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Monday, 17 October 2022

REVIEW: Harry Potter and the Cursed Child at the Palace Theatre

This magical show opened in July 2016 and has had sold-out notices outside the Palace Theatre ever since and on 13th October 2022 launched its sixth cast. While some principals have stayed on it is perhaps the biggest cast renewal they have undergone, and I am delighted to report that none of the magic has been lost. Indeed, the show has continued to evolve and improve and is now the only venue in the world where you can see the two-part version, and this is likely to remain the case. As the one Part version was launched worldwide, many of the adjustments have fed back into the London version and the result is a tighter narrative and slicker show which still engages you fully throughout the two parts.

The central theme of father and son relationships remains as strong as ever but there are new developments for Albus and Scorpius which freshen up the narrative. As expected, the magic and illusions remain outstanding and, we love the references to the story and characters films and books in this stage version but what now shines are the performances and acting which bring an emotional heart to the show and make every parent tingle at the thought of a relationship with their children as they watch Albus, Scorpius and Delphi seeking to understand and have a relationship with their fathers. Are we all blinded by love?

Monday, 2 August 2021

REVIEW: Wonderville at the Palace Theatre

There are many reasons to support, promote and see this show in its West End run during August at the Palace Theatre before the real magic returns with Harry Potter and The Cursed Child later this year. We should applaud Nica Burns who runs the theatre and has encouraged young producers to stage new shows in the West End before it becomes viable for the bigger shows to return. We should thank those Producers who have assembled a good lineup of magic, illusion, and variety to entertain audiences. We should cheer the young energetic cast who deliver this two-hour show. But most of all we should thank the audience which on my visit included a diverse group of people with many young children who have ventured out to see the show. The resulting shared experience is fun, entertaining and a diversion from the past eighteen months.

Chris Cox, who is also the Magic and Illusion Assistant on the Cursed Child, leads the cast throughout with his jovial brand of mind-reading. It is the way he tells it that engages the audience. We never really believe that he can mind read instead relying on technology to provide the answers to the questions he poses but he does it with such enthusiasm, bouncing around the stage, griming widely that we can help but enjoy his showmanship. His mind-reading of a nine-year-old girl’s Fashion Designs including the brand name she has selected is a brilliantly executed routine. His second routine picking audience members to mind read from “Control Chris Cards” filled in at the start of the show is amusing and quick-paced but less convincing.

Sunday, 13 June 2021

REVIEW: West-End Musical Celebration at the Palace Theatre

Some of the finest voices in town get together to tackle some of the best songs in musical theatre. Whether The Sound of Music is your thing, or you prefer Jesus Christ Superstar; this show has it all. Mix that with an unfashionable level of talent on stage and you have a roof-raising recipe. 

West End Musical Celebration has pivoted from a Christmas to a summer celebration and boasts an exciting array of talent. Opening the show with a remastered ballad version of You Can't Stop the Beat, which quickly becomes the toe-tapping number we all know, is one of the producers of the event Shanay Holmes. Holmes is also our compare for the evening, and takes the musical limelight more than once, to my utter joy! 

This concert is unlike any other west-end show in that the audience are asked to play a role. We were encouraged, nay ORDERED, to sing-along, dance-along, and celebrate in the most raucous way we could. After 16 months of darkness along Sharfetsbury Avenue, it was a glorious tonic and an apt way to ring in the reopening of theatreland. That being said, I find all the encouragement and ‘I can’t hear you’ lines a little tedious unless it's at a pantomime. On the other hand, it’s worth noting that that is very much a reflection on ME and not on Holmes engaging, excitable, and energetic hosting. 

Friday, 4 June 2021

REVIEW: The Show Must Go On at the Palace Theatre

If there is a show that will epitomise the impact, frustrations and hope of the last 12 months in the Theatre Industry when we look back it must surely be this one, The Show must go on which finally runs until Sunday 7th June in the Palace Theatre and is available free on a Youtube channel. As we entered the glorious West End venue through the new covid protocols – E-ticket, NHS app scan and temperature check, with the paper in my pockets showing the original two booked dates of 21st January 2021 and 18th March 2021, it finally felt like the third time lucky, Live theatre was back.

Under the shadow of the awesome Harry Potter and Cursed Child set and venue dressing (a production that still has not announced its reopening date due to its scale & complexity) the brainchild of prop supervisor Chris Marcus & Stage manager Damian Stanton was finally reaching its ultimate goal of raising £1 million for the Theatre Support Trust with this concert. The simple graphical representation of 16 West End Musicals with the support of the Producers and Rightsholders which had inspired us all through the pandemic was about to become what we all dreamed of as a Live show. In many ways it did not matter how good a show it was, we were all glad to just be there but as it turned out it was a wonderful celebration of musical theatre with something for everyone in the line-up.

Sunday, 13 December 2020

REVIEW: Sasha Regan's All-Male Pirates of Penzance at The Palace Theatre

While much of the West End continues to suspend in the air, or transform into a virtual medium, ever so cautiously we are beginning to see more and more action return to the empty stages. Resilience from the performing arts industry in the face of this global pandemic is finally paying off. A perfect foray back into the theatre, to remind us of the pure joy, laughter and escapism it can bring is Sasha Regan's all-male ensemble of The Pirates of Penzance. 

Arguably Gilbert & Sullivan's most famous operetta, The Pirates of Penzance is full of wit, romance and iconic music largely standing the test of time. Regan’s delightfully physical and novel version of the beloved show manages to uncover a simplicity and new comic layer in it. Premiering at the Union Theatre in 2009, the show has endured success in London and Australia rightly giving the multi-award-winning director and producer a reputation as once of the UK’s innovative theatre-makers.

Set in Victorian England, the overall triumph of this version is the never faltering and highly comic ensemble. Bouncing between pirates, ladies and awkward policemen, it was from the moment they entered as the young women all dressed in white singing Climbing over rocky mountain in a soaring harmony, I didn't want them to leave the stage. Sporting visible chest hair, five o’clock shadows and masculine physiques in corsets, gender became irrelevant. The simplicity of the set design by Robyn Wilson-Owen allowed the ensemble to transform the space physically and choreography and movement by Lizzi Gee and Lee Greenway sophisticatedly showed them off as a collective of clowns. A special mention goes to ensemble member Matthew Facchino (Ensemble) and Lee Greenway (Connie) for their excellent and consistent comic timing and energy from start to finish.

Wednesday, 18 November 2020

Nimax Theatres adds a second date for Sasha Regan’s All Male The Pirates of Penzance at the Palace Theatre London

Nimax Theatres have added a second night for Sasha Regan’s all-male take on W. S. Gilbert and Arthur Sullivan’s ‘The Pirates of Penzance’ at the Palace Theatre, Shaftesbury Avenue. The show will now run on Saturday 12th December and Sunday 13th December 2020 at 7:00pm. News of the run was received on 18th November, W. S. Gilbert’s 184th Birthday year. 

The show’s producers, Sasha Regan and Ben De Wynter are delighted to extend the run. “We have been inundated with requests for more dates,” explains Regan. “There is a real demand from theatregoers who are crying out to see Gilbert & Sullivan’s much-loved operetta. Post-lockdown, people want to see something that makes them smile again. Gilbert & Sullivan’s traditional and very funny Victorian comic opera provides the perfect laughter tonic. It’s ideal for families.” 

Despite the current lockdown, theatregoers have not been dissuaded from booking ahead. “Quite the opposite,” explains Regan. “We’ve all been cooped up for a long time and families just want to see a Christmas show. Nimax Theatres have rigorous cleaning regimes and strict Coronavirus rules on social distancing. We are all just trying to keep some of the oldest theatres in London running. I can’t thank Nimax enough for believing in this show and getting behind us.”

The production was first staged at her original 50-seater Union Theatre in Southwark over a decade ago. From day one it became a critically acclaimed overnight hit, winning Best Off-West End production in the 2009 WhatsOnStage Awards. Following several sell-out runs in the UK, the merry band of pirates toured Australia including a month-long run at Cate Blanchett’s Sydney Theatre - a tremendous feat for a small Off West End company.

Friday, 27 July 2018

REVIEW: Fame the Musical at the Palace Theatre, Manchester

After a not so successful production of Fame in 2014, produced by Bill Kenwright, the return of the show was a slight surprise to many in the industry. Selladoor productions haven’t got the best reputation here at pocket, with their productions often slated as cheap and amateurish. However, the bar has been raised with this new production. 

Fame tells the story of a new year beginning at a performing arts school and the challenges they face going through that. Unfortunately, the writing didn’t allow the storylines to really develop very much and a lot of things were skimmed past but the elements that were explored were good and had the audience wrapped around the productions little finger. 

An element that fills me with dread are the two words ‘Actor Musician’. I have seen far too many productions where this is used as a way to avoid spending money and it hasn’t worked but this was very carefully done. Only a few actors play instruments but it’s within the context of the show and showcased the actors amazingly. 
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