So, now you’re all with me (?) on the wonders and diversity of musical theatre…. what’s coming up?
Well, firstly and most excitingly, Houdini. It may take a while to open, as it’s still being written - but it’s being written by Aaron Sorkin (of the West Wing and Studio 60) with music by Danny Elfman (who writes the scores for Tim Burton movies) and is expected to star Hugh Jackman (XMen).
I’m also hoping that Swallows and Amazons (the Neil Hannon musical playing Bristol over Christmas) tours, or goes somewhere more convenient. And maybe that a decent Count of Monte Cristo musical happens. I think the novel would make a fantastic musical, but the adaptations I’ve heard so far have been uninspriring. There’s a newish one by Frank Wildhorn (Jekyll and Hyde, Scarlet Pimpernel) which sounds promising so I think I need to download.
I’ve got a London trip coming up soon, where I’ll finally get to see Love Story (based on the film of the book) and am also going to see The Umbrellas of Cherbourg. Don’t know much about it, but it’s got Joanna Riding in it, and I’ve yet to see her in something bad. But I think I’ll need to go back to see the new Cameron Mackintosh production of Betty Blue Eyes - and maybe also Love Never Dies. I’ve heard the score to Love Never Dies and not been blown away, but I think its Phantom, Ramin Karimloo, is brilliant - and I suspect the set will be pretty spectacular too.
Ooooh - and Memphis, a wonderful musical by David Bryan and Joe diPietro, is being filmed this week. I’ve been hoping for a UK transfer of any of their musicals for a while now. Whilst I’m still hopeful, in the meantime, I’ll gladly settle for a cinema release or DVD to keep me going.
For now though, I’ll settle for the bright and cheerful tones of Me and My Girl over the tannoy…
To anyone from the Toxie site reading this - it’s another one with some of Christopher Jahnke’s orchestrations.
To anyone else, I loved the original Bristol production, I loved the London production, and I love the UK tour.
Yes, there are differences - there has to be to make it tourable - but the overriding principals of a Cameron Mackintosh production remain. The set is spectacular, with lots of breathtaking moments where you wonder just how they did that. The casting is practically perfect - we got the understudy Mary, but she was still brilliantly cast with an amazing voice and jaunty confidence the role requires.
The music is gorgeously orchestrated, and and songs a mixture of old favourites and seamlessly integrated new ones. The story keeps you captivated throughout and the characters are all developed to give you a sense of empathy towards all their journeys.
I took my mum, dad and fiance to see it - and they all loved it.
The main differences between this and earlier productions is the new “hand drawn” style - the house is a black and white pencil/charcoal drawing, and the park also has this feel (but in colour). The costumes from Jolly Holiday have also changed - and look even more colourful and amazing. And Anything Can Happen If You Let It has changed AGAIN! The ladders are still gone, but the sparkly mushroom has been replaced by a huge parrot umbrella that looks cool.
Definitely worth seeing - so many magical moments!
This opened off Broadway to great acclaim - and people who’s opinions I really respect have raved about it. The brilliance is supposed to be in the juxtaposition of modern, edgy songs vs the controversial 19th century German play the musical is based on.
Despite the rapture of the audience around me - many of whom seemed to be friends of the cast, or drama students - I personally failed to appreciate the show’s “brilliance”.
The songs are all catchy in an unmemorable sort of way - you can imagine Girls Aloud, or a Pop Idol contestant singing any of them.
The show seems like it’s evolved from an improv class with intelligent - but pretentious and pubescent - boys. The character development lacks the depth that greater maturity would provide, and the plot is very basic and not particularly well thought out.
It seems to be trying to be a bit like Jerry Springer the Opera - which was also controversial, and also one about which people held strong opinions. But JStO was more original and had some very intelligent concepts and humour amongst the contraversial and provocative stereotypes.
In its favour, I liked the opening scene and song, but felt the rest of the show failed to live to to its potential. And the cast are nearly all newcomers, and gave energetic professional performances. But that didn’t really make up for the lack of plot, dirgey score, unflattering wigs, unimaginitive set and poor direction.
David Tennant (The Tenth Doctor) also appeared in The Pillowman at the National, circa 2003. This was a FANTASTIC performance and play - as I may have mentioned, it was only when I saw realised that the guy playing Doctor Who was the guy from The Pillowman that I agreed to watch Doctor Who. It’s a really really twisted play, but the writing and performance were incredibly compelling.
Matt Smith (The Eleventh Doctor) was recently on stage with Christian Slater in Swimming With Sharks. As Chrisitan Slater’s Apprentice, Guy, he didn’t really blow me away, but playing the Doctor will be a completely different challenge.
John Barrowman (Captain Jack) has been in theatre since leaving Saturday morning tv. Most notable would be as Cal in The Fix (very awesome CD) and Jack Ross in A Few Good Men with Rob Lowe (ROB LOWE!!!!!!!). He’s also done lots of muscials - Miss Saigon, Anything Goes, Beauty and the Beast. Theatrekat hopes he’ll do lots lots more.
Billie Piper (Rose) was in Treats, where she met now husband Laurence Fox. It was watcheable, but not great.
Catherine Tate recently finished in nder the Blue Sky. Freema Agyeman hasn’t done anything that I know of, but would love to see her on stage.
Burn Gorman (Owen, Torchwood) is currently in Oliver! and Naoko Mori (Toshiko, Torchwood) had a brief stint in Avenue Q. Zoe Wannamaker (Cassandra, the last human) is often on stage, last seen by theatrekat in the great His Girl Friday, at the National.
Jenna Russell (Floor Manager, Bad Wolf) and Daniel Evans (2005 Xmas Special) starred together in the Olivier award winning Sunday in the Park With George, at the Menier Chocolate Factory. Jenna was also awesome in Guys and Dolls (and sang the theme tune to Red Dwarf). Daniel also directed Lovely Evening/InThe Blue at Theatre 503.
And finally Noma Dumezweni (Captain Erisa Magambo, Turn Left) from the Young Vic’s production of A Raisin in the Sun.
Theatrekat hopes they all continue to take to the stage and keep it free from alien invasion in the future
Theatrekat was one of the privileged few Londoners who got to see the current Doctor Who, David Tennant, in his final performance as Hamlet at the Novello.
Obviously this isn’t a review that can inspire anyone to go see the show, as it’s closed, so you’d need a TARDIS or alternative means of time travel. But it was a noteworthy production, and a strong performance from a very talented actor and so worthy of a post.
General reviews were that David was a good Hamlet before his back operation, but came back as a truly great Hamlet. He was pretty awesome the night we saw it, other than one or two missed cues or slightly mistimed lines. He brought to the role the same level of enthusiasm, intelligence and physical acting that he uses as the Doctor to bring to life the mental anguish of Hamlet.
The supporting cast (including Patrick Stewart) were also incredibly strong, making the language incredibly easy to follow, and really bringing the play to life. There was a touch of irritating Shakespearean singing to add authenticity - and the hey nonny nonnys, swords and suits of armour did slightly clash with the helicopter, jeans and tshirts. The set was pretty basic, and themed around mirrors/reflection and fit the action well.
Also check out: Doctor Who fans may be interested to note that most of the cast have trod the Boards of the West End, so there’s plenty available.Highlights following in the next post!
This has changed SO much since the UK tour - people who lived, die - and people who died have completely vanished. Relationships have been changed, and whole scenes and songs rewritten. The result is a much slicker, pacey and greatly improved musical.
It is of course the tale of Don Alejandro’s renegade son, Diego, who has to return home to save the pueblo from military control and adopts the mysterious persona of Zorro to do so. There are lots of magical disappearances and tricks, which are smoothly integrated into the action and very fun to watch. The show has a lot of energy - although possibly a little too much flamenco dancing.
There’s a lot of humour too - mainly targeted at Nick Cavaliere’s Sergeant Garcia , who Ithink is actually the star of the show. Sure Diego (Matt Rawle’s Understudy on the night I went), Inez (also the understudy) and Luisa (Emma Woods) are great too, but Garcia was awesome.
Definitely one of the better new musicals of 2008 - and much more fun/less intense than Imagine This
Also check out: Dirty Dancing, The Phantom of the Opera
I’ve been avoiding Billy Elliot since it opened - about three and a half years ago. There seems to be a distinct split between people who loved the movie (who also love the musical) and those who weren’t bothered by the movie, and are equally uninspired by the theatrical adaptation.
Sure, the kids are cute, there’s some good dancing and the juxtaposition of the ballet girls and miners/policemen is well executed. But the songs aren’t especially memorable and none of them would work outside of the context of show. The set didn’t work for me either. It looks expensive, but all too often there are backdrops or sections at the side which actually relate to a previous scene and shouldn’t still be visible. Oh - and talking of visibility, I saw most of the stage crew at various points in the show, which again shouldn’t happen.
The cast were enthusiastic, despite wandering accents - and I was particularly impressed by the boy playing Michael (Billy’s cross-dressing mate) who had excellent comic timing.
I really didn’t see anything special or magical about the show - but if you liked the movie it’s worth a visit.
Also check out: Billy Elliot the movie
The image of a rose growing from a strand of barbed wire caught my attention as soon as I saw the posters for this production. It’s actually a very symbolic representation of the show itself. There’s no well known songs or music, it’s not based on an established brand or on a movie or book, there’s no superstar actor or director to push the show into the limelight, it’s about the Holocaust and there’s a credit crunch - and yet despite all these inhibitors, it’s a beautifully put together musical and well worth seeing.
The set extends slightly into the auditorium, making you really feel engaged with the show. It adapts well to the different scenes in the production and combined with lighting, sets the scene and atmosphere beautifully.
The musical is set in a WWII Jewish ghetto in Poland, where a family are trying to keep people’s hope alive by performing plays. A very large chuck of the musical covers the performance of one such play, about Jews in the biblical times of Masada. The tale of the Jews in Masada mirrors that of those in Poland, and at the end the Polish Jews are faced with a moral dilemma.
Despite the depressing subject matter, there’s a LOT of humour within the musical - and some brilliant performances. The songs and music are more memorable than I’ve heard in a lot of new musicals, although none are true showstoppers.
Sadly, because so much time is spent in Masada, there’s not really much opportunity to get to know the characters, and so you don’t care as much about them as you’d like to. It’s a shame as there are some great performances in there, particularly from Peter Polycarpou (Daniel) and Michael Matus (Pompey).
Overall, a great new musical, beautifully done, but could benefit from some rewriting to redress the balance between the plays.
Also check out: The Secret Garden, Far Pavillions, Parade
If you liked the movie, you’ll love the show.
It’s beautifully transcribed, scene by scene - and includes some deleted scenes, and some completely new bits. All the songs from the movie are there - with lots more. The set, costumes, lighting, video projection are all brilliant, and the choreography is fantastic.
It’s not a traditional musical - there’s a great bit in the souvenir programme about how the music is in the context it would have been at Kellerman’s. So, if music is on the radio, it’s the original track. If it’s live entertainment at Kellerman’s, it’s sung live. If you can accept that - and that the Kellerman’s staff like making their own music and singing a little more than the average person, then you’ll enjoy it. If you’re expecting Johnny and Baby to sing, you’ll be confused, and maybe slightly disappointed.
The first half is a little slow, but the fantastic finale more than makes up for it. The show has just started it’s third year, and is still the hottest ticket in town.
My favourite bits are There Will Never Be Another You, Johnny’s Mambo, and Yes. And the new bit with Billy barking after Lisa hums How Much Is That Doggy In The Window?
But what are the new cast like?
Well, with three ex-Matthew Bourne company dancers (Martin Harvey, James Leece and Alan Vincent) the dancing is fantastic.
The three leads, Johnny (Martin Harvey), Penny (Nadia Coote) and Baby (Leanne Rowe) are all good. Nadia has been with the show since the original Australian production, and I’ve never yet left the show without thinking “I wish I could dance like that”!
Leanne and Martin are both new, and not yet sufficiently familiar with the show to make the most of their lines. However there’s a growing chemistry between them, and in a few more shows they’ll be great. Neil is also still growing into his role - but again, will be great in a few days.
Robbie (James Leece) is great - slightly sleazy, and very believable. It’s just a shame he doesn’t get more opportunity to dance - except when he’s covering the role of Johnny.
Baby’s family are a mixed bag. Lisa (sister) is fantastic, and does a very funny rendition of the hula song. Marge (mum) is fine - it’s not the most demanding role but she’s pretty similar to the last one. Jake (dad) was as bad as the last one but in a completely different way. This one growls.
Billy (Chris Holland) is awesome as ever, with spine-shiveringly beautiful rendition of In The Still of The Night. Stan is great, as are the Pressmans, Schumachers and Max.
Also check out: Footloose, anything by Matthew Bourne (esp. Edward Scissorhands)
The Last Five Years is playing for just a few Sunday nights at the Theatre Royal Haymarket. It’s music is written by Jason Robert Brown. He also wrote Parade*, which Paul and I both loved, and is why we thought we’d give this a go.
It’s a musical with a cast of two, and almost certainly performed on the set of Girl With a Pearl Earring - with just a few blue tables and chairs for props. The lack of expensive set and complex moving scenery isn’t a problem, as the music and lyrics were strong enough to tell an engaging tale.
The story, charting the relationship between Jamie and Cathy, has a non-linear structure (which I love). Jamie starts at the beginning of their relationship and moving forward in time, with Cathy starting at the end and working backwards. They are only once at the same point in time - their engagement.
The musical monologues are poignant, eliciting humour and empathy throughout: the excitement of finding love, the brilliant Christmas story of The Schmuel Song, the way you can know something is wrong but can’t fix it, how little things evolve into huge rifts.
Also check out: Parade, Tell Me On a Sunday
*we went to see Parade as I loved Ragtime. I thought there was some crossover in the writing team, but apparently I was wrong. Oh well.