Thursday, 31 August 2017

Queen Anne - Theatre Royal Haymarket

This piece takes place in the 1700s over the same period as several historic events including the contentions between the Whites and the Tories, the War of the Spanish Succession and the problems England faced with Europe and Scotland. Romola Garai plays the cunning Sarah Churchill who’s a close friend to Queen Anne, played by Emma Cunniffe. The contrast between the two characters is striking. Sarah is glamorous and sensual yet sly and arrogant. Anne is chubby, riddled with physical ailments and through pregnant seventeen times has no children as almost all have resulted in miscarriage or infant mortality. The play is cleverly written and beautifully performed, except for the musical interludes which in my opinion didn’t fit the rest of the piece. 

Queen Anne can be seen @ Theatre Royal Haymarket until 30th September 

Tuesday, 1 August 2017

The Wind In The Willows - London Palladium

From a book, to a radio show, television program, film and now a musical, The Wind In The Willows has definitely done the rounds since it was first written in 1908 by Kenneth Grahame. This family styled show has all the old favourites - Toad, Mole, Badger, Ratty, the Weasels as well as other animals. Each true to form from the 1980’s television show I remember. Toad, irresponsible. Mole, naive. Badger, brave and wise. Ratty, laid-back. The Weasels, wicked and scheming. My favourites though, were not the main characters but rather, Horse as she delicately trotted (in the form of tap dance)  and sang The Open Road, which I found myself humming for days after and the hedgehog family who took they lives in their hands each time they wanted to cross the road.
The overall story is simple and doesn’t leave a lot to the imagination. But the performances all round were good, the songs catchy and the staging effective. 

The Wind In The Willows can be seen @ London Palladium until 2nd September 

Tuesday, 18 July 2017

Alice's Adventures Underground - The Vaults

This was my first visit to The Vaults for what was advertised as an ‘literally one of the best theatre experiences you’ll ever have.’ Shortly after entering down the rabbit hole, the group is split in half to begin separate, immersive journeys into what is meant to be an enchanting land. Encounters range from a visit to the royal kitchen, an acrobatic presentation from Tweedledee and Tweedledum a seat at the long, dinner table.  It was hard to breath in the lagoon where we were serenaded. The piece culminates in the courtroom where everyone is reunited for the finale. Immersive, yes. Theatre, not in my opinion. I couldn’t help but compare it to The London Dungeons, which I found a great deal preferable. The idea is that visitors can come again and again and each time have a completely different experience. Sadly for me, one visit was more than enough.

Alice's Adventures Underground can be seen @ The Vaults until 23rd September 

Thursday, 29 June 2017

Beautiful - Aldwych Theatre

I must admit I knew virtually nothing of Carole King prior to seeing this show. It was a surprise for me then to learn that despite not knowing of her, I knew several of her songs. The musical charts her life, beginning with her as a slightly awkward teenager growing up in New York with the one desire of becoming a song writier. The story interchanges between her successes as a song writer and her failing marriage to Gerry Goffin, also a song writer. Katie Brayben plays the lead role well. There are several comic moments in the piece, many centred around Carol and Gerry’s friendly rival with fellow song writing couple Cynthia Weil and Barry Man.

Beautiful can be seen @ Aldwych Theatre until 5th August

Tuesday, 13 June 2017

Motown The Musical - Shaftesbury Theatre

Written and co-produced by Berry Gordy this musical charts the rise of the Motown empire. The audience are taken on a whirlwind tour through Grody’s life. His attempts at boxing, car sales and his entry into the music business. With hit after hit, we hear an impressive array of old favourites from Smokey Robinson, Marvin Gaye, Diana Ross & The Supremes, The Temptations and the Jackson 5. There is also music from Stevie Wonder. The music and dancing are on top form and though the story line misses the beat in a few places and feels slightly hurried in others, it’s an overall feel good show. As ‘Diana’ approaches the audience for a live singer to join her it can feel a little cringing (I’ve seen the show twice). My advise - go for the music and you won’t be disappointed.

Motown The Musical can be seen @ Shaftesbury Theatre until 24th February 

Monday, 12 June 2017

Whisper House - The Other Palace

During the Second World War Christopher is sent to live off the coast with his aunt Lily after the death of his father and his mother's committal to an asylum. Lily has a very close relation with her Japanese handyman who also lives in the lighthouse with them. But after an order is issued banning foreign nationals from living in the area his aunt lives, Christopher finds himself in a dilemma. The piece tries its best to be haunting and eerie but fell short for me. Characters appear a little under developed and though the singers have great vocals, the music becomes a little tedious after a while.

Whisper House @ The Other Palace has now ended 

Tuesday, 9 May 2017

The Miser - Garrick Theatre

The lead role in this comedy drama is played by Griff Rhys Jones. Harpagon, convinced that everyone around him is trying to steal his riches, becomes obsessed with protecting his wealth. This impacts directly on the love lives of his son and daughter as he arranges marriages for them designed to add to his (stored up, not to be spent) fortune. The gags in this play are thick and fast - a little too much so and his daughter’s (Elise) squeaky voice drove me to distraction. There is some interaction with the audience, which in opinion seemed misplaced and cheesy (especially the ‘hint’ regarding the play getting a 5 star review) and even some of the mishaps that are funny the first time loose their ‘laugh effect’ when repeated several times over. The staging cleverly shows the miser’s refusal to spend anything of house repairs; there’s a large crack in one of the walls and bits fall occasionally from the ceiling. Despite several over-the-top cahracters the production is energetic and instills the desire to find out just how this farce would end.

The Miser can be seen @ Garrick Theatre  until 3rd June 

Sunday, 7 May 2017

Out Of Order - Richmond Theatre

This revised script, originally from the 90’s, is on a 30 week tour of the UK. The play is set in a suite at the Westminster Hotel. A Conservative MP, having an affair with the secretary of the Labour leader, plans to spend the night with her in the hotel but their plans are obstructed when a dead body is found at the window of their suite. But reporting the discovery to hotel staff or calling the police is too logical an option and would deny the audience the sheer farce which follows. The updated political references add to the humour of the script and the cast were energetic in their roles.
The icing on the cake was Ray Cooney himself making an appearance on stage during the curtain call in celebration of his 70th year in theatre.

Out Of Order @ The Richmond Theatre has now closed but can be seen at other venues until 22nd July 

Wednesday, 3 May 2017

School Of Rock - New London Theatre

The theatrical production is true to the 2003 movie’s story line.  When Dewy is rejected from his rock band he steals his roommates identity and gets a job as a teacher in order to pay his bills. Determined to enter the Battle of The Bands, he converts his students into a rock band. The audience is told right at the start that the children are in fact playing their own musical instruments which saved me some speculation. The talent and energy displayed by the young cast members is phenomenal. Not only are they singing, dancing and playing musical instruments - they’re doing it all whilst putting on American accent. There are three different casts of children and unfortunately I didn’t take note of which cast were performing the night I attended.  The adults held their wn too, notably David Fynn in the lead role.
The show is very loud, crazy and a little wild. Unlike the film version which I found a little irritating, this production left me wanting more. I found myself humming Stick It To The Man days later.  I can truly say that this is unlike anything I’ve seen by Andrew Lloyd Webber.

School of Rock can be seen @ New London Theatre until 12th February 

Thursday, 2 February 2017

Giselle - The Colosseum

I don’t get to the ballet half as much as I’d like so it’s always a delight to do so. Giselle, the story of a young peasant girl’s love and grief was a great one to start the year.  The delicate dancers who float effortlessly through the air with tremendous skill.  Romace, duels, death -it’s all portrayed through graceful, precise and highly formalised steps and gestures. The staging is simple but effective as it moves from light and airy in the first act to dark and sinister in the second.
The National Ballet is a wonderful company and I must try to see more of them this year. 

Giselle @ The Colosseum has now closed

Wednesday, 4 January 2017

Dreamgirls - Savoy Theatre

Never before have I heard vocals quite like Amber Riley's on a theatre stage. Her lustrous voice shines through as Effie, one of three teenage Afro-American girls who form the girl group The Dreams. The girls are waiting for their one big break and so enters Curtis (Joe Aaron Reid) with a plan to propel them into stardom. But the opportunity that starts out as too good to be true, and sees the girls succeed beyond their wildest dreams, soon sees Effie kicked out of the group with a broken heart. Dreamgirls takes us beyond the glitz and glamour of the stage to the nitty gritty of economic gain, greed and betrayal that can accompany fame.  And though there is clearly a lot of other talent in the show; Tyrone Huntley as CC, Effie’s songwriting brother and Adam J Bernard as an impressive Jimmy;  I found myself anxiously awaiting her return to the stage all throughout her absence.  There is laughter and many tears, partly due to the storyline but mostly to the power of the vocals belting out just a few yards from your seat. Have a tissue at the ready for Riley’s big number just before the intermission and the finale.   
I loved Jennifer Hudson’s voice in the 2006 movie and was a little unsure how I’d take to the stage version of Effie but there was not a shadow of disappointment in the show. Well, except the fact I couldn’t get up and dance / sing along with the cast. 

Dreamgirls can be seen at the Savoy Theatre until 21st October