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Showing posts with the label touring productions in London area

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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

Scientific pursuits: Family Tree @BrxHouseTheatre

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Family Tree, by Mojisola Adebayo, uses the power of words to weave a story about race, inequality, health and the state of the world from the perspective of black women. It’s provocative, disturbing and methodical in depicting inequality throughout time. But it’s also a celebration of life and thriving in the face of relentless adversity. It’s currently playing at Brixton House . The guide to the story is Henrietta Lacks. Lacks was a black woman who died from cervical cancer in 1951. The hospital that treated her was the only hospital that would accept black patients in the area; it took a biopsy and collected her cells without her knowledge or consent. Scientists found that hers could be kept alive, unlike other cells that only survived for a few days. Today her cells are the oldest and most commonly used human cell line used to test the first polio vaccine, cancer treatments and covid-19 vaccines. The guide, Lacks (Aminita Francis), introduces us to a world where segregation and ineq

Cure for all ills: The Paradis Files @graeae

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The Paradis Files takes you back to the salons of 18 century Vienna. Albeit briefly There, Maria Theresia von Paradis is a star composer and pianist. World-famous in Europe, a pupil of the composer Salieri and possible lover of Mozart, if one believes the gossip. And there was one other thing about her. She lost her eyesight at a young age.  This new chamber opera by Errollyn Wallen uses opera to convey the story of Paradis, both her triumphs and humiliations. She was an object of desire and experimentation. This short piece sets out clearly that she had a colourful life. Being the daughter of Joseph Anton von Paradis, Imperial Secretary of Commerce and Court Councillor to Empress Maria Theresa, undoubtedly helped. But as the family sought to remedy her blindness, she was subject to various “cures” by quack doctors.   Wallen doesn't confine the musical style to any particular period. There are elements of classical music mixed with jazz and percussion. And as a chamber opera, there

Be a clown: Much Ado About Nothing @anticdispo

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Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing is set in rural France in the aftermath of World War II in this lively interpretation by Antic Disposition. The war may be over but the battle of the sexes and battle over rivalries is just about to begin. It’s currently playing at Grays Inn Hall.  Love gone wrong, mistaken identity and a infidelity make up this piece. And there’s not a moment to lose in this adaption that moves through the story at a fast pace with music, mirth and merriment. And with a nod to the physical comedy of Jacques Tati, there’s much clowning about too in this company consisting of English and French actors. As the unlikely lovers, Nicholas Osmond as Benedick and Chiraz Aïch as Béatrice strike the right balance with the physical and verbal humour of the piece. Alfie Webster makes the most of the brief yet dark character Don John who sets in motion much of the drama.  Alexander Varey and Florian’s Andersen are also a delight as the intense young lovers, Claudio and Hero. Th

Secret marriages and other rivalries: Il Matrimonio Segreto @popupoperauk

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Cimarosa’s Il Matrimonio Segreto (The Secret Marriage) continues Pop-up Opera's tradition of semi-staging rarely seen works in unusual locations. It's playing at various sites across the country until 30 July. This rarely-seen work is perfect for their style. It's a little bit silly. It has some great arias. And it showcases some fabulous voices from its young and energetic cast. Of course being Pop-up Opera, they add some 21st century flourishes to this  18th century opera. There are endless references to politics and on-point trends.

The Monster chills: Frankenstein @Blackeyedtheatr

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There are more than just the usual chills in Blackeyed Theatre's Frankenstein. And it wasn't due to the lack of any perceptible heating at Greenwich Theatre last week during a particularly bitter cold snap. Mary Shelley's tale is given a theatrical flourish in this adaptation by John Ginman. Percussion instruments underscore the tension and the monster is depicted by a giant puppet. He isn't particularly hideous and that makes you even more sympathetic towards him.

Drinking and jazzin': The Great Gatsby @Blackeyedtheatr

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It’s the jazz age and there is plenty of period music, and lively performances in this spirited and youthful adaptation of The Great Gatsby by Blackeyed Theatre . In this adaptation by Stephen Sharkey, which was commissioned to mark the 90th anniversary of the novel’s publication, live music is combined with F. Scott Fitzgerald’s writing to give a period flavour to the evening.

Those underground Italian girls: L’Italiana In Algeri @popupoperauk

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Popup Opera’s second summer show is full of energy, enthusiasm and some fine singing… Even if it is a rather silly show, it is great to see a piece that has not been performed in London for a while in such an unusual space. This minimalist opera group has pared back Rossini’s work and taken away all that business of harems and bad Turks. Instead it moves the story to a modern day den on iniquity - Las Vegas - and the Algiers Hotel. Popup Opera’s unusual choice of venues and performing lesser known works (with a modern twist) is a great introduction to opera.  Silly plotted operas work well with this format and so moving the piece to Vegas gives the tale of gambling, infidelity and cheap thrills a new dimension. Although perhaps a few cuts in the second half to bring things to a quicker conclusion might help.

High on the hills: The Sound of Music (uk tour)

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Watching  The Sound of Music  on tour is really an opportunity to indulge in comfort entertainment. As Maria and the Mother Superior in the stage production sing about crisp apple strudel in the early part of the first act you realise that it is a Pavlovian response to get all warm and fuzzy about the show. Apart from getting a taste for strudel it will have you recalling when you first saw the movie... Or first dressed up as Ray (a drop of golden sun) to the first singalong. Everyone did that right? This is probably a good thing, as take away fifty years of cultural repositioning the show is a bit of a non-event. Take away the film’s lovely Salzburg locations and the long lingering shots between the Captain and Maria, on stage you have the entire romantic plot condensed into a short speech by infant Gretel to Maria towards the end of the first act.

Sassy and sexy: Anything Goes @NewWimbTheatre and everywhere @AnythingGoesUK_

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Going on a cruise seems like an awful lot of fun if this high spirited production of Anything Goes is anything to go by. The cast sing and dance their hearts out in Cole Porter's classic musical. There is so much to take in with the fast footed choreography, wonderful performances and imaginative staging.

Bare ambition: Quentin Crisp Naked Hope

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Fresh from the Edinburgh Fringe, Quentin Crisp Naked Hope , playing at the St James Theatre studio gives a brief insight into the life and times of the unconventional man.  Written and performed by Mark Farrelly, the piece follows the same format as one of Crisp's stage shows, where he would retell stories from his autobiography The Naked Civil Servant, and then entertain the audience with his amusing responses to questions from the audience.  While it is fun to hear the Crisperanto  (particularly if you are not familiar with it), you get the sense you are just seeing a guy in a funny wig and lipstick, rather than Crisp before you.  Perhaps a little more improvisation would bring some spontaneity to the piece. The St James Theatre studio space is lovely, but get in early for a good seat as it is unreserved. And (according to the woman I overheard at the door) get your wine from the bar upstairs as it has a better selection. It runs until 7 September and then is

Pop ups and hijinks: Così fan Tutte @PopupOperaUK

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Popping up for one night in Vauxhall recently, Pop Up Opera's latest summer offering, Cosi Fan Tutte, proves that no space can be too challenging for the company's blend of wonderful singing and witty takes on opera masterpieces. This time Mozart's opera buffa has been updated to the Downton Abbey period where Edwardian frivolity and the Great War serve as a backdrop to the proceedings. The opera centres around two sisters, Fiordiligi (Eve Daniell) and Dorabella ( Chloe Hinton ), and their fiancés Ferrando (Adam Torrance) and Guglielmo (Samuel Pantcheff). The fianc wager with Don Alfonso (Alex Learmonth), who is presented here as a Charles Carson-like butler , to test the girls’ fidelity by posing as strangers and attempting to seduce them. In an attempt to win the wager, Don Alfonso enlists the support of the maid Despina to fool the girls.

Pop-up opera: Le Docteur Miracle

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Popup Opera's spring season of operas in unlikely places was a chance to venture to a gallery in Hackney Wick to see this short opera about a young man who goes into various disguises to win the hand of his lover. With some great performances, fresh ideas and a few modern twists, it makes for a fun (if slightly silly) night out. The piece by Bizet is a comic opérette (a French form of light opera), in one act by Bizet for soprano, mezzo, tenor and baritone. The hero, a young man called Silvio, comes to the mayor's house in various disguises in order to win the hand of the mayor's daughter, Laurette. The mayor's new wife conspires with his daughter to see true love prevails, but not before some mild hi-jinks.

Spinning flipping and flexing: Seven Brides for Seven Brothers tour (or @7B47BUKTour)

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Seven Brides for Seven Brothers stopped at the New Wimbledon Theatre this week. Its a fun, loud and incredibly energetic production with a terrific cast that will keep you entertained for its two hour run. Based on a parody of the Roman legend The Rape of the Sabine Women, called The Sobbin' Women, it is set in Oregon in 1850. Adam ( Sam Attwater ), the eldest of seven brothers, goes to town to get a wife. He convinces Milly ( Helena Blackman ) to marry him that same day, as she has no family of her own. But on their return to his backwoods home she then discovers he has six other brothers, all living in his small cabin. Milly sets out to reform the uncouth siblings, who want to get wives of their own and she sees it as a way to get them out of her house. After some basic lessons the men head to town for a local dance and to meet some women. But find that all the ladies are spoken for. Returning back home and feeling down, Adam inspires his brothers after reading one of Milly&

Projection and pop-ups in tight spaces: Don Pasquale

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A pub upstairs in Covent Garden is an unlikely setting for an opera, but it is part of Pop-up Opera's plan to stage opera in unlikely places. Arriving just before the proceedings there was nowhere to sit except for a front row of bar stools. Nobody was wanting to sit in the front row possibly anticipating the opera singers standing almost in front and well within deafening earshot, (and having read the publicity that also threatened to engage the audience). On the plus side I figured these by taking a bar stool those lessons I had been taking on posture and would be put to good practice. And unlike the last time I was at the opera to see Don Carlos, there was no lady next to me insisting I keep my mobile phone and iPad well away from her as she had some psychosomatic reaction to electromagnetic fields (Royal Opera audiences can be funny like that). Anyway the stools were pretty good to take advantage of all the action that was unfolding right in front of me. But I was not ex

The Time Warp, muscle and fishnets: Rocky Horror Show 40th anniversary tour

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Richmond Theatre never looked so different (or young) on Thursday evening as a packed audience -  many dressed as transsexuals or something in between - filled the theatre for the tour of the Rocky Horror Show , which is in town until the weekend. When you arrive at the theatre don't be surprised so see men in fishnets and cheap wigs and ladies looking like goths. This is a show where at least half of the audience will dress for the occasion. Or at least dress to look like their favourite character from the show. The other half of the audience that didn't make an effort (myself included) felt a little under dressed... The Rocky Horror Show is celebrating forty years since it was first produced and is still as fun as ever. But now the years of audience participation (which goes from the sublime to the obscure) has given the show a feel of an adults only panto. The audience shouts out dirty, naughty or just plain bizarre things throughout the show which gives an element of expe

Richmond Panto: Aladdin

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Some fun costumes, and a great performance by Tim Vine (pictured far left) as Wishy Washy keep Aladdin at the Richmond Theatre as a sensible evening out for families (or very big kids) who don't mind a mild case of panto over Christmas. This version of the Aladdin follows a fairly traditional storyline. Aladdin works in his mothers laundry, meets a princess and after stumbling across the lamp with a genie, is granted riches that allows him to marry her. Well he would have married her if that evil Abanazar didn't get in the way. The loose plot is an opportunity to show off some great costumes, sing a few songs and tell a few gags. A few more filthier jokes for older members of the audience (timed to sail over the heads of the younger ones), and a few more modern tunes would have made the show better. Of course for the younger members of the audience, who were likely to be experiencing their first time at the theatre this did not matter so much. They were hooked on the drama an

On the radio: Radio Times The Musical

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The Radio Times The Musical is in Richmond this week and it is a funny and entertaining enough show. It is set during the Blitz in London as a BBC light entertainment show prepare to undertake a special broadcast that will be heard in America. It is an opportunity to breathe life back into composer Noel Gay's music, who also wrote the songs for the show Me and My Girl . With Gay's songs, a story evolves full of bad jokes, gags and silliness as the star of the show Sammy Shaw, tries to hang on to his leading lady, a new producer fights with the writers for a show that isn't full of smutty innuendo and the need for a show to go out that will lift morale. This production originated at the Watermill Theatre and follows their usual style where the performers act, dance and play the music. In a show with such brassy and lively numbers it looks great as the cast integrate dancing, music-making and performing so effortlessly. The effect gives things a real buzz. Gary Wilmot

Co-op Opera: Don Giovanni

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In a week when Prince Harry's buttocks and a rowdy party were the topic of discussion, the opportunity to see young opera performers in an English modernisation of Don Giovanni cavort and brag about conquests seemed rather relevant. This Don Giovanni may not be royalty but he is a bit of a lad and the women he seeks look like they could be found at a Vegas pool party. It is probably a little too faithful to the Mozart's original which does tend to be confusing, but things move along at a pace you find yourself not minding it too much. Helping things is the energy and enthusiasm coming from the cast of young opera singers. The Co-Opera Company is made up of members and associate members who wish to pass on their expertise to the next generation of performers. The company exists to provide aspiring artists a start in their career on stage, in the orchestra or behind the scenes. They are into their fourth season and they manage to do with no outside funding. While perhaps after

Horsing around the UK: Dandy Dick

Dandy Dick is a mild Victorian farce that is full of energy and wit that you can't help but have a very civilised time. It was written in 1887 by Sir Arthur Wing Pinero and cheap laughs and farce are a priority over satire of witty observations. But it so well-acted and pulled off so stylishly that it is hard not to like, particularly in Richmond Theatre. It is the fist major revival for forty years and tells the story of a the Very Reverend Augustin Jedd, who after a visit from his gambling mad and horsey sister, risks everything at the races. Cue the shenanigans of mistaken identity, runaway horses, romantic intrigue and mystery. There are some wonderful lines about horse meat that obviously had a more innocent meaning at the time they were written, but viewed from the present day conjure up a variety of interpretations. We weren't the only ones thinking this as one lady in front turned around at the interval and informed us that we had her sense of humour. The prod

Confusion and full frontal nudity: Funny Peculiar at the Richmond Theatre

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Funny Peculiar playing this week at Richmond Theatre is probably the most perplexing production to be seen on a stage since Too Close To the Sun (it was a short-lived musical about Ernest Hemingway's suicide). The plot revolves around a small time grocer with a wife and a baby who is desperate for sex.  Mike Stott's  play was probably daring for putting fellatio on stage in 1973 and the shock of the original production was no doubt a distraction. Fast forward forty years and it really looks like a series of stock comedy scenarios straining for laughs. It lacks timing or purpose, and with its one dimensional characters comes across as just a little bit creepy. It's not unwatchable but perplexing to think why it is on stage at all. The cast are gorgeous though and as the show plods along you feel real pity for the material they have to work with. And at times you fear they are going to injure themselves trying to get some laughs. Even Craig Gazey's flaccid penis i