of soft-rock, musical theatre and new original numbers sure to delight die-hard Ellis fans everywhere. 

However, this album is very eclectic and won’t be everyone’s cup of tea. 

We start with “Love In A Rainbow” and this pretty much sets the premise for the rest of the tracks. One of five new original songs on this album, its Grecian style chant at the beginning then turns into soft-pop before the introduction of sitars and a chorus. It’s mad but somehow it works... I think. 

Not every song pulls of this new wacky style of creative expression. Whilst listening to “Parisienne Walkways” I was hoping to be transported back to the days of Gary Moore and his iconic live performances, but I was left simply wanting more. May plays his best classic style on this track, but Ellis’s vocals just cannot match up to the original. 

Wednesday, 22 March 2017

REVIEW: Sister Act at the New Victoria Theatre in Woking

Craig Revel Horwood is best known as the fab-u-lous judge on BBC’s Strictly Come Dancing, but his latest project as Director and Choreographer of the divine musical comedy “Sister Act” should fast become his most notable work as this production is absolutely heavenly.

"This diva's got a secret...and it's nun of your business"

“Sister Act tells the hilarious story of Deloris Van Cartier, a disco diva whose life takes a surprising turn when she witnesses a murder. Under protective custody she is hidden in the one place she won’t be found – a Convent!  Disguised as a nun and under the suspicious watch of Mother Superior, Deloris helps her fellow sisters find their voices as she unexpectedly rediscovers her own. A sparkling tribute to the universal power of friendship, sisterhood and music.”

Thursday, 16 March 2017

REVIEW: Shirley Valentine at the New Victoria Theatre in Woking

“Shirley is a Liverpool housewife. Her kids have left home and she makes chips and egg for her husband while talking to the wall. Where has her life disappeared to? Out of the blue, her best friend offers her a trip to Greece for 2 weeks and she secretly packs her bags. She heads for the sun and starts to see the world and herself very differently.”

“Willy Russell’s heart-warming comedy premiered in 1986 and took the world by storm. It was adapted into an Oscar nominated film. Now, on its 30th anniversary, Jodie Prenger stars in the first major revival of this national treasure.”
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