Reviewed by Charly Ralph
22nd January 2017
Reviewer Rating:★★★½

With book and lyrics by Don Black and Christopher Hampton, Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Sunset Boulevard is the award winning musical that tells the tragic story of Norma Desmond.  From Hollywood starlet to lonely recluse, Sunset Boulevard reveals what became of silent movie star Norma Desmond after the arrival of the ‘talkies’.

Following her West End success as a standby to Glenn Close, Ria Jones reprises the role of Norma Desmond for the UK tour. Jones has a striking stage presence and performs the iconic ‘With One Look’ and ‘As If We Never Said Goodbye’ with gusto – to rapturous applause from the audience. However, watching the show for the first time, I missed a sense of vulnerability in Norma’s character that could have provided more depth to the dialogue in between the power ballad performances.

When introduced to Norma’s Hollywood mansion, it’s clear that Set and Costume Designer Colin Richmond has sought inspiration from the 1920’s, with the set emulating an almost Gatsby feel. However, this definitive nod to a classic may have been to the detriment of the production’s leading man.

Dougie Carter’s Joe Gillis takes on the role of narrator throughout the show, similar to Fitzgerald’s use of a narrator point of view. Although this works well, leading the audience through the story, a lack of energy makes it increasingly difficult to distinguish between when Joe is present in the action and when he is retelling it for the benefit of the audience, especially in the first act.

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Carter, however, has a strong voice, providing the audience with a heartfelt rendition of ‘Sunset Boulevard’ at the start of the second act – and his duet ‘Too Much In Love To Care’ with Molly Lynch was for me, a show highlight.

Lynch gave a standout performance as Betty Schaefer, full of optimism and charm. The young Hollywood script reader embodies the hope of those working in the film industry who still believe all their dreams will come true. In complete contrast to Gillis, who is quickly filled with cynicism and bitterness, Schaefer is a welcome injection of whimsical energy on stage.

Another standout vocal performance was provided by Adam Pearce as the unnerving butler character Max. With an impressive vocal range, Pearce stunned the audience with a beautiful performance of ‘The Greatest Star Of All’.

The set was extensive and the grand staircase brought an element of Hollywood glamour to the stage, but sadly it suffered from a few clunky changes. There were also moments of darkness on stage, with performers left waiting for a spotlight, however this could be put down to first night technical cliches that will be rectified throughout the run.

For me, the star of Sunset Boulevard is the music. In this production, Andrew Lloyd Webber’s score is brought to life by Musical Director Adrian Kirk – and his band do not disappoint. The music filled the theatre beautifully, without overpowering the cast.

This UK tour of Sunset Boulevard is filled with powerful, emotive songs, complemented by a strong vocal performance. Experience it now at the New Victoria Theatre in Woking until Saturday 27th January.

Reviewed by Sophie Ross
4th December 2017
Reviewer Rating: ★★★★

Currently playing at the Charing Cross Theatre, this is the first major revival of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s The Woman In White. Based on the 19th century mystery novel by Wilkie Collins, this dark gothic romance is told perfectly through this well written fiction novel. Telling the tale filled with secrets of a mystery fellow who preys on young girls, it’s filled with atmospheric moments, drama, and love.  Joined in the audience by Andrew himself, we were excited to see how the show would pan out in such a small intimate setting.

Walter Hartright (played by Ashley Stilburn) plays the role of an art tutor in a stately home in the country. Lived in by two unmarried sisters who both take fancy to young Walter, he begins to tell the tale of a young woman dressed in white whom he encountered on his way. Left with the mystery of trying to find out her identity he uncovers many secrets and betrayal along the way. Ashley plays Walter with passion and knows how to show the light and shade of his character. He has the audience with him throughout the whole piece, even if the other characters aren’t always on his side.

Chris Peluso plays crafty man Sir Percival Glyde. The true villain of the story who attempts to be a smooth-talking charmer to those around him. Accompanied by his Italian companion Count Fosco played by Greg Castiglioni, the pair are a troublesome deceiving twosome.  Greg plays the character with such charisma and charm that although his intentions are bad, you kind of love to hate him. He has the audience believing he is good for the most part before revealing his true self later on in the story.

Carolyn Maitland plays Marian Halcombe and for us, was a real stand out performer in this piece. Suffering with a nasty cold on the show’s opening night, she still managed to give a wonderfully powerful performance and her vocals were truly stunning throughout. She played her character incredibly well and really showed the different emotions that she was feeling along the way. Playing alongside Anna O’Bryne as Laura and Sophie Reeves as the ghostly figure Anne, the threesome performed Lloyd Webber’s score beautifully and each gave their characters such justice. An all round amazing performance by them all.

Thom Southerland’s staging although simple was incredibly effective and worked so well with the piece. The scene changes were slick and seamless and created the right atmosphere at all the right moments. Added by dark powerful lighting allowing each character to have their moment in the spotlight, it’s a wonderful use of the small space of the Charing Cross theatre stage.

The score was delivered beautifully by the orchestra and really excelled during the crucial/tense parts of the show. A wonderful blend of elements from the creatives and one that we believe made the show that much more thrilling to watch.

It’s a great piece to see if you’re looking for something different this Christmas. It plays at the Charing Cross Theatre until February 2018.

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We spoke to Wicked UK’s Standby Elphaba, Laura Pick to see what life as a standby is really like…

Laura PickTTH: For people that don’t know the difference between an understudy/standby, can you explain?

Laura: An understudy normally has a role within the ensemble. But a standby, especially in this instance is there purely to cover one role and doesn’t have an ensemble track.

TTH: Can you remember your first show as Elphaba? Were you really nervous or buzzing with adrenaline?

Laura: I remember it well, as it was the night before I was supposed to make my debut. I was nervous, especially in the beginning, but as soon as I settled in to it I was just concentrating on what I was doing.

TTH: What do you do pre-show to warm up/get ready?

Laura: I like to get in a bit early and do a proper thorough warm up myself before getting green and heading for company warm up. I always like to have a nice warm herbal tea, and a good steam with my Dr Nelsons inhaler.

TTH: Is it harder to stay motivated when you’re not in the show every day? Personally I don’t think so, I try to keep busy, and I keep the show ticking over all the time in case I’m on unexpectedly. I just really love my job, so motivation isn’t really an issue.

TTH: What was the standby audition process like?

Laura: Very similar to most audition processes. Intense at time, but pretty standard. Song of your own choice for the first round and from that point on you get material from the show, the further you get the more material you are given to perform.

TTH: You’ve recently just completed your first 8 show week at Wicked, how did you find it?

Laura: Since I’m not used to doing it all the time I cleared my calendar and tried to get as much rest as possible in preparation (I’m so glad I did, because I needed it) but that allowed to me to enjoy every second in the evening. I loved getting to perform all week. I mean, who wouldn’t love being Elphaba every day?

TTH: Do you have a favourite moment/song from the show?

Oooh, I don’t think I do you know. Or there are too many to name…

TTH: Do you feel the pressure when you’re on with different people that you may not have previously had time to rehearse with? or do you like the challenge?

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Laura Pick with current Glinda Sophie Evans

Laura: I don’t feel the pressure no, it’s refreshing going on with new people, because it keeps you on your toes.

TTH: Do you have any advice for somebody wanting to enter the same industry as you?

Laura: Don’t give up, work hard, and if you really want it, keep at it. I almost threw the towel in a few times, but you have to persevere. If you would have told me this time last year you that I would be Standby Elphaba in Wicked I would have laughed.

You can catch Laura in Wicked by checking out the holiday dates here: https://www.wickedthemusical.co.uk/london/about/cast-creative

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We spoke to The Nativity’s ASM, Elizabeth Patrick to discuss what her job entails, the highs and lows and advice for aspiring creatives.
TTH: Describe an average day at work on the Nativity?
Elizabeth: On an average one show day, myself and the other ASM will get to the theatre roughly two hours before the show starts. This is so we can reset the props and do our foys flying checks to ensure that everything is where it needs to be. This will then allow us to see if there are any issues in which we then will have enough time to sort out before the show starts.

After this is done, the company then warm up on stage before getting into costume for the show. Our ASM plots are rather busy at this time but it’s great fun.

TTH: People say, don’t work with Children and Animals and on this show, you do both. Is it difficult?

Elizabeth: I wouldn’t say it’s difficult, it can be a challenge at times but the kids bring so much to this show that they still make me laugh on a daily basis.

As for Pepper (cracker in the show) the dog she doesn’t cause any problems and never barks, and who wouldn’t want a little dog to hug during a show?
TTH: Do you prefer tour life or just working in one theatre?
Elizabeth:  This year has been my first time touring. I recently just finished with Sister Act, had a week break and then started with the Nativity. I personally really like both. Touring is exciting as you get to experience new theatres weekly and you come across new challenges with each. I do miss the stability of being based at one theatre as my home life is based in London so being away from friends/family can be tough however, you become one big family whilst on tour as you spend so much time together.
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TTH: What is one thing you’ve learnt in your time as a ASM?
Elizabeth: One thing? Well…I’ve learnt a lot more than one thing working in this field. The main thing I keep reminding myself is that as an ASM you can’t take anything personally. If something goes wrong in a show and you end up on the tail end of some anger, it’s not a personal attack to you. It’s just the heat of the moment situation. Notes are there to help the show and therefore you must embrace them. Any problems? talk. It’s the only way to get the information across to ensure you are doing your job to the best of your ability.
TTH: What is the best/worse part of your job?
Elizabeth: The best part of working on the Nativity! is hearing the intro for ‘Sparkle and Shine’ near the end of Act 2. Every night the audience starts to clap and this is the moment where the real interaction is there. For this part, I’m stage left with the other ASM ready to fly the moon onto the stage. Hearing the audiences reactions still gives me tingles.
The worst part…ok I will keep this simple…glue gunning a toy baby back together daily for the Herod rock opera scene. It’s a fiddly thing but looks amazing onstage so I guess it’s a love hate relationship ha.
TTH: Any advice for creatives wanting to start a career within the industry?
Elizabeth:  If you’re training or got your first job the key is to ALWAYS ask questions. Try and soak everything in and learn from the other members of the team. Everyone in each department will be more than happy to help you if you show an interest into what they are doing. Remember, we all started off not knowing things so don’t feel like you’re the only one. We were once you so we know how it feels.
You can catch the Nativity on tour now.
Check out the dates here #SparkleAndShine

We asked 42nd Street’s leading lady Clare Halse her five dressing room essentials….

  1. The Roller! Number one essential to roll out tired tapping muscles. I tend to get sore thighs because of the raked stage so this helps me out.IMG_1433
  2. Ahhhh, food. Absolutely must have my dressing room snacks such as, nuts, fruit, and biscuits to keep my energy high, especially on a two show day.IMG_1434.jpg
  3. My cozy slippers. I like to snuggle up in these in between shows. Often I have a cheeky power nap in between shows too.IMG_1435.jpg
  4. Magical make- up. I love getting to work and transforming into Peggy and the first step is make-up. I like to be all done before warm up, so then all I have to worry about is  putting on my wig and costume during the half.IMG_1436.jpg
  5. Toothbrush!! I like to feel all fresh, especially for any lurrrrve scenes!!IMG_1437

 

You can catch Clare and the cast of 42nd Street tapping away at the
Theatre Royal Drury Lane.


Are you a performer? What are your dressing room essentials? Tweet us @TheTheatreHub!

 

 

Reviewed by Sophie Ross
5th November 2017
Reviewer Rating: ★★★★★

After recently finishing her run as Glinda in the 10th Anniversary cast of Wicked, Suzie Mathers made her return to the West End on Sunday night. Performing at the Crazy Coqs located in the depths of Brasserie Zedel, this was her first solo cabaret show and too much delight, was completely sold out. Entertaining the ever so intimate audience with a variety of songs, plenty of charm and lots of laughter, it was a special evening to be apart of (and we’re sad if you missed it).

Opening the show with “Journey To The Past” from Anastasia, Suzie entered the room to applause and cheers from the audience. What is always so special with attending these types of shows, is that you get to see the performer as themselves. For us, Suzie really defines the term “leading lady” and talent oozes from her so naturally. She’s a shining example of everything a performer should be and knows how to captivate a crowd with total ease. Telling stories of past experiences and showcasing her incredibly versatile vocal range, Suzie put together a setlist of dreams featuring anything from pure musical theatre, opera and Justin Bieber.

No show would be complete without a little help from some special guests. Suzie’s first guest was her Girlfriend Laura Francis. Talking about the idea of what “home” meant to her after travelling around the world for so long, Mathers explained that home for her now, is a not a place but a person. The pair dueted to the song “Home” and it was really beautifully sung with so much joy/happiness coming from them both. It was lovely to see how comfortable they were on stage together and just in general, a really happy part of the show.

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Suzie performs with Laura © Danny Kaan / Anniek de Wild

Suzie’s second guest was West End leading lady Rachel Tucker. The pair shared the stage together in Wicked and have been great friends ever since and it’s something that you can really tell by watching them. In an industry that is so competitive and fickle, it’s refreshing to see two powerful women support each other and get on so well. They sang a re-worked version of “Anything You Can Do” from Annie Got Your Gun which had the audience fully engaged in laughter.

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Suzie performs with Rachel Tucker © Danny Kaan / Anniek de Wild

Her other song choices included a City of Stars mash-up, a beautiful song from Broadway hit Dear Evan Hansen, a re-arranged version of Thank Goodness and many others that we weren’t expecting her hear her sing but made for a pleasant surprise.

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Our Editor Sophie with Suzie post show.

Ending the night with “What a wonderful world”, Mathers thanked the crowd, her guests and friends for being apart of such a magical evening. It really was such a charming evening and a great way to spend a Sunday night away from the hustle and bustle (see what we did there) of the outside world. We really hope that this is the first in many cabarets for Suzie. She’s a fantastic performer who has a great career still ahead of her. We can’t wait to see what she does next!

You can follow Suzie here
Let us know if you were at Suzie’s concert. We’d love to hear your thoughts!

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Photo credit: IG: @Danny_with_a_camera & @anniekdew | Twitter: @dannykaan & @anniekdew) and/or a link to the portfolio (www.dannykaan.nl).

Reviewed by Sophie Ross
18th October 2017
Reviewer Rating: ★★★★

Since recently re-opening, the Tabard Theatre welcomes Tryst as it’s first in house production. Set in 1910 and based on a true story, the play written by Karoline leach, tells the tale of serial fraudster, George Love (played by Fred Perry) who encounters a naive and vulnerable shop-girl, Adelaide Pinchin (played by Natasha Barnes). This physiological thriller, runs for 90 minutes without the use of an interval and is carried as a two hander. The show first came to the West End 1997 opened on Broadway in 2006 and now is revived in London for the first time in twenty years. Set in a small and very intimate space, this dark and twisty tale will leave you on the edge of your seat.

After recently finishing as Fanny Brice both in the West End and on tour, Natasha Barnes steps into a role that is completely different from what you’ve seen her in before. Adelaide, a young milliner ultimately wants to better her life. She strives to be richer and to be loved by someone who wants to be with her for who she is. She meets George Love who she falls head over heals in love for. He knows what to say to her and how to make her feel wanted and special. As the play develops, you see the dark side in him and although mostly blind to his betrayal, Adelaide soon seems to release he isn’t who he initially said he was. Her character goes on a journey through both happiness and pain and that is as much of the story we can go into without giving away too much. The play ends with a shocking climax and having known nothing about it before attending, we weren’t expecting the outcome.

Although the storyline a little slow paced and at times felt like we weren’t going to get into the nitty gritty plot, Natasha and Fred work wonderfully together and play off what the other is giving.

Natasha gives a full 360 performance of showing the light and shade within what can only be described as an acting masterclass. Her vulnerability and ability to change the emotion she gives through her character is quite sublime. She’s a absolute powerhouse actor and her performance alone makes the play worth seeing.

Fred plays the part with ease, gaining much reaction from the audience. He plays the “villain” well and although his character is full of shade and dishonesty, at various points, you do feel a little sorry for is backstory. The pair work well as a duo and manage to keep the audience in the palm of their hands throughout.

It’s a tense show and works well in the set up that it’s in. The set is simple but effective and with the cast moving various pieces around for set changes, it’s done with such ease that you hardly notice it. The costumes (Megan Rarity) fit within the era and the lighting changes with the mood. As you leave the theatre, you are welcomed by facts displayed on the wall regarding to the real life events. Its a play that will leave you wanting to find out more and is worth a watch if you fancy something different.

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Tryst is booking until November 5th.