Friday, 28 August 2009

A Streetcar Named Desire

Streetcar is my favourite play. The Donmar is my favourite producing theatre. I about had kittens when they announced this production and have been eagerly anticipating my visit ever since I was on the phone at one second past 9am on the morning that tickets went on sale.

Maybe it was inevitable, therefore, that I was a little disappointed. I can't even really quantify why. I think the trouble is that because I know the piece so very well, I have really clear ideas of how the characters should be and for the most part, these portrayals just didn't match up with how I see them. I do think Rachel Weisz is too young to be Blanche and I definitely think that Ruth Wilson was too young for Stella. It didn't bother me too much when they weren't on stage together but I really struggled to care about the Blanche/Stella relationship.

Elliot Cowan, in contrast, was exactly how I see Stanley. Gruff, brooding, imposing, terrifying but attractive and appealing at the same time. Special kudos also for the guy playing Mitch (whose name I've forgotten) who I thought was terrific.

My biggest bugbear, though, was the costumes. During the course of the play, I picked out pieces I recognised from H&M, Office and Primark... whilst partly just indicative of the amount of time I spend window shopping, the sheer laziness of it really bothered me. The set was beautiful and so in keeping with the period so to see so much costumes wise that looked like it had been grabbed from a dash down Oxford Street really irritated me.

I'm glad I saw it... but can't help feeling a bit let down.

Dreamboats and Petticoats

I must admit I didn't hold out much hope going into see Dreamboats on a midweek matinee. Certainly I was about 30 years younger than anyone else in the audience (apart from the odd grandchild who'd been dragged along) and this unfortunately led to some rather tuneless singing along on the part of those around me.

Despite all that, I loved it. Okay so it's not Shakespeare. It's not going to change the world and if you're looking for theatre that will move you to your core then I wouldn't suggest you rush out and buy a ticket, but it's great music, really well performed against a backdrop of a higher-production-values-than-normal from Mr Kenwright. Everyone left the theatre with a big smile on their face and you can't really argue with that, can you?

Wednesday, 19 August 2009


I'll admit I'd never been to Stevenage (other than on the train on my way to London), much less the theatre, before so when I was invited to go and see their in house production of Footloose, I wasn't entirely sure what to expect.

I was blown away by the scale of the production. Given that it was only on for a week, there didn't appear to have been any cut corners. Most importantly, the calibre of the cast was high.

I'd never, believe it or not, seen Footloose on stage before. Seen the film a million times and know the music but wasn't prepared for quite how much I'd enjoy it on stage. The cast were (almost) universally very strong. I thought the dancing could have been tighter in certain parts (especially the boys) but the singing was fantastic throughout.

A really good, solid, fun production and certainly one that would encourage me to return for their next show.

Wednesday, 12 August 2009

Edinburgh 2009

5 hectic days in Edinburgh. Reviews coming up in as short a space as possible!

Over The Threshold (George 2, Musical Theatre @ George Square)
The advertising is uninspiring. Black and grey is probably not the best colour combination to catch people's eyes in Edinburgh. The strongest songs ('Women Like You' and one of the female solos I don't know the name of) are very strong but the rest is slightly inconsistent. The book is slightly too neatly tied up for my liking, but still enjoyable.

Bloodbath (George 1, Musical Theatre @ George Square)
Oh dear. Really, just, oh dear. I think any show containing the line "is that like thrush?" has found new levels to scrape at the bottom of the barrel. The cast are fabulous but the show is just beyond awful. Whilst he has a lovely voice, Anthony Costa just cannot pull off being the most popular boy in school. The girls dance around in costumes that get smaller and smaller as the show goes on and the whole thing just seems tacky.

Maggie Service With A Smile (The Wee Room, Gilded Balloon)
An hilarious hour that proves you don't have to swear like a docker and talk about sex non stop to do a good stand up show! Great character observations (I especially liked the new york actress with the taxi driver boyfriend) and transitions from each character very smoothly.

Jerry Springer The Opera (George 1, Musical Theatre @ George Square)
I don't like the show. Not because it offends me or anything like that. I just don't really like it that much. The students (RSAMD) are great (particularly the girl playing Steve, hilariously) and I'm sure that if you like the show, then you'll enjoy this production but it did nothing to convince me.

Hooked (George 2, Musical Theatre @ George Square)
Lesson number 1 when performing a show to backing track - MAKE SURE THE CD DOESN'T SKIP. I spent half the show cringing as the cast stumbled over lyrics as the track skipped behind them. The leading man (whose name I've forgotten) had a nice voice but the choreography was weak, the songs weaker and the whole thing was just a little cringeworthy.

Six Ways (George 2, Musical Theatre @ George Square)
I struggle to find the words to express how much I loved this. Written/devised by a group of LIPA students, this is my one big recommendation for the Fringe this year. Having been a fairly active follower of new musicals for the past few years, I've been consistently disappointed by the strength (or lack thereof) of most books. Not this. The book is strong. The performances are fabulous. You'll laugh til you cry (not least at a FABULOUS quip at the expense of one of the 'stars' appearing at George Square) and then shed actual tears too. Just fantastic.

Chat - The Internet Musical (George 2, Musical Theatre @ George Square)
One of the shows I am biased on as not only does it feature one of my clients, I also did the casting. That said, that doesn't make the show any less fun. It's smart, witty, slick and benefits from being one of the few shows with a live band in that small space. Go see it!

Blondes (Udderbelly's Pasture)
I was bored. Beyond bored. Denise Van Outen has a lovely voice, and she sang the songs well but I found the whole experience utterly unremarkable. The very-clearly-scripted jokes weren't that funny (or at least the delivery wasn't) and whilst her voice is pretty, there is little distinguishable about it. The most exciting part of the whole experience was spotting Clarke Peters (who directed) as I was leaving. I think that says it all.

Showstopper - The Improvised Musical (George 4, Musical Theatre @ George Square)
I love Showstopper. I know there's a formula and I couldn't see it very much more than once a year without spoiling the illusion but that doesn't stop them all being pant-wettingly hilarious. We had 'Sandals in the Wind' - a show about gladiators in ancient Rome, in the style of David Bowie, Elton John, Julie Stein and Jason Robert Brown. Just so, so funny.

Private Peaceful (Udderbelly's Pasture)
A stellar performance by Finn Hanlon in every sense. Completely captivating (no mean feat given the stifling heat). Enthralling, enchanting, heartbreaking and inspiring. A definite go see!

The Great British Soap Opera (George 2, Musical Theatre @ George Square)
Chat's sister show - same cast, alternate days. Smart, funny, sexy, fast paced and energetic. Characters everyone will recognise if you're a sucker for Corrie or Eastenders or even just Heat magazine.

Murder Mystery Musical (George 4, Musical Theatre @ George Square)
My only walk out of the week. So unimpressed. An incredible cast but a Punch and Judy set and not clever enough to manage the irony it needs. Massively disappointing.

Gingers The Musical (George 4, Musical Theatre @ George Square)
The queue made me feel like I was part of some superior race (which I am, obviously). However the show itself only involved one actual redhead and was written, in the most part, by a greek family. Essentially each character sang a song about the trials and tribulations of being ginger backed by a techno backing track. Not really worth the hype, at all.

A Respectable Wedding (C+1, C Venue)
A fabulous way to end the visit. Hilarious, clever, energetic and great fun. Fully deserving of the terrific reviews it's getting and well worth a visit if you enjoy physical comedy in any way.

Thursday, 23 July 2009

Blood Brothers

I've made more visits to Blood Brothers in the West End than I'd care to admit over the past year or so, so it was with an element of dread that I headed across to Leeds to see the touring production.

I find myself slightly numbed to its emotional impact now. I sat in a relatively empty matinee audience of pensioners who were sniffing into their Fisherman's Friends and didn't shed a tear. I don't even jump at the gun shots anymore.

I also think I've been spoilt in hearing Niki's vocals as Mrs J because Maureen Nolan just wasn't even close to having the same strength in her voice. It's a shame, because it's a role that has so much more impact with a strong vocalist but she just wasn't that.

I think it's pretty safe to say that I am well and truly Blood Brothers-ed out now.

Friday, 10 July 2009

A Little Night Music

I must prefix this by saying I am not really a Sondheim fan. I'm one of those weird people who would consider themselves a musical theatre fan without liking Sondheim OR Andrew Lloyd Webber (though I actually actively, intensely, dislike ALW and the same can't be said for Sondheim). So although I'd heard good things about this production of A Little Night Music, I wasn't especially enthusiastic about seeing it.

I've never enjoyed a Sondheim more.

Primarily, this was down to the cast. Hannah Waddingham is, simply, a goddess. Though not your traditional Desiree, she just holds the stage beautifully. Maureen Lipman gave a real tour de force performance and Alex Hanson and Gabriel Vick were also fabulous. Jessie Buckley failed to convince me of her abilities anymore than she had done during I'd Do Anything but given how irritating the character is, I could quite happily dislike her without it having an impact on the show.

Star of the show, in my opinion, was the fabulous Kaisa Hammarlund, whose Miller's Son was just fantastic. It's one of the few Sondheim songs that I do actually really like anyway but even allowing for that, she still managed to completely blow me away.

No-one was more surprised than me by how much I want to rave about this show!

Friday, 26 June 2009

Zanna, Don't!

I fell in love with Zanna last summer, when RSAMD did it at the Edinburgh Fringe and so was excited to see it getting its London premiere finally, not least because it was featuring one of my lovely clients!

Having failed to make it out to The Space to see it, I caught it late on in its run at Upstairs At The Gatehouse. It was as funny and kitsch and cute and charming as I remembered. I defy anyone who has ever felt like an outsider not to feel a little shiver inside in the final moments.

Though the direction and, especially, choreography were unimaginative (and, at moments, bordering on boring), the cast were, for the most part, strong and clearly enthusiastic about the piece. It's a lovely little show that deserves a bigger run than it's had anywhere so far.