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.

 

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