SONGS FOR A NEW WORLD – St James Theatre

In London theatre, Musicals, Reviews by Johnny FoxLeave a Comment

At a professionally-packed first night for Songs For A New World even long-time theatre diehards were squeaky with anticipation: never before have so many been longing for a ‘decent’ production of their favourite 1995 off-Broadway concept show. And they raved about it, cheering every song and jumping to their feet at the end.

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In London theatre, Musicals, Reviews by Jonathan BazLeave a Comment

Arts Theatre, London
Book by Billie Joe Armstrong and Michael MayerLyrics by Billie Joe ArmstrongMusic by Green DayDirected and choreographed by Racky Plews

Amelia Lily and Aaron Sidwell
It has been nearly three years since Green Day’s American Idiot played in the capital and Racky Plews’ take on the show, filling the summer slot at London’s relatively bijou Arts Theatre, delivers an energy and sound that is rarely seen in the West End.
The opening television sequence of various cable news snippets throws the audience into the story’s recent historical time, ingeniously drawing them into a single TV set which replaces the more lavish multiple-screen settings, typically found in a larger scale production. Sara Perks’ design work makes effective use of background art around the stage, mimicking a captive glued to the TV set and thus cleverly and appropriately setting the tone for the opening number, American Idiot.
The show’s distinctly modern-era story era follows three young men, Johnny, Tunny and Will, struggling to make sense of a seemingly directionless post 9/11 suburban wasteland, filled with nothing but misinformation, mediocrity and vacuous reality. As in nature so in life – vacuums are abhorred – and it is variously drugs, military service and disparate relationships with girls that fill the boys lives.
Of the three, Aaron Sidwell’s Johnny gives a solid lead performance, combining charisma, presence and humour. Steve Rushton as Will and Alexis Gerred’s Tunny manage to define the frustrations, anger and yet also the hope of their generation.
One of this musical’s curiosities is that the show’s girls, whilst vital to its plot, are also strangely marginalised in the narrative. The harshly named Whatsername is played by Amelia Lily (she of X-Factor fame and now making a creditable crossover into musical theatre) whilst Raquel Jones is stunning as the show’s Extraordinary Girl.
In what can prove a tough gig seeking to replicate a band, Mark Crossland does a stellar job as musical director. Alex Marschisone [drums], Brock Eddowes [Bass] and Tommaso Varvello [Guitar] combine to produce a sound that offers up a worthy tribute to the original band.
Plews’ vision of the show’s staging and dance is inspirational, reflecting a broad, hands-on grasp of modern popular culture. In her programme notes she speaks of having grown up to Green Day’s pop-punk sound and her work not only defines a respect for the music, it also evidences a profound understanding of Billy Joe Armstrong’s nuance. Powerful stuff.
Whether you’re a fan of quality new musical theatre or just love the music and want to experience the songs of a generation, then go. Green Day’s American Idiot is one of the most exciting and invigorating shows in town.

Runs until 27th September


In London theatre, Musicals, Reviews by Johnny FoxLeave a Comment

When backwoods trapper Adam Pontipee strides into the hay and feed store of a small Oregon town and asks “what’s the going rate for beaver?” he’s selling meat but actually hunting for a woman. It might be original for its arithmetical multiplication but Seven Brides for Seven Brothers is part of that raft of American […]

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NEWS: Major cast changes for The Phantom of the Opera

In London theatre, Musicals, News, Press Releases by Press ReleasesLeave a Comment

From Monday 7 September 2015, there will be major cast changes in the smash hit Andrew Lloyd Webber musical“THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA” at Her Majesty’s Theatre in the West End. John Owen-Jones returns as ‘The Phantom’ from Monday 7 September 2015 having most recently played the part in the spectacular new production of the show on tour in the …

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NEWS: Union Theatre revives Madness musical Our House, 19 Aug-12 Sep

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The 2003 Olivier Award-winning Madness musical Our House, with a book by Tim Firth, is revived Off West End at London’s Union Theatre, for a limited season from 21 August to 12 September 2015 (previews from 19 August). It’s directed by Michael Burgen, with choreography by William Whelton and musical direction by Richard Baker. Sasha Regan produces.

MACK AND MABEL – Chichester Festival Theatre

In Musicals, Regional theatre, Reviews, Touring by Libby PurvesLeave a Comment

This is a tale of romance and of the lure of cinema: tricky on the stage. Mack Sennet, a clownish film director, is losing his beloved star, Mabel Normand, to the dreaded, meatier features. He leaves the emotion and the drama to the other directors, he says: DW Griffiths and the like. The issue is that, as Sennet would have wanted, Mack and Mabel is all performance and little gut. Extremely talented people are behind this production, but the material they chose does them little favours.