As rehearsals start for Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber’s JESUS CHRIST SUPERSTAR at Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre, full casting is announced. Joining Declan Bennett as Jesus are: Tyrone Huntley as Judas, with Anoushka Lucas as Mary Magdelene, David Thaxton as Pilate, Cavin Cornwall as Caiaphas, Peter Caulfield as Herod, Phil King as Peter, Joel Harper-Jackson as Simon Zealotes and Sean Kingsley as Annas.
Dame Judi Dench wins record eighth award – receiving more Olivier Awards for acting than any other performer Chichester Festival Theatre’s transfer of Gypsy wins the most awards this year for a single production, including Best Actress in a Musical for Imelda Staunton and Best Musical Revival Kenneth Cranham and Denise Gough win Best Actor and Best Actress National Theatre …
This week offered me a chance to re-visit Lin-Manuel Miranda’s In The Heights and a first time to see it in its Kings Cross home.
Love London Love Culture finally got around to seeing the show that everybody is talking about – and Love London Love Culture finally got around to seeing the show that everybody is talking about – and what an energetic and creative show it is. From the opening title number all the way through to the joyful finale, In the Heights is energetic and heartwarming that shows how a contemporary musical should be done.
Stylish: The power of dance, song and big hair are used to heap scorn on all kinds of prejudice as Hairspray returns for a week-long flash of brio and fun at the Edinburgh Playhouse, as part of its ongoing tour.
The first UK staging of STRICTLY BALLROOM THE MUSICAL – based on the much loved film that inspired the world to dance – is to premiere at West Yorkshire Playhouse, Leeds on Wednesday 30 November 2016, playing a season through until Saturday 21 January 2017 (Press Night: Tuesday 6 December at 7.30pm).
Looking ahead to this year’s highlights, from Broadway imports and Pulitzer prize winners to Kenneth Branagh and Matthew Warchus’s ongoing seasons.
Another week of big openings ahead means I won’t be getting to everything even if I wanted to (and right now I am still trying to take it easier than I used to), let alone playing catch-up on what I missed when I was incapacitated after my recent double rounds of surgery! Here are the main openings of the week to look out for, followed by my current Top 10.
Big musicals news of the week: Billy Elliot is closing at the Victoria Palace, School of Rock is coming to the London Palladium, Bugsy Malone is returning to the Lyric Hammersmith, and Gypsy will on be BBC4.
The evenings may be getting colder, but inside the King’s Cross Theatre there’s a heatwave going on, in more than one sense. In the Heights was a word-of-mouth hit on Broadway before arriving in London, and it’s easy to see why; the show is vivacious, colourful and full of energy, with a strong story and a memorable cast of characters. What’s not to love?
The Old Vic today announces casting for David Greig’s adaptation of Dr. Seuss’s The Lorax, directed by Max Webster. Simon Lipkin will play the role of the Lorax, alongside puppeteers Laura Cubitt and Ben Thompson, whilst Simon Paisley Day takes the role of the Once-ler. Dr. Seuss’s The Lorax is the third production in Matthew Warchus’ opening season as Artistic Director and opens on 16 December, with previews from 3 December.
Tony Award-winning Broadway musical In The Heights will return to London this year following a critically acclaimed sell-out UK premiere at Southwark Playhouse in 2014. The production will transfer to King’s Cross Theatre on 3 October 2015 and is booking for a strictly limited four week period until 1 November 2015. Tickets go on sale at 10.00am on Friday 10 July 2015.
Royal Festival Hall, London
Jason Robert Brown
Returning to a London concert for one night only, New York composer Jason Robert Brown plus West End guests, performed to an adoring Royal Festival Hall. Opening the gig with the overture from Honeymoon in Vegas, his latest to show to open (and after 3 months, close) on Broadway, there was an air of refreshing even if disarmingly honesty self-deprecation as Brown told his audience that the show was “the latest in a long series of shows you’re not going to see over here!”
Musical director Torquil Munro had assembled an impressive orchestra for the evening, though given the venue’s vast expanse, a little more attention needed to have been paid to the sound-mix that occasionally went awry. In what was to prove an event of two quite distinct halves, the evening’s first section was, for the most part, little more than a simply entertaining line-up. It was post-interval however that Brown’s selection of both singer and song became jewel-encrusted.
Memorable from act one was wunderkind Eleanor Worthington-Cox’s What It Means To Be A Friend from Brown’s paean to teenage angst, 13, whilst Bertie Carvel offered a touching reprise of his Leo Frank from the Donmar Warehouse’s 2007 production of Parade of 2007. The highlight of the half however was Laura Pitt-Pulford (who merited a second half re-appearance) re-visiting her Lucille Frank, also from Parade only this time the Southwark Playhouse’s 2011 production. Pitt-Pulford’s You Don’t Know This Man offered a performance of beautifully measured power alongside quite possibly the best example of acting-through-song of the night.
Act two kicked off with a medley from The Bridges of Madison County, another of Brown’s briefly lived Broadway shows – and whilst Caroline Sheen was exquisite as Italian immigrant Francesca, singing opposite both Matt Henry and Sean Palmer, too often the numbers suggested a Gaelic rather than Latin pulse, or maybe that was down to the hall’s acoustics too. It took a one-off composition from Brown, Melinda, drawn from a fusion of the music of 1970’s New York for the second half to truly ignite. Beautifully channelling a Billy Joel inspired sound, Melinda offered a rare moment to witness Brown’s dazzling keyboard skills.
Amy Booth-Steel got the evening’s The Last Five Years chapter underway with a beautifully nuanced I’m Still Hurting, though it was to be Cynthia Erivo’s I Can Do Better Than That that saw this “national treasure in waiting” of musical theatre Festival Hall’s roof clean off!. It was tough on Oliver Tompsett who had to follow Erivo with a thoroughly decent (but by now, completely overshadowed) Moving Too Fast. In a number that was to see her powerfully duet with Brown, Willemijn Verkaik was on fine form with And I Will Follow.
Whilst Brown’s melodies are consistently ingenious, his lyrics vary. The caustic irony he imbued in The Last Five Years and in Parade was a mark of genius that matches Sondheim’s best for its pinpoint, minimalist dissection of the human condition, yet the evening’s snatches of The Bridges Of Madison County seemed to lack the perceptive wit of his earlier years.
Amara Okereke led a Drew McOnie choreographed Brand New You routine from 13, complete with a nearly drilled adolescent NYMT ensemble reprising their West End premiere from some years back, before Brown took the microphone again to encore with a passionate Someone To Fall Back On.
Seeming genuinely taken aback at the blazing warmth of his reception, Brown commented to the crowd who stood as one to salute him, that he “doesn’t see that every day!” Much like fellow American Scott Alan who himself only recently played London, one senses that both New Yorkers feel more appreciated on this side of the pond than back home.
Jason Robert Brown should return here soon, to a more intimate venue and for a (better rehearsed) residency of modest length. His talent as writer, pianist and heavenly-voiced singer too is unquestioned and what is more, London loves him.
I’ve seen two musicals recently that I’d recommend: Bugsy Malone at the Lyric Hammersmith and Carrie at Southwark Playhouse. And they have a surprising number of things in common, despite their very different stories. I can’t help but play the “connections game”
Ah Oklahoma, another in that list of musicals who have been produced and cast so perfectly in the past (in this case the wonderful National Theatre production that gave Hugh Jackman his big break) that you begin to wonder why anyone would dare attempt it again. But clearly Music & Lyrics – the collaborative effort of a number of the UK’s finest regional receiving theatres – are braver souls than I.
The list of gangster movies inspired by 1920’s prohibition-era Chicago is lengthy, but it was not to be until 1976 that British director Alan Parker was to redefine the genre with Bugsy Malone. His award-winning feature film was an inspired musical romp for children, with the classic themes of love and crime all scaled down to a kids-eye view of morality and with sub-machine guns converted to spray custard-pie “splurge” rather than murderous lead.
On Monday, we announced on MyTheatreMates.com the winners of our inaugural #AlsoRecognised Awards. The first year of these Awards has caught the imagination of the industry, the audience voters and the nominees and winners more than I had hoped to imagine. Your winners are lovely, truly lovely and appreciative. Just look how they’ve embraced – […]
Less than two days after the star-studded gala to bid farewell to Kevin Spacey at the Old Vic, his successor Matthew Warchus is making headlines with an inaugural year-long season and commanding statement of intent. It’s undoubtedly a whole new era down Waterloo way – the award-laden Young Vic down the road, be warned. Warchus […]
One of the most awkward moments at the Olivier Awards last week came during Kevin Spacey‘s acceptance of his Special Award – when he forgot the name of his successor. “As nice as this is,” said Spacey, Olivier in hand, “I don’t want to necessarily spend a lot of time looking back at the past […]
KI YIP I YAY It’s back. Again. But worth the buggy-ride: brightly directed by Rachel Kavanaugh and choreographed by Drew McOnie with athleticism, wit and inventiveness: ballet, ragtime and brawling naturalism (no tap this time) makes that element so striking … Continue reading →