Reviewed by Ksenya Grey
April 6th 2017
‘Jealousy is a disease, love is a healthy condition’
Cheek by Jowl’s internationally renowned touring production of Shakespeare’s The Winter’s Tale has landed at the Barbican, and it is a work of brilliance.
The plays of William Shakespeare are so embodied into our theatre culture that the reinventions of his classics are always meet with intrigue. The five act play seamlessly changes tone throughout the evening – with the first three acts are more of a psychological drama, a Greek tragedy if you will, and the last two a drama with comedic interludes by Autolycus (Ryan Donaldson).
Orlando James is the true stand out of the evening as Leontes, King of Sicilia, whose delight in his family is destroyed when he is gripped by a sudden paranoia that his wife has been having an affair, and that his brother Polixenes, the visiting King of Bohemia, is the true father of her unborn child.
James is equally matched by Natalie Radmall-Quirke, who plays Leontes’ Queen, Hermione. Her performance is powerful and her death breaks the heart of every audience member in that theatre.
What makes this production stand out is the stage is used as a blank canvas with very minimal allowing the words tell the story.
Reviewed by Sophie Ross
24th February 2016
Reviewer rating: ★ ★ ★ ★
It’s fair to say that a trip to see Lizzie The Musical, won’t be your average night out to the theatre. Making it’s UK debut at the Greenwich Theatre, it tells the story of a suspected murderess in the victorian era. The book, written by Tim Maner takes a real life case and tells it through the use of song explaining the many theories of this morbid tale.
In the house of Borden, not everything is well. The show follows Lizzie and her sister Emma who live with their father and stepmother, an arrangement that they are not comfortable with. Abused by her father and finding out that his will has changed much to their stepmothers favour, it’s breaking point for Lizzie. Her sister leaves town and therefore she takes charge leaving her with blood on her hands (but not on her dress). Suspicions arise from Maid Bridget (also known as Maggie) and Alice, the Borden’s neighbour/admirer of Lizzie and comes down to who will keep the bloody secret?.
The show feels like you’ve stepped into a rock concert with minimal staging, therefore relying solely on the music to tell the story. At stage’s during the show you feel as if you should be standing in a mosh pit at the front of the stage rather than sitting in a theatre style situation. With a live band at the side of the stage at all times, the cast make the use of handheld microphones for the majority of the show which gave it a real rocky edge.
Act one had a slight feel of confusion and took us a while to get into the swing of what was happening. If you’re not solely giving your full attention into what the dialogue is trying to convey, it’s easy to feel a little lost. Act two felt more relaxed/natural as the girls undergo a transformation which allows their characters to develop. At times, the lighting was a little overwhelming and somewhat blinding but it’s used to create a perfect rock arena feel which fits with the theme of the show.
You can’t fault the talent from this powerhouse foursome. Danish actress Bjorg Gamst (Lizzie) makes a wonderful leading lady. Her character development from a shy, abused young girl transforms into a strong and confident woman. She carries the show well and has an amazing vocal to go with it. Eden Espinosa shines bright with incredible stage presence, stand out vocals and a powerful performance. She is charismatic and puts her all into her character. Jodie Jacobs (Maggie) brings lightheartedness and humour to her role and is a big audience pleaser. Beau Woodward (Alice) shows the side of innocence and is a real contrast to the other three.
It’s refreshing to see something different and it’s guarranted to be a theatre experience that you won’t expect. The show is loud, in your face and pretty outragious but it’s something that you won’t have seen before.
Lizzie plays at the Greenwich Theatre until 12 March
Reviewed by Sophie Ross
Wednesday 22nd February
Reviewer rating: ★ ★★ ★
It’s the return of the well-known Calendar Girls with Gary Barlow and Tim Fifth’s new musical The Girls. Opening at the Phoenix Theatre this week, the show follows a Yorkshire WI group as they pose for a nude calendar to raise money after the passing of Annie’s husband who sadly dies of cancer. The show has the ability to make you cry, laugh and smile and will leave appreciating how special friendships can be. The show also raises funds for Bloodwise, a cancer charity.
Previously on the West End as a play, this version gives the show more life. With a pleasing score that’s not entirely perfect but fits in well with the storytelling, it will leave you feeling somewhat joyous and no doubt will make you laugh. The structure of the show is a little off balanced in which they don’t actually introduce the idea of the calendar until some time after the interval. The first half is focused more on building of the relationships between them, especially a mother/son conflict in which he becomes rebellious after not agreeing with his mothers antics.
The show is everything you could expect from a typical British musical. Like Billy Elliot, it stays very true to where the show is set and the culture of the village. You’ll see fetes, baking competitions, tea drinking and getting the famous chip dinner on your way home. Creating a valley scene by using a tower of cupboards to create England’s “green land”, it stays true to what you’d expect Yorkshire to look like.
Although the first half is pretty slow moving, the pace does pick up and the second half is filled with humour. The calendar shoot is the highlight of the show and gives you a real warm feeling to see everyone coming together. The cast drive this show wonderfully and it’s very refreshing to see a show led mostly by women but also an older ensemble. Friendship is the universal message that runs throughout and the 40-year friendship between Annie and Chris (played by Joanna Riding and Claire Moore) will restore your faith in true friends. Their chemistry on stage is beautiful and they are brilliant leading ladies.
It’s a show that oozes both light and shade, the ups and downs and reality of life. The music is well balanced in terms of emotion and happiness. One minute it pulls at your heartstrings and the next you can’t stop smiling. Ending with Sunflower, a song written by Barlow and Firth, it leaves the audience with a sense of reflection. Sometimes we do need to turn towards the light even when you may feel that you’re surrounded by darkness and it’s an important to end the show with.
Reviewed by Ksenya Gray
Tuesday 21st February
Reviewer rating:★ ★ ★ ★
The relaunch of St James Theatre as The Other Palace warranted a party and that’s exactly what it got. Starting off the 2017 season under the Artistic Direction of Paul Taylor-Mills, Michael John LaChiusa’s dark and dazzling jazz-age Broadway musical is brought to the London audience. It sadly was short lived on Broadway with only 68 performances.
The Wild Party is set in the prohibition era circa 1920s New York where Queenie (Frances Ruffelle) and her partner/fellow Vaudeville performer Burrs (John Owen-Jones) throw a party for friends and acquaintances filled with booze and drugs to add spice to their mundane lives. Among the guests include an ex boxing champ with his wife; a stripper; a gigolo; an ageing performer still grasping for the spotlight (Donna McKechnie); wannabe producers: Gold and Golberg; and a small town girl who has her eyes set on bright lights of Broadway.
What holds the show together in this new space is the caliber of talent, both from West End veterans and newer faces, and the skillful work of director and choreographer, Drew McOnie, who weaves together the many strands of this complex and difficult musical.
John-Owen Jones was the major stand out of the 15 cast members, successfully giving Burrs a softer edge. Although clearly an abusive and controlling partner to Queenie, the audience can’t help but feel some understanding for the character. In The Heights and Murder Ballad favourite, Victoria Hamilton-Barritt as spit firer Kate dominates the stage the moment she enters. Some may argue that she is tad young for the role but her powerhouse vocals compliment Frances Ruffelle’s smoky tones. Donna McKechnie had the audience in the palm of her hands throughout the show, especially with her last number, ‘When It Ends’, a show stopper.
Although a few quivels, The Wild Party is a brilliantly original piece of musical theatre and a great inauguration for The Other Palace.
Reviewed by Sophie Ross
10th January 2016
Reviewer rating:★ ★★ ★
Khaled Hossenini’s, The Kite Runner opened at the Wyndhams Theatre last night following the success of both the novel and film. It tells the story of Afghanistan over the span of 25 years, through troubled times.
Transforming into a play adaption, Matthew Spangler has stayed true to the story and it’s importance by replicating this classic for the stage. The story is translated through Amir as he relives the past of his Kabul childhood. With his new life in America, he revisits his complicated life choices and his friendship with house servant Hassan.
Ben Turner plays a brilliant leading man/narrator with the role of Amir. His performance is strong and consistent throughout. Andrei Costin as Hassin makes the role unique and is very believable in the role. The two of them work incredibly well together and are a great duo.
With beautifully crafted music played to the side of the stage by Hanif Khan with the use of limited instruments, it gives the play a real authentic feel. The staging is very simple with the use of a few wooden slates and illustrations showing the pomegranate tree and kites flying. This allows you to focus on the true importance of this production rather than being distracted by anything else.
With everything that is going on in the world, the text translates the importance of friendship, loyalty and strength and although a little slow paced at times, it resonates well with the audience.
The Kite Runner plays at Wydhams Theatre until March 11th.
Reviewed By Sophie Ross December 19th 2016 Reviewer rating: ★ ★ ★ ★
The London Musical Theatre Orchestra returns for a one night only performance of “A Christmas Carol”. Taking over the Lyceum Theatre, the Ghosts of Christmas Past, Present and Future came out to play accompanied by a star studded line-up. With a sold out audience performing on the exact same day that the original Dickens novel was published, it was time for Christmas week to commence.
This is the first time that Alan Menken and Lynn Ahrens’ musical has played in the UK and it was amazing to see it brought to life by such talented musicians and performers. With an incredible casting including leading man Robert Lindsay as Ebenezer Scrooge, Madalena Alberto, Hugh Maynard and Carrie Hope Fletcher as the ghosts of Christmas, Norman Bowman as Jacob Marley and Alex Gaumond and Giovanna Fletcher as Mr/Mrs Cratchit, it’s hard to find any fault. They were also joined on stage by an ensemble from the LMTO and some of the cutest kids you’ve ever seen, especially the young lad who played Tiny Tim.
What is so refreshing with seeing a concert version of the show is that it still has as much sparkle as a full scale production. The LMTO nails it on the head by bringing these stories to life by the use of wonderfully crafted music. The score is so incredibly beautiful that when played with a full orchestration, it makes you appreciate it even more. When the performance lacks action, it’s made up with cleverly thought out substitutions and translated with such ease. With this piece being a well-known classic, the storyline is just as important as ever, especially around the festive period. It really is spectacular to see it all unfold and always exceeds our expectations.
Robert Lindsay completely stole the show with his perfect character representation and his wonderful stage presence. With being centre-stage for nearly the entirety of the performance, he carried the storyline like a true professional and humoured the audience on more than one occasion. We must also give a mention Composer Freddie Tapner for not only putting together something so thrilling but for his impeccable timing and and bucket loads of passion. It’s a joy to see someone oozing with so much energy and joy.
We’re very excited to see what the next instalment from the LMTO will be. You can find out more about them here http://www.lmto.org/.
Reviewed by: Sophie Ross 13th December 2016 Reviewer rating: ★ ★ ★ ★
It’s been twenty years since Rent first premiered off-broadway and to this day, it’s still wowing audiences all over. With the original production winning a bucket load of awards, it’s a show that still holds such a strong, empowering and important message. The show is set in the nineties in New York city and follows a group of people through the many struggles and triumphs of life. Written by Jonathan Larson, it’s a rock musical that portrays the peak of the artistic East Village scene and touches on issues such as HIV, drug use etc. With this year marking the 20th anniversary, it only felt right to reprise the show, directed by Bruce Guthrie, the importance of the show is once again reintroduced, opening at the St James Theatre last night.
With absolute spot on casting, it’s great to see the show brought back to life, still pulling at your heart strings and leaving you with such thought as you leave the theatre. It’s still as phenomenal as ever and this production goes to show it. With a 15 strong cast, the talent that oozes from each and every one of them is incredible. The vocals are faultless and the energy that they give takes it to a whole new level.
With four powerful leading men Billy Cullum (Mark), Ryan O’Gorman (Collins), Ross Hunter (Rodger) and Layton Williams (Angel), they each bring something fresh and exciting to the roles and play a wonderful tribute Larson’s legacy with the show. Williams is one of the best Angels we’ve seen (and surely a further Lola in Kinky). He brings sass, energy, compassion and fierceness to the role and does it all with such ease. The on stage chemistry/relation with O’Gorman brings such realness which makes them the perfect pairing.
With the show holding such iconic songs such as Seasons of Love, a real standout performance was the ultimate break up ballad Take Me or Leave Me sung by Lucie Jones (Maureen) and Shanay Holmes (Joanne). With such powerful vocals, it was more like a diva-off with each line bringing more sass and fierceness. Phillipa Stefani plays a wonderful Mini who brings such a raw, emotive and real spin on the character.
Lee Proud’s choreography is both bold and diverse which adds so much life to the performance. The cast’s timing is tight and on point which can only be every and is delivered with power and high energy. The set brings to life Larson’s original visionary and the story is told oh so well. Guthrie’s direction is clever and very impressive throughout. You’ll be left feeling a deep connection to these characters and it’s very likely that you’ll shred a few tears along the way. The importance of this dynamic show will leave you with such reflection and as the story tells, there really is no day but today.