Reviewed By Sophie Ross
November 6th
Reviewer rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

This year the National Youth Music Theatre turned 40 and to celebrate, the Adelphi Theatre hosted a one-off gala concert in their honour. Featuring performances from both past and present members with some of their most prestigious alumni in both the audience and guest performing. The atmosphere as you entered the room was electric. With a full orchestra and a stage filled with roughly 200 performers,  you can see why this company has been so successful over the years.

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An evening of pure celebration, to a organisation that has helped nurture and shape these performers. Expressing their upmost gratitude and appreciation, it’s very clear to see that many of these people owe an awful lot to the NYMT. With a catalogue of musical theatre numbers, the passion oozing from the stage was sky high. Despite a few minor sound issues, (which with many mic swaps is understandable), every person on that stage had a beaming smile and you could tell that they were proud to be a part of something so incredible.

Starting the evening off with “Fanfare”, composed by Benjamin Till and accompanied by orchestra members in both boxes of the dress circle,  it welcomed in the start of this gala evening. This followed by performances from shows such as “The Ballad Of Salomon Pavey”, “The Piper of Hamelin” and NYMT favourite “Pendragon”. Incorporating past productions, a medley of crowd pleasers and introducing shows from the 2017 season such as Stuart Prices “Imaginary”, there was something for everyone to enjoy. On screen messages from past members and stage appearances from the likes of Gina Beck, Tom Chambers and Jason Robert Brown to name a few added an extra stagey glamour to the evening.

It’s a pleasure to see that the NYMT have shaped together such strong, confident talent in which you can be assured that the future of West End is in very safe hands. We wish them the very best of luck over the next 40 years and can’t wait to see whats next.

To find out more about the NYMT: http://www.nymt.org.uk/

 

Reviewed by Sophie Ross
Wednesday 26th October
Reviewer rating: ★ ★ ★ 

The 25th anniversary revival of Moby Dick, hosted at the Union Theatre is an evening full of nothing but pure fun. As you enter the auditorium style space, you are greeted with gym benches and a strong feel of nostalgia as if you are back in school. Based upon Herman Melville’s timeless novel, this production takes a whole new spin on what can only be described as classic.

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Set at St Godleys, the show is put on in the hopes of raising funds to save the school. With a welcome message from headmistress Dame Rhonda (played by Anton Stephans) it sets the light hearted tone of the piece with tonnes of audience interaction (be aware if you’re at the front).

The whole concept is outrageous but comical and works very well in such a small intimate space. The score, by Hereward Kaye and Robert Longden, is humerus and tells the story in a way that the new generation of theatre goers (younger crowd) can easily understand. Whilst watching the show, there is never a dull moment. With somersaulting students and a lot of on stage movement, there is always something to keep your eye on.

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This overly high energy production can at times be a little exhausting to watch. However, Andrew Wright’s attention to detail from using standard school gym equipment to transform into a fully functioning set is pretty impressive. A few ropes, a paddling pool and a gym horse can be transformed into pretty much anything you can imagine. You can’t fault the talent from each and every performer whom each provided the audience with powerful vocals, passion and joy, however at times, it did feel a little forced (with all that running around and fast paced direction, you can’t blame them)

Brenda Edwards, plays the ultimate diva Esta, long lost love to Ahab. Although written out of the script quite early on, she pops up throughout the musical to express her outrage on the matter (although after the fifth time, maybe not so comical). Anton Stephans (Headmistress, Ahab) is the stand out performance of the show. He puts a lot of passion into the role and is the sole focus of the storyline. Completely broken away from his XFactor past, his vocal was impressive and all round he made it very enjoyable to watch.

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This production is perfect if you’re looking for a unique but fun night out. You probably won’t learn to much more about the plot if you didn’t know much before but overall you will leave with a smile on your face.

Book tickets here: http://www.uniontheatre.biz/moby_dick.html

Images by Pamela Raith

 

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

By Sophie Ross

The famous award winning Les Mis Vs Phantom charity football match is back and better than ever. The fun kicks off on Sunday 7th August at Bromley’s Arena. There’s still time to grab a ticket and do your bit for this amazing cause. With a star studded stagey concert and an all star football match, this isn’t one to be missed.

With an online donation page raising over £1,700 at current the proceeds will be going to Macmillan Cancer support. Macmillan provides support for people who are affected by cancer to make sure that no-one faces cancer alone.

Which team are you supporting? Let us know over on @TheTheatreHub.

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Buy your tickets here:  https://www.ticketsource.co.uk/boxoffice/select/RLSiLFLWVlaZ

Donate to the cause: https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/LMVP5

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.

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Samantha Barks has just embarked on her UK tour and we were luckily enough to catch up with her backstage ahead of her show at the Churchill Theatre in Bromley. We talk Les Mis, advice for young performers and what’s next for her.

TTH: Thank you for chatting with us today. Let’s start by taking it back a little, your debut album came out in 2007 and shortly after you moved from the Isle Of Man to London and became apart of the Andrew Lloyd Webber show, “I’d do anything” How was the whole experience for you at such a young age?

Samantha: It was amazing. You’re a little bit fearless when you’re younger. When I was 17 it was like you’ve got nothing to loose, you’ve never experienced anything like that so it’s like yeah why not. I think I’d probably be quite terrified to do anything like that now because you’re sort of aware of what can go wrong, it’s just scary and you have more to loose. I really enjoyed it. It was just so cool to sing in front of Andrew Lloyd Webber which was an amazing life experience. I never expected to even get past one round, let alone on TV and then make it to the final, that was weird but amazing. I had just moved over from the Isle Of Man so it was a huge life change.

TTH: You then landed the role of Sally Bowles in the UK tour of Cabaret shortly after the show finished, how did it feel to come out of the show and land a part in a touring cast?

Samantha: A dream part like Sally Bowles was just amazing. It was just so cool and so much fun. Our Director Rufus Norris was just so amazing to work with especially for my first job. I felt so lucky to work with him. He’s just a great director who will go off your instincts, he says “go on, do anything” and then he will shape/mould it which is something that he is so good at. You can have that free will to do what you want and then he can go “how about this, lets try that”. It was a very free experience. It made me think and taught me to rely on my own instincts.

TTH: You’ve already had an amazing career taking on a catalogue of different roles but let’s talk Les Mis. You first started as Éponine in the West End and then gained the role a few years later in the highly acclaimed movie, how did it feel to make that transition and how excited were you to be working alongside huge Hollywood actors such as Hugh Jackman?

Samantha: The transition was mad. When I got the call to come and audition for the film I just thought, it would be cool to sing in front of Tom Hooper but I never ever thought that i’d be recalled and recalled for 15 weeks, let alone ever get the part. There were so many amazing people going up for that part, it was very intimidating.

On my first day, all of the cast were there and it was so nerve wrecking. I was like “gosh, how about ease me in gently” but actually what was amazing about that was that they were all very nervous and I just didn’t expect them to be. You’re all absolutely kiss ass, why would you be nervous? but they all were. A lot of them hadn’t really sung all that much in public before but always loved doing musical theatre. It was actually great to see that. It was inspiring to people who care so passionately who have had the most amazing career but are still so passionate that they are anxious and panicky in the same way that I was.

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TTH: What was the filming process like? Is it more nerve wrecking than performing to a live audience?

Samantha: It’s so impossible to say. It’s so nerve wrecking but in a completely different way. Live on stage, if you fall over or mess up, thats it everyone has seen it but that’s also the thrill of live theatre. On film, especially with this as it’s such a huge film which I had never done before, it’s the same but you can have another go which is cool but you still have to stick to time. They’ve both got their challenges in very different ways

TTH: For someone who started at such a young age, do you have any advice for young performers aspiring to have the same career as you?

Samantha: For me, it’s all about taking every opportunity when you’re younger because this industry is all about making it happen for yourself. It’s about going out there like thats a cool opportunity, why don’t I do it? give it a go. Sometimes you want different things. I wanted to be a pop singer and then I fell in love with musical theatre but all of those different experiences along the way are fine, they’re all great in fact and add to what you eventually end up doing. Wether that’s playing the drums, singing in a choir etc. I had opera lessons for a bit and I’ve just done an opera film so you never know. Take every opportunity. It’s all just another string to your bow.

TTH: Let’s talk about your new self titled album, how exciting was it to get back into the studio and create new music of your own?

Samantha: It was so exciting. When I did my first album, it was for the Isle Of Man which was with an amazing guy called David Holland. With this one, to be on such a large scale, was a completely new experience. It was nice to be in the studio as you can really take your time and decide exactly what vocal choices you want to do. It can be so intimate, quiet and soft so you find different colours in your voice which you may not particularly use on the stage. It was a great process recording with Darren Hastings. It was such a chilled atmosphere which was lovely.

TTH: Do you have a life mantra that you live by? The industry can be so tough, how do you push though that?

My Dad used to say to me “The harder I work, the luckier I get”. I think that’s a really great thing because on one level it’s about hard work and putting in the work. When you do go for every opportunity, other opportunities open up and you go “Wow, I wouldn’t have never thought to do that” so that’s a mantra that always pops into my head.

TTH: Finally, you’re currently on tour but what’s next for you? Is there any roles that you still want to play on the West End or on Broadway?

Samantha: There’s always roles I’d love to play. At the moment, I’ve been focusing on film really since Les Mis, I got to do Amelie in San Fran which was so much fun but I always get that itch to do musical theatre again but I did get to do Chicago at the Hollywood Bowl which was great. When I get a little taste, I’m like “I want to do it, I want to get back into it” but with the music stuff at the moment, it’s my main focus and I’ve loved every second of it.

I did just finish a film in Prague which will be coming out but it’s all about balancing and being active. I want to do everything. I want to do more film, more theatre, singing etc, that’s my goal, just to balance between those now that I’ve had a taste of them all.
Check out Samantha’s current tour dates below and click the picture for information of how to buy your tickets.

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