Tag Archives: Sandy Moffat

Jersey Boys at the Piccadilly Theatre – 8th August 2015

11 Aug

Some might remember the last time I watched Jersey Boys in the West End. It was 14 months ago and I left the theatre rather disappointed. The show I had been supporting for six years was lacking something and I just didn’t enjoy it anymore. I decided to take a break back then and I stuck to it (apart from one visit to the Broadway production last September).

But on Saturday I found myself taking my seat in the Piccadilly Theatre for the first time since that not so enjoyable performance in May 2014. Normally I don’t review a show again and again but I feel like I have to make it up to the show because it is such a vital part of my theatre going past in the West End and I don’t want my last words about it in this blog to be “It is no fun anymore”.

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So, just like last time Sandy Moffat was on for Frankie Valli. I admit I was worried because I just didn’t like his performance the first time I saw him. But it really needs to be said: Sandy has grown so much over the past months. His Frankie is well-defined and his vocals are good. He looks at ease on stage and handles the big numbers in the show well. He is not the most charismatic or unique Frankie but he fits in perfectly with the rest of the cast and delivers a great performance.

Ben Wheeler’s Tommy De Vito (understudying Jon Boydon) is just as outstanding and wonderful to watch as ever. He has been with the show from the very start and it is a joy to see how much effort he is putting into his performance. As a repeat visitor you will find little nuances that are one hundred percent unique for Ben’s Tommy. As a first time visitor you will see a perfectly balanced portrayal and one hundred percent commitment to the role.

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Edd Post is still in the show playing Bob Gaudio and he does so with a cheeky charm and great vocals. His Bob Gaudio goes from insecure young boy to “Bobby Businessman” in a convincing way – it’s a very slick and professional performance. And despite having been with the show for years Edd’s portrayal feels fresh and full of life.

Gary Watson has joined the cast as Nick Massi in March. I have seen Gary in a few productions over the years (from Saturday Night Fever to A Chorus Line and Fings aint what they used t’be) and he always struck me as a great singer, actor and dancer. In Jersey Boys the acting part is what it is most about and I was curious to see how a rather boyish looking Nick would work in the show. First of all, I am not easily pleased when it comes to Nick. So far only two actors have managed to convince me with their portrayal (Philip Bulcock and Mark Isherwood). Gary’s performance is solid and I can’t fault his portrayal as a whole. I’m not sure I like his intonation though. His voice seemed unnaturally deep and his Nick speaks with a strange slur that doesn’t do anything for me (apart from making me think Nick might have more than just a taste for alcohol). He leaves every single one of his sentence open which means some of Nick’s very on point one liners don’t come across as well as they should. But all in all I think Gary is a good addition to the cast. I have heard people praise his performance which is great – it doesn’t matter I’m not one hundred percent sure about his portrayal if the paying public enjoys seeing his take on the part.

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I’m not going to mention every single member of the current cast but I have to name a few more. Simon Adkins has returned to the show as Bob Crewe. There really are no words for how much I’ve missed him in Jersey Boys. In my eyes Simon is the ultimate Bob Crewe. No other performer has ever come close to his portrayal. In short: I am over the moon to have him back in the show.

Mark Isherwood’s Joey Pesci (understudying Matt Thorpe) is a pure delight to watch. He might not be the perfect fit for Joey but the fact he pulls of such a great performance nevertheless just shows what a great actor he is.

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Last not least: Matthew Hunt’s Gyp de Carlo (understudying Matthew Cutts). At first I thought he might be too young but I was definitely wrong. He oozes authority on that stage and just makes it work. He delivers a very impressive performance and is definitely my favourite new face in Jersey.

The rest of the cast does a good job. The show is in great shape which makes me happy. I will never be a dedicated return visitor again – those days are behind me now. But it’s good to know that I can pay my former second home a visit now and then and be sure I will have fun and leave the theatre with a smile on my face.

Jersey Boys continues at the Piccadilly Theatre. For more info and to book tickets go to http://jerseyboyslondon.com/

Jersey Boys at the Piccadilly Theatre – 3rd May 2014

6 May

It took me almost 2 months to finally go and check out Jersey Boys – the show that used to be one of my absolute favourites in the West End – in its new home. Now, before I sum up my thoughts I want to point out that I went with an open mind – even more so, I wanted to enjoy the show just as much as I had enjoyed it for the past 6 years.

First of all, I think the staging works well in the Piccadilly Theatre. Everything seems slightly smaller and it took me a few scenes to get used to props being wheeled on from the sides rather than appearing out of a trap door. I did feel the sound was rather flat in parts – I was missing the buzz I always felt when the big numbers came on in the Prince Edward Theatre. But that might have been due to my seat on the far stage left side of the auditorium since I haven’t heard anyone else complain about the sound so far.

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Ben Wheeler gave a faultless performance as Tommy DeVito. He was one of the reasons I chose this particular performance because I just adore his Tommy. He really makes the part his own and manages the mix between Tommy – the bully and Tommy – the charming man perfectly.

Edd Post’s Bob Gaudio has developed so much since he took over the part in March 2013. His singing is great and he gives Bobby a boyish charm and just the right amount of confidence.

I enjoyed Matt Nalton’s take on Nick Massi. For me Nick needs to be calm and collected right until his outburst in act two. Matt managed that well and I think he will be wonderful in the role once he has settled into it fully.

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Sandy Moffat was on for Frankie Valli and I had high hopes for his performance having seen him in several other shows (Rock of Ages and Dirty Dancing to name two). He has always impressed me with his voice and acting and I was happy when I found out he had been cast as alternate Frankie Valli. However, I have to say he didn’t convince me in this role. His acting was ok with room for improvement which is understandable considering it was only his second Frankie show. His singing was very inconsistent and he struggled with the falsetto. I realise this is one of the toughest singing parts in the West End but Sandy seemed to have problems hitting the high notes at all. I have heard other Frankies sing in a slightly lower key and that worked perfectly well. Obviously it is not on me to advise a singer on how to approach a song but personally I would love to hear Sandy give the lower key a try.

Out of the new guys and girls I enjoyed Graham Vick’s Gyp de Carlo (although he is technically not a new guy) and Rob Wilshaw’s Donnie / Knuckles the most. Sean Mulligan’s Bob Crewe was too over the top in parts for my liking. Emma Stephens gave a solid performance as Lorraine but didn’t stand out for me. And I couldn’t warm to Sophie Carmen-Jones’ Francine and Matthew Hunt’s Norman Waxman.

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All in all the show is not in a bad shape and I can’t fault the cast in general (after all it’s mostly down to personal preferences if someone enjoys a performer’s take on a role or not). But I admit I just didn’t enjoy the show like I used to. For me it was missing a certain sparkle and I sadly ended up being slightly bored and wanting it to end.

I’ve had a fantastic time watching Jersey Boys over the past 6 years but I won’t rush back to see the show again at the Piccadilly Theatre. It’s time to move on and leave Jersey behind. However, that shouldn’t stop you from watching the story of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons.

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

Rock of Ages at the Shaftesbury Theatre – 4th October 2012

8 Oct
I have reviewed Rock of Ages before but after the first big cast change just two weeks ago it’s definitely time for another look at one of the loudest and craziest shows in town.
 
Ross Hunter has taken over from Oliver Tompsett as Drew. Fans of musical theatre might know him from shows like We will rock you where he understudied the lead part of Galileo or Legally Blonde where he was understudy for Warner.
Good things first: I think Ross has a good voice and it’s impressive to see what he has achieved at such a young age. He manages the part just fine vocally and that alone isn’t an easy thing to do. However, for me he just doesn’t suit the part completely. He appears slightly uncomfortable on stage and even though he tries, I just don’t see a rock guy but rather a boy dressed up in rock clothes he doesn’t look natural in sporting long hair that simply doesn’t suit his type. It may be a thing of having to grow into the part and I’m looking forward to see how Ross develops in the part over the next weeks. But at this point he looks the most at home as Jazzy J – the boyband kind of guy.
 
Tim Howar is the new Stacee Jaxx. I’ve been seeing Tim on stage since 2004 and for me he has always been at his best when given a part that allows him to rock and work the crowd. This show makes no exception to that rule. Tim’s Stacee is a true rock star, completely full of himself and slightly oblivious to the fact that he has passed the peak of his career long ago. While I did like Shayne Ward’s portrayal I think Tim is a lot more suited to play an ageing rock star (I’m not calling Tim old here!). Plus he has the bonus of that killer rock voice. For me Tim is the best addition this show could ever get – a great actor with a brilliant voice who portrays Stacee’s arrogance without going completely over the top.
 
Natalie Andreou continues as Sherry. Ever since taking over the part full-time early on in the show’s run she has proven that she is absolutely perfectly cast. Her Sherry is funny and likeable and she’s got a great voice to match her brilliant acting.

Simon Lipkin’s Lonny is the star of the show, there is now denying that. He’s hilariously funny and it’s almost impossible to not watch him whenever he is on stage – even when he’s only dancing as part of a female background chorus.
Plus his ad libs are the highlight of every show – there’s no question that this guy is a hugely talented performer with a real feel for comedy, something not many performers have to that extend.
 

Sandy Moffat and Jodie Jacobs remain in the cast as Franz and Regina. And I’ve said it before: I love them both in their parts. And yes, the German jokes still make me laugh!
 
 
Daniel Fletcher has taken over from Justin Lee Collins as Dennis Dupree. First impression: He is tall!! Daniel gives a solid performance but I do think he needs some time to settle into the part. The interaction between him and Simon isn’t as good as it could be but I’m sure that is just a matter of time. 

The rest of the cast does well although I did miss Amy Thornton and Zizi Strallen. Great to have Tim Driesen back on a West End stage. I’m very much looking forward to seeing him as Drew sometime soon. And it’s always nice to see Scarlette Douglas on stage even if it’s only in her swing part.

Rock of Ages continues to be a fun show. It doesn’t pretend to be anything more than it is: A rock musical with some great 80ties tunes and cheesy jokes built around a simple storyline. It’s not Sondheim and it’s certainly not for everyone. But do I like it? Hell yes!!
 
 
Rock of Ages is playing at the Shaftesbury Theatre until 6th January (before moving to another, yet to be confirmed theatre from 18th January).
 
For more info and to book tickets go to: http://www.rockofagesmusical.co.uk/

Rock of Ages – Oct 1st 2011 (eve)

10 Oct

I’m guessing a lot of you have read the reviews for Rock of Ages. Calling them mixed might be pushing it. So let’s be honest, most of them were poor – the critics obviously don’t like having their face melted. Do I care? Hell no! I couldn’t care less about what the critics think. I had a brilliant time at Rock of Ages and since I missed out on seeing Oliver Tompsett it was set in stone right after my first visit that I’d be back for more soon.

 

However I seem to attract understudy shows. This time it was Dylan  Turner as Stacee Jaxx, Nathan Amzi as Lonny and once again Natalie Andreou as Sherrie – understudy central on a Saturday evening.

But first of all on to the man of the evening: Oliver Tompsett. I loved his Fiyero in Wicked and have always wanted to see him in a show that would give him the opportunity to show off his amazing voice. And Rock of Ages does exactly that – Oliver’s voice and those catchy rock tunes are the perfect mix. If you think that guy can’t rock – think again. And he’s not only a fantastic singer but also a great actor. His Drew had just the right amount of boyish charm and his connection to the audience was spot on.

Him and Natalie worked really well together. I do want to see Amy Pemperton (after all she’s a former Jersey Girl) but I won’t be disappointed when Natalie is on again next time I’m watching the show. Honestly, she’s so unbelievably cute (I do think the make up is a bit too much but then that’s part of the show) and I really like her voice.

Dylan Turner did a good job as Stacee Jaxx however he did lack Shayne’s charisma and stage presence. I wasn’t too keen on Nathan Amzi as Lonny I have to say. Granted it was his first day in the part but for me he didn’t seem comfortable on stage. Although I admit that I laughed out loud when he read from the Rock of Ages brochure telling Oliver: “Oh that’s not me, that’s the guy I’m covering for.” Pure genius! Maybe he just needs some more performances to settle into the part. And it is hard to step into the shoes of Simon Lipkin anyway. That guy steals the show the moment he walks on stage.

Once again I loved Sandy Moffat’s Franz. Him and Jodie Jacobs are a joy to watch and “I’m not gay, I’m just German” will never fail to amuse me.
Justin Lee Collins seems to really live Dennis by now. His acting is so natural and his comic timing is perfect. He’s not the greatest singer but he manages the songs really well.

Having seen the show only twice so far it’s a bit hard for me to tell who was covering who in the ensemble but it looked like there were less people on stage than usual. But then that’s no wonder with 3 understudies on that evening. I hope this won’t end up with crazy cut shows (Legally Blonde springs to mind). The show is exhausting enough the way it is for the whole cast.

 

Rock of Ages once again proved to be exactly what it wants to be: Cheesy, trashy and a whole lot of fun. Don’t expect Shakespeare, don’t expect Sondheim – just stop thinking and analysing and simply enjoy and laugh. Trust me, in this hectic and busy world that’s exactly what a lot of us need now and then. I’m sure about one thing: This hasn’t been the last time I’ve had my face melted.

Rock of Ages at the Shaftesbury Theatre

21 Sep

I was tempted to do the shortest review ever for Rock of Ages and just go “Cheezy, random… awesome!”. That show is simply hilarious! To put together a musical like this you have to be either drunk, on drugs or be all around mad… andI mean that in a nice way. I won’t do a summary of the story because let’s be serious: The story is absolutely not important. This is a show to have fun, to laugh until you’re crying, to sing along (and that’s coming from me who usually hates a singing audience in a theatre) and to “get your face melted”. I’m tempted to say that the Shaftesbury Theatre might finally have another hit show after being the home of way too many failure shows in the past (though some of them were fantastic in my eyes – I loved Flashdance, for example).

But on with the review. First of all if you want to really get involved in the show I suggest you try your luck with day seats. Avoid the front row though and go for second row as the stage really is very high (and that is coming from someone who is used to sitting in front row at Jersey Boys). I was sat in second row and had a great view for only 25 quid. Complete bargain!

I admit I was a bit disappointed when I heard that Oliver Tompsett was off (but then everyone can get sick plus it gives me the perfect excuse to go and watch the show again).
However, his understudy Jamie Muscato was absolutely fantastic. I think this was his second performance as Drew (the first having been the matinee on the same day) but it certainly never showed. He looked the part, he acted the part and he sounded the part. What a fantastic rock voice! There was one more understudy and that was Natalie Andreou who did a great job as Sherrie. I do want to see Amy Pemberton, who I remember as the original Lorraine in Jersey Boys London but I’ll go and see Natalie again any time. Her and Jamie worked really well together and seemed to have a fantastic time on stage.

Although Justin Lee Collins (Dennis) and Shayne Ward (Stacee Jaxx) are advertised as the “stars” of the show, in my eyes that crown belongs without a doubt to Simon Lipkin. The man is simply hilarious as Lonny (showing off a mullet and all). Granted, we’re not talking about defined humor here but rather straight in the face flat laughs. But that’s what this show is for. If you live for Sondheim this show is most likely not for you. Having said that, I myself do love Sondheim. On the other hand I can also have a light hearted night out at the theatre without deep thoughts and feel good about it.

Coming back to the “stars” of the show. Justin Lee Collins is funny (ok, one might have expected that) and his singing abilities are actually better than I thought. He’s more than a bit entertaining as bar owner Dennis. And his “romantic duet” with Simon Lipkin had me in stitches!
Shayne Ward, that guy who won the X-Factor back in 2005, is a surprisingly good actor. Yes, Rock of Ages is no Shakespeare but even a rather one dimensional character like Stacee Jaxx needs to be portrayed in a convincing way. And Shayne’s Stacee is fabulous – the perfectly sterotyped Rockstar who is completely full of himself.

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Special Kudos to the fantastic Sandy Moffat as Franz (I’m not gay, I’m German). I seriously couldn’t stop laughing whenever he was on stage. Jodie Jacobs who I have seen in various shows (and she was brilliant in all of them) as Regina was absolutely awesome. I just wish she’d have more chances to show off that belter of a voice she’s got. Would definitely love to see her as Sherrie.

So to sum it up: What exactly is Rock of Ages? To tell you the truth, I’m not quite sure. It’s not your regular jukebox musical. Beer being sold during a performance, lots (and I mean LOTS) of glitter, fake lighters to wave in the air (and yes, they are being used throughout the show), trashy clothes, trashier hairstyles and a completely bland yet entertaining story. It’s really something you will either love or hate. I can’t imagine someone watching the show and saying “I thought it was ok” afterwards. This is a loud and crazy night out. Just stop thinking and allow yourself to have fun without analysing what exactly you are seeing on stage. And I’m quite sure you will have a great time. If not, well – not every show is for everyone and how boring would life be if we all liked the same kind of shows.

Roa

Rock of Ages is showing at the Shaftesbury Theatre, London. For more info visit http://www.rockofagesmusical.co.uk/