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Belters and bohemians: Opera Locos @Sadlers_wells

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At the start of the Opera Locos performance, the announcement says that they really are singing. You could be forgiven for wondering that, given the amplification turns up the backing track and the voices so loud that you can't always tell what's real. But this is a mostly harmless and slightly eccentric blend of opera classics fused with the occasional pop classic. However, recognising the pop tunes would help if you were over a certain age. The most recent of them dates back twenty years. It's currently playing at the Peacock Theatre .  Five performers play out a variety of archetype opera characters. There's the worn-out tenor (Jesús Álvarez), the macho baritone (Enrique Sánchez-Ramos), the eccentric counter-tenor (Michaël Kone), the dreamy soprano (María Rey-Joly) and the wild mezzo-soprano (Mayca Teba). Since my singing days, I haven't recognised these types of performers. However, once, I recall a conductor saying he wanted no mezzo-sopranos singing with the s

Colour and Light: Anyone Can Whistle @swkplay

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What’s hard is simple. What’s natural comes hard, so the lyrics in the title song, Anyone Can Whistle. But this production,  currently playing at the Southwark Playhouse , takes one of the more challenging Sondheim musicals and makes it seem effortless and straightforward to enjoy. And they deliver it with endless enthusiasm and panache. It’s a bonkers story about a town that comes up with a miracle to attract tourists and improve its prospects. Up to this point, the only thing going for it was its sanitarium for the socially pressured (otherwise known as the Cookie Jar). These people, known as the cookies, are non-conformists. Yet they seem to be happier than anyone else in the town. But as the show progresses, its none too subtle digs at religion, authority, politics, and conformism can make your head spin about what institution it is taking on.  The best thing is to let much of the absurdist story fly over your head. After all, even Sondheim critiqued it for being too clever . But t

Let the blood run free musical: Sweeney Todd

Stephen Sondheim's Grand Guignol musical-opera Sweeney Todd is back in the West End. This time it is with the versatile (and somewhat unrecognisable) Michael Ball in the title role and Imelda Staunton as Mrs Lovett, his partner in crime. The tale has been told in many forms, and the last time it was on the West End was in John Doyle's wonderfully claustrophobic production where the cast doubled as the orchestra. This time around, this Chichester Festival transfer provides a slightly more traditional staging of the production with a grand set and elaborate set pieces. Of course, it is still probably Victorian London as the story does not make sense in any other period, but you could be forgiven with the odd car, costuming and set decoration that it could also be the 1930s...

Theatre: Passion

Stephen Sondheim's Passion has started previewing at the Donmar as part of the Sondheim at 80 season... This dark story about a young officer drawn towards a sick unhealthy woman is less musical and more melodrama set to a lush romantic score, with a bit of crazy thrown. The musical motifs repeat and repeat to a dizzying point and if you let yourself accept the basic premise of the show you're in for a hell of a ride. I have always liked this show in which the central message seems to be long distance relationships don't work, no matter how well written the letters are. Sondheim's music and lyrics are more natural here and grounded in realism, including told through a series of epistolary songs that repeat and alter. And if it this production is this good on the first night, it can only get better. The show opens with Scarlett Strallen as Clara and David Thaxton as Giorgio in their underwear doing gymnastic gyrations on an unmade bed. Amongst all this they manag

Theatre: A Little Night Music

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I was a bit worried about seeing A Little Night Music on Sunday. Well, the last time I went to see a Trevor Nunn show it all ended in disaster (although I ended up with seats with lots of space around me). This time at least I was certain that the material he had to work with was much better. But still, I was a little bit worried. It was less to do with the show and more to do with the company I was with. After having lunch with the Whingers , John and a few others, our party of ten to see it was in a very silly mood. The two bottles of non-cheap red wine consumed over lunch may have had something to do with it. There was so much banter that anything was a target and everything was hilarious. The production team sat in the row in front of us, taking notes using pens and little notepads looking like they were waiters. John suggested we ask Trevor to take our order for a couple of lattes for the interval. Yes, it was set to be a silly afternoon. Fortunately all the banter stopped whe