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.the-cast-of-the-wild-party-photo-credit-scott-rylander-2

 

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. 

The show runs until April 1st and you can grab yourself a ticket here: https://www.theotherpalace.co.uk/theatre/wild-party/

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

 

 

 

Victoria Hamilton-Barritt is known for playing a catalogue of roles over the last fifteen years. From starring in Gypsy, Saturday Night Fever, A Chorus Line and most recently In The Heights to name just a few, she’s a vocal powerhouse who is about to take on a new and exciting role in Murder Ballad. Coming from a background of musicians it’s no wonder she chose to have a career within the creative industry herself. Having had her first child just six months ago, we talk about her past show experiences, getting back into work with Murder Ballad and advice for young creatives dreaming of having a career like hers.

TTH: It’s so lovely to be talking with you today. Looking through your previous theatre credits, you’ve had such a wonderful varied career over the past fifteen years. Let’s start by talking a little about “A Chorus Line”. The audience reaction to that show was incredible. How did it feel to be apart of that? Especially in a place like The Palladium.

VHB: Playing the Palladium was just like a dream come true. I think everyone who does Musical Theatre longs to perform in both the Palladium and The Dury Lane. That in itself was just wonderful. It really does give you that amazing feeling. A Chorus Line was a very emotional one because of the whole relevance of the piece itself, standing there being judged every night. First of all, when you open the show, you say “It’s my job, this is what we do” but actually two months in quite a few of us, especially those who had been working for quite a long time, found it emotionally draining and quite hard. At the end of the day, you sometimes couldn’t make out what was acting nervous and actually being nervous. In my case, my character Alex Owens was always the last to do something and there was always this big build up. Nerve wise, that would really overbuild it for me. I had never actually felt that way in a production before. It’s a piece that any Musical Theatre performer can relate to, so much that you either love it or you hate it. There’s a real fine line between the two. They warned us in rehearsal that it would be the case and they were so right (laughs). It was such an epic show and was wonderful to be apart of it.

43871-0

TTH: And the same with “In The Heights”. What was it like working with Drew McOnie and Luke Shepherd whilst channeling that inner hiphop latino?

VHB: I will say this over and over again, In The Heights was just the ultimate soul show. You do certain shows because you’ve been cast and it’s wonderful to be apart the production but then theres these pieces that come every so often and change your life. That was In The Heights for me. When I die and I have my happy memories, that’s the show I can say that I was so happy that I got to play that role. It has such an easy going message and wonderful music and everything. Drew is an absolute dream to work with and Luke is such an attentive director. He’s very understanding and really helps you find it for yourself. He encourages your creative licence in which he would leave me with something and then help with the bits that he liked/the bits that he didn’t like. With Daniela, she’s one of those roles that you can just have so much fun with.

TTH: Did you ever think “In The Heights” would run as long as it has? You started with it back at the Southwark Playhouse and then briefly played the role at the Kings Cross Theatre before having your adorable little girl. Congratulations!

VHB: I very nearly was going to come back. They kept the show open for me for when I was feeling ready to come back and I was like, “Yeah sure i’ll be back in a heartbeat” but the truth of the matter is when you see your little girl, she’s better than any gig and I just enjoyed being with her so much. The success of the show speaks for itself. It got wonderful reviews, it won Olivier’s, it’s definitely something that I’m so proud to be apart of, especially at the Southwark where it all started. It was such a great production there and that’s what brought it to Kings Cross. I always used to get so overwhelmed by the audiences reactions, constant standing ovations. I’ve never been apart of a show where that was the case and it was happening very night.

cropped Victoria Hamilton-Barritt credit Alastair Muir.jpg

TTH: Daniela is a fierce, independent, strong female role, will you be channelling some of those traits for your new show Murder Ballad?

VHB: Who knows? I’ve just had a child and I cant believe i’m about to step back into it. I’m currently reading the script, warming up before rehearsals to kind of understand it a bit better, I feel like I can enjoy this. It’s a very different role. With Daniela I got to enjoy being a moron for a couple of hours (laughs) but with this it’s a different vibe/energy. I’m really looking forward to it.

TTH: For those people who don’t know what Murder Ballad is all about, can you tell us a bit about the storyline?

VHB: Murder Ballad is a love triangle between Sarah, Tom and Michael. It’s all very passionate and quite tragic, not saying to much about what happens but someone has to die and that’s the opening song in which I’m the narrator. It then leaves the audience for the next ninety minutes wondering who that person may be. It’s this dark twisted tail of love, lust and betrayal which ends in a bloody hand. I’m excited that I get to be the storyteller of that.

TTH: You recently performed at West End Live, what is it like to work alongside Kerry (Ellis), Ramin (Karimloo) and Norman (Bowman)?

VHB: It’s so cool, just so cool. What an amazing bunch of people, I’m so excited. I’ve worked with Norman before we did a workshop together a couple of years ago so to work with him again is just so cool, he’s such a great actor but like Ramin and Kerry, this is going to be great. I’m so excited to get in the rehearsal room with them, to be with them and bounce of their energy with what we’re trying to do on stage. I’ve been wanting to work with these guys for so long so I jumped to the opportunity when I knew it was going to be this cast. I feel totally thrilled.

It’s also a show that is a four hander which I’m not used to doing. I usually  work with big productions of like thirty so that’s real nice in the sense that it’s going to be very intimate in rehearsals for a month. A month’s rehearsal with just four cast members is going to be pretty intense. I can imagine our Director Sam Yates is going to put us through it and I’m excited to work with him as he’s a new up and coming Director. He’s a wonderful guy.

TTH: and a perfect role to come back from after having your little girl!

VHB: I’m like “Oh wow, how have I got this”. It’s just been so much about her for the past nearly  six months and I feel maybe I’ve lost an element of myself. I really need to find myself again and step back into the rehearsal room after just cleaning up nappies etc. I need to get my act together and just remember that I’m here and I’m a living human being. I need to look after myself. It’s a good show to be going back into.

murder-ballad-london-show

TTH: Do you prefer performing in intimate settings such as the Arts Theatre?

VHB: I feel I’ve always got more out of being in intimate spaces. I love interacting with the audience. ITH really enabled me to do that. I have a feeling, this show will be good for that to. I’ve always preferred smaller houses and as an audience member I love to be that person in the first couple of rows because I’m one for expression. I love being there amongst the blood, sweat and tears and really seeing the heart of the show.

TTH: Have you ever considered writing your own music/making an album?

VHB: I used to be in a band until 2014 but I got kicked out. We were supposed to do all of these music festivals but I couldn’t really commit to what I said that I could. There was six of us in the band, we toured Ireland, did some gigs in London on the usual band circuit. I never wrote the album but I have written some music before although it’s not really my forte. I like to sing other people’s music. I’ve dabbled in it a little but I don’t think I have the right mind set for it.

Musically I’m not such a big writer in that area. I’ve written a few little comedy pieces before but nothing really to rave about.

TTH: Is there any roles that you’d still love to play?

VHB: I’m one of these actors who likes to be challenged to do things out of the ordinary. I always tend to play feisty female kind of vixen roles which is fantastic because I’ve had a lot of fun playing them. Playing Gypsy Rose Lee for me was wonderful. I loved that Paul Kerryson gave me that wonderful opportunity to explore that role.

There really is a whole load of roles I’d still love to do. I’d love to play Sally Bowles in Cabaret, I don’t think I’ve got over that one yet. It would be such a fun character and would be a great show to do. It’s still one of my favourites.

Victoria-Hamilton-Barritt-as-Gypsy-Rose-Lee-in-Leicester-Curves-GYPSY-by-Photography-by-Catherine-Ashmore-1.jpg

TTH: And finally, How do you stay so motivated within the industry and do you have any advice for someone that wants to pursue career path as yours?

VHB: It’s a very tough industry at times but then it’s the best industry at times. I’ve loved and hated it in equal measure. When it’s good its absolutely fantastic but when it’s bad it’s just the worst. It’s very gruelling. You put yourself out there in the media to be criticised. I don’t read reviews unless my Mum sends them to be, she’s not going to send me a bad one, well I’d like to think that she wouldn’t. I don’t check what people write about me because I don’t really see it as important, I see this as my job, it’s not my lifeline. Going into advice, I think everyone that steps into this industry should treat it that way as well. It’s your job, it’s what you’ve trained to do but don’t make it so much so that it is your lifeline and it’s your everything. I feel like that can make it departmental to one’s health. I keep a healthy balance when it comes to that. I’ve been working for fifteen years and I probably started out very passionate when I was younger but the industry will teach you more than you’ll ever learn in college. Don’t worry all that much. It’s just one episode of your life. That’s how I treat everything that I do now.

Don’t give a s**t. Don’t care so much. Do what makes you happy. If it doesn’t make you happy, don’t do it! That’s been my biggest lesson. Listen to yourself, you know best. If you think something’s bad for you and you’re not feeling so happy with how you’re feeling, it’s really not that big of a deal.  Just chill!

You can catch Victoria in Murder Ballad at the Arts Theatre London from September 30th. Strictly limited run, tickets can be brought here: https://pursue.co.uk/whats-on/murder-ballad-/

By Charly Ralph

First published back in 1999, Julia Donaldson’s The Gruffalo has definitely stood the test of time and is still a much loved children’s book today. Having been adapted for the stage by Tall Stories Theatre Company, The Gruffalo has roared his way back to London’s West End celebrating his 15th anniversary treading the boards. For a limited season, this children’s fantasy story will be brought to life once more, on stage at London’s Lyric Theatre, for audiences of all ages.

Steve McCourt (The Gruffalo) Ellie Bell (Mouse) & Charlie Guest (Predators).jpg
Credit: Tall Stories

It tells the story of a mouse, walking through the deep, dark wood, and how she escapes the clutches of the dangerous animals she meets along the way. With a fox, an owl and a snake to contend with, the mouse warns them all of her friend the Gruffalo, a hybrid monster with large tusks and bright orange eyes. As the animals flee in fear, the mouse celebrates the success of her plan as after all, there’s no such thing as a Gruffalo… right?

As the audience take to their seats, the sounds of the deep, dark wood echo around the theatre. The illustrative design of the simple yet effective set makes it instantly recognisable to those watching who are familiar with the book. Initially introduced as narrators, the cast begin to transform, with clever costume extensions, into the enchanting locals of the wood. Ellie Bell’s Mouse is confident and smart, naturally engaging with the audience as she invites them to join her on her journey.

Equally as charming are Charlie Guest (Fox, Owl and Snake) and Steve McCourt (The Gruffalo), who each possess a substantial amount of comedic timing which is appreciated by both children and adults alike. Although not the most inspiring of scripts for those over the age of 10, the three members of the cast share a chemistry on stage which allows the production to flow naturally and is consequently more enjoyable to watch.

The wonderfully talented trio give each character a unique personality, with expressive vocals and sound effects reminiscent of when bedtime stories are read to children. This dialogue is enhanced further by carefully constructed choreography from Morag Cross that skilfully animates the storyline as its taking place, especially when the characters act out the features of The Gruffalo.

Steve Mccourt (The Gruffalo) & Ellie Bell (Mouse) 2.jpg
Credit: Tall Stories

The music’s uncomplicated melodies fall slightly short of showcasing the best of the actor’s abilities but does allow the younger members of the audience to participate throughout the show, creating an interactive experience. From beginning to end the atmosphere was one of excitement led mostly by the cast’s commitment to both the story and their audience.

The Gruffalo is a fun introduction to the world of theatre for children and an enjoyable show for all the family. As the story’s fan base continues to grow with new generations, there is a definite place for The Gruffalo in London’s Theatre land. Olivia Jacobs’ (Director) on stage adaptation is a magical experience for all fans, old and new, and this particular run has now been extended until the 8th January 2017.

Book tickets here http://www.tallstories.org.uk/the-gruffalo/dates-and-tickets?search:dates-venue-country-code=GB

By Charly Ralph

Sheridan Smith has returned to the Savoy stage, much to the delight of theatre lovers everywhere. The star of stage and screen surprised Friday nights audience (July 8th) by reprising her role of Fanny Brice in Michael Mayer’s production of Funny Girl.

Having taken 8 weeks off to recover from stress and exhaustion, Sheridan shone on stage like the star she is with many audience members taking to Twitter shortly after her final curtain call to express their admiration. After a fierce amount of media speculation leading up to and during her leave of absence, we’re so pleased Sheridan has returned in such a professional manner, silencing critics with her unquestionable talent. She is now scheduled to perform every Tuesday through to Saturday until the run ends on October 8th.

9037382_review-sheridan-smith-is-the-greatest-star_d1f09ef3_m.jpg

For Monday night performances, the role of Fanny Brice will be played by the beautiful Natasha Barnes who has wowed audiences during the past 8 weeks, giving her own charming interpretation of the much loved leading lady. Although both offer different performing styles, audiences are lucky to witness either actress play such an iconic role. We are thrilled to see Sheridan well again and doing what she does best.

You can buy tickets here: http://www.atgtickets.com/shows/funny-girl/savoy-theatre/