27 at the Cockpit Theatre

12 Sep

We seem to have a morbid fascination with stars on a path of self-destruction. Fame can put a lot of pressure on a person. And we have witnessed individuals struggle and fall again and again – from Jimi Hendrix to Kurt Cobain and Amy Winehouse. 27, a new musical by Sam Cassidy, deals with this phenomenon: The road to fame and how quickly it can end in tragedy. Told as a modern fable we meet Jimmy (stage name: Orpheus) who is trying to get his big break with his band. He is young and full of dreams. One fateful day he meets Ms. M who introduces him to the CEO of Olympus Records. Orpheus becomes a star. But with stardom comes self-destruction.

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Sam Cassidy has written a story about love, loss and the price of fame wrapped in a mystical narrative. It is an interesting concept and most of the time it works. One could argue that turning the CEO of the record company into the devil and his assistant Ms. M into Medusa is a bit of a cliché. On the other hand this is a modern day fairytale with all its classic elements: Villains, magical ingredients, a challenge the main character has to face and a lesson to be learned.

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I enjoyed the score even though I did not find it particularly memorable. It serves the story with a good mix of upbeat rock songs and ballads. There are some strong voices in the cast, Jodie Jacobs (Fate) and Ryan Molloy (Hades) being the stand outs. Ryan Molloy in particular brings a special buzz to this production. His Hades is just the right mix of evil and funny and steals the show whenever he is on stage.
Cassie Compton is very sweet as Orpheus’ girlfriend Amy. Jack Donnelly (Max) deserves a special mention for his strong acting performance.

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The staging is innovative and works well in this intimate venue. A warning for those who do not handle strobe lighting well: There is a lot of it. Although the space is limited Arlene Phillips has put together a vibrant choreography using every inch of the stage (and more – watch out if you are sitting next to the stairs on any of the three sides of the auditorium).

Personally I think this show could do with a bit of tightening up. Act two in particular felt a bit too long with the quest lasting forever without seeming to go anywhere. Maybe a 90 – 100 minutes one act show would be the right thing for 27.

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I left the theatre impressed by the show’s concept and most of the cast. 27 is a new musical and will only grow with time. There is huge potential for a show with an important message and I hope it finds an audience willing to come along on the ride.

27 is playing at the Cockpit Theatre until October 22nd. For more info and to book tickets visit http://27-london.com.

10 Questions with Eugene McCoy

12 Sep

Eugene McCoy trained at ArtsEd. He has appeared in shows like Mamma Mia, American Psycho, The Pajama Game, Guys and Dolls, Oklahoma, They’re Playing Our Song and Little Shop of Horrors. Eugene played the part of Nick Massi in the West End production of Jersey Boys from 2010 to 2013. At the moment you can catch him at the Old Vic Theatre in the world premiere of Groundhog Day.

Eugene kindly took some time out of his busy schedule to talk about his musical theatre journey so far, Groundhog Day, annoying audience behaviour and what the future might hold.

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How did you get into musical theatre and did you always want to be a performer?
I started performing when I was three years old – not professionally, of course. I left drama school when I was 21 so that’s when I started professionally. But I started singing, dancing and acting when I was 3. I danced until I was 12, four times a week, did lots of competitions and festivals but then I got really bad knees and had to stop. So I did more acting and singing from then on. I went to drama school when I was 18 for three years. I honestly don’t remember a time when I didn’t want to perform. I always said as a kid: “I’m going to be on the stage or on tv – this is what I want to do.”

What has been your favourite performing job so far and why?
I don’t have a single favourite one. Jersey Boys was amazing because it was my first big lead (role). The prestige of wearing that red jacket was so huge and I came in at the big first cast change for the Seasons. And I got to rehearse in New York, learn the show out there and then we came back and we were constantly doing PR, tv gigs, press and exciting events outside of work. The theatre was the best theatre and it was an amazing character to play and the audiences were crazy (in a good way). That was brilliant. But equally I loved The Pajama Game in Chichester in the small Minerva Theatre: I was very free on stage performing a character as extravagant as he was and got to sing, dance and act more than I’d done for a while. And then American Psycho at the Almeida was amazing. That show felt incredibly unique. So I have to say those three are the ones I remember most really.

How does it feel to be a part of Groundhog Day, working with people like Tim Minchin, Matthew Warchus and Peter Darling?
It feels so great to be part of Groundhog Day. I first auditioned last August and it was for the workshop. We did this big workshop in October and November last year for four weeks. So I auditioned for that originally with a view to doing the show. It was a case of if you did well in the workshop and they liked you then you got to do the show. I remember hearing about the project and I told my agent “I want to be in that show.” And when I knew I was going to be in it all just felt great and I was so excited. The prospect of working with this team was incredible – and in that theatre – it was a no brainer! It’s proved to be brilliant. It’s a hard show but it’s worth it. The team is lovely and they are making groundbreaking new theatre and not “just” old revivals. That’s what so exciting. It’s new theatre that will last.

Do you think people watch the show with very specific expectations (having seen the film)? How is the show different from the film?
I’ve never seen the film! Ha! But yes, people have expectations and most people I know who have seen the show and the movie actually say they prefer the show. Interesting! I will be watching the film in a week’s time (when the show is done).

What’s it like working with Andy Karl?
Horrendous! He stinks, he never washes…. No, joking! He is lovely, a very nice man, very hard working and brilliantly talented. I think he is going to become quite famous. And I think he is going to win every award for this show and he deserves to.

You’ve been in various shows over the past years. If you had to choose one show to go back into which one would it be?
I would like to do lots of my shows for maybe a week and no more. I’d love to do Mamma Mia for a week because I did it when I was much younger and it was really fun. I’d love to go and do Guys and Dolls again because the Donmar production at the Piccadilly Theatre was so special. It was a brilliant production and I’d like to go back and do that now that I’m a bit older. And I’d like to go back and do the big three and “Who loves you” at Jersey Boys because I never got bored of those. They were amazing to do every night.

Do you have a dream role or a show you would love to be in someday?
I’m not sure I do. It’s difficult for me being a bass singer. There are not many roles for me especially in new musicals so I’m often limited in what I can do in that sense. I always wanted to play Bert in Mary Poppins but I wouldn’t be able to dance it because my knees would concave and I would never be able to walk again. I would maybe like to be Miss Trunchbull in Matilda. I saw Jesus Christ Superstar recently and I’d like to sing Caiaphas because it’s a really low bass but it’s not a very exciting part to play if I’m honest. And I always wanted to be in The Producers because it’s amongst my favourite shows. In fact, I’d like to play any of the knights in the original big West End production of Spamalot as well. And playing Geoffrey in Stepping Out would be great.

What are the last musicals and/or plays you watched and which ones are on your “to see” list at the moment?
I’ve not seen anything because Groundhog Day has basically taken over my life for five months (apart from Jesus Christ Superstar as mentioned above!). The last thing I saw was People, Places and Things with Denise Gough which was the most amazing performance I’ve seen for so long and she was just outrageous and incredible. And that inspired me and had me buzzing for days and weeks. I want to go and see Yerma with Billie Pieper but I won’t get the chance unfortunately. She’s supposed to be incredible. And I’d like to see Funny Girl but I’m not sure I will get round to. I’d also liked to have seen Deep Blue Sea at the National with Helen McCrory because I think she’s brilliant. What else? I want to see Hamilton.

What are your top three pet peeves when it comes to (bad) audience behaviour?
I guess one is people who don’t throw flowers at me at the end because everyone really should…. Haha.
People who have their phones on and you can see the light when you’re looking out into the audience. That is really, really annoying. In a way, latecomers: If you are doing a scene and it’s really quiet and latecomers come in it’s really frustrating. And when I’m in the audience and people are eating sweets (those with the noisy wrappers). That drives me insane.

Why should people go and see Groundhog Day?
Because I don’t think you will see a better new musical for quite a while. And that might sound biased but I think it’s the best new musical for a long time. And it’s inspiring and it’s funny, it will make you cry, it will make you laugh and it’s clever. It’s really, really, really clever and witty. And the ensemble are the hardest working ensemble – I keep saying this but we really do work so hard. And if you want to see people sweat and you want to see me tap dancing in winter boots, a parka jacket and a woolly hat with a big smile – come and see Groundhog Day!

Groundhog Day is playing at the Old Vic Theatre until 19th September. Public booking for the last performance on 19th September opens this Thursday.
http://www.oldvictheatre.com/whats-on/2016/groundhog-day/

Follow Eugene on Twitter @McCoyEugene  .

Jesus Christ Superstar – Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre

19 Aug

Jesus Christ Superstar in an open air venue staged like a gig. The concept sounds intriguing and intrigued is what I was when I sat down to watch Regent’s Park Open Air Theate’s summer musical 2016.

First of all the set is wonderful. It’s quite simple but effective and doesn’t take anything away from the one thing that really makes this show: The cast. There’s Declan Bennett as Jesus who gives the role an almost folk-like touch. He’s the angsty leader, a saviour who has been cast in a role he did not ask for. His Gethsemane is a show stopper, sung with so much emotion it hurts the heart. On the other side there is Tyrone Huntley’s fierce Judas – furious with Jesus for not making a real difference and not standing up for himself and the people who worship him.

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Jesus Christ Superstar is a show that for me stands and falls with its two lead actors. You need a Jesus and a Judas who complement each other. And this is exactly what you get in this production. Declan Bennett’s Jesus has an almost eerie calmness surrounding him even in his most vocal moments of the show. Tyrone Huntley’s Judas on the other hand is loud and angry. It’s the perfect mix.

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The show has a strong supporting cast. David Thaxton’s Pilate is truly menacing, Peter Caulfield is possibly the most fabulous Herod I have ever seen and Anoushka Lucas is a sweet Mary Magdalene with a rich voice full of heart and soul.

Interaction between the characters seems to be missing at times possibly due to the concert staging of the show. While Jesus Christ Superstar always has a concert element to it this production goes one step further letting the performers use hand mics and even instruments on stage. At times it does feel like one after the other is coming on stage to sing a song – even when addressing another character the performer would sometimes look at the audience.

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The ensemble works hard – the times they stand still are very limited in this production. While I find Drew McOnie’s choreographie impressive and imaginative I feel there is slightly too much of it here. But seeing Genesis Lynea dance is such a treat so I am not complaining too much.

Then there is the glitter – so much of it. I am a bit torn about the use of it. While I think it is an interesting artistic choice the pure amount of glittery gold on stage seems ridiculous at times. On the other hand having a bloody, beaten and broken Jesus covered in glitter at the end of the show is a haunting image that surely leaves an impression.

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All in all this is a vibrant and imaginative new production of one Andrew Lloyd Webber’s finest (my opinion) musicals. It’s not a flawless show but the positive certainly outweighs the negative and the brilliant cast alone make this a production not to be missed.

Jesus Christ Superstar runs at Regent Park’s Open Air Theatre until August 27th 2016. For more info visit: https://openairtheatre.com/production/jesus-christ-superstar The rest of the run is currently sold out but returns may become available.

Groundhog Day at the Old Vic Theatre

16 Aug

I admit I was in doubt about Groundhog Day the moment the musical version was announced: Another film to stage production – as if we haven’t had enough of those already. Plus we are talking about Groundhog Day here. The film is a classic in my eyes and the main character Phil Connors – the man who has to live through the same day over and over again – has been defined by Bill Murray’s portrayal. However, I am happy to report my doubts vanished the moment the show started.

I’ve seen Andy Karl (Phil Connors) on stage before. He was my highlight in On the Twentieth Century on Broadway last year. So having him in London is a treat in itself. But seeing him in the West End doing such an incredible job playing what must be one of the hardest male leads in town right now is downright mind-blowing. Andy Karl is not trying to be Bill Murray. Andy Karl is Phil Connors – funny, a bit of a prick, arrogant, sometimes downright nasty but in the end someone who learns to use second chances to become a better person. I cannot fault his portrayal in any way. I do not say this often but he is 100% perfect in this role.

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It is not easy to shine next to a lead performer who basically commands the stage throughout the show. Carlyss Peer does well as Rita Hanson but sadly the character itself seems a bit underdeveloped in comparison to Phil Connors. And even though the show is all about repeating things I found myself being a bit bored by her singing the same song over and over. This is not Carlyss Peer’s fault at all but simply the way the character has been written.

The whole ensemble is working amazingly hard in this show and there is no weak link to report. I am not convinced by the act two opening number which – despite being sung beautifully by Georgina Hagen (Nancy) – seemed a bit pointless and out-of-place. Andrew Langtree as Ned Ryerson has a lovely song in act two which I really enjoyed even though I wish we had learned a bit more about the character himself. Eugene McCoy as camera man Larry is perfectly cast and provides some wonderfully dry humour. Stand outs in the ensemble for me are Kieran Jae (Fred) and Ste Clough (Jeff) – both great to watch in the ensemble scenes and their solo bits.

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A set that is simple but imaginative makes sure the narrative does not get pushed into the background. Some of the scene changes are beyond clever – I am still trying to figure out how they are done. I am not going to spoil it but if you watch the show and can tell me how the shower to bed scene change works – comment below (with a spoiler tag).

The music in the show drives the story forward with clever lyrics and nice melodies. I have not been humming the songs since but Tim Minchin has written a score that fits in perfectly with the tone of the show. It is not a score I would listen to at home but I really enjoyed the music while watching the show.

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All in all Groundhog Day is without a doubt one of the most exciting new musicals I have seen in the past years. It is like a breeze of fresh air in the world of musical theatre. I highly recommend you go see this show while you have the chance to catch it in the West End. Hopefully I will be able to watch Groundhog Day on Broadway next year – this is a transfer that just needs to happen.

Groundhog Day is running at the Old Vic Theatre until September 17th 2016. For more info and to book tickets go to http://www.oldvictheatre.com/whats-on/2016/groundhog-day/

Matt Wycliffe – Debut Album Campaign

19 Jul

If you are  a theatre fan (and if you are reading you probably are) you will have come across numerous West End performers doing crowd funding campaigns. Several of you might even have support one or more of said campaigns. And if there is one thing we all know it’s that we can’t just spend our money on anything.

That’s why I rarely promote a performer’s crowd funding campaign through this blog. I only ever do it when I am 100% convinced I am promoting something that will be worth my and your money.

Having seen Matt Wycliffe in several shows over the years and having witnesses his impressive skills not only as a singer but also as a musician I feel supporting his album campaign is something all of you should definitely consider.

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He has put together an Indiegogo crowdfunding page with a whole bunch of fun perks. There’s something for everyone: From digital album downloads to physical albums plus bonus EP, tickets for Matt’s new theatrical venture “A Million Dollar Quartet” (there are backstage tours available too), a signed electric guitar and private gigs.

Check out the campaign!

Support by pledging for one of the perks (or more – go spoil yourself!). And please spread the word: Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, tell your friends at school or at work….

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Make sure to keep up to date with all the latest updates by following Matt on Twitter @MattWycliffe .

The Color Purple – Jacobs Theatre, Broadway -25th June 2016

12 Jul

I remember watching the very first preview of The Color Purple at the Menier Chocolate Factory. I remember being excited to see the first public performance of what promised to be a great production. And I remember leaving the theatre slightly underwhelmed. I did not dislike the show back then and I was impressed by Cynthia Erivo’s portrayal of Celie. But I wasn’t amazed by the production either. I figured it just was not my kind of musical and decided I had seen it once now and that would be enough.

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When the production transferred to Broadway I had no intention of watching it. And I kept it at that until that day they announced Jennifer Hudson’s replacement as Shug Avery: Heather Headley. There are a few performers who will make me watch literally anything. Heather is one of them.

And so I found myself in the orchestra (= stalls, for those of you not familiar with Broadway theatre) to see a show I was sure I would find ok but not great. Then the show started and my theatrical heart exploded.

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There was Cynthia Erivo literally laying her soul out for everyone to see. Her Celie is vulnerable but strong, she is fearless and determined – it is impossible to not love her.

Danielle Brooks as Sofia made me laugh and cry – a powerful force on stage.

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And then there was Heather Headley, my reason to revisit the show and the one person I had the highest expectations for. If you are waiting for me to say I was underwhelmed you will be disappointed. Heather Headley’s Shug Avery is sublime. With a voice smooth as velvet Heather commands the stage. She’s feisty and funny and strong and sexy – she just IS Shug Avery.

It’s impossible to find a weak link in the cast. From Isaiah Johnson’s Mister to Kyle Scatliffe’s Harpo, Joaquina Kalukango’s Nettie and everyone in the Ensemble this is pure class on stage.

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I went into this show expecting to love Heather Headley’s performance. I walked out of the theatre having my faith in musical theatre restored. As long as productions like this exist musical theatre is alive. The Color Purple made my heart sing and I am grateful Heather Headley joined this production – not just because she was sensational but also because without her I would never have made the journey to watch this show. And my soul needed a show like The Color Purple – in fact I think every soul can do with a show like this now and then.

The Color Purple is on at the Jacobs Theatre on Broadway. For more info and to book tickets please visit: http://www.colorpurple.com

Fascination Punchdrunk

24 May

I posted the following thoughts on my other blog a couple of months ago. Due to lack of time said other blog has been neglected for ages and will probably vanish in the not too far away future. However, this post is theatre related and I figured I might as well make it a part of my theatre blog. I know most of my readers watch “regular” theatre: Musicals and straight plays. A lot have probably never been to an immersive show. But maybe even those who have had no contact with this form of theatre so far will find the following interesting.

Why do I love Punchdrunk and what do I get out of their shows? I’ve been asked about this several times so I thought I’d try and answer once and for all.

For those who don’t know: Punchdrunk are a British theatre company who specialise in immersive shows. They take over whole buildings and transform them into a huge and insanely detailed set. The masked audience is free to explore the set and follow performers who play out a story throughout the building. Now and then an audience member will get chosen for a very personal one on one performance with a performer and if you are lucky you might even get a walk out at the end of the show – the most personal way to end a Punchdrunk performance. Usually a Punchdrunk show lasts 3 hours in which the characters play out their one hour long  story (called loop) three times. That way the audience has the chance to see several storylines, revisit favourite scenes or watch narratives from different angles.
I got hooked on Punchdrunk through their production The Drowned Man which ran in a former postal sorting office next to Paddington Station for a year. The building had been transformed into the 1960s film studio Temple Studios (including a western town, a desert and so much more), the story was a take on Woycek with references to Nathaniel West’s The Day of the Locust. My current Punchdrunk obsession is Sleep No More in New York which tells the story of Macbeth in a 1930s hotel (The McKittrick) with references to Hitchcock’s Rebecca. I attended The Drowned Man 34 times in just 4 months (I was late to the party, something I will always regret) and have seen Sleep No More 45 times so far.

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The Drowned Man

The number of visits alone is enough to produce raised eyebrows whenever I talk about my love for Punchdrunk shows. Even though I have seen other, regular theatre productions more it is the fact that I will happily watch 10 Punchdrunk performances in a row without ever getting bored. It sounds insane and people keep asking what makes me go back again and again.

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Sleep No More

First of all it’s the quality of performance you get to see when attending a Punchdrunk show. Some of the finest dancers and actors can be found in their productions and watching these guys and girls do what they do best while often standing just a few metres away is breathtaking. The second aspect is the set. Attending a Punchdrunk show is more than just watching a performance. You are transported into another world the minute you enter the building. I used to say going to see The Drowned Man was like visiting my second home. And it really felt like that after a while. When The Drowned Man closed I honestly felt like I had lost my save place – the place I could spend three hours in and forget about the outside world.

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The Hotel Lobby in Sleep No More

I guess that’s one of the main things that attracts me to Punchdrunk. Watching their shows means leaving everything else behind for the time being. It’s like a timeout from regular life. You get to be in a different world and to a certain extend you become someone else too. There is definitely a psychological aspect to it – everyone wants to break out sometime. I don’t consider myself the most outgoing person in real life. I don’t trust people easily. However, in a Punchdrunk show I have no problem putting my trust into a (most of the time) complete stranger. I don’t know most of the performers in the show and yet I’ve let them blindfold me, take me into pitch black rooms, force feed me oranges (don’t ask) and I’ve drunk whatever they have handed me without asking what exactly I was about to swallow. It’s the strange thing a Punchdrunk show will do to me. I become obedient in a way but it also sets me free. No worries, no second thoughts, no pondering if doing this or that is a good idea or not. In a Punchdrunk show I can just BE. It’s like walking around in a dream and it gives me goosebumps every single time. The thrill cannot be described, it has to be experienced.

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The desert in The Drowned Man

The Drowned Man probably described it best in one of its most used quotes: “We live inside a dream.” This is exactly what Punchdrunk shows are for me. The chance to live in another reality, if only for a few hours. And who doesn’t want that now and then.

You can find out about Punchdrunk’s latest ventures here.
And if you are ever in New York I urge you to check into The McKittrick for an evening.

She loves me at Studio 54 / New York – 16th April 2016

13 May

I love old-fashioned American musicals. They have a certain charm you hardly find in shows these days. She loves me is such an old fashioned American musical. Currently being revived on Broadway the show is based on a play by Miklos Laszlo which inspired the 1940s movie “The Shop Around the Corner”.

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While the show is predictable and corners on the cheesy side all the way through it’s enchanting nonetheless thanks to an absolutely stellar cast. Zachary Levi is a dream to watch. Add the wonderful Laura Benanti and you have a match guaranteed to dazzle the audience. Jane Krakowski once again proves that she is not only a strong actress but also has comic timing down to a tee. Then there’s Gavin Creel who doesn’t get as much stage time as I would have liked but when he is on stage he owns it, simple as that.

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This show doesn’t shine with big showy numbers. There’s no big, flashy ensemble. Instead every one of the principles gets a moment to really shine.

This is one of those shows that won’t impress you with its outer appearance although the set is beautiful and caused applause on several occasions. She loves me will win you over with its simple but irresistible charm.

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I think one of the main reasons this show just works is the fact that we all can relate with one or more of the characters. They are not perfect and they struggle. But of course we know from that start that a happy ending is on the cards. And that’s exactly what you want when you are watching a musical comedy. Leave the tough stories for another day – today we want pure musical bliss.

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She loves me is playing at Studio 54. For more info and to book tickets visit http://www.roundabouttheatre.org/Shows-Events/She-Loves-Me.aspx

 

 

Miss Atomic Bomb at St. James Theatre – 12th March 2016

14 Mar

I usually don’t review a preview. On this occasion I will make an exception but I will concentrate on all the positive aspects of the show because I feel that those bits that appeared a bit flawed just need a bit more time to be ironed out.

Miss Atomic Bomb is a musical comedy set in 1950s Las Vegas centering around the vast amount of nuclear tests that took place in the Nevada desert around that time. In an attempt to profit from the always present atomic blasts (and threatened at gun point) Lou Lubowitz sets up a beauty contest to find Miss Atomic Bomb.

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At the center of the story we find Candy Johnson (Florence Andrews), a (sheep) farm girl desperate to raise funds to settle her late grandmother’s debt. She runs into Joey Lubowitz (Dean John-Wilson) who has just deserted the army after witnessing the horrific power of the atomic bomb. In an attempt to escape he flees to Las Vegas where his brother Lou Lubowith (Simon Lipkin) has just been appointed general manager of the Golden Goose Hotel. Due to extraordinary circumstances Lou and Joey set up the Miss Atomic Bomb beauty contest which might just be Candy’s only chance to escape the grip of the bank – represented by Mr. Potts (Daniel Boys) – that is threatening to repossess the trailer her grandmother left her.

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There is no denying that Miss Atomic Bomb has huge potential. The show has a great score and some wonderful comedy moments. And while the story is predictable it manages to keep the audience entertained nonetheless. Add a talented cast and you have an enjoyable evening at the theatre. Simon Lipkin shines as Lou Lubowitz and his duet with Catherine Tate in act two (Sugar Daddy) is a true showstopper. Catherine Tate has been praised for her comic timing before and she doesn’t disappoint here. Dean John-Wilson is perfectly cast as Joey Lubowitz – the romantic hero who also gets the chance to show off his funny side. He has great on stage chemistry with Florence Andrews who delivers a stand out performance as Candy Johnson. A special mention has to go to Stephane Anelli who is not only hilariously funny as Professor Alvin Schmul but also once again shows that he is a hugely talented dancer and singer. David Birrell has joined the cast on short notice to star as General Westcott / Mr. Rosenhunt and does a great job.

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It is obvious how much effort has been put into this new musical and the result is a light-hearted show that doesn’t take itself too seriously. Miss Atomic Bomb is proof that new original musicals can be innovative, entertaining, funny, clever and catchy all in one and so appeal to a broader audience.

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Here’s hoping this show gets the chance to be seen by a wide range of people not just during its short run at the St. James theatre.

Miss Atomic Bomb is playing at the St. James Theatre until 9th April 2016. For more info and to book tickets click here.

10 Questions with Joe Aaron Reid

25 Feb

Joe Aaron Reid is currently making his London theatre debut starring as Benny in In The Heights at King’s Cross Theatre. His theatre credits include If/Then (Scott/ Stephen opposite Idina Menzel, Broadway); Ghost – the Musical (Broadway); Catch Me if You Can (Broadway); Finian’s Rainbow (Broadway); Chicago (Fred Casely, Broadway) and Curtains (Ronnie Driscoll, Broadway); Once on This Island (Daniel, Lucille Lortel); The Tin Pan Alley Rag (Roundabout/Laura Pels); Finian’s Rainbow (Encores); Why We Tell the Story (Lucille Lortel); Kismet (Encores); Lines (Joe, TBG); On the Town (Gabey, 5th Avenue Theatre); A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum (Gymnasia, Williamstown Theatre Festival); Ragtime (Paper Mill Playhouse); Cats (Munkustrap, Northern Stage); Camelot (North Shore Music Theatre, Boston); Beauty and the Beast (Les Places des Arts, Montreal, and Lyric, Baltimore); If/Then (National, Washington DC); Curtains (Ahmanson); Guys and Dolls (MIMF, Macau, China) and Kiss Me, Kate (Paul, Commonwealth Shakespeare Company).

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Joe kindly took some time out of his busy schedule to talk about moving across the pond, living in London, being part of In The Heights and what the future might hold.

You moved to London in March after living and working in New York for years. What made you take such a huge step and is London starting to feel like home now?
I moved to London at the end of March, after closing If/Then on Broadway. We actually moved because of my husband’s job. He works in finance, where it’s actually quite common to move overseas. He is French, so for him it was coming home in a way. I agreed to move because I was living in NYC for 10 years, and although acting is a huge part of my life, adventure is a bigger part. I figured I could do what I love here, and be on a great adventure with my family at the same time. We’ll be back at some point, but for now, I’m happy. We’ve now been here for almost a year, and I enjoy it, but it takes time to feel like you’re at home. I’ll get there soon, I’m sure.

Can you name three things you love about London and three things you dislike?
Three things I love:
1. They are big on Haloumi. I had never heard of it until I moved here. It’s DELICIOUS.
2. The tube is super clean, and there seem to be trains about every 2-3minutes.
3. The architecture. The mixture of such historical buildings with modern skyscrapers is really cool. I love to walk along the Thames and see the juxtaposition between buildings like Big Ben and Parliament vs. the London Eye, and the Shard.

Three things I dislike:
1. The city is very spread out, so it takes quite a long time to get places. That being said, you feel like you are breathing fresh air, most of the time.
2. This is a gross generalization, but…customer service is different over here. I’ve said this before, but in the US, “the customer is always right”. Here, they treat you as if they are doing you a favor, even though you are paying for a service.
3. London is more expensive than NYC. Not. Cool.

Have you had the chance to check out the London theatre scene?
I have been able to see some things. I was able to see Gypsy, in which Imelda Staunton SLAYED! I saw The Curious Incident… and absolutely loved it. Some amazing performances in Miss Saigon!! I’ve seen a couple of other things, as well. Some new and smaller things, and some old staples.

joeaaronreid1

In The Heights

 

In The Heights marks your first appearance on a London stage. I’ve seen the show several times and the one thing that always gets me is the energy on stage. Everyone seems to put their heart and soul into this production. What’s it like to be a part of In The Heights and are you happy to make your London stage debut in this Show?
YES and YES! The show is so vibrant, and everyone gives it everything they have. What’s funny, is that I wasn’t supposed to be doing In The Heights. I was slated to do Stardust Road at the St. James, but it unfortunately was cancelled. It just so happened that they were in final callbacks for In The Heights, and they agreed to see me. I feel like everything happens for a reason, and I was meant to be doing this show at this point in my life.

This is a question I’ve been asking myself over and over again: Where did Victoria Hamilton-Barritt get her energy from (performing 7 months pregnant)?
I have no clue!!! It’s mindboggling!! I just met her through this process, and so I have only known her pregnant. I can only imagine her force when she’s just eating for one.🙂

What is your favourite song or scene in the show and why?
Oooooh, That’s a tough one. I like different songs/scenes for different reasons. So, I’ll give you a few that I love. I love the scene into “Benny’s Dispatch”. So much of my show is dramatic, so I enjoy starting off the show being goofy and playful. I love singing “When You’re Home”. Hearing Lily sing “Breathe”. If I stand in the right position backstage, I can see “Carnival” and I love watching everyone throwdown for that one. It’s such a powerful moment. The list goes on…

I saw In the Heights on Broadway in 2009 and while I liked it I didn’t love it as much as this production. I feel it works better in a smaller space where the audience has the chance to really connect with the characters and story. Do you enjoy performing in such an intimate venue?
I do enjoy it. Most of my past experiences have been in large houses on Broadway, with the traditional proscenium. This traverse stage and smaller house allows you to play more with nuance, because the audience is so close. Now that we’ve been running a while, I’m finding myself discovering new things almost weekly, about the sound, the sightlines, and Benny in general. I imagine playing Benny would be very different on a proscenium. Also, the audience is basically in your lap…or maybe it’s the other way around. When you have a supercharged audience, the energy is truly palpable. You don’t get that in a traditional venue in quite the same way.

Looking into the future: If you could join any West End production in 2016 which one would it be and why?
Well, I find it a little more gratifying when I am originating something. Five of my six Broadway shows were original casts, and there is a bit more creativity and artistic freedom when originating, versus the “move here and speak here” scenario. NOT poo pooing replacements, though!!! That comes with it’s own set of challenges, like HOW to be creatively fulfilled, while staying within the realm of what is currently happening eight shows a week. I will say, I’m sad to see Miss Saigon go. I really wanted a chance to play John. I wouldn’t mind a Fiyero in Wicked situation. Fingers crossed it’ll be something new though. We shall see.🙂

Do you have the ultimate dream role you would love to play at some point in your career?
YES…well of course the obvious answer is it hasn’t been written yet, because IDEALLY, like I stated in the question before, the goal is to originate something, BUT in terms of roles that are already out there…Coalhouse Walker, Jr. in Ragtime. I had the chance to understudy the role at Paper Mill Playhouse, right out of college, but I’ve never actually had the chance to play it. Being a bit older now, and more right for it agewise, I’ve definitely got my eyes peeled for a production of it.

Final question: Why should people come and see In the Heights?
I think people should come see In The Heights because it has something for everyone. I know a lot of people say “rap isn’t my thing”, but as someone who raps in the show and then has multiple ballads, this show is SO MUCH MORE than rap. Traditional musical theatre lovers still get their West Side Story, while people who like contemporary music and musical theatre get more than their fill. If you like dance, it is jampacked with many different styles. If you like sweeping ballads, there are quite a few. If you are young, there are characters you can relate to. If you are older, there are characters you can relate to. The story is relatable, no matter what your background. You laugh, you cry, you party and at the end of the night you feel joy. NOT the cheesy joy, but the heart open, toothy smile joy. If you are human, you will enjoy it.

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