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Friday, 13 March 2020

REVIEW: Once Upon A Mattress at Upstairs At The Gatehouse

Mary Rodger’s musical adaptation of the Hans Christian Anderson fairy tale, The Princess and the Pea is rarely revived in London, so Mark Giesser’s production of Once Upon A Mattress is welcome, but ultimately disappointing.

In a kingdom ruled by Queen Aggravain, none shall marry until Prince Dauntless The Drab finds a bride, who must pass the Queen’s test to prove she is a genuine Princess. As the show begins, Princess number 12 is found to be unsuitable, and the search continues. Enter Princess Winifred, a gutsy tomboy who arrives by swimming the moat, proving that Princesses need not fit the stereotype. The show carries a strong message, and has great subtext, but this production tends to linger on the surface, offering a two-dimensional view.

Friday, 7 February 2020

REVIEW: The Jury at Upstairs at the Gatehouse

The Jury is a new musical landing in London having had a successful run at the Brindley Theatre in Runcorn, sharing a story of twelve strangers trying to unanimously decide the verdict for a murder case. Combining different social backgrounds and discussing domestic violence, gender politics, still-births and more, will they come to a conclusion?

Ultimately, this musical for me feels very underwhelming. I hate to say it, but it just was very slow or repetitive. Amy Fletcher’s book and lyrics took time to really start flowing, and a lot of the time there was eggy dialogue. Certain characters felt massively underwritten, especially Harry (played by Kaidyn Hinds) – after his song his character felt minimal. I also would have loved to have more of Louise’s story (played by Charlie Culkin), and more of Tom’s story (played by Ashley Ball). A lot of the characters felt like caricatures rather than rounded characters, and it wasn’t easy to follow them, especially when there wasn’t much of an arc to be had. For me, Ashely M A Walsh’s music was the best bit – especially the tight harmonies and acapella moments in ‘The Verdict’. However, a couple of the songs felt out of place and repeated too long, for me most notably ‘It Doesn’t Matter’, leaving Walsh’s Sondheim like sound for a pop song that made its point early on.

Sunday, 15 December 2019

REVIEW: 42nd Street at Upstairs at the Gatehouse

Following their 21st anniversary last year, Ovation Theatres latest production sees them tackle the tap extravaganza musical favourite, 42nd Street; currently playing its UK fringe theatre premiere at Upstairs at the Gatehouse in Highgate. 

Vastly downsizing to a cast made up of 13 compared to the recent West End production at Theatre Royal Drury Lane, which consisted of an impressive cast of 58 members, Ovations adaptation can be nothing short of applauded for the mammoth challenge they have taken on; in particular within the effective use of limited space. 

Staged in a promenade setting with entrances at either end, the production was directed thoughtfully to ensure all audience members had an excellent view of each scene and number. This was particularly apparent whenever choreography was introduced throughout.

Monday, 15 April 2019

REVIEW: The Marvelous Wonderettes at Upstairs at The Gatehouse

Roger Bean’s The Marvelous Wonderettes has just opened its UK premiere Upstairs at The Gatehouse. Directed by Joseph Hodges, four students Missy (Sophie Camble), Cindy Lou (Rosie Needham), Betty Jean (Louise Young) and Suzy (Kara Taylor Alberts) are ‘The Marvelous Wonderettes’ and perform songs from the 50s and 60s.

The jukebox musical’s first act is set in 1958 at the Springfield High School’s Senior Prom. The storyline is weak, the songs are strung together with a bizarre mix of popularity, stealing boyfriends and being in love with a teacher. Unfortunately, this made the show overall quite boring as there was nothing to follow, the vocal arrangements and choreography were excellent but this was not enough to keep me wanting more. Act 2 is at the ten-year reunion of the four women in 1968. The story picks up and is much more dramatic (proposals, pregnancies, cheating) but didn’t grip me.

Monday, 17 December 2018

REVIEW: Nice Work If You Can Get It at the Upstairs at the Gatehouse

Rapidly approaching their 21st anniversary at “Upstairs at the Gatehouse”, there is no denying that Katie and John Plews have created something simply unique and welcoming at this brilliant North London fringe theatre venue. Their latest production with Ovation Theatres Limited sees them debut the UK premiere production of the hit Broadway show “Nice Work If You Can Get It”. 

Headed by Alistair So and Jessica-Elizabeth Nelson, this stellar cast have delve head first into creating an extremely charming and delightful adaptation for this debut. Set in the 1920s, Nice Work If You Can Get It follows dapper playboy Jimmy Winter (Alistair So), a wealthy gentleman who meets rough and ready female bootlegger Billie Bendix (Jessica-Elizabeth Nelson) on the weekend of his wedding. Jimmy, who has previously been married three times before, is preparing to marry Eileen Evergreen (Charlotte Scally), “the world’s greatest interpreter of modern dance”. Assuming Jimmy and Eileen will be out of town, Billie and her gang of bootleggers hide cases of alcohol in the basement of Jimmy’s Long Island mansion. But when Jimmy, his wife in waiting and her protesting family show up at the door for the wedding, Billie and her fellow bootleggers are forced to hide out as servants, causing a whole load of tomfoolery and nonsense. 

Tuesday, 24 April 2018

Casting announced for Return to the Forbidden Planet at Upstairs at the Gatehouse

Winner of the 1990 Olivier Award for Best New Musical, Return to the Forbidden Planet is a rockin’ rollercoaster ride into the future bursting with red hot hits, including Great Balls of Fire, Good Vibrations, Teenager in Love, The Young Ones and The Monster Mash.

Join Captain Tempest and the crew of the Intergalactic Starship Albatross as they travel deep into hyperspace. What’s waiting for them?……a mad scientist, a secret formula, a scary monster and D’illyria – a planet not marked on their cosmic charts.

Loosely based on the 1950’s sci-fi film ‘Forbidden Planet’ (which itself was based on ‘The Tempest’) author Bob Carlton has created a riotous mix of Shakespeare, B movie Science Fiction and some of the biggest pop hits from the fifties and sixties. So fasten your seat belts, set your ray guns to stun and get ready for a cosmic adventure of meteoric proportions!

Cast includes Alex Fobbester (Captain Tempest), Emma Fraser (Navigation Officer), Guy Freeman (Bosun), Stephanie Hockley (Miranda), Edward Hole (Cookie), Rhiannon Hopkins (Penny Scyllen), Christopher Killik (Prospero), Ellie Ann Lowe (Science Officer), Simon Oskarsson (Ariel), David Persiva (Mike Roechip) and Lewys Taylor (Bud Visor). 

Saturday, 16 December 2017

REVIEW: Top Hat at Upstairs at the Gatehouse

Top Hat hit the screens in 1935 with legend Fred Astaire in the lead role with Ginger Rogers playing his love interest, Dale Tremont. The film was the 4th most popular film at the British Box office in its year of release and it hit the West End stage in a new version starring Tom Chambers and Summer Strallen in the leading roles after a UK tour. It ran through 2012 and closed the following year before hitting the road again in another tour of the UK. 

The show is being revived Upstairs at the Gatehouse in a new version directed by John Plus and choreographed by Chris Whittaker with Strictly Come Dancing star Joanne Cliffton and West End performer Joshua Lay taking on the leading roles.

Firstly, the organisation skills of the theatre need to be reassessed. Being asked to constantly move and being told where we should sit isn't really necessary, if its a problem then they should be printing seat numbers.
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