Tag Archives: Victoria Hamilton-Barritt

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.

In the Heights at King’s Cross Theatre – 18th October 2015

20 Oct

The moment you enter King’s Cross Theatre to watch the eagerly awaited return of last year’s production of In the Heights you know you are in for something special. The foyer has been transformed to fit the theme of the show. New York Metro maps are hanging on the wall, there’s graffiti decoration, chain of lights hanging from the ceiling and salsa/latin music is filling the air.
All of this sets the mood for a show that had its European premiere at Southwark Playhouse last year (find my review here).

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The first thing I noticed is how vibrant and alive this production feels. From the first appearance of Graffiti Pete right until Usnavi leaves the stage at the end of the show In the Heights oozes energy. One of the things I loved most about the Southwark Playhouse production was the intimate setting. And I am happy to report that this intimacy has not been lost in the new venue. You still feel like you are right in the middle of the story – transported from cold London right into the heat of Washington Heights.

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And there you meet Usnavi, Sonny, Nina, Benny, Vanessa, Abuela, Daniela, Kevin and Camila, all of them fighting their own battle, trying to live their life in the neighbourhood. In the Heights tells a universal story – we all have our struggles and each of us can probably relate to at least one character in the show and their problems: The fear of not being good enough, the struggle to fit in, lack of money and so on.

Sam Mackay once again steps into the role of Usnavi and gives what I would call a career-defining performance. He doesn’t just “rap” the lyrics – he tells a story, a story that he seems to truly live and breathe for the duration of the show. It’s one of those performances that you will remember for a lifetime.

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Another stand out in the show is without a doubt Victoria Hamilton-Barritt who appears to have endless supplies of energy. Her Daniela is witty and a little saucy but always likable.

Lily Frazer is a new addition to the cast. She shines as Nina with clear vocals and great acting. Together with Joe Aaron Reid (Benny) she provides some of the most emotional moments in the show.

There really is no weak link in the cast and I could go on and on about how wonderful each and everyone on stage is but in the end this is something you should go and experience for yourself. One thing that I want to say is how truly amazing it is to see this talented cast put their heart and soul into the show. It is clear that this is not just a job for them but an experience they cherish and want to share with the audience.

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In the Heights makes me laugh and cry, it makes me want to get up and dance. This is an inspiring show about love, fear, hope, loss and friendship. It’s a vibrant story about everyday life in Washington Heights – musical theatre has never felt more real and alive.

In the Heights is running at King’s Cross Theatre until January 3rd 2016. For more info and to book tickets visit http://www.intheheightslondon.com/.

Update: The show is now booking until April 10th 2016. Don’t miss it! 

In the Heights at Southwark Playhouse

28 May

In the Heights was one of the shows I watched on my trip to Broadway back in 2009. I remember having really high expectations after hearing nothing but praise for the show and ending up being slightly disappointed. Whilst I loved the amazing dance scenes in the show the story left me somewhat cold and I didn’t feel any connection with the characters.

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So this time I was prepared for 2 hours of great dancing and some nice songs but nothing more – talk about putting your expectation at the lowest possible level! What I certainly didn’t expect was a production that is so full of energy and so intoxicating it almost swept me off my feet (or better: my seat). And now I finally get what makes In the Heights so special, what I have missed out on when I saw the show on Broadway. This intimate production at Southwark Playhouse is in my eyes superior to the Original Broadway production. Drew McOnie’s slick choreography is nothing but amazing and the cast – a mix of West End favourites and new faces – tells the story of Usnavi, Vanessa, Nina and the rest of the people in the neighbourhood with such passion, you can’t help but feel connected to everyone on stage.

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Sam Mackay is mesmerising as Usnavi – he made me laugh and he made me cry. Emma Kingston is a wonderful Vanessa and Christina Modestou is just as brilliant as Nina. Victoria Hamilton-Barritt (once again) plays the feisty character with a good heart and (once again) she is a joy to watch. David Bedella gives a solid performance as Kevin while Josie Benson (Camilla) receives one of the biggest rounds of applause for her solo song in act two. A special mention goes to Jonny Labey as Graffitti Pete – I couldn’t take my eyes off him whenever he started to dance. This young man sure has a big career ahead of him.

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I cannot praise this production enough. It is wonderful to see how much heart and soul everyone has been put into this show. In the Heights is a tale of life, love, friendship and hope and an example of what you can achieve when you believe in yourself and don’t give up.

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The show is running at Southwark Playhouse until 7th June 2014. The rest of the run is sold out but there is a chance of return tickets and I urge everyone to try and get their hands on a ticket. This is one of those rare opportunities to see a show that has it all – great songs, brilliant dancing, the most amazing voices,a story that – while not extremely deep – will engage you emotionally and a through and through fantastic cast.

For more info check out http://www.southwarkplayhouse.co.uk .