Tag Archives: Bethany Gupwell

Queen of the Mist

Queen of the Mist


Charing Cross Theatre

Queen of the Mist

Queen of the Mist

Charing Cross Theatre

Reviewed – 19th August 2019



“a musical with a profound heart, and more than a touch of a morality tale”


Queen of the Mist is an ironic meditation on a whole range of recognisable American characters, including unscrupulous managers, small minded small town citizens, a radical Temperance campaigner — and even the assassin of an American president. In Michael John LaChiusa’s musical, they all get caught up in the story of one highly unusual sixty-three year old woman striving for immortality — and enough money to live out the end of her days. For protagonist Anna Edson Taylor, the problem is how to achieve this when life has you so beaten, the only route left to you is to go over the Niagara Falls in a barrel.

Based on a true story, we first meet Anna drifting from small upstate New York towns to small midwestern cities. All she meets is a hard nosed scepticism and a grasping at dollars — a wasteland for a woman who proclaims throughout Queen of the Mist that “There is a Greatness in Me.” Her longing for significance is dismissed by those who see Anna’s quest for consequence as that of an unscrupulous huckster and “Queen of fools.” There is more than a little truth to this, but in the words and music of LaChiusa, Anna’s search transcends the hardscrabble existence of a self proclaimed “quintessential hero”. We see instead, an intelligent woman who takes on the forces of nature “with science”, and wins. With such a barnstorming ending to the first half as Anna goes over the Niagara Falls, where can Queen of the Mist possibly go in the second?

Anna’s story falters in the second half, and this is hardly surprising. Anna’s life falters as well. As the first person to survive a trip over the Falls, we see her life turn into a series of lecture tours that all fail because of Anna’s inability to describe “what it was like”. There is conscious irony at work here, in giving Anna the posthumous fame she so desperately sought in life. Michael John LaChuisa once again creates a challenging work laden with memorable music and big ideas.

This revival of Queen of the Mist at the Charing Cross Theatre is noteworthy in several respects. With the audience seated both in front and behind the stage, set designer Tara Usher has produced a flexible space that teases with several delightful surprises as Anna’s story proceeds, amply supported by lighting designer Beth Gupwell. But it is director Dom O’Hanlon who deserves special mention for making the most of this challenging space. It is rare that one sees such confident, ingenious work. His direction highlights the talents of the cast, particularly Trudi Camilleri, playing Anna, and Will Arundell, who plays Anna’s first manager, Frank Russell. The musical direction of Connor Fogel is also confident, and with his band, supports the singing talents of all the cast to good effect.

Queen of the Mist is not a light hearted musical, but it is a musical with a profound heart, and more than a touch of a morality tale. For how different, really, is our contemporary world, with its own parade of hucksters and money grabbers? Anna Taylor Edson’s story is a perfect example of restless people in search of distinction, deserved or not. But Queen of the Mist is ultimately a musical about hope and resurrection, and inspirational in its own unique way.


Reviewed by Dominica Plummer

Photography by Stephen Russell


Queen of the Mist

Charing Cross Theatre until 5th October


Previously reviewed at this venue:
Harold and Maude | ★★★★ | February 2018
It Happened in Key West | ★★ | July 2018
Mythic | ★★★★ | October 2018
Violet | ★★ | January 2019
Amour | ★★★★ | May 2019


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Sweet Like Chocolate Boy – 5 Stars

Sweet Like Chocolate Boy

Sweet Like Chocolate Boy

Jack Studio Theatre

Reviewed – 2nd November 2018


“combines interesting characters, a captivating storyline and engaging language with brilliantly realised, often hilarious interpretations”


The richness and complexity of Tristan Fynn-Aiduenu’s play, ‘Sweet Like Chocolate Boy’, and the artistry of this new production at the Jack Studio Theatre is hard to describe. Based on two boys who live in the same London borough in different eras, he breaks down stereotypes and, with true understanding of character, takes us into a world of merging lives, reality, fantasy and music which celebrates how the growth of Black British culture in the 90s has made it what it is today.

Mars is today’s youth. Street-wise, full of enthusiasm, imagination and confidence, he heads towards the girl of his dreams, only to be confronted by people who question his heart, head and vanity. Bounty is from the 90s. Quietly out of place in a politically electric climate, he wants and tries to be a part of the world he’s in. Andrew Umerah (Mars) and Michael Levi Fatogun (Bounty) give compelling performances, showing the strengths and vulnerabilities of their times – Bounty swept along by a powerful wave of Black identity, but unable to keep up and Mars living the strong cultural legacy of Bounty’s day, but struggling to find his own place. Fatogun also gives excellent portrayals as the policeman, ghost and, in particular, the frightening force of Fantasia’s dad as he challenges Mars’ feelings for his daughter. Umerah skilfully contrasts Mars with Bounty’s dad, Prophet (an American Black Panther type) and Bounty’s best friend, James, brought up to be the typical white racist of that time. Veronica Beatrice Lewis offers wonderfully colourful acting as the boisterous, self-assured Sandra who likes to tease Bounty’s meekness, the lovely, sincere Michele, Bounty’s first love and Fantasia, whose self-possessed nature Mars falls for.

Fynn-Aiduenu’s direction captures the vibrant energy of both today and the 90s with language, movement and music creating their own moments of drama and humour. As we enter the theatre, the DJ (Gabby Nimmo/Alice Fofana) presides and remains as a godly presence throughout. Sound (Shadé Joseph) and lighting (Bethany Gupwell) fit perfectly into the action, taking us slickly from one scene to another and the movement is ingeniously directed by Sean Graham while simple costumes (Tara Usher) effectively use minimal alterations and details to change persona.

‘Sweet Like Chocolate Boy’ combines interesting characters, a captivating storyline and engaging language with brilliantly realised, often hilarious interpretations, innovative staging and plenty of garage and jungle to create a uniquely descriptive and unforgettable experience.


Reviewed by Joanna Hetherington

Photography by Aaron Kelly


Sweet Like Chocolate Boy

Jack Studio Theatre until 17th November


Previously reviewed at this venue:
Fear and Misery of the Third Reich | ★★★ | January 2018
The Tempest | ★★★½ | February 2018
Stuffed | ★★★★ | March 2018
Three Sisters | ★★★★ | March 2018
The Golden F**king Years | ★★★ | April 2018
Kes | ★★★★★ | May 2018
The Night Alive | ★★★½ | May 2018
Stepping Out | ★★★ | June 2018
Back to Where | ★★★★ | July 2018
The White Rose | ★★★★ | July 2018
Hobson’s Choice | ★★★★ | September 2018
Dracula | ★★★½ | October 2018


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