Lea Salonga returns to London!
Date: 21/07/2019
Rating: ★★★★

The International musical theatre star: Lea Salonga, concluded her sold out tour at the world famous London Palladium yesterday. for not just one but two shows. Wowing with an impressive 17 song setlist, filled with much loved classics and some wonderful surprises, it was a concert that we’re glad we didn’t miss. As the crowds flooded into the auditorium, the excitement was undeniable as her die-hard fans awaited the moment for the house lights to drop. Greeted on stage with an ongoing round of applause I haven’t done anything to deserve that yet“, she says as the first notes of ‘Feeling Good’ start to play.

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Luke Hughes (luke.views)

Salonga has had an incredible steady career spanning over forty years in the business. She’s most known for the singing voice of both Jasmine (Aladdin) and Fa Mulan (Mulan) as well has her Broadway and West End credits for both originating the role of Kim in Miss Saigon, whilst also being the first asian descent to play both Fantine and Éponine in Les Misérables. Although no stranger to performing, she didn’t hide the fact that she was “freaking out to play the Palladium“, easily one of the most iconic venues in the UK. Salonga was originally scheduled to perform back in June but due to an injury had to post-pone, joking that she was happy to be visiting the UK during the summer months instead and that she was “thrilled to have London as the end date for the tour“.

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Luke Hughes (luke.views)

What was so special about the show was how relaxed she felt with the audience making it feel as though she was in a room with her closest friends. Her charm, wit and warming personality shone through and there wasn’t a moment where you felt she was disconnected. Her setlist was the perfect combination of what you’d expect her to sing vs some real surprises, in the form of One Directions “Story of my Life”, which her Brother had suggested was perfect for her voice.

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Sophie Ross (TheTheatreHub)

During act 2, Salonga asked for a member of the audience to join her on stage for a duet of “A Whole New World” and luckily for her, her chosen duet partner was a great singer. “Thank you for keeping up the reputation that all people from the Philippines can sing“, she said.

Throughout the entirety of the show, Salonga displayed a real genuine strength and power in her vocals, a voice that truly hasn’t changed since she began her professional career at 17. It’s a real joy to see that after all the time in the biz, she can still sell out venues such as the Palladium, as this show, was one that deserved to be seen.

P.s West End producers: It’s time to get Lea back into a West End show.

Reviewed by Emily Schofield
20th June 2018
Reviewer rating: ★★★★

Kiss Me Kate is an incredibly energetic and entertaining show in which the art of Shakespeare imitates the lives of the actors performing it. With a large cast and operatic score, this production welcomes you to the chaotic life of backstage theatre in which drama is as prevalent onstage as it is off. 

The show tells the story of Fred Graham (Quirijn De Lang), an actor and director working opposite his ex-wife Lilli Vanessi (Stephanie Corley). As their rekindled love sparks drama offstage, the complications of romance begin to influence the production’s performance, with hilarious consequences.

The cast were brilliant, with committed performances from everyone and an incredibly energy that was tiring just to watch throughout. However, Aiesha Pease (Hattie), Zoë Rainey (Lois Lane), Joseph Shovelton (First Gunman), John Savournin (Second Gunman) really stood out with their performances. I found myself watching them whenever they appeared onstage and was captivated by them during the whole show.

The set design and costumes (Colin Richmond) in this show were phenomenal. The use of colour and period pieces made it very easy for the audience to distinguish the action onstage from the backstage scenes. The Shrew’s onstage set cleverly transformed throughout scenes to transition between dance breaks which allowed the show to flow steadily in between songs and scenes with ease. The lavish designs were also just a pleasure to watch and really allowed all the actors to stand out individually, especially in very busy and populated scenes.

Cole Porter’s score is integrally woven into the entirety of this production, creating a clear and energetic atmosphere til the very end. Especially in the opening number, “Another Op’nin, Another Show”, which was one of my favourite moments of the entire performance, as it perfectly captures the anxiety and excitement of a show’s opening night. I did find that the music began to get a bit repetitive at times, with the 3 repeat gag of reprises being a bit overused. However if these slight hiccups are overlooked, the music is thoroughly enjoyable and gives the piece, and equally the performers, a huge amount of character.

The only element of the show that really bothered me was the story. I found it quite slow-paced to start off with and a little difficult to initially grasp. There was also a lot of sexist undertones throughout the piece, which, whilst understandable in a period piece, felt outdated and a little uncomfortable for a modern audience to watch. However I respect that this was in keeping with the original material.

The dance breaks in the show were where this show really shone, especially the tap routine planted in the middle of the second act which was a delight to watch, All the choreography (Will Tuckett) had so much life and energy, and felt very natural in its’ progression and place within the show.

Overall I enjoyed the experience of watching Kiss Me Kate, and would recommend it to any fans of classic musicals as it is an entertaining night out.

 

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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

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/

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Reviewed By Ksenya Gray
30th October 2016
Reviewer rating: ★ ★ ★ ★

On Sunday, 30th October 2016, musical theatre fans gathered in the cramped studio above The Arts Theatre for Sunday in the Arts: An Evening with Anthony Williamson and Emma Ralston. The duo, who are no strangers to world of cabarets, hosted a special two hour Halloween show jam packed with hilarity and remixes of beloved musical theatre songs.

Anthony and Emma, under the musical direction of Michael Webborn, flipped the typical cabaret formula on its head and created a whole production ‘inspired’ by E4’s Stage School. The pair had the audience eating out of the palm of their hands from the moment they appeared on stage with their opening number: ‘Ten Stagey Commandments’.

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Credit: @SundayInTheArts twitter

Throughout the evening, the pair were joined by three special guests: Natalie McQueen (currently in Murder Ballad); Cellen Chugg Jones; and Adam Bailey. Although all three are undeniably talented, the stand out performance was Natalie’s rendition of Ariana Grande’s Dangerous Woman. Completely revamping it and making the song gritty and rock ‘n’ roll. Bear in mind, she only had a piano accompanying her.

Unfortunately, what really let the evening down was all the dialogue in between the numbers. There were moments where it seemed as though the pair were completely unprepared, even thought it was quite structured.

That being said, An Evening with Anthony Williamson and Emma Ralston is well worth the price of admission. You never know what you’re going to get!

Check them out here: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCyCdSFfFikbIg-Wj6Mp9UZw

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.

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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.

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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

The Truth is a comedic play that examines the complex relationship between two couples who are caught up in the politics of extra marital affairs, friendship, deceit and the truth.

The show was well received on the night with audience members audibly in stitches as Alex Hanson, Tanya Franks, Francis O’Connor and Robert Portal took the stage in Zeller’s newest play to hit the West End following the success of his penultimate piece “The Father”.

The set design is simple but creative and serves the theme well. Clean, sharp surfaces sweep across the stage to reveal the size and shape of new locations that to my mind reflected the smoothly covered truth and revealed lies that make up the bulk of the play’s content.

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I believe Lindsay Posner’s direction achieves what it set out to achieve and in that cannot be criticised, however there is very little grit to the piece. The plot follows the affairs, cover ups and conversations of 2 middle aged married couples and explores the selfishness, cowardice and loyalty of each individual concluding that no one has any.

Although the subject matter is dark, the piece plays out like an “Allo, Allo!” episode. Farce ensues and I was left feeling underwhelmed by what seemed to be a deliberately pompous, over acted 90 or so minutes. However, as I sat in the audience I could clearly see that I was in the minority and that the play was being thoroughly enjoyed by those around me.

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I was constantly waiting for the foot to drop, for a human reaction that didn’t come with a comedy drum roll but all I got was gags and good timing. It seemed odd and ironic in equal measure, perhaps purposefully so, that in a play called “The Truth”, there was a complete absence of it in any one moment.

The opportunity cost of seeing this show is just too great for it to come recommended but I do feel that it just wasn’t for me and that if you’re a fan of borderline slapstick or just a lover of farce this would be your cup of tea.