A LITTLE NIGHT MUSIC – Ye Olde Rose And Crown Theatre

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A Little Night Music is up there as one of the great Sondheim musicals and it’s a nobly ambitious show that Aaron Clingham’s All Star Productions mount at Walthamstow’s Rose and Crown Theatre. Tim McArthur directs a cast of sixteen who cavort their way through the musical rom-com, itself a take on the seminal Ingmar Bergman classic, Smiles Of A Summer Night and there are some gems amongst his company.

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THRILLER LIVE – West End

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Marking seven years in the West End (along with an eye-watering global box office take of £150million) Thriller Live continues at the Lyric after a magnificent makeover.

At its heart the show is still the same juke-box musical, chock full of hits. But there’s no fictional fairy-tale woven around the songs of Michael Jackson here and nor does the show pretend to be a (potentially tedious) biopic. Thriller Live remains a simple yet lavish, tribute to the music, the styles and the dance that Jackson created, excellently performed.






THRILLER LIVE – West End

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

Marking seven years in the West End (along with an eye-watering global box office take of £150million) Thriller Live continues at the Lyric after a magnificent makeover.

At its heart the show is still the same juke-box musical, chock full of hits. But there’s no fictional fairy-tale woven around the songs of Michael Jackson here and nor does the show pretend to be a (potentially tedious) biopic. Thriller Live remains a simple yet lavish, tribute to the music, the styles and the dance that Jackson created, excellently performed.






CYNTHIA ERIVO & OLIVER TOMPSETT SING SCOTT ALAN – Album Review

In London theatre, Reviews by Jonathan BazLeave a Comment

There’s an eclectic, relaxed charm to this collection of Scott Alan’s songs as performed by Cynthia Erivo and Oliver Tompsett. With Alan having enjoyed a modest UK residency this summer / autumn, there is a natural evolution that has seen this album born out of a collaboration of three people who evidently enjoy and above all complement each other’s talents.






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BARBARIANS – Tooting Arts Club at Central Saint Martin’s

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

It has long been recognised that when writing about his world, Barrie Keefe’s finger is firmly on society’s pulse. With Barbarians however Keefe goes one step further, not just finding that pulse, but slicing it open in front of us, confronting his audience with those bloody, ugly realities that, skin-deep, continually surround us.
A 1970s trilogy of short plays, Barbarians follows three disaffected young men from their confused and sometimes angry adolescence into adulthood. Keefe’s deployment of irony is always a treat and the evening’s opening play, Killing Time is peppered with his trademark black humour as the teenagers, not long out of school, contemplate an evening of petty crime.






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FARINELLI AND THE KING – West End

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At the age of 32, at the very height of a superstardom today reserved for the Hollywood A-list, the great 18th Century castrato Farinelli turned his back on the stage, never to return, to sing for only one man – Philippe V, the King of Spain. The King, suffering from a madness brought on by depression, could only find solace and sanity in Farinelli’s heavenly tones.






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PURE IMAGINATION – St James Theatre

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Who can take a set list? Sprinkle it with class……
… as through two hours a delicious cast of 5 chart a course through nigh on 60 of the songs of lyricist Leslie Bricusse. Unashamedly a ‘juke-box musical’, the show marks producer Danielle Tarento’s first foray into that genre, with a combination of both song snatches and entire numbers as Bricusse’s remarkable body of work is referenced and respected.






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KISS ME, KATE – Touring

In Musicals, Opera, Opinion, Regional theatre, Reviews, Touring by Jonathan BazLeave a Comment

Leeds Grand Theatre, Leeds

***

Music and lyrics by Cole Porter
Book by Bella and Samuel Spewack
Directed by Jo Davies

Quirjin De Lang, Jeni Bern and Company

Opera North, a leading UK arts organisation whose key focus and goal is to ‘actively challenge conventional perceptions of opera’ (as stated in the programme), return to Leeds Grand this Autumn to present their latest season of work, with this new production of Kiss Me, Kate being the first in a diverse line-up.
Kiss Me, Kate tells the story of Fred Graham and Lilli Vanessi, two actors whose tempestuous love lives take centre stage as they perform in a new musical version of The Taming of the Shrew in 1940s Baltimore. Almost fabricated as a play within a play, Kiss Me, Kate takes a different tack to the musical theatre norm and allows the audience to see both the on stage and off stage dramatics and hysteria of the story’s main arc.
Quirijn De Lang and Jeni Bern, the key protagonists, shine in their roles offering the audience a true abundance of wit, charm and delight as they work with an overly complex plot that takes an hour and a half to actually get to the point. Whilst there are some great comedic interludes from Joseph Shovelton and John Savournin as Gunman 1 and Gunman 2, Kiss Me, Kate struggles to sell itself as a piece of high class musical theatre.
With a running time of almost 3 hours, Kiss Me, Kate fails to pack the punch required for such a long piece of theatre, with scenes drawn out for much longer than required. At least half an hour could be trimmed and still allow a piece that could be easily grasped without becoming boring due to a lack of tension, suspense or characters one can truly care for.
Tiffany Graves and Ashley Day feel a tad miscast as the secondary characters Lois Lane and Bill Calhoun – there’s a surprising lack of chemistry between the two and apart from a wonderful, albeit small, comedic moment in Tom, Dick or Harry. Katie Kerr as Hattie seems underused with an absolutely divine voice that opens up the first act in Another Op’nin, Another Show, whilst Claire Pascoe as the Stage Manager is another ensemble member who stands out, grabbing our attention as soon as she walks on stage.
The main saving grace of this production is its music. Superbly conducted by David Charles Abell, Kiss Me, Kate harks back to Musical Theatre’s golden era. The best moments are the ensemble numbers particularly Too Darn Hot the second act opener.
The lighting and set designs for this production are ambitious considering the size of the theatre but Ben Cracknell and Colin Richmond do a remarkable job, providing stunning backdrops that draw the audience in and help sell a flawed story.
Kiss Me, Kate’s lack of purpose and confusing storyline will possibly leave many feeling a little cold and put out. For those Shakespeare aficionados however who fancy seeing something a bit different and unconventional, then it may well prove the perfect night out.

Runs until 31 October and then toursGuest reviewer: Megan Kinsey