Summer Threesome

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So last weekend saw thespyinthestalls have a threesome for the first time in far too long. Accompanied by some lovely London sunny weather and followed by a warm welcome and some delicious food at Joe Allen restaurant, this was an exciting if somewhat hectic couple of days.

The threesome in question was a trio of musical theatre. All quite different experiences . . .

Aladdin

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Disney’s Aladdin, based on their animated film, opened to a fanfare of anticipation in the West End after a couple of years on Broadway.

The best way to describe it is, “It’s very ‘Disney'” . . . Let me be clear, there is nothing wrong with the production itself if you are expecting to see a ‘real life’ version of a cartoon. There’s loads of colour, costumes and comedy. Some catchy tunes (though some are instantly forgettable), and one or two amazing routines and special effects. For me though, it wasn’t consistant and my expectations of amazing scenery and magical effects weren’t quite met (possibly as I’d recently been blown away by a certain Harry Potter play).

The cast are great with Dean John-Wilson taking the lead role, Broadway’s Trevor Dion Nicholas as the Genie and Jade Ewen as Jasmine. It has to be said that the Genie is by far the strongest character in the show, getting the biggest laughs and having the audience in the palm of his hands.

A large supporting cast of strong dancers and singers (as you’d expect!), bring the show alive (and distract the eye from some of the less impressive sets). Special mention to Irvine Iqbal as the Sultan and Don Gallagher as the evil Jafar; plus an extra special well done to ensemble member Daniel de Bourg who at the last minute mean his debut standing in as Kassim – a spotless performance from Daniel (still loving the hidden tattoos).

In terms of rating the show – if you are looking for a fun yet predictable storyline and some Disney pazazz to while away a couple of hours you’ll be hugely satisfied and walk away thinking ‘five stars’ . . . If however you’re looking a bit deeper (and been spoilt by Harry Potter), it’s more like a ‘three and a half stars’ show. Absolutely nothing wrong with it at all, but there are more impressive shows.

The Bodyguard

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Having opened in the West End in 2012 then toured and now returning to the Dominion Theatre until January 2017, The Bodyguard has been a successful adaptation of the 1992 film. The plot near enough follows the film, music superstar Rachel Marron (Beverley Knight) becomes the target of a stalker (Matthew Stathers). Much to her annoyance, a bodyguard, Frank Farmer (Ben Richards) is taken on to watch over her. After a while she falls for him just as things start to take a sinister turn.

There were few things to write home about in terms of the set. All pretty basic, but totally adequate for the show, which if we’re completely honest is really a Whitney Houston jukebox musical with a pleasant enough romantic thriller storyline thrown in. As expected the selling point of this show is the music; Rachel Marron is played by the current doyenne of musical theatre, Beverley Knight, who has surely one of the UK’s finest voices. Her range and supreme power will send tingles down your spine.

Ben Richards makes a suitably handsome level-headed Frank and Rachel John (who previously replaced Knight in the lead role in Memphis), impresses as the often overlooked sister. John, like Knight, has an amazing voice which we fortunately get to hear a couple of times. Matthew Stathers as the stalker is suitably sinister throughout.

A special extra mention to some audience members who may not be fully aware of theatre etiquette – to the gentleman who let his phone let out a roar each time his team scored a goal (fortunately only twice), “Which part of turn your phone off do you not understand?” and to the lady with the Starburst (Opal Fruits as we still like to call them), please do not wait til quiet scenes to rustle in your paper bag, take out one sweet, slowly and noisily unwrap it, then noisily wrap the paper up (repeat this process til all sweets are consumed) – It’s really really annoying!.

Other than audience distractions,  enjoyable entertainment, but the show is all about the music. Five stars for Miss Knight, three and a half for the show.

Jesus Christ Superstar

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Thankfully, the weather was kind for the last of the threesome, Rice & Webber’s classic Jesus Christ Superstar being performed at Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre. This new adaptation marks 45 years since the original.

A simple yet powerful set comprising of two, two storey iron girder frames (the band occupying the top part), plus a huge cross laying across the stage. The cast, a youthful energetic bunch, enter from the auditorium and we’re immediately presented with Drew McOnie’s amazing choreography, one of the many delights of this impressive show.

Really interesting interpretations of many scenes, lashes replaced by handfuls of glitter, pieces of silver by paint, to name just a few. The action is non stop, every inch of space is used in a perfect fusion of dance, song and light (as dusk falls, the power of the piece becomes even greater).

Declan Bennett leads as Jesus with a moving and truly believable performance. Fantastic vocals from Tyrone Huntley (formerly Memphis, soon to be in Dreamgirls) as Judas and Anoushka Lucas as Mary (who had the lady next to me in tears).

The two short acts are over far too quickly and you’re left wanting to come back for more. One of the best pieces of theatre I’ve seen in a long time. Five stars.

 

 

 

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The Secret Garden – Spring Version

Ambassadors Theatre – August 2016

 

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I will be completely honest and say the prospect of a performance of a musical by a cast of children and young adults slightly filled me with dread. Visions of hordes of Violet-Elizabeth Botts (hopefully someone will get the reference) and seas of ‘eyes and teeth’ warbling out of tune to the rapturous applause of their nearest and dearest didn’t enamour me with high expectations.

Thankfully, my preconceptions were completely wrong and this adaptation of Frances Hodgson Burnett’s classic was a cheerful delight from start to finish.

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The original Tony award-winning musical (Lyrics by Marsha Norman and music by Lucy Simon), has been condensed down into a single 75 minute show. Directed by Rupert Hands and with the young cast honed perfectly by the admirable British Theatre Academy, the production has been tailored to suit a younger audience and to put more emphasis on the parts of the younger cast members.

The slight downside of the shortened show is some of the musical numbers have cut and a few scenes seem a little rushed. However, the musical numbers that remain are superbly performed – ‘Wick’ performed by Mary (Alana Hinge) and Dickon (Matthew Nicholas), an absolute delight. Special mention for outstanding vocals to Scarlet Smith (as Lilly) and George Mulryan (as Archibald Craven).

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Set design was fairly basic (partly due to having to share Ambassadors with Stomp) but did the job well aided by some thoughtful lighting design (Dickson Cossar). It would have been nice to see a more dramatic appearance of the secret garden itself but with a limited production budget they did a fine job.

Alana Hinge as Mary, was word perfect and acted like she’d been on the stage for years. One to watch out for in the future I think.

British Theatre Academy gives young people the opportunity to develop their skills and perform, free of charge, at professional venues. Given the punitive cost of many drama schools and courses, it really does give a wonderful opportunity to young people who would otherwise not get the chance to show their talents. To allow as many to perform as possible, the lead roles are rotated through a number of youngsters and there is a rather large ensemble in each show. My only slight surprise was the lack of diversity I saw.

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The Secret Garden is being targeted at a young audience and certainly is ideally suited for a family friendly treat during the summer holidays, but I’d also encourage anyone to go along and see this special production.

A charming delight of a show.

 

The Secret Garden – Spring Version, is booking until 31st August at The Ambassadors Theatre

Click here for ticket information.

For further information on the British Theatre Academy click here.

Production Images credit – Roy Tan

 

 

 

 

Exposure

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Exposure

St James Theatre – July 2016

 

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OK it’s going to be hard to resist putting in lots of photographic puns into this review of Mike Dyer’s musical, Exposure, but I’ll give it a go…

It’s been fairly well publicised that it’s taken quite a while for Exposure to finally get it’s premiere, and a few reviewers have used that as a reason to be less than glowing about the production saying that after all that time it should be much better. I completely disagree and say what I saw was original, extremely enjoyable and judging by the standing ovation at the end, was wholeheartedly enjoyed by the rest of the full house around me.

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The story follows Jimmy (David Albury), a talented photographer like his father. We’re taken through his childhood to where he is today, a respected young man with a conscience. That all starts to change when he becomes embroiled with manipulative media mogul, Miles Mason (Michael Greco). When the highlife takes its toll on his former school friend and now pop superstar, Pandora (Niamh Perry), Miles asks Jimmy to turn paparazzi. Will Jimmy be swayed by Miles’ money and gifts or will rough sleeper Tara (Natalie Anderson) steer him back on to the right path?

The staging is quite unique, no major sets or masses of props, just extremely clever projections of images and locations (the musical is in partnership with Getty Images).

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A live band was good to see at St James accompanying this production. There’s twenty or so songs, including some real foot tappers and some good strong power ballads. In some of the songs the photographic themed lyrics did feel a bit shoe horned in and wore a little thin after a while. However, David Albury’s vocals throughout are amazing and Niamh Perry’s rendition of ‘My Last Goodbye’ brought cries of delight from the audience.

The show was also nicely choreographed by Lindon Barr and  special mention to Dance Captain, Manny Tsakanika on some impressive athleticism in some of the numbers,

Natalie Anderson’s Tara was a lovely touching portrayal; alongside David Albury’s powerful emotional Jimmy, they were the perfect pairing.

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Exposure is a great little musical. A love story, the battle between right and wrong, and how to live up to a legacy. A truly unique experience.

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Exposure is at St James theatre until 27th August.

Click here for more information and to book tickets.

Images – Pamela Raith Photography