As I settled to watch Jonathan Harvey’s Beautiful Thing yesterday, I wondered whether it might also fall into the category of an historical artefact that had had its day; as it was, I was pleasantly surprised.
Curve Leicester’s Sunset Boulevard certainly offers ‘new ways to dream,’ proving a beautiful and fitting finale to a year of considerable change for theatre.
With the World Cup tournament currently in play, football parlance seems appropriate in describing Opera North’s Kiss Me, Kate, arriving this week for a short stay at London’s Coliseum as a show with two halves.
A wonderfully warm hug of a show, perfectly produced and performed – and you know you’re gonna be humming the tunes all the way out of the theatre.
A packed house at the New Wimbledon Theatre rose as one to salute Ria Jones’ bow at the close of Sunset Boulevard and with good reason. Jones remains magnificent, her definitive, decaying diva capturing Norma Desmond’s long-faded Hollywood majesty.
First seen in Edinburgh and Chichester in 2014, David Haig’s acclaimed Pressure finally arrives at London’s Park Theatre where it runs for a month or so before heading into the West End for a well-deserved transfer.
With enormous compassion, David Haig weaves together a thrilling story that is both personal and political. Having done his research, he makes the gobbledygook of technical weather reports sound thrilling, and the arguments between the men under Pressure convincingly clear.
Ria Jones, so resplendent when she stepped into Norma’s shoes at the Coliseum in 2016 (we were lucky enough to be at one of those shows is once again in the title role and she gives a powerhouse performance.
There is no doubt that Ria Jones, as Norma Desmond, owns the Curve theatre’s production of Sunset Boulevard that lights into the Edinburgh Playhouse on the first date of its major UK tour.
There is a magic that pervades Nikolai Foster’s production of Sunset Boulevard, and it flows from leading lady Ria Jones. Twenty-six years after creating the role of Norma Desmond for Andrew Lloyd Webber at the composer’s Sydmonton Festival, Jones now leads the show and never has a casting been more perfect.
West Yorkshire Playhouse mounts a new version of The Proclaimers musical Sunshine on Leith in April ahead of a UK tour.
Captivating style: They say you should never work with animals or children. The touring production of Annie proves that, boy, were they wrong.
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