Tag Archives: Stephane Anelli

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

14 Mar

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Singin’ in the Rain at the Palace Theatre – 23rd February 2013

27 Feb

With Singin’ in the rain still going strong at the Palace Theatre it was time for me to check out the new cast that has started in the show just a week ago. Some of you might remember my first review of the production in which I said this show has “restored my faith in musical theatre”. For me Singin’ in the rain is the perfect example of how wonderful musical theatre can be. It’s such a classic but it doesn’t feel dated at all. And you can’t help but leave the theatre humming the songs (personally I usually end up with “Good morning” in my head for days after I’ve seen the show).

Adam Cooper still stars as Don Lockwood, the star of silent movies. While he is not the strongest singer he makes up for it with his incredible dancing skills. Combine that with an all around likable and warm portrayal of the character and you’ve got a fantastic Don that charms himself into the hearts of the audience.

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Taking over as Cosmo Brown is Stephane Anelli who has previously starred in shows like Saturday Night Fever, Legally Blonde, Never Forget and most recently Ragtime and A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Although he has only been in the show for a short time his portrayal of Cosmo is already spot on. Stephane’s comic timing is absolutely perfect and he gives Cosmo a geeky charm that is almost impossible not to fall for. His Cosmo is funny but never loses his dignity – a perfect mix.

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Louise Bowden plays Kathy Seldon. Taking over from Scarlett Strallen she definitely has big shoes to fill but she does so brilliantly. Her and Adam work really well together and while I think Scarlett’s Kathy was a bit warmer I do enjoy Louise’s slightly less fragile portrayal of the part. It will be interesting to see how she develops the part over the next months.

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Jennifer Ellison has taken over as Lina Lamont and although I don’t dislike her in the part I think she is the one new cast member that has the most work to do. Her voice is very on and off when it comes to the high-pitched vocals that are so significant for Lina. She often falls back to an almost “normal” voice especially when she is singing. Hopefully she will manage to become more consistent over the months to come – once she nails the voice bit I think she will be a really good Lina.

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The rest of the cast does an all around brilliant job. A special mention goes to David Lucas who is hilarious as the Dialect Coach. Wonderful to see Adam Denman in his first big West End show – such a fantastic dancer. Joseph Prouse is once again a joy to watch on stage. For me he just makes every show that tiny bit more special.

Singin’ in the rain remains a highlight in the West End. This show just has it all – a good story that will make you smile, characters you will feel for and music and dancing that will make you tap your feet along.

Sadly this show is leaving the West End at the end of August. Please make sure you see it before the last drop of rain falls onto the stage. This is a true gem of a musical and a must see for every musical theatre fan.

Singin’ in the Rain is playing at the Palace Theatre. For more info and to book tickets go to http://www.singinintherain.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.