Reviewed by Emily Schofield
4th July 2018
Reviewer rating: ★★★★★

The King and I will leave you fulfilled and comforted as it transports you to Siam.

As a fan of the classic 1956 film starring Deborah Kerr and Yul Brynner, I thought that I knew what to expect from this latest London production. But however high my expectations, this show has exceeded that tenfold and still managed to throw in a few extra surprises.

The story revolves around Anna, a welsh schoolteacher who comes to Siam to be a teacher for the King’s children. The show touches on the main issues of two completely different cultures meeting and expresses the desire for understanding between people, as Anna and the King learn to tolerate their differences.

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Photo: Matthew Murphy

Reviving her Tony Award winning role, Kelli O’Hara is the perfect Anna, with an incredible performance and stunning vocals. Despite the pressure of performing a role that’s so iconic, O’Hara made it look effortless, bringing her own take on the beloved character with ease.

She commanded the stage and led the rest of the cast with complete confidence and grace. Combined with her excellent chemistry with Ken Watanabe as the King of Siam, the duo did a fantastic job of showing the progression of their relationship and brought real honesty to their performances. The iconic “Shall We Dance” moment, is a real showstopper and one that the pair do with such ease and perfection. It’s infectious to watch them bounce off each others energy and the West End is lucky to have them.

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Photo: Matthew Murphy

The music, as expected, was spectacular. As a fan of the original film, I was already in love with the infamous Rodgers and Hammerstein score itself. However the vocals from the entire cast were so remarkable, that the music felt fresh and new, despite being classic songs that I’ve known for years. Especially the voice of Na-Young Jeon as Tuptim, which was beautifully powerful and gave me a new love for the character.

The entire cast gave their absolute all with their performances and delivered a wonderful experience combined. The energy was relentless and was such a pleasure to watch as an audience member.

One moment which really stood out to me was The Small House of Uncle Thomas, which was the ballet section of the second act. It was beautifully executed, with elaborate costumes (Catherine Zuber) and incredible choreography (Greg Zane/Emma Woods) which brought a tear to my eye! It was so refreshing and created a completely different dynamic which really helped to make this show as wonderful as it is.

The set design (Michael Yeargan) is one of the most visually impressive parts of this production. The detailed walls of the palace instantly transformed the theatre into the Palace of Siam, and the beautiful scenery for Lun Tha and Tuptim’s meeting in the garden was breathtaking and incredibly romantic. The atmosphere each change of set created fitted perfectly for each scene and really helped to bring the performances to life, contextually.

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Photo: Matthew Murphy

However, the children are what really make this show what it is. Their energy and joy throughout was infectious and made the show feel so much more truthful and heartfelt. They stole my heart from the beginning and lifted the spirits of the entire audience.

My only criticism would be that this show could potentially be difficult to experience depending on where you are sat. I think if you were sitting at the back of the theatre with a more restricted view, it would be difficult to capture the emotion and power that makes this production so special. For me, it’s worth experiencing up close in order to fully be impacted by the show. I think from a distance, it would be difficult for the show to affect you as personally as it impacted me.

With that being said, The King and I is a true spectacle. With polished performances from the entire cast and a story that will leave you in tears. It’s a real treat and definitely worth a watch whilst it’s here in the West End!

 

You can catch The King and I at the London Palladium until September 29th. http://thelondonpalladium.co.uk/event/the-king-and-i/

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Reviewed by Emily Schofield
25th May 2018
Reviewer rating: ★ ★ ★

The Biograph Girl made its UK debut in 1980, and after only two productions that year, hasn’t had another UK production up until this current run – nearly forty years later. Linking back to classical musical theatre whilst also taking you on a journey through cinema of the early 1900s, this show is certainly a unique experience.

Playing at the Finborough Theatre, in which the space may appear to be too small of a space for companies larger than three or four, however the nine actors of the Biograph Girl did a fantastic job of using their small staging to their advantage, creating an intimate atmosphere between the performers and the audience as this story unfolded.

Back row - Lauren Chinery. Nova Skipp. Emily Langham. Joshua C Jackson. Front row - Matthew Cavendish. Charlie Ryall. Jason Morell. credit Lidia Crisafulli
© Lidia Crisafulli

The music, written by David Heneker with lyrics by David Heneker and Warner Brown, was by far the best aspect of this show. The beautifully complicated harmonies of the actors filled the small space wonderfully and were a complete joy to listen to. I especially liked the song Every Lady, in which multiple characters sang different lyrics to the same melody line which was really lovely to listen to. The music envoked the majority of the emotive power of the show, something that I think the actual story missed a beat on.

Describing the story of this show is a little complicated, unless you simply say it is the biography of pioneering director D. W. Griffith, which is very broad and doesn’t encapsulate the full experience. It felt like a lot of small separate stories being told together through the connection of film, however it frequently felt like the challenges the characters were facing were being dismissed and moved on from very quickly, which made it difficult to latch onto anything or have any sympathy for the characters. A prime example of this would be Rivers of Blood, which is sang by a Man of the South (played by Joshua C. Jackson). This song discussed the tensions that Griffith’s film, The Birth of a Nation, caused as well as the racial tensions it invited. This plot point could have been expanded much more and had more of an impact on the rest of the story, but instead it involved one solo song and then the aforementioned tensions were never mentioned again. It made the story feel unfinished and unsatisfying, and left many loose ends by the end of the show. Maybe if the book had focused more on one of the many story lines that it used, the story could have been developed more and we as an audience could have felt more attached to the characters in their weaker moments.

Joshua C Jackson. credit Lidia Crisafulli
© Lidia Crisafulli

Despite the issues with story, the cast still delivered a wonderful performance that I enjoyed quite a lot. The comedic timing of Matthew Cavendish in particular was brilliant throughout. However Harry Haden-Brown, the show’s musical director, was also very impressive in the show and he played piano for the entire show and was the only musical backing given to the cast whilst singing. He played the entire score himself as well as playing the small role of Spec towards the end of the second act, which was amazing!

Overall The Biograph Girl was a very interesting experience. I don’t think it’s the kind of show that large audiences would enjoy, hence being performed in such a small space, however it is a good night out and the music is well worth a listen.

The Biograph Girl plays at the Finborough Theatre until Saturday June 9th.
https://www.finboroughtheatre.co.uk/productions/2018/the-biograph-girl.php

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Reviewed by Emily March
6th May 2018
Reviewer rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ 

There was certainly magic in the room at Sunday night’s West End Does: The Magic of Animation concert at Cadogan Hall. Featuring a star-studded line up of the West End’s brightest leading ladies and gents. Filled with a set-list of old and new songs from our favourite animated movies, from Mulan to Moana, it certainly did not disappoint.

After a stunning Disney overture by the choir and orchestra, led by the charismatic Alex Parker, who seemed to be enjoying the marvellous array of music throughout the night, the wonderful Celinde Schoenmaker(Les Miserables), Eva Noblezada(Miss Saigon) and Danielle Hope(The Wizard of Oz) entered the stage in gorgeous gowns to sing an earth-shattering and perfectly harmonised mash-up of Just Around the Riverbend and Colours of the Wind from Disney’s Pocahontas.

British favourite Christopher Biggins took to the stage as our host for the evening, equip with funny one-liners, he got the room laughing and in good spirit for the concert ahead. Celinde Schoenmaker returned to the stage for a couple of Tangled tunes; a fun performance of When Will My Life Begin, which picked up the tempo in a room which was followed by a beautiful cover of Tangled favourite, I See the Light, where she was joined on stage by Fra Fee(The Ferryman). Celinde looked and sounded beautiful on stage and made the audience question if she actually was the real Rapunzel.

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© Danny Kaan

Eva Noblezada was the highlight of the night for me. Her moving cover of Reflection was incredible, showing off her rich tones and sensational vocal technique, and seemed apt after Noblezada followed in Lea Salonga’s footsteps as Kim in Miss Saigon. She also sang How Far I’ll Go during the concert’s Moana section, with some slick riffs, it definitely impressed the audience and proved that she has a very special talent. Moana on Broadway perhaps?

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© Danny Kaan

Other highlights include Marisha Wallace’s (Dreamgirls) upbeat performance of Zero to Hero from Hercules, which blew the roof of Cadogan Hall and received the biggest applause of the night. The gospel number got everyone dancing and clapping in their seats. What a voice! Although an overdone concert duet, Wicked alumni, Rachel Tucker and current Fiyero, Bradley Jaden’s version of The Prayer from the not so well-known animated movie Quest for Camelot was dramatic and beautiful, and showed off Bradley’s more classical tone. Personally I feel that was a lot stronger than his contemporary performance of Moana’s You’re Welcome, which at times I felt he struggled to keep up with, however still entertaining the crowd with the modern Disney bop.

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© Danny Kaan

Les Miserables star and Creator of West End Does, Rob Houchen, showed off his vocal versatility with an emotional version of Proud of Your Boy from Aladdin and an impressive duet of When You Believe from Prince of Egypt, with vocal powerhouse Marisha Wallace. My favourite performance of the night.

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© Danny Kaan

It was evident that a large portion of the audience was made up of ‘Hopefuls’ – fans of YouTube sensation and teen idol, Carrie Hope Fletcher(Les Miserables). Her renditions of Journey to The Past from Anastasia and Elton John’s Lion King classic, Can You Feel the Love Tonight, were both vocally strong and engaging. As well as her smashing solos, Carrie’s Beauty and The Beast duet with her Les Miserables co-star Rob Houchen, was definitely a magical moment to remember; they even waltzed during the instrumental!

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Overall West End Does was an evening t of pure magic and a true delight to watch, and the only negative is that there wasn’t much interaction between the artists and the audience. I look forward to West End Does: different themed nights in the future.

Photo Credit: Danny Kaan http://dannykaan.nl/portfolio-item/west-end-does-6/

Reviewed by Sophie Ross
12th April 2018
Reviewer rating: ★ ★ ★ ★

This week the The Comedy About A Bank Robbery celebrated it’s second birthday in the heart of the West End, the Criterion Theatre and we were lucky enough to be invited.  An evening that promises to fill you with endless laughs, perfectly timed jokes and a stellar cast, it’s no wonder the Mischief Theatre Company continues to triumph with every show they produce.

The premise of the show is simple – a priceless diamond is entrusted into the hands of the Minneapolis city bank and everyone wants to get their hands on it. Through a couple of love triangles into the mix and that’s the show in a nutshell.

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 The cast are made up of Samson Ajewole as Neil Cooper, Jack Baldwin as Officer Randel Shuck, Leonard Cook as Robin Freeboys, Sam Fogell as Sam Monaghan, Matt Hunt as Mitch Ruscitti, Chris Leask as everyone else, Holly Sumpton as Caprice Freeboys, Peter McGovern as Warren Slax and Jenna Augen as Ruth Monaghan. What makes Mark Bell’s production special is the array of wonderfully different characters who always land themselves into sticky situations adding great comedic value each time. Every character brings a different element into the show and the balance works really well.
Standout performances on the evening were Peter McGovern as 60 year old intern Warren Slax. His attention to detail and incredibly timed comedic points, worked wonderfully in the show. His character is the guy you’re rooting for throughout the piece and Peter plays this very well. Jenna Augen as Ruth, the banks secretary. What’s great about her role is the fact that she seems like the innocent, trusting type but without giving too much away, her character does a whole 360 by the end of the play. Something that the audience don’t expect but it makes for a good plot ending.
This acting troupe are the real deal and worth keeping an eye on as they continue to grow this franchise. With simple but effective sets and great lighting design, every element of this play just works. If you’re looking for a fun night out at the theatre – this is the show for you.
The show has now extended until April 2019.
You can book tickets here: http://www.thecomedyaboutabankrobbery.com/

Reviewed by Emily Schofield
28th March 2018 
Reviewer Rating: ★★★

After it’s successful Off-Broadway run, Ruthless! has made it’s West End debut at the Arts Theatre, and is “Born to Entertain” you in a hilarious, yet disturbing way.
Ruthless! tells the tale of right year old Tina, who dreams of being a broadway star and is willing to go to very extreme lengths in order to win the leading role in her school play. With a darkly comic undertone throughout, this show disguises itself as a naively-irritating golden age-esque musical before suddenly revealing it’s truly morbid intentions.
The cast were wonderful, with stunning performnces from Damcing On Ice’s Jason Gardiner and original Broadway revival cast member, Kim Maresca. However the stage truly belonged to the young girl playing Tina, Anya Evans, as her presence onstage was captivating and meant that I just could not take my eyes off of her performance throughout the whole show. A notable mention should also go to Tracie for her fantastic rendition of “I Hate Musicals” which was the true star of the end of act one.
Morgan Large’s set design was perfectly in keeping with the tone of the show, especially the contrast between the sets of act one and act two, which completely changed the atmosphere of the show.. However costume design, also by Morgan Large, was the most engaging visual element for me. With lavish 1950s inspired gowns as well as Broadway sequinned dresses – every member of the cast had a beautiful outfit which perfectly complimented their character.
One issue I did find with the show was the lack of emotional connection. Whilst this is a common trope within comical shows, it was rather frustrating as an audience member to be unable to relate to any of the heavily stereotyped characters within the show. Whilst every joke still landed well, it was quite a challenge to be invested in the story when I had no connection to any of the characters involved. Perhaps if this show had a slightly more human sentiment to it – this show would be much more impactful for its audience?
Regardless of its emotive integrity, Ruthless! is an enjoyable night out and certainly a unique experience. It stands out brilliantly in the currently heavily-contemporary West End line up and will undoubtably leave its mark during its run at the Arts Theatre.

Reviewed by Sophie Ross
27th February 2018 
Reviewer Rating:★★★★

Beautiful: The Carole King Musical has been wowing audiences around the UK and Ireland since September. This week, it made a stop at the New Victoria Theatre in Woking and we went along to check it out.

Beautiful tells the story of singer/songwriter Carole King and her journey to stardom. Through her relationship with Husband Gerry Goffin and friendships with Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil, it gives you a real insight into her rise to the top and how she turned her dream into a reality by believing in herself.

Bronte Barbe takes on the lead role as Carole King, showing vulnerability, strength and passion. Her vocal is beautiful and her real time to shine was during “Natural Woman”, where she really let loose and gave every emotion imaginable. Embodying the role of Carole with ease, she gives an all-round amazing performance.

Kane Olivier Parry plays Gerry Goffin and for us, the standout performance of the show playing the role so perfectly. With an incredible vocal, he gives the character both light and shade with just the right amount of swagger. Through his performance you can really understand the trials, tribulations and mental health issues that Goffin was going through at the time and he really plays it so well.

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Matthew Gonsalves and Amy Ellen Richardson play songwriter duo Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil, friends of Carole and Gerry. The pair click so well together and make the relationship between themselves so believable. Both were a joy to watch on stage and brought joy to their characters. With their comedic timing on point, brilliant vocals and a juxtaposition to the other leads, it was great to watch and learn about the incredible career they had.

The show will have you bopping along in your seat with so many classic songs that you’d be surprised to find out were written by Carole King. Songs like Take Good Care of My Baby, I’m into Something Good and the classic (You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman. The choreography is slick and true to it’s time, the set of a West End standard and an ensemble filled with uber talented people, all of which deserve individual shoutouts.

Beautiful: The Carole King Musical plays at the New Victoria,
Woking until March 3rd.

 

 

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.