Sunday, October 04, 2015

Inspired compilations: Pure Imagination @St_JamesTheatre @pureonstage

As the lights go down suddenly the familiar tune from the film Willy Wonka And The Chocolate Factory floats down from around the St James Theatre.

And thus begins the journey into the world of the songs of Leslie Bricusse with the revue Pure Imagination. It could easily be called a journey through the last fifty years or so of music, as it does feel like it is a showcase of some of the most popular songs from stage and film. Part of the fun is realising so many of them were written or co-written by one man.

Saturday, September 19, 2015

The family way: The Etienne Sisters @stratfordeast

A reunion with an estranged half-sister at their mother's funeral provides the backdrop for an unlikely musical subject in the Etienne Sisters at the Theatre Royal Stratford East. The sisters accompanied by jazz pianist Nikki Yeoh perform admirably in this sophisticated and slick show even if the music doesn't feel like a perfect match to its subject matter.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Live couples therapy: Tonight I’m Gonna Be The New Me @sohotheatre

Tonight I’m Gonna Be The New Me, currently playing at the Soho Theatre is a theatrical endurance piece, both for the performers and the audience as it attempts to describe a relationship, or a relationship re imagined.

It should be part of Soho Theatre’s programme of weird shit to see in the West End. It’s alienating, amusing and infuriating. So depending on your frame of mind you’re going to love it or think you are trapped. I suspect the intention is to feel both. Thankfully it only lasts a little over an hour.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Larking about: And Then Come The Nightjars @Theatre503


And Then Come the Nightjars, currently playing at Theatre 503, is a funny and at times touching two-hander that charts the period of the foot and mouth outbreak in 2001 and its aftermath from the perspective a a farmer in South Devon and his friend and local vet.

It is astonishing to watch such a finely drawn characterisations  and a beautiful looking production in the intimate space of Theatre 503.

Friday, September 11, 2015

Holographs of my mind: Dusty @dusty_show

Dusty Springfield is back from the dead in Dusty, a multimedia musical which has her spinning around and singing in 3D holographic spectacular. As for the show, despite other opinions, I liked it for the music. It is a wonderful homage to her, even if the technology gets in the way of the performances and the story.

Tuesday, September 08, 2015

Silly things to preview impudently: Emma in the square...

To celebrate the bi-­centenary of its publication, the Friends of Brunswick Square present Emma200. Not to be confused for what is written on those tart cards you will also find in phone boxes nearby, it is a weekend festival of talks, performances, exhibitions in the leafy surroundings of Brunswick Square.

Monday, September 07, 2015

The prince of tides: The Man Who Had All The Luck @KingsHeadThtr

As we approach the centenary of his birth, Arthur Miller’s first produced play gets a classy revival with a terrific cast at the Kings Head Theatre.

The premise of the work is that David, a mid western automobile mechanic has the Midas touch. Everything he touches turns to gold. He gets the girl he wants (against her father’s wishes), he runs a successful automobile mechanic business (after a chance encounter with another mechanic). He even opens a gas station which just by luck then has a freeway run past it. But as his family and friends struggle with their lives despite their hard work and perseverance, David struggles to enjoy his success. And as he waits for his luck to turn he slowly descends into madness.

The lights are on: hamlet is dead. no gravity. @arcolatheatre

The old keep living and the young are dying. It is all a bit random and unpredictable with these birthdays, deaths and marriages in hamlet is dead. no gravity. It is one of four pieces playing as part of the Volta International Festival at the Arcola Theatre.

The work by German writer Ewald Palmetshofer is both fascinating, challenging and amusing. The work deals with the premise about how people tend to tense up in uncomfortable situations, be it the mother who longs for her mother to be dead, a marriage of convenience, an unexplained death or a brother and sister who seem awfully close. Things gradually build to an unexpected climax.

Tuesday, September 01, 2015

Fringe youth: Thoroughly Modern Millie @LandorTheatre

There is so much energy in this production of Thoroughly Modern Millie that even if a projector malfunctioned and a spot light crashed, nothing dims the performances of this young, good looking cast.

This is a song and dance show. And on more than one occasion did this small and resourceful cast wow with high kicks and perfect pitch in the intimate space of the Landor theatre. Sam Spencer’s fabulous choreography makes this show a thrill to watch. Sitting up close to the performers as they sing and dance their hearts out gives the show an added level of excitement and gives a new perspective to the piece.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Pulling all the stops out: Gypsy

Gypsy has been running since April, and four months in Imelda Staunton’s performance as the mother of all stage mothers is still fascinating, exciting and exhausting to watch. It's amazing showcase in stamina, guts and determination, and that's just working with the material.

Staunton previously managed to give new meaning and depth to the role of Mrs Lovett in Sweeney Todd. Here she gives a dramatic sense of determination and vulnerability to the role.

And what lingers after the show is her exquisite vocals that give a velvety depth to the character. While there is an album from the show, after hearing her sing in this show I really want to hear her  sing jazz standards. Afterall she knows how to writhe every possible meaning out of a lyric.

Monday, August 10, 2015

More comings and goings: F*cking Men @KingsHeadThtr

Brief encounters never seemed hotter in this latest revival of Joe DiPietro’s comedy-drama play, Fucking Men. In part due to the sexy cast and witty one liners but also because it is summer and pub theatres are hot at the best of times.

The work had its premiere in 2009 at the Kings Head and went on to have a long run and transfer to the West End. It is presented here as part of the It is running as part of the King’s Head Gay Theatre Festival.

Sunday, August 09, 2015

Comings and goings: Grand Hotel @Swkplay

Nothing stays still seems to be the key message in this breathtaking new production of Grand Hotel at the Southwark Playhouse. It is constantly moving and the performances, music, singing and dancing combine in what is probably as close as is humanly possible to musical theatre perfection.

The musical tells the story of a series of characters from a guided age that feel like they are from an alien world on one hand, but on the other you can’t help see some relevance to the current age of austerity, economic and political refugees and rage against the one per cent.

Tuesday, August 04, 2015

Wherever I lay my hat: The Motherfucker With The Hat @NationalTheatre #Mofohat

Addiction, sex, rehab and other filthy words make up this high energy play by Stephen Adly Guirgis which has been running since June at the National Theatre… The Motherfucker With The Hat has potentially been a drawback as a title since it prevents people from fully explaining the play and what it is about in so-called family or decent publications. But my blog is not one of those.

Jackie, a small time (and not very good) dope dealer is just out of jail and he has got a job, he is sober and his life is looking up. He is about to catch up with his girlfriend for and afternoon of sex, when he notices a hat in the room. It’s a man’s hat and it is not his. He checks the hat. He smells the hat. He checks the unmade bed and then he smells the bed...

For the next one hour forty-five minutes as his life unravels, there are a series of hilarious scenes and interplay between the characters on stage. And an awful lot of filthy words. It is a terrific cast although you get the sense it must be a lot of fun to play such highly strung yet unique characters.

Sunday, August 02, 2015

Lady be good: Jonathan Holloway's Jekyll and Hyde @JekandHydeUK

Jekyll and Hyde is a thoughtful gender reversal of this classic tale with some seriously atmospheric theatrical tricks up its sleeve. 

The piece adapted by writer director Jonathan Holloway has already been to London (albeit in a shortened form) in an equally interesting and shocking production.

Here things are fleshed out a little more and are infused with some pretty impressive production values for a fringe production, which is a co production with Hong Kong’s Chung Ying Theatre Company.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

It’s not where you start: Songs for A New World @St_JamesTheatre

Twenty years after it first premiered Off-Broadway, the song-cycle / revue Songs For A New World at the St James Theatre serves as a useful introduction to composer-lyricist Jason Robert Brown’s early work.

It’s initially exciting to watch four accomplished performers (mostly) handle his vocally demanding work. But the effect of 90 minutes of his music straight through makes you feel as if you are trapped in a world that is a bit repetitive.

It starts out spectacularly with the opening number “The New World”, a song about starting over. And then there is a song about endings, another about loss, and another about new beginnings. By the half way point, the limitations of the music become apparent.