42nd Street at Theatre Royal Drury Lane

25 Apr

It is the return of the big tap spectacle to London’s West End. 42nd Street has moved into Theatre Royal Drury Lane and it definitely has not done so unnoticed.

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This is the revival of an American classic – some might call it the mother of all showbiz musicals. Director Mark Bramble does not go for understatement in this production. With 43 ensemble members 42nd Street fills the big stage of Theatre Royal Drury Lane. Watching the partly opened curtain at the start of the show and the long line of dancing feet is a sight (and sound) to behold.

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Save to say if you do not enjoy masses of dancers tap their feet off this show is not for you. But if you do enjoy a glittering, loud tap dancing spectacle 42nd Street is your definition of heaven on earth.

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Clare Halse shines as out-of-town dancer Peggy Sawyer who is hoping to get her big break on Broadway. Stuart Neal (Billy Lawlor) shows he is not just a tremendous actor and singer but also a wonderful dancer.

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Tom Lister (Julian Marsh) commands the stage – his solo moment at the end of the show is one of my highlights. It is such a simple yet incredibly powerful scene and Tom Lister quite simply nails it. Sheena Easton is perfectly cast as leading lady / diva Dorothy Brock. A special mention goes to Norman Bowman who is underused as Pat Denning – personally I cannot wait to see his take on Julian Marsh.

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But the real star of the show is the tap dancing ensemble. Those guys and girls seem to have unlimited resources of energy. They carry this show and they do so with big smiles.

42nd Street does things big – from the number of ensemble members to costumes and set. Visually you will not find a more stunning musical in town at this point. And I had a brilliant time diving into the glittering world of 42nd Street. This show dazzled and amazed me – no question about that. However, what it failed to do is touch my heart. But then I doubt this is what the production was planning to do. You do not watch 42nd Street with teary eyes because what you are seeing is so stunningly beautiful. You watch it with a huge smile on your face because you are being entertained at the highest level. And entertained I was.

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So do not hesitate – I urge you to go and meet those dancing feet.

42nd Street is running at Theatre Royal Drury Lane. For more info and to book tickets visit http://www.42ndstreetmusical.co.uk/.

Bye Bye Jersey Boys

28 Mar

This post is not going to be about the final performance of Jersey Boys in the West End. Although I have been a supporter of the show since 2008 I did not attend the performance on Sunday. Jersey Boys still does and always will hold a special place in my heart though. And I did celebrate the show on Sunday but I did it by attending Ryan Molloy’s Farewell Frankie gig at the Hippodrome in London.

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For those of you that were not there and did not see anything about what happened yet I will sum it up in three words: Original Four reunited. Ryan Molloy, Glenn Carter, Philip Bulcock and Stephen Ashfield (who flew in just for a day from New York – that is dedication!) took the stage together for the first time since 2010 and gave Jersey Boys the best send off imaginable. It was a celebration of a show that has had a big impact on both its fans and the performers who have been part of it.

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I will not bore you with long talk about how important Jersey Boys has been for me – I have made friends through this show and have met so many wonderful people. I have not watched it regularly for the past few years but I cherish the memories from those first six years when I was a regular at the Prince Edward Theatre. And I am happy the show continued to make people happy for another three years at the Piccadilly Theatre.

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On Sunday I got the chance to celebrate Jersey Boys with the people who made me fall in love with it. And for that I cannot thank the man who made it happen enough: Ryan Molloy. What an incredible day he managed to put together: From the gig in the afternoon all the way to an aftershow party that went on until after midnight.

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It was lovely to see so many former Jersey Boys (and Girls) reunited at the gig and/or the aftershow party: Ryan Molloy, Stephen Ashfield, Glenn Carter, Philip Bulcock, Suzy Bastone, Kieran Jae, Charlie Bull, Chris Gardner, Jon Boydon, Matt Wycliffe, Trina Hill, Eugene McCoy – You are all amazing. Thank you for everything.

And Ryan was right: He only offers the truth – I shit you not.

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Since words cannot do the whole thing justice here are some videos for you to enjoy.









10 Questions with Kieran Jae

1 Mar

Kieran Jae graduated from Doreen Bird College in 2001. Since then he has appeared in shows such as Groundhog Day (Old Vic Theatre), Gypsy (West End / Chichester Festival Theatre), Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Billy Elliot, All the Fun of the Fair, Jersey Boys, Mamma Mia, The Witches of Eastwick, Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, Fame (UK tour), Dick Whittington (Hull New Theatre) and Cinderella (Liverpool Empire). His Television credits include Teachers, The Four Parts of Johnny Vegas, Saturday Night Take Away, Comic Relief, Children in Need, The X-Factor and The Royal Variety Performance. He also supported Elton John in concert at the Royal Albert Hall.

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Lets start with how you got into theatre. Did you alway want to be on stage? When did you start dancing?

Well, I started performing at an early age in school plays and music concerts. I always had a passion for singing but didn’t really have any direction as I didn’t come from a musical or performing background. My mum and Nan (who I was brought up by) were hugely supportive and encouraged my passion and love for all things performing, plus I think it gave me an outlet to disburse all my excess energy as a child.

I always wanted to be on stage. I don’t know where I got the bug or how I became so addicted to performing but it is something that has been a driving force for along as I can remember.

I started dancing at the age of 12 which is when I first met my dance teacher Julie Bromage who was choreographing my first ever amateur production of 7 Brides for 7 Brothers. We were partnered together (unfortunately for her) and I attempted to polka but I spent most of the dance treading on her toes. Luckily for me she saw potential in this hyper active teenager who danced like a labrador puppy that needed taming and training.
The rest they say is history. She was and still is my first inspiration and outlet to the world of theatre that wasn’t just on the television or a dream job. She trained me intensively for 4 years and then put me on the road to professional training. Which is when I got into world-renowned performing arts college Doreen Birds. The dream was starting to seem more reachable and possible.

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Kieran in Mamma Mia

You’ve been in various shows over the years. Out of the roles you played, which ones have been your favourites and why?

My first would have to be the brother Tony in Billy Elliot. This show was more like a representation of my heritage and families history. Coming from a Geordie mining family and knowing what struggles the play spoke about and represented struck such a chord in me because I was playing out my grandfather’s and his friends’ and siblings’ life and troubles every night.
This was a show that I always wanted to be a part of and to get to play this part in particular I think has made me a better actor and ticked a huge professional goal for me.

Second would have to be performing the role of Bob Gaudio in Jersey Boys in front of the real Bob Gaudio and him coming to see me after the show and telling me ‘How proud he was of himself tonight and also how he never knew he could sing that well’. This was a real honour.

Thirdly has to be working with and alongside the phenomenal Imelda Staunton. I’m not sure I can beat that one. Working with Imelda was like a daily acting master class. She taught me so much and so gracefully and kindly helped me make the role into my own with some wonderful tips on the way. Looking across at her during a scene and seeing how immersed in the role she was and the dedication she put into every show was HUGELY inspiring and something I will never forget and carry with me through the rest of my career.

What has been your most memorable moment on stage so far (good or bad – but hopefully the good ones are more memorable than the bad ones!)?

I think every opening night is a memory that I will photograph in my mind and keep in a special place. There is a feeling of unity and achievement on opening night that all the work you have all put in together over the rehearsal period has paid off and gets to be appreciated by an audience.

If I was to pin point a few I think definitely my opening night in my first job and West End debut Witches of Eastwick. Not only did it have an amazing theatrical end to the opening, it gave you a moment to look out front and stand still to the applause and I will never forget taking that in and thinking ‘It’s not a dream anymore’.

I think opening Gypsy in Chichester and watching Imelda do ‘Rose’s turn’ in front of an audience for the first time and seeing the audience’s reaction will be something I never forget, and feeling an overwhelming sense of pride and emotion on that first ever curtain call.

Lastly I think again my first time playing Tony in front of my Nan (who I sadly lost last year) was a night I will never forget as my granddad died when I was young so he never got to see me standing up their and representing him. But my Nan did and she said ‘it was one of the proudest moments of her life’ and I will NEVER forget her face smiling up at me with tears in her eyes on my bow.

A funny moment on stage was when I was in Jersey Boys playing Bob Gaudio I once slipped up on a line and instead of saying ‘The day after we were on American bandstand’ I said ‘The day after we were on American …. IDOL’. Oops!! The other 3 boys were facing upstage and all I could hear was them giggling at me. My heart jumped into my throat and it felt like hours had passed in the space on seconds. Forgetting your lines or fluffing them is always  so disconcerting but looking back on it, it was funny.

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Kieran as Bob Gaudio in Jersey Boys

Are there any dream roles you would love to play?

Yes lots of roles I would still love to play but a couple in particular. As a student I remember seeing an actor called Simon Grieff who also trained at my performing arts college Doreen Birds. He was playing Bobby C in Saturday Night Fever at the London Palladium and I remember thinking I HAVE to play this role. He sang the song  Tragedy which was then given to me as a solo in my end of year show in my 2nd year and I remember thinking that could be me. I saw it 10 times!!

Another role is Chris in Miss Saigon. It is such a strong male role and the show is such a piece of musical theatre history that to be part of its legacy at some point would be great.

Something else that I would love to be part of at some point in my career is the television prigramme Coronation Street. I have been a fan of this Northern soap since I was a kid. Back then it was a bit of a ritual to sit down at 7.30 to tune in. So to be part of something that is part of so many people’s lives would be great, especially as a Northerner.

Is there anyone you would love to work with at some point?

I would love the opportunity to work with Imelda again. I learnt so much from her work ethic and her pure class act both on and off stage.

Tim Minchin is someone else I would love to work with again. I have the privilege of now calling him a friend and someone I respect both professionally and personally and he is someone who has shown me so much support. He is a genius.

As a choreographer I would love to work with Susan Stroman. I’m a real admirer of her work especially her 1998 production of Oklahoma at the National Theatre. It’s just a masterpiece, so true to the original, yet so original.

Lastly I would love to work with British Director Jamie Lloyd one day. He is such a clever and innovative director with a great vision.

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Kieran as Tony in Billy Elliot

 

Do you go to the theatre in your spare time? If so, what shows have you seen lately? Any recommendations?

Of course, watching theatre is one of my favourite things to do in any spare time when I get some.  Whether it be socially with friends or to just be inspired for work. It’s what I love. I’ve always loved being in a theatre. Seeing things live is so exciting.

Things that inspired me: Definitely Denise Gough in People, Places and Things is up there for recent inspiring performances. She was incredible.

Amber Riley in Dreamgirls is like a vocal master class. I LOVED the show. The cast were so strong but in particular her performance was SO powerful.

Things I want  to see: Ruth Wilson in Hedda Gabler and Angels in America at the National Theatre. Then, of course, Imelda in Who’s afraid of Virginia Woolf. I love the play anyway but I can’t wait to see what she does with the role. And lastly Stepping Out. I grew up with the film and have always wanted to see the stage production.

You were in the London cast of Groundhog Day at the Old Vic Theatre recently which is opening on Broadway soon. What was it like to be part of the show? Do you think it will do well with the Broadway audience?

This show was possibly one of the hardest to rehearse and to piece together just because of the complexity of it. Trying to bring all factors together, to make essentially the same day repeat on stage lots of times but with slight changes each day, this was a mine field. Equally it was one of the most rewarding. It is a masterpiece of new innovative theatre. Something fresh and modern with beautiful songs and very clever set design and magic tricks up its sleeves. Tim Minchin, Peter Darling and Matthew Warchus did an incredible job and I have no doubt it is going to be a huge hit on Broadway. The piece is very American, it has American values, it celebrates normal American people, so people relate to the characters. They know and love the film and Andy Karl who is playing the Bill Murray role Phil did a phenomenal job here, and I have no doubt he will do an even better job over there. So in answer to your question, yes I think it will be a hit on Broadway.

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Kieran (right) in Groundhog Day

Talking about Broadway, do you think New York holds more opportunities for performers than London these days?

I don’t think it holds more or less opportunities. I think both places are special and give different opportunities. I do love how Americans are so fearless though. They have such belief in their abilities whereas here we are a little more reserved in that respect. I also like that Americans don’t pigeonhole actors whereas I think a lot of the time here we are put into boxes. If you do musical theatre it’s harder to move into straight theatre or television. Over there if you can act, you can act in what ever form or genre. Equally though I love the heritage we have here, I love the calibre of work we have here and our British sense of pride in our work and craft. I think New York and London are both such special places for an actor. It is true what they say it really is where dreams are made.

What are your plans for 2017 so far? Anything you can share? Can we catch you on stage again sometime soon maybe?

Last year was quite life changing for me personally losing someone so close to me but I think it has taught me to make braver decisions about my life, to not let life pass me by and to live every day to the most. So this year so far is turning out to be new and exciting for me and I’m excited about what the rest of the year holds. For once I haven’t committed to a long running contract with a show and it has given me other incredible opportunities. I have just finished recording vocals for the new Mary Poppins movie, under the creative genius of Marc Shaiman and Scott Whitman, and then recorded some vocals for Adele’s new Australian tour which was also very exciting. I continue to teach my students which I truly love. I love inspiring students who are training to work in this amazing industry. Passing on the knowledge and tools I have learnt in my own career on to the next generation of performers is something I feel incredibly passionate about.

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Last not least lets look into the future: Where do you see yourself in ten years? 

I see myself hopefully married with someone wonderful to share my life with. I would like to try and live in another country to explore what another country has to offer. I would like to see a lot more of the world. I would like to hope and think I will still be acting, and honing my craft and I would like to still be teaching and inspiring students at the same time.

I feel very lucky in what I have achieved in my life and career so far and if I can spend the next 10 years similar to the last 10, I will be a very happy man.

Thank you Kieran for taking the time for this interview. Here’s to a successful and inspiring 2017.

Natasha, Pierre and the Great Comet of 1812

20 Feb

Let me start by saying I have never read Tolstoy’s “War and Peace” so I went into “Natasha, Pierre and the Great Comet of 1812” completely blind. On one hand that was quite interesting as it meant I really had to obey the cast’s instruction to “look at the synopsis and family tree” at the start of the show (yes, that actually does happen). On the other hand it meant I spent valuable minutes trying to memorise details while the show was already happening all around me.

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And when I say all around me I mean it. This show is probably the closest I have ever been to watching a proper immersive musical – not site specific, not slightly interactive but truly immersive. I watched the show from on stage seats and the one thing I can tell you here and now is: On stage seats are the way to experience this piece of theatre. However, I will not spoil things by explaining why so you will just have to take my word for it.

The show tells a historic love story among Russian aristocrats but it does so through modern eyes using various styles of music (including electronic beats) and some rather brash language. That alone is an interesting concept but what really makes this show are the incredible staging and the energetic and intense performances by the cast.

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Josh Groban shines as Pierre – a role that is surprisingly small considering the show is heavily sold on his name. As expected the big ballad of the evening belongs to Josh and he completely owns the stage in that moment. There is no denying his voice is stunningly beautiful. What I was not sure about before the show were his acting abilities. But I should not have worried because despite being a small role Josh Groban’s Pierre gives life to this production. He also plays the accordion and the piano several times during the show taking over for the musical director.

Then there is Denée Benton making her Broadway debut as Natasha. She is charming and likable – a ray of light whenever she appears on stage. Natasha – despite being engaged – falls head over heels for the womanizer Anatole, played wonderfully by Lucas Steele. Anatole’s sister Helene (Amber Gray) is married to Pierre but could not care less for her husband – cue Pierre spending a lot of time bemoaning his unhappy life. Then there is Anatole’s friend Dolokhov (Nick Choksi) who causes trouble between Pierre and Helene.

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I have probably have lost you story wise by now. Trust me, I left the theatre without being one hundred percent sure I had understood what I had just seen. There are too many characters and the fact some cast members appear in different roles does not make following the story line any easier. But that does not matter because what this show has given me is a journey into the world of Pierre and Natasha through music, staging and a breathtakingly beautiful set. This is not your traditional musical. It is more than that. It is a theatrical experience that will draw you in and refuse to let you go.

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“Natasha, Pierre and the Great Comet of 1812” is one of the must see shows of this Broadway season. And with Okieriete Onaodowan (Hamilton OBC) taking over from Josh Groban from July 3rd there is reason enough for at least two visits if you have the chance.

“Natasha, Pierre and the Great Comet of 1812” is running at the Imperial Theatre on Broadway. For more info and to book tickets visit http://greatcometbroadway.com

Dreamgirls at the Savoy Theatre

14 Dec

The Dreamgirls have arrived in the West End. Possibly one of the most highly anticipated musical productions of the year the show has now opened at the Savoy Theatre.

Known to most through the 2006 American musical film starring Jennifer Hudson Dreamgirls tells the story of a girl group called The Dreams in the 1960s and 1970s. Although a work of fiction the narrative takes strong inspiration from the history of the Motown record label and one of its acts, The Supremes.

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Making her West End debut as Effie White is Glee’s Amber Riley. And what a West End debut this is. Amber’s Effie is fierce and funny, emotional and heartbreaking. Her voice is nothing short of incredible. I am not someone who gives mid show standing ovations easily but here I jumped to my feet with the rest of the audience after “And I am telling you I’m not going”. This woman is a star – that is all I have to say.

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Liisi LaFontaine plays Deena Jones and even though it is tough to stand out next to a tour de force like Amber Riley she manages to deliver a first class performance. The same goes for Ibinabo Jack as Lorrell Robinson, the third member of The Dreams. And while Lily Frazer (Michelle Morris, the singer who joins the band later on) does not seem to be on the same vocal level as Amber, Liisi and Ibinabo she blends in well in what is effectively a slightly thankless role.

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Joe Aaron Reid returns to the West End stage after playing the role of Benny in In the Heights to rave reviews. His Curtis Taylor Jr. is a bad guy you simply love to hate. The chemistry between him and Amber’s Effie is wonderful and he tops off his performance with a voice smooth as velvet.

There are so many stand-out performances in this production but one that needs a special mention is without a doubt Adam J. Bernard’s Jimmy Early. One has to ask where he gets his energy from – I was exhausted just watching him.

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I cannot fault anyone in this production. Sure, the eyes are on Amber Riley a lot of the time, but this is a cast full of talented individuals who all deliver performances at the highest level. They work together brilliantly and clearly put their heart and soul into the show.

The colourful costumes, a simple but effective set plus choreography that makes you want to get up and dance round off a production that is just what the West End needs.

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This show is a triumph – nothing more, nothing less. Go get your tickets! This is one of the “must see” shows of the season.

For more info and to book tickets go to http://www.dreamgirlswestend.com/

Murder Ballad at the Arts Theatre

8 Nov

Who did it? That is the big question in Murder Ballad, currently playing at the not very glamorous Arts Theatre (yes, the place is in BAD need of a refurb, there just is no denying it). I will not spoil the surprise for those who have not seen it by giving away details of the plot. Just this: While watching the show I came up with various possible endings and none was what actually happened. So there is definitely potential for a good old guessing game as the story progresses.

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Victoria Hamilton-Barritt does not just lead us through the story; she is the star of the show. Both her voice and her sometimes sinister, sometimes almost cheeky and always intriguing portrayal of the Narrator are in a class of its own.

Kerry Ellis plays Sarah, the female love interest. One thing is for sure: She can sing. Personally I do not find her acting convincing. She is not bad by any means but next to her fellow cast members she never manages to shine.

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Then there is Ramin Karimloo – recently returned to the UK after playing Jean Valjean in Les Miserables on Broadway to rave reviews – as Tom, the former boyfriend: Dark, handsome – one of those guys women tend to fall for even though they know they mean trouble. Seeing Ramin take on a role that is so completely different from both the Phantom and Valjean (the two roles he has been playing on and off for a while) is a revelation. He gets to be bad and sexy and finally that incredible voice can show its diversity with a few slightly more rocky tunes. It is a joy to watch and clearly he is having fun in the show.

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Norman Bowman completes the love triangle as Sarah’s nice, gentle partner Michael – the guy she meets after Tom breaks her heart and who she settles down and has a child with. Michael is without a doubt the most interesting of the three lovers. While both Sarah and Tom know there is a third “party” involved Michael is kept in the dark the longest. And it is that moment of heartbreak – when Michael realises Sarah has been cheating on him (betraying her family) – that shows what a tremendously talented actor Norman is. And as if that was not enough he is an incredibly strong singer too.

While you cannot fault the cast of this production the set falls short at times. Personally I am no fan of the huge projections used in this show. They do nothing for the production and only distract from what is happening on stage (that is what a massive black and white photo of Ramin Karimloo does to me at least – call me shallow if you want). And while the revolve is used quite well it seems a bit like a gimmick someone simply wanted to play with.

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The songs did not stick in my head the first time around. I admit I have been back to see the show a second time (the cast is just too good to resist) and that time the score really got to me. So for me Murder Ballad is a grower.  It is not a prefect show. It has some obvious flaws and it will not be everyone’s cup of tea. But it is worth checking out if only for seeing a group of talented, well-known performers in such a small venue – who knows when you will get the chance again.

Murder Ballad is playing at the Arts Theatre until December 3rd. For more info and to book tickets visit https://artstheatrewestend.co.uk.

Lazarus – King’s Cross Theatre

31 Oct

I am not a David Bowie fan. And I mean this with the biggest respect. I like some of his songs. I appreciate his talent. I just cannot call myself an actual fan and I certainly do not have huge knowledge of his work.

I am saying this to make it clear that I did not buy a ticket for Lazarus because it is “the David Bowie musical”. I simply wanted to watch a new piece of musical theatre and I admit the prospect of seeing Michael C. Hall on stage did help to sway me in the direction of the show.

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Having now seen Lazarus I am not quite sure I can say what exactly I witnessed on that stage at King’s Cross Theatre. But one thing I know for sure: This show is innovative, thrilling, different and it spoke to me in a way I am having trouble to explain.

Michael C. Hall’s performance is a revelation. For the duration of the show (it runs at 1:50 hours without an interval) Michael C. Hall IS Thomas Newton, the man who fell to earth and is now spending all of his time in a stale New York apartment. Mary Lou, the love of his life, has left him and he is subsisting on gin and Twinkies. It would be easy to say Michael C. Hall is simply playing David Bowie as Thomas Newton. It would also be wrong although his voice has a chilling resemblance to David Bowie at times. There is not a single moment in which Michael C. Hall is slipping out of his role. And it would be so easy considering he spends some time just sitting outside of the spotlight watching his fellow cast members. But he is 100% there the whole time (and he rarely leaves the stage).

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Speaking of the rest of the cast: Sophia Anne Caruso as the unearthly girl who visits Thomas in his apartment and knows everything about him is mesmerising to watch. Amy Lennox gives a solid performance as Elly – Thomas Newton’s assistant who starts turning into the blue-haired Mary Lou – but she does not manage to shine next to Sophia Anne Caruso and Michael C. Hall. Michael Esper is wonderfully creepy as Valentine, the show’s “bad guy” (but does he really do all those horrible things or are they just part of Thomas Newton’s confused imagination?).

The staging appears simple at first but quickly becomes a tour de force of projections that make you feel like you are trapped in a science fiction fantasy – and maybe you are because nothing you see really happens (or does it?).

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I left the theatre feeling completely floored by what I just witnessed. It does sound strange but I could not sum up what this show is actually about even if my life depended on it. But this piece of theatre captured my mind completely and refused to let it go. I felt drawn into the weird “world” of Thomas Newton.

There is no way I can predict if someone will enjoy this show. For once I am saying you will either love or hate it and both opinions are completely valid. Lazarus is not your typical musical. It speaks to you on a different level – or maybe it does not. Either way, I suggest you give it a try. The worst that can happen is you end up spending a confusing evening listening to David Bowie songs.

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Lazarus is running at the King’s Cross Theatre until January 21st 2016. For more info and to book tickets visit  https://lazarusmusical.com/.

 

 

Blood Brothers – UK Tour 2016/2017

24 Oct

Blood Brothers – the story of the Johnstone twins. It’s a modern classic by now and one of those shows every musical theatre fan should watch at least once.

We meet Mrs. Johnstone who ist struggling to make a living for herself and her children. When she finds out she is expecting twins things seem hopeless. But then her employer Mrs. Lyons who has been unsuccessful in getting pregnant herself makes her an offer that seems to solve her problems.

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Lyn Paul is no stranger to the role of Mrs Johnstone. I admit I am having trouble seeing her as a woman in her mid-twenties these days (Mrs. Johnstone’s age at the start of the show). But she makes up for this with superb acting and a wonderful, rich voice that really does the beautiful melodies in this show justice. Sarah Jane Buckley is a fantastic Mrs. Lyons. She manages the walk between slightly snobbish upper class woman and desperate mother haunted by fear of losing “her” son perfectly.

However, Blood Brothers stands and falls with the Johnstone twins. There’s the working class twin Mickey (brilliantly played by Sean Jones) and the upper class twin Eddie (Joel Benedict – a joy to watch). The relationship between these two is absolutely crucial and Sean Jones and Joel Benedict work together flawlessly. You can feel the bond between the twins and that is down to the portrayal of those two fantastic performers.

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A new face in the world of Blood Brothers is Dean Chisnall as the Narrator. Not only can the man sing he also brings a great mix of menace and compassion to the character. From my experience the Narrator can be quite cold and calculating – in some cases I have seen him practically lead the narrative to its tragic ending. Dean Chisnall’s Narrator appears more thoughtful – knowing what will happen and unable to stop it but not trying to push the story forward. It’s almost as if he wanted nothing to do with what is going to happen. For me this is a great new take on the character.

The rest of the cast does a great job. There are several familiar faces in case you have been following the past productions. And although the show might feel a bit dated (and the set certainly looks it) this is a must see production. Blood Brothers is a beautifully sad story that will pull you in completely. It’s one of those emotionally draining nights out at the theatre. And I don’t know about you but I need one of those now and then.

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Blood Brothers is on tour until April 2017. Dean Chisnall is staying with the show for the rest of the tour. Joel Benedict has left the cast.

For tour dates and to book tickets go here.

Hamilton – Richards Rodgers Theatre, Broadway

1 Oct

Hamilton. I was convinced I would never get to see the show on Broadway. Tickets are like gold dust and no one ever wins the Hamilton lottery. Well, no one except my friend on our trip across the pond in September. Yes, that is correct – she won the Hamilton lottery and we saw the musical phenomenon, sitting in the front row for all of ten dollars each.

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Original Broadway Cast

Lin-Manuel Miranda’s piece about Alexander Hamilton has been wowing audiences ever since the show opened off-Broadway at the Public Theatre before moving to the Richard Rodgers Theatre on Broadway in 2015. To be honest I feel like this show has been talked about so much already there really is no need for yet another review. Plus I could sum up my views in one word: Masterpiece.

However, I do want to share a few thoughts on the show now that I have actually seen it and not just listened to the score on repeat.

First of all, the staging is pure genius. It is surprisingly simple yet so very effective. Then you have the choreography that quite literally blows your mind. I caught myself sitting there with my mouth open desperately trying to take it all in and failing miserably. Things happen left, right and centre and all the while the most incredible cast delivers Lin-Manuel Miranda’s clever and witty lyrics. Usually I like to go into a new show unbiased, with little to no spoilers. In the case of Hamilton I knew the score inside out. And on this occasion that worked to my advantage. It is a word-heavy show and lyrics are delivered fast. I am convinced I would have missed important bits of the narrative if I had not known the score. Plus this gave me the chance to pay attention to everything else – lighting, choreography, the amazing dancers.

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Original Broadway Cast

Most of the original cast had already left when I saw the show but I can honestly say that did not affect my enjoyment one bit. Javier Munoz (formerly Lin-Manuel Miranda’s alternate) gives the performance of a lifetime as Hamilton. He commands the stage. And that voice – a pure pleasure to listen to.
Brandon Victor Dixon’s Aaron Burr is outstanding. The same goes for Mandy Gonzalez‘ Angelica Schuyler, Lexi Lawson’s Eliza Schuyler, Anthony Ramos‘ John Laurens/Philip Hamilton, Okieriete Onaodowan’s Hercules Mulligan/James Madison and Nicholas Christopher’s (understudy) George Washington. Then there’s Rory O’Malley’s hilarious King George – a true show stopper. Andrew Chappelle’s Lafayette/Thomas Jefferson is impressive even though he was the only one I struggled to understand at one point. But if you are familiar with the score you probably know that some of those lyrics have to be delivered at ridiculous speed. A special mention goes to Thayne Jasperson who is such an outstanding dancer I could hardly take my eyes off him.

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Javier Munoz as Alexander Hamilton

 

I will openly admit I was afraid Hamilton would end up being a slight disappointment simply because my expectations were so high. This show has been hyped to the roof and I was almost convinced it would never live up to said hype. I was wrong. That day I left the theatre both speechless and inspired and with the knowledge should I never get to see a musical ever again it would be alright. Because there is no way I am ever going to see a show again that will come close to Hamilton anyway. This is what perfection looks like – simple as that.

Shows like this come around maybe once in every generation. So when Hamilton opens at the Victoria Palace Theatre in London in 2017 you better go check it out.

„Look around, look around how lucky we are to be alive right now“ should be every London theatre fan’s catch phrase because you will get the chance to watch Hamilton. „Just you wait“.

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.