Tag Archives: Katy Lipson




Park Theatre



Park Theatre

Reviewed – 14th January 2020



“Maitland’s vocal control in particular is quite staggering, bringing a coiled strength to the small auditorium.”


Often described as the sequel to ‘Fiddler On the Roof’, ‘Rags’, originally written by Joseph Stein (who did also write ‘Fiddler’) enjoyed only four days on Broadway in its 1987 debut. Regardless, it was nominated for five Tony awards that year. But, more baffling still, it has never been brought back to the stage, that is, until now.

Revised by David Thompson and directed by Bronagh Lagan, ‘Rags’ tells the story of Jewish immigrants making their way to America at the turn of the twentieth century. Among the boatloads of hopefuls is Rebecca (Carolyn Maitland), with her son David (as played by Jude Muir for this performance), who, without any family or a nickel to her name, is determined to succeed in this new promised land.

As with most sequels, ‘Rags’ has loosely the same narrative arc as its predecessor: A community of traditional Jews fights off the outside world on multiple fronts, be it via assimilation, persecution or modernisation. Certain familiar characters re-appear as well. Ben (Oisin Nolan-Power) for example, a nice but nerdy tailor seeks the affections of Bella (Martha Kirby) whose father, Avram (Dave Willetts) disapproves of the union. I mean, why not just call them Motel and Tzeitel and have done with it.

But ‘Rags’ does depart from ‘Fiddler’ in its sheer volume of historical content, including everything from the 1909 Shirtwaist strikes and the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire to the emergence of feminism, the rising popularity of Yiddish theatre and song writing, and culture clashes, not only between different ethnicities and religions, but also first and second-wave immigrants. In order to include all of this, every character symbolises a school of thought, be it capitalism or communism, traditionalism or modernisation. And this leaves little room for any of the characters to have any, well, character. The older generation – aunt, uncle and father – bring a little Yiddish flavour from the old country, but aside from that everyone is a bit bland.

The soundtrack (Charles Strouse/Stephen Schwartz) flits between a klezmer-ragtime fusion, and modern musical numbers. The former is accompanied by a swaggering Klezmer band wondering the stage, playing various bit-parts as they go. The small ensemble brings a tonne of humour and spirit to the production. Clarinettist Natasha Karp is a particular joy to watch, her constant facial expressions a kind of running commentary on the story’s goings-on.

The more modern numbers, however, are generally forgettable and feel mismatched with the themes of the plot.

The set (Gregor Donnelly), consisting of a wall of suitcases, and sparse furniture, provides an atmosphere of transition; of both hope and hardship. Whilst Rebecca, Bella and David have just arrived, the small apartment has been the home of multiple immigrant families before this one, and will no doubt go on to house many more after, and the set succeeds in keeping this feeling of flux throughout.

The cast themselves are gloriously talented, doing their best to inject colour and excitement to a story that drags on at least a half hour too long. Maitland’s vocal control in particular is quite staggering, bringing a coiled strength to the small auditorium.

But whilst ‘Rags’ was not intended as a direct sequel for ‘Fiddler’, it’s hard not to consider it as such and, as is often the case with sequels, it doesn’t stand up to comparison. Yes, there are a couple of catchy numbers, a couple of funny scenes, and a couple of moments of heartfelt reflection. But not enough on any count, and unfortunately this revival is less a story of rags to riches, and more rags to run-of-the-mill.


Reviewed by Miriam Sallon

Photography by Pamela Raith



Park Theatre until 8th February


Last ten shows reviewed at this venue:
The Time Of Our Lies | ★★★★ | August 2019
The Weatherman | ★★★ | August 2019
Black Chiffon | ★★★★ | September 2019
Mother Of Him | ★★★★★ | September 2019
Fast | ★★★★ | October 2019
Stray Dogs | | November 2019
Sydney & The Old Girl | ★★★★ | November 2019
Martha, Josie And The Chinese Elvis | ★★★★★ | December 2019
The Snow Queen | ★★★★ | December 2019
Shackleton And His Stowaway | ★★★ | January 2020


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Review of Hair – 4 Stars



The Vaults

Reviewed – 11th October 2017



“the fabulously talented cast  exude energy and enthusiasm from the start to the finish”


News of the rock musical Hair coming to London to celebrate its 50th Anniversary was generally received with excited expectation when it was announced earlier this year. Amongst some of the questions posed at the time however were ‘would this show have relevance to 2017?’ and ‘would The Vaults in Waterloo be a great venue?’.

It seems that the talented group of people from the cast to the creative team have exceeded expectations and delivered a show that looks, sounds and feels terrific with a place and relevance in 2017.

The Vaults has been transformed into a 1960s hippy commune. The walls are covered in tie-dye material and posters from the period. There are prayer ribbons everywhere, a nod to the North / South Korean border which features in the set. The evocative music provides a landscape of sound that really transports the audience into the era. There is a strong scent of incense.

As the audience files in to take their seats, they pass the actors already sitting in a circle of contemplation and we see a remarkably decorated room. For those that know nothing of this musical, the original production, penned by James Rado, opened off-Broadway in 1967. The show came when American society was in a state of flux with the country divided by its protracted involvement in the Vietnam War. It has a background of peace and love whilst addressing key issues such as anti-war activity.

The music has survived the test of time with easily recognisable songs such as Aquarius, Let The Sun Shine In, Ain’t Got No, I Got Life and Good Morning Sunshine forming part of the 41 songs in this production. The show also features Hippie Life for the first time on stage, which was originally written for the film version of the show. The band perfectly drives the music along assisted by a crisp and clear sound mix, though there were a couple of occasions when some of the lyrics were hard to hear.

This production has a fabulously talented cast who exude energy and enthusiasm from the start to the finish. Shekinah McFarlane sets the standards high with the opening song Aquarius and Laura Johnson is a joy to watch and listen to throughout the show. They are joined by a further 12 cast members.

There is a small part in the show when we see Claude’s (Robert Metson) hallucinations following an intake of particularly strong drugs and some of it is quite bizarre. However some aspects of this ‘trip’ are quite sobering and very well acted.

When the show came to the West End in 1968 the opening night was delayed until the abolition of theatre censorship in England under the Theatres Act so that the show could include nudity and profanity. The short nudity scene remains and some of the language used is rather ‘fruity’ though it never seems to offend.

Overall this is a very engaging production from the stables of Katy Lipson for Aria Entertainment with sharp direction from Jonathan O’Boyle and outstanding set and costume design from Maeve Black. The audience gave a well deserved standing ovation and responded enthusiastically throughout.

Finally there is a challenge for anyone not to thoroughly enjoy the close of the show – it leaves the audience on a natural high – ironic given the reference to drug intake throughout the entertaining evening. Join the Tribe and let the sun shine in!


Reviewed by Steve Sparrow

Photography by Claire Bilyard




is at The Vaults until 13th January 2018



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