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Thursday, 2 February 2023

REVIEW: 2:22 A Ghost Story at The Lyric Theatre

2.22 - A Ghost Story is quite a West End phenomenon, not so much because of its subject of paranormal activity in the bedroom of an old-fashioned London house but because of its ability to attract an audience on the basis of the star casting as Jenny, the young mother who reports experiencing some disturbing activity at 2.22 am on each of the last few nights. Lily Allen (5.1 m twitter & 1.5m Instagram followers) opened the show at the Noel Coward in August 2021, Giovanni Fletcher (465k Twitter & 2m Instagram followers) played the Gielgud, Laura Whitmore (438k twitter & 1.5 m Instagram followers) played at the Criterion and now Cheryl (formerly known as Cheryl Cole) with 5.5 m Twitter and 3.4m Instagram followers stars in the show for the short season at the Lyric. No doubt the jubilant producers are already planning its next surprising cast announcement and another move of venue at the end of the current run. The casting is clearly designed to appeal to the followers of these young high-profile stars and seems to be working very effectively so reviews will hardly affect sales as each star brings the publicity and fan base to ensure a successful run.

Cheryl makes her stage debut in the role as Jenny and once you have adjusted to her Tyneside accent which means occasionally will lose a few words, she makes a solid job of conveying the love of a new mother, the concern at the mysterious noises, and the anger at her disbelieving husband. After relatively nervous and contained opening scenes, she burst into life as the mystery unfolds and we are drawn more into the simmering tensions between her and her husband and their guests. It is a very credible and convincing performance suggesting this could be the start of a new career for her.

Monday, 3 October 2022

REVIEW: Get Up, Stand Up! at the Lyric Theatre

The legend of Bob Marley’s global music status has continued to grow since his early demise at just 36 from cancer in 1981 and if ever an artiste had earned a theatrical music jukebox show it is surely him. But Get up, Stand up is much more than a celebration of his music and although staged in a concert format they do not shy away from his back story and the political and cultural context of his music. And then simply and effectively remind us that although there has been progress and integration there is still more to do on equality, diversity, and representation of the communities he championed. The use of images and headlines throughout on-screen and on-stage props provides insight into his world.

The show centres inevitably on the central performances of Michael Duke as Bob Marley and Gabrielle Brooks as his long-suffering wife Rita. Their relationship is at the heart of the show from their first meeting in the mid-sixties to his final concert in 1980 and explores how their marriage was tested by his long relationship with Miss Jamaica, later Miss World, Cindy Breakspheare played by Shanay Holmes. Together Rita and Bob delightfully deliver “Is this love” (1978). As his dreadlocks grow so his music develops leading to climatic conclusions of each act. Act 1 ends with “I shot the sheriff” (1973) and “Jamming” (1977) songs that had global reach transcending his cultural roots and leading him to be accused of selling out. Act 2 ends with “One love” (1977, released as a single in 1984) and “Get up, Stand up” (1973), the last song he played live, with their emotional messages of the power of love and the need to stand up for your rights and equality. In between, we get the show-stopping “No woman, no cry” (1975) sung powerfully and emotionally by Rita. Just as when these songs were first released the rhythmic music and strong vocals connect with the audience and bring waves of deserved applause. It must be hoped that the new cast can sustain this quality.

Wednesday, 9 March 2022

REVIEW: Roles We'll Never Play at the Lyric Theatre

Roles We’ll Never Play is probably one of the best-known cabaret shows around at the moment, and rightly so. Full of performers singing songs from roles they may not traditionally be the right casting for, it's a night full of talent and will make any musical theatre fan gag in their seat. Starting in the small Union Theatre this show has grown to play huge West End houses like the Vaudeville and Apollo theatres, it moves to its biggest house to date, the Lyric Theatre. 

Produced by the incredibly talented performer Tom Duern, who is about to feature in the cast of the All-Male H.M.S Pinafore, he pulls together an incredible lineup of performers who blow us out of our seats. On top of that, he manages to have time to drop in and give us a few songs. Performing This is Me from the Greatest Showman and featuring in a performance of Make Me Happy from the Wild Party alongside Rebecca Gilliland and Eve Norris, his vocals are out of this world and he reaches notes I didn’t even know were possible! 

Thursday, 18 November 2021

REVIEW: Showstopper! at The Lyric Theatre

A musical composed entirely from audience suggestions, sounds like a recipe for disaster, doesn’t it? You’d be right to assume this, but you couldn’t be further from the truth with ‘Showstopper!’ A brilliant evening of improvised comedy from start to finish. 

The premise is pretty simple. The compare in charge of the evening (Dylan Emery) receives a call from a west-end producer in need of a show and works to make one within 2 hours. The place, theme and musical style are entirely down to the suggestions from the audience, then it’s up to the cast to create the musical from scratch. 

Everything within the show from the compare, to the cast and musicians, work in cohesion to create the storyline. The musicians in particular do a tremendous job of creating music that fits the current point in the show and the cast then in turn do very well to create the songs on the spot. 

What’s very impressive with the cast is the ability to make the suggestions work, though it could be said that a few suggestions weren’t very funny or very easy to work with, the cast manage to make every suggestion work. It also highlights just how well they all work together and showcases the talent to quite literally, make anything work. It’s a skill to create a 2-hour long musical with a storyline that’s engaging and humerus from a few suggestions they’ve only just heard. It must be said that performances from Ruth Bratt, Pippa Evans, and Adam Meggido were the highlights, Meggido’s Hamilton inspired pirate rap was thrilling to watch!

Wednesday, 11 August 2021

COMING HOME: Collette Guitart, currently in SIX the Musical at the Lyric Theatre, soon to transfer to the Vaudeville Theatre

Pocket Size Theatre and Liza Heinrichs (Captured by Liz) have teamed up again and created our new series 'Coming Home'. In this new piece, we look at the reopening of Theatres in London and around the country and celebrate our industry coming back. We got together some performers who will be some of the first to return to theatres and created this piece to bring some positivity to the theatre industry which has been through one of the toughest years in our lifetime. Whilst it is important to acknowledge the hardships we've all gone through, it's important we pull together as a community and celebrate our beloved industry finally coming back! 

Six the musical hit the West End in early 2019 and has captured audiences, moving from its run at the smaller Arts Theatre to its first big West End venue at the Lyric Theatre where it is currently playing, the show will move to its new permanent home at the Vaudeville Theatre from the 29th September. 

Collette Guitart is the dance captain and understudies all of the Queens in the show, she has been with the production in its run at the Arts Theatre and is playing with it at the Lyric Theatre. She will be transferring with the show when it moves to its new home next month. Previously she appeared in Rip it Up at the Garrick Theatre, Bat Out of Hell at the Dominion Theatre, was a swing in the UK Tour of Wonderland and was in the ensemble of 27: Rise of a Falling Star at the Cockpit Theatre. 

Tuesday, 30 April 2019

REVIEW: The Simon & Garfunkel Story at the Lyric Theatre

The Simon & Garfunkel Story is exactly that. But although it’s simply a telling of their career through narrative and (mostly) their songs, this is way beyond being a mere tribute act. 

The performers vary throughout the tour but for this outing in the West End Adam Dickinson was Paul Simon and Kingsley Judd played Art Garfunkel. Wisely, though, they appear as themselves, each taking their turn to tell the story of Simon and Garfunkel from their earliest encounter in their school play, Alice in Wonderland, right through to global success. These snippets of narrative are generously illustrated with performances of the songs. And it is only in the music that our two stars become their alter egos. 

The songs are neatly placed into context, not only by the scene setting from the two leads, but also some well-chosen video material played on a screen behind them. Their career essentially spans the 60s so this is an era ripe with incident and news footage, which has been carefully curated to capture the key moments and issues of that heady decade. This means JFK, hippies, the Vietnam war and the moon landing to name a few. At some points I felt the videos were a little too interesting, their content distracting from the music. But this, I think, is better than having them as an irrelevant backdrop whose only role is decorative.

Friday, 25 January 2019

REVIEW: Thriller! Live 10th Anniversary at the Lyric Theatre

Now celebrating its 10th year in London’s bustling West End, Thriller Live is the longest running production to ever hit the Lyric Theatre in its 125 years of history, having now completed over 4000 performances. In works since 1991, Creator and Executive Director Adrian Grant has been on an undeniably successful journey with his initial vision to bring the story and music of Michael to people around the globe, including countless audience members at the 15thlongest running musical in the West End. 

With hundreds of cast, crew and creatives working both within the West End and with the UK touring production both on and off stage, last night’s anniversary performance was nothing short of a family affair. With an audience full to the brim of ex company members and die hard Michael Jackson fans, the vibe, spirit and love of Jackson himself was unmissable throughout the auditorium. Which was only sky rocketed when the 23 strong member cast burst onto stage, delivering everyone’s favourite classic MJ hits. 

Wednesday, 25 July 2018

REVIEW: The Simon and Garfunkel story at the Lyric Theatre, London

Simon and Garfunkel’s 5thalbum together “Bridge over troubled water” was the biggest selling album of 1970, 1971 and 1972 and at the time the biggest selling album of all time. Its iconic title song was written by Paul Simon about their failing relationship and sung mainly by Art Garfunkel. The folk rock duo split up shortly afterwards. The Simon and Garfunkel Story could have illuminated the audience on how their relationship developed and the causes of the breakdown in their friendship. Instead Dean Elliot (Director/writer) and Preece Kilick (CSM/Director) give us a straight chronological concert presentation of their music with the actors out of character narration of the linking minimal biography.

For a Simon and Garfunkel fan, who knows their music, it is a faithful well executed tribute show and a chance to hear the less well known album tracks performed live. The strong backing band of Adam Smith (guitar/organ), Leon Caulfield (bass) and Mat Swales (drums), augmented by a three piece brass ensemble in the second half, provide a powerful backing to the duo and particularly excel in the musical interlude which covers the singers solo work between 1971 and 1981.Sadly at times they seemed to drown out the vocals of the duo and so in the unfamiliar songs it was sometimes hard to catch the lyrics. 

Sunday, 26 November 2017

REVIEW: The Gruffalo's Child at the Lyric Theatre

Tall Stories Theatre Company describes itself as a producer that brings great stories to life for audiences of all ages but many of its shows are targeted at young children (who bring their parents or grandparent to the show). In its latest production Gruffalo’s Child which now shares a stage with the evening productions of Thriller, it is following up on the success of The Gruffalo (which is still on tour) and directly targeting small children from 3 to 7. It brings to life the cartoon characters created in picture book form by Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler. It was clear, even before the show started that the audience was very familiar with the characters and that excitement levels and anticipation was high despite the early 10 am start!

The simple open stage bathed in a blue wash with a large white moon peeping over the stylised trees immediately transported the children to the deep dark wood where the creatures live and the children were speculating where the mouse, snake and owl would appear from. As the house lights dimmed three expressive young actors bounced onto stage and began to narrate the simple cautionary tale. They then, over the course of the 55 minutes running time, use movement, song, mime and clever costume tweaks to create the story book creatures to varying degrees of success.
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