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Mary Page Marlowe at Second Stage Theatre

16 Jul

Sometimes a play comes along that just gets you – it hits something deep inside you and you cannot help but be swept away.

Tracy Letts’ play “Mary Page Marlowe” does that to me. It tells the story of an (extra)ordinary woman. Mary Page is no one special – she ist just a woman living her life with all its ups and downs. We see her carefree and full of dreams in her college years. We see her going through hard times later on in her life. We see loss, grief, anger, joy, hope and all the little things in between.


Played by six different actresses at ten stages of her life Mary Page finds her way into our hearts. She is not perfect. She fails more than once. She makes mistakes.

We first see her at age 40 – she is separating from her husband and relocating from Dayton, Ohio to Lexington, Kentucky. Her daughter Wendy is not pleased, her son Louis seems less bothered. And Mary Page is stressed out.

Set in non-chronological order the play highlights 11 scenes of Mary Page’s life. It is like flipping through a photo album, going back and forth and catching brief sights of past events. At age 19 she has her tarot cards read by her college roommate. One card tells her that she is in charge of her own destiny. “It’s up to decide what you want to do.”


Every scene tells us something about Mary Page and her life. But we hardly ever get the full picture. She was addicted to alcohol at one point – why and how that happened we can only guess. She had affairs, she may have had an abortion, something happened to her son Louis when he was 16 years old – maybe that is what spurred her drinking problem. Or maybe the drinking simply lays in the family. In one scene Mary Page is 10 months old and her hard-drinking father, who has returned from the war not long ago, sings her a saloon song after a harsh argument with her mother.

The structure is integral to the play. It is up to the audience to fill in the blanks and connect what is being revealed. And this is exactly what makes this play so remarkable. Life is not linear. Things happen and we might not know how important they are until we re-live them in our head later on. There are things we remember and things we decide to forget. Things that matter and things that do not. And it sometimes takes a lifetime to realise it.


This beautiful play is performed by a stellar cast of actresses and actors. Standing out are Tatiana Maslany as Mary Page age 27 and 36, Susan Pourfar as Mary Page age 40 and 44, Blair Brown as Mary Page age 59, 63 and 69 and Nick Dillenburg as Mary Page’s father Ed (played with incredible sensitivity and detail).

In the end Mary Page lives her life just like all of us. She struggles, she falls, she gets up again and goes on.

In the last scene we see her at age 63 at the dry cleaners in Lexington. Her last words are as simple as they are meaningful. When asked if she needs help (carrying things to her car) she responds “No. I got it.”

Mary Page Marlowe is playing at Second Stage Theatre until August 19th. For more info and tickets visit

Les Misérables – London

14 Jun

Les Misérables has long been one of the all time classics of London’s theatre scene. And ever since the release of the motion picture starring Hugh Jackman as Jean Valjean the musical’s popularity has reached new highs.

Les Miserable, 2015

Now in its 33rd year the show recently welcomed a new cast to the Queen’s theatre. Dean Chisnall now stars as Jean Valjean – the man who quite frankly gets into a whole lot of trouble for stealing a loaf of bread. Having recently appeared as The Narrator in Blood Brothers (UK Tour) this is Dean’s long overdue return to the West End. Jean Valjean is a role that requires both vocal and acting strength. And Dean is not short on either of those. He manages to give Valjean a vulnerability that makes it easy to relate to the convict who breaks his parole. At the same time his Valjean is determined and strong. He is haunted by his past but knows right from wrong and wants to be a good man. Vocally Dean handles the score with ease, his “Soliloquy” and “Bring him home” being a particular highlight.

David Thaxton continues as Javert until July 21st (Bradley Jaden takes over from July 23rd). His take on the role is unique and perfect in its very own way – Javert being driven by his hunt for Valjean and appearing to be on the edge of losing his mind. Combined with a strong voice this makes for a stand out performance. Seeing Dean and David on stage together is especially thrilling. Watching them literally puts you on the edge of your seat.

Elena Skye’s Eponine is exactly what I expect of the role – rough and a bit run down from what life has thrown at her, yet strong and witty with a will to be better than her parents. Eponine is not the pretty girl from next door and Elena portrays just that. Her “On my own” brings the house down and her longing for Marius is believable without being tacky.

Another strong new addiction to the cast is Amara Okereke as Cosette who does not drift into the “helpless girl” cliché too much which is all too easy with this role. And with her clear voice she manages to express Cosette’s feelings through the songs.

Toby Miles is a solid Marius with a good voice. However, the stand out amongst the students is Samuel Edwards’ Enjolras who shines every time he appears on stage. I will admit I am no fan of his wig – but that might be just me.

The Thenardiers, played by Steven Meo and Vivien Parry, provide most of the comic relief moments of the show with Vivien giving the strongest performance. Her Madame Thenardier is sarcastic to the bone and nasty as can be.

Carley Stenson gives a good performance as Fantine. Her “I dreamed a dream” is full of despair and pulls at the audience’s hearts.

It is great to see Les Misérables is still going strong at the Queen’s Theatre. The show proves that theatre is alive and kicking and will be for many years to come.

If you have not seen the show I suggest you do it now because Les Misérables is having a great year cast wise. And if you have seen the show before: Go again because you do not want to miss seeing all that talent on stage.

Les Misérables is playing at the Queen’s Theatre. For more info and tickets go to

Find the show on Facebook and Twitter @lesmisofficial .

*More pictures will be added once the new production shots have been released*


Working at Southwark Playhouse

20 Jun

Working – a song cycle giving a glimpse into the life of ordinary working people in America – opened at Southwark Playhouse for a strictly limited run earlier this month. The basis for this collection of mini stories are interviews conducted in the 1970s. Add Stephen Schwartz and Lin-Manuel Miranda (amongst others) to the mix and you have a pretty solid basis for a stellar show.

Working features a cast of six established musical theatre performers: Peter Polycarpou, Dean Chisnall, Liam Tamne, Krysten Cummings, Siubhan Harrison and Gillian Bevan. They are joined by six new drama school graduates who are making their professional debuts in this production.


There is no weak link in the cast and everyone on stage gets the chance to shine. I was particularly impressed by Peter Polycarpou’s “Fathers and Sons” and Dean Chisnall’s “Brother Tucker”. I also have to mention Gillian Bevan’s showstopping number about life as a waitress and Liam Tamne’s superb comic timing both as a delivery man and a call center agent. And special mention for Dean Chisnall’s appearance as both a golfer and a UPS man. Every scene, no matter how short, is a small highlight and I left the show with a big smile on my face because I knew I had just witnessed something very special.


In this show you will find stories of teachers and construction workers, of waitresses and truck drivers, of firemen and housewives – Working gives America’s working community a voice. It tells the audience about their struggles, their hopes, their fears and their dreams.


With a dazzling mix of musical styles and gripping choreography by Fabian Aloise this is a show that manages the leap between a relevant message and an entertaining night out. Working feels raw and real and beautifully honest.


Working is running at Southwark Playhouse until July 8th 2017. For more info and to book tickets visit

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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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

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.


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.


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.


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.


“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

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.

Sonja Friedman Productions


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.


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.


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.

Sonja Friedman Productions


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.


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

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.


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.


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.


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.


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

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.


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).


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?).


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.


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



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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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“.