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.

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

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
31st July 2017
Reviewer Rating: ★★★★

Last night, Dutch singer/actress Willemijn Verkaik took to the Cambridge Theatre stage for her highly anticipated one night only show. Normally the home of West End show Matilda, the room filled with avid theatre goers as well as dedicated fans who had travelled far and wide to see this leading lady in action. Most commonly known for her time playing the role of Elphaba (in three different languages, on the dutch/german tour and on both Broadway/West End), we were intrigued to see her stand as herself and perform both songs that she loves.

The evening started with a frozen mash-up sung by the “StageBox” children. Although the group were extremely talented and oozed with charisma, it was a rather strange way to open up the concert. Nevertheless, it was a fun way to get the energy up for the rest of the evening because if you don’t know “Let It Go” by now, where have you been hiding?

Photo Credit: Troy David Johnston

The setlist featured a mix of songs from Musical Theatre classics to country hits with even a George Michael medley thrown in there. It was great to see Willemijn sing songs that you wouldn’t expect her to sing and by having that variety, there was something that could appeal to everyone.

What we love best about attending one night only concerts, is seeing the performer as themselves and getting a feel of their personality. Willemijn’s quirkiness and somewhat awkward manor added with humour and a few sound mis-haps made you warm to her instantly. Her goofy/fun stage manor allowed the audience to laugh with her and feel engaged throughout. It’s no question that she is an incredible singer but it’s not until you are in an intimate setting like the Cambridge, where you can hear just how powerful her vocals are. She’s an absolute powerhouse of a performer and sang riff after riff so naturally. You can see why she’s known as one of the best Elphaba’s because with a vocal like that, it’s like being taken on a masterclass just by listening to her sing.

No concert would be a concert if it didn’t feature a few special guests and oh were there some fabulous ones. First up, Celinde Schoenmaker performing “I Dreamed a Dream” in which herself and Willemijn changed it up by singing a little in dutch. Their voices blended beautifully together and fun fact: Willemijn has auditioned for the Eponie in the past so this was her moment to absolutely give her all with that song. She was also joined by Tyrone Huntely, who’s vocals are so smooth/dreamy that you could listen to him sing all day long. And finally she was joined by her two Glindas, Savannah Stevenson and Suzie Mathers in which the trio sung a beautifully arranged Wicked medley, completely acapella. What was great about seeing the three of them perform together, was seeing the love that they genuinely have for each other. It’s so empowering to see three strong female’s supporting each other and sharing a true friendship.

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What surprised us the most about the evening was Willemijn’s songwriting skills. Singing a range of her own music, all of which sounded absolutely brilliant, the talent that this woman has is off the scale.

There’s no doubt that Willemijn is an incredible performer and we’re happy we were able to witness the magic of her one night only show. Finishing the evening with No Good Deed smoothly transitioning into Defying Gravity, it made for a perfect ending. We’d love to see her do more in the West End in the future.

Reviewed by Sophie Ross
Reviewer rating: ★★★★★

Recently finishing as Elphaba in as part of Wicked UK’s tenth anniversary cast, Rachel Tucker is back and better than ever. Kicking off this week at Live At Zédel with four shows of pre-tour warm-ups, we were lucky to nab a ticket to catch this leading lady on her sold out run. And trust me when we say, it was one not to be missed.

Performing in front of an ever so intimate crowd at the Crazy Coqs, Rachel brings her cabaret style show to life with a catalogue of different songs both old and new. Starting off with a minor lighting issue in which Tucker said “who needs lights anyway”, she began to mingle amongst audience members raising their spirt’s as she filled the room with a rendition of Bette Midler’s “Miss Otis Regrets”.

It’s great to see this leading lady take centre stage as herself, captivating an audience with her charm, humour and all round warmness. It’s rare to find someone that oozes all of those qualities as well as having the stamina to keep those killer vocals sounding on fine form. Rachel had the audience in the palm of her hand as she transported them on a journey through the variation of songs she had chosen to sing. From Dear Evan Hansen, to Waitress to Wicked, both uptempo and some more emotional, her show appeals to everyone. Every song came with a story that related to a moment in her life and she offered used the joke “when I was on Broadway” which was always received by the laughter of the crowed room.

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Twitter: FaneProductions
For the Wicked fans in the audience, her special guests for the evening were fellow cast members and friends Louise Dearman and Katie Rowley-Jones. The trio sang a medley from the Broadway show Waitress, followed by a Tucker and Dearman duet which was simply beautiful. The chemistry runs so naturally between them and you can tell that the friendship they share is pure and genuine.
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In rehearsals (From left-right Katie Rowley-Jones, Rachel Tucker, Louise Dearman, Kris Rawlinson)
What is so special about seeing Rachel up on stage is seeing how far she’s grown as a performer from the the young ambitious girl we loved on BBC’s “I’d Do Anything”. Her hard work and passion has certainly paid off and you can tell she’s living her dream. It’s a joy to watch her stripped back, be herself and be totally in her element of entertaining people.

With a mid show outfit change, a Roxy hart role play and a near audience marriage proposal, the show was filled with so much variety. It was a real live in the moment show where you can just sit and enjoy the music for what it is. 

Before the show ended, Tucker sang a reworked version of “No Good Deed” arranged by her MD Kris Rawlinson which quite honestly, was incredible. It’s great to see a well known musical track arranged for a more mainstream audience/sound (and it’s our favourite song from the hit show so we couldn’t be happier – excuse the pun). 

Finishing off by singing Ed Sheeran’s “Castle On The Hill”, the evening ended with the crowd up on their feet applauding Tucker on what had been a wonderful evening.

Her tour kicks off in Belfast on May 13th and finishes at 54 below in New York in September.
It’s a show that you’d be crazy to miss. Grab yourself a ticket whilst you can: (http://www.parallelproductions.co.uk/racheltucker)

You can check out our recent interview with Rachel here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GtyUKXcJeW4&t=617s

 

Reviewed by Sophie Ross
Monday 20th March 2017
Reviewer rating: ★ ★ ★ ★

Sister Act is back and better than ever. Directed by Craig Revel Horwood, it tells the story of Deloris Van Cartier, a nightclub singer played by XFactor winner Alexandra Burke. When becoming a witness to a murder committed by her lover, she is forced to hide away in a convent for her safety. Faced with the challenges of adjusting to a new life, she is confronted with the reality what it means to have true friends. It’s the story of positivity, love and turning a bad situation into something wonderful.

SISTER ACT. Alexandra Burke as 'Deloris Van Cartier'. Photo by Tristram Kenton

Having made her theatre debut in the Bodyguard in 2014, Alexandra is back and once again taking centre stage. Her comedic timing is on point and her vocal is both effortless and beautiful. It’s great to see her take on another lead role and she does so with such power, sass and ease. Supported by a wonderful cast of actor-musicians, she is joined by Karan Mann as Sister Superior who brings both charm and wit to the role and makes a great onstage paring with Alex. The two bounce of each other’s energy as Deloris attempts to loosen up the stubbornness in the Sisters persona.

Joe Vetch plays police officer Eddie with charm and goofiness. He’s the guy that you root for from start to end and it’s great to see his character develop as the storyline unfolds. One of the stand out performances for us was from Susannah Van Den Berg in the role of Sister Mary Patrick. Her humour, warmth and personality shines through as she plays the over enthusiastic nun who see’s the best out of every situation.

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It’s a show that will leave you feeling good and wishing you were apart of their convent. The score is catchy and has that soulful gospel vibe that you can’t help but smile at. Although the set is very minimalistic, it creates a realistic setting of what you would expect from the inside of the church.

Sister Act runs at the New Victoria Theatre, Woking until March 25th before continuing around the UK. Tickets and details can be found here: http://sisteractuktour.co.uk/

SISTER ACT. Alexanda Burke as 'Deloris Van Cartier' and Ensemble. Photo by Tristram Kenton.jpg

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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