Tag Archives: Rosalie Craig

The Light Princess at The National Theatre – 17th October 2013

21 Oct

The Light Princess is a show I have been waiting to see ever since it was first talked about. The whole idea of putting on a new musical centering around a floating princess with a score by Tori Amos just sounded very appealing to me from the start.

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The story is an adaption of a Scottish legend about a princess who is cursed to permanently float. Rosalie Craig plays said princess (Althea) and I’m not exaggerating when I say her performance is breathtaking through and through. After a while you believe she can actually fly simply because she makes the floating look so easy. For most parts of the show she is manipulated by a team of puppeteers which takes a short while of getting used to. You quickly forget they are there at all though. It’s quite similar to War Horse – I mean, Joey is a real horse, isn’t he?!
Rosalie’s acting and singing are flawless and thinking about how naturally she manages to belt out a song while hanging upside down still fills me with awe several days after the performance.

But while Rosalie’s performance is breathtaking the show itself has its flaws. There’s the story which doesn’t quite seem to know who it is aimed at. It’s a fairytale but it seems slightly too simple for the mature audience. On the other hand there are some elements that might not be suitable for a younger audience. In addition to that some parts of the story simply go on for too long. It feels as if aspects that have been established already are being dragged up again and again.
The set is stunning – especially at the beginning of act two – although it almost screams “Disney” in parts (plus some bird puppets seem to have been nicked from The Lion King).

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Nick Hendrix as Prince Digby does a good job but doesn’t really get the chance to shine next to Rosalie Craig. The same goes for Amy Booth-Steel as Piper. Overall this is a very strong cast that is slightly let down by the material they’ve been given to work with.

The score doesn’t appeal to me but that might just be down to personal taste. I prefer songs that get stuck in my head post show. And while there are some beautiful melodies in the show the music just doesn’t stand out for me and actually seems a bit repetitive after a while.

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While I’m generally happy to see a new musical I’m not sure this show will have a life after its run at The National Theatre. I’m genuinely wishing the show only the best though and I think Rosalie Craig has to win every awards she is eligible for. The Light Princess is a brave project with aspects of pure magic. However, it’s not a show for everyone and I fear it would struggle in a commercial West End Theatre.

The Light Princess is running at The National Theatre. For more info and to book tickets go to http://www.nationaltheatre.org.uk/shows/the-light-princess.

An Evening with Hadley Fraser – St. James Theatre, 28th October 2012

30 Oct

In my eyes Hadley Fraser is one of the most talented songwriters in the world of musical theatre. So the chance to see him perform some of his own material live on stage was just too good to miss out on. “An Evening with Hadley” Fraser took place at St. James Theatre on October 28th and featured Hadley (obviously) and his guest singers Rosalie Craig and Craig Mather.

Craig Mather is currently starring as Marius in Les Miserables at the Queen’s Theatre and he is definitely an extremely talented singer and musician. I hadn’t heard any of his own songs yet and I am pleased to report that the boy has another talent I didn’t know of so far: Songwriting. I’m sure we’ll hear more from this young man in the future.

Hadley himself performed a mix of his own material and some covers and I am happy to say that there couldn’t have been better song choices for this wonderful evening. Some of you will only know Hadley as a musical theatre performer (he recently played Javert in Les Miserables to rave reviews and you can catch him as Raoul on the Phantom of the Opera 25th Anniversary DVD). But there’s more to Mr. Fraser than “just” a fantastic voice and great acting talent. He is also an extremely gifted songwriter and musician – watching Hadley on stage playing the guitar while singing his own song is such a complete treat! He really puts his heart and soul into his music.

Personal favourites of the evening have to be “Heading West”, “Big Love’s Small” and “Driftwood” (the Sheytoons fan in me did a little jump for joy as soon as the song started). Plus I absolutely adored “Again” which has to be one of the most heartbreakingly beautiful songs ever written. It was great to have the composer of this fantastic song, Scott Alan there to accompany Hadley on piano. “River Take Me” (by Darrell Scott) was another highlight of the evening – such a powerful song performed beautifully by Hadley.

Rosalie Craig provided some wonderful backing vocals and treated the audience to a stunning version of Tori Amos’ “Baker Baker”. I have adored Rosalie’s voice ever since I first saw her on stage in Lord of the Rings (a show that will always have a special place in my heart). She’s one of those performers that will completely draw you into a song. She’s never just singing the lyrics, she is telling a story and you can’t help but be completely in awe of her performance. On a side note: Rosalie will be playing the lead in a new play at the National Theatre next year – something I am really looking forward to.

It was great to see such a wide mix of songs, from ballads, to uptempo songs to some good old bluegrass (again, I love myself a bit of Sheytoons). Hadley, his band and guests appeared to have the best time. There was great music, there were brilliant voices, there was banter and there were laughs (the highlight being a rather rude but funny discussion between Scott Alan and Matt Lucas who was in the audience that night) – all in all “An Evening with Hadley Fraser” was everything I had hoped for and more. I urge you to watch out for more gigs of the talented Mr. Fraser in the future. And generally make sure to check out his music – hopefully we’ll get the chance to buy his first solo album in 2013.

I’ll stop rambling now and will just let pictures speak. Below is my little photo gallery of the evening. As always, please don’t use these pictures anywhere else without asking. Thank you.

For some great videos of Saturday’s gig (27th October) check out Blue Eyed Girl’s Youtube channel: http://www.youtube.com/channel/UCkMYAxrbhrQWcyjRuLxVyFw.

And last but not least: The set list of the night. Big thanks to Tom Deering for sending this over to me!

Listen to the music
Coming around
Big love’s small
Furious ball
Heading West
Unbound
River take me (Hadley and Nick)
Baker Baker (Rosalie and Tom)
Just let go (Hadley and Sonya)
Herne & the red kite
On Constellation Street (Hadley)
Nureyev of SE19 (Hadley)
Take me away (Hadley)
Again (Hadley and Scott)
How many times
Africa
Driftwood
Someday
Encore (Hadley)

Finding Neverland at The Curve, Leicester – 5th October 2012

7 Oct

Who doesn’t know the story of Peter Pan, the boy who doesn’t want to grow up. But what about the story behind the story so to speak? What inspired the writer J. M. Barrie to create a play about a boy who lives in a far away land surrounded by lost boys, fairies and pirates? Finding Neverland tells just that. First a popular movie starring Johnny Depp and Kate Winslet the story has
now been transferred onto the stage at Leicester’s The Curve.

Julian Ovenden plays J. M. Barrie with a pure honesty and manages to catch the childlike attitude of the character without destroying his credibility. Rosalie Craig is Sylvia Llewelyn-Davies, a widow and mother of four boys who catches Barrie’s attention one day in a park. She gives her character such a warmth that it’s impossible not to love her. For me Rosalie is one of the most talented actresses in the UK these days who more than deserves all the praise she is getting.
Clare Foster plays Mary Barrie, the unhappy wife of J. M. Barrie. It’s fantastic to see how far Clare has come over the years and how much she has developed as an actress. She is perfectly cast in this show and gives Mary an almost aristocratic elegance without making her appear cold and unlikable.

Although not a lead part I have to mention Oliver Boot next who portrays Maximillian Blunt and Hook. Especially in the latter part he had me laughing out loud more than once with his spot on comic timing.
Stuart Neal as Elliot (the stage manager) is another highlight who has to be named. This is the fourth show I have seen him in and he once again manages to steal every scene he appears in.
Liz Robertson gives a solid performance as Sylvia’s mother who just wants what she thinks is the best for her daughter but loses sight of what makes Sylvia truly happy until it’s almost too late.

The rest of the cast does a marvellous job. The four boys I got to see were remarkably talented especially considering their age. The ensemble is spot on – a special mention for Norman Bowman and Ashley Hale who are once again a joy to watch on stage.
And let’s not forget the dog – he may be huge but he’s also the cutest thing I’ve seen on stage in a long time.

The staging of the show is stunning, simple as that. This is a production of West End standard – actually the whole set, props, lighting etc. are better than what you get to see in some West End shows these days. There’s a pirate ship, a proper car, some brilliant lighting effects – Finding Neverland just has it all.

So, is there anything I didn’t like? To be honest I’m not totally sure this show needs to be a musical. The songs were all lovely to listen to but they weren’t memorable for me. Personally I could see this do better as a proper play with a little more insight into the different characters. We didn’t really learn a lot about Sylvia’s illness for example so for someone who hasn’t seen the movie it might have been a bit difficult to understand what was happening.
It’s obvious the show has been changed a lot since the first preview and is basically still a work in progress. And although it’s not perfect, it has the potential to be huge. Finding Neverland takes the audience on a journey to discover their inner child and in the end it all comes down to one important question: Do you believe in fairies?

I do!

Finding Neverland is showing at The Curve in Leicester until 18th October.
For more info and to book tickets go to http://www.curveonline.co.uk .

Ragtime at Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre – July 14th 2012 (evening)

18 Jul

A visit to the Open Air Theatre in the middle of July. It seemed like a brilliant idea at the time of booking – a lovely summer evening and maybe a picnic before the show. In the end I spend about 3/4 of the performance sitting in the pouring rain (my wallet took 2 days to dry completely!).
But that’s the risk with performance spaces like Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre. I’ll just call this a challenge completed because yes, I did sit through the whole performance despite the weather.

But on to the show: Ragtime (based on E L Doctorow’s novel from 1975). This musical is all about life in Amerika at the beginning of the 20th century focusing on three different groups. There’s an upper-middle class family, a Jewish immigrant and his daughter and a black musician and his girlfriend. The lives of these people intertwine as they deal with issues such as immigration, politics, racism and social challenges of the time. The story is quite complicated but really interesting and well told. In case you want to take a closer look at it I recommend you read through the plot summary here: http://www.sparknotes.com/lit/ragtime/summary.html

This production has quite a modern feel to it with the big banner of President Obama in the background of the stage. I’m not too convinced by the set I have to admit. It looks a lot like a random garbage dump and reminds me of a set one would use for Cats. There’s a piano on one side of the stage where the house of Mother and her family is set and various scenes take place on a slight elevation on the left side of the stage. I know a set doesn’t have to be detailed or naturalistic but I just didn’t see the point in letting the characters walk around in a dump. That might be just my lack of understanding for a new and modern approach to this show though.

The cast is the real stand out in this production (with few exceptions). First of all there is the wonderful Rosalie Craig as Mother. She is without a doubt the star of the show and brings such a warmth to her character that is it impossible not to be impressed by her performance. Plus her voice is nothing but beautiful and suits the songs perfectly. Rolan Bell plays Coalhouse Walker (father of Sarah’s child and leader of the black group). He seems to struggle with the songs now and then and in my opinion his portrayal of the character is slightly too angry and imature which makes it hard to be on his side no matter what injustice he experiences.
Claudia Kariuki on the other hand brings a tear to the audience’s eye with her moving portrayal of Sarah, the black woman who first abandons her newborn child and is then invited to stay with Mother and her family.
John Marquez plays Tateh, the Jewish immigrant who comes to America with his little daughter in search for a better life, with a twinkle in the eye while never losing sight of the struggle the character goes through.
David Birrell gives a fabulous performance as Father and manages to give the audience a great insight into the inner turmoil of the character. His singing is spot on and I particularly enjoyed seeing him and Rosalie act together.
Both Harry Hepple and Jo Servi do a good job as Brother and Grandfather. I would have loved to hear Harry sing more as I loved his voice when I saw him in Pippin at the Menier Chocolate Factory.
I would like to give a special mention to Stephane Anelli (Harry Houdini) who never fails to make me smile with his amazing dancing and his great facial expressions (which can be hilarious if the part allows a funny interpretation). Special kudos for dancing like this on a wet and slippery stage and for performing those Houdini tricks (or rather stunts!) in the rain.

My one major criticism regarding the casting is the mixing up of gender and race. I have nothing against colour-blind casting, don’t get me wrong! But having a black guy play the white grandfather and a woman the male Booker T Washington just makes this already quite complicated piece even harder to understand. If Ragtime was a well-known musical it probably wouldn’t matter but most visitors will most likely never have seen the show and the different storylines are difficult enough to follow without adding cross-race and cross-gender casting.

As the title of the show suggests the score is very much influenced by the ragtime era so it has a jazzy and partly gospel feel to it and makes good use of the piano. The title song “Ragtime” is definitely a catchy tune and big ensemble numbers like “Till we reach that day” are quite spectacular to listen to. I probably wouldn’t listen to a lot of the songs at home but I really enjoyed them in context with the story.

Ragtime is certainly not an easy musical and I highly doubt it will please theatregoers that are focused on feel-good shows and who want to spent a relaxing evening at the theatre without having to think too hard (and there’s nothing wrong with that, I do it as well to get away from the busy and hectic everyday life now and then). However, if you want to see a show that intertwines history and fiction to tell a story of personal drama, change and everyday problems of people in America in the early 20th century this is the piece for you. This production is by no means perfect but the stellar cast alone is worth braving the British “summer” and spending an evening at the Open Air Theatre.

Ragtime is showing at Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre until September 8th. For more info and to book tickets go to http://www.openairtheatre.com/production/ragtime-the-musical.