Is Theatre A Dying Art Form?

Written by Sophie Reed

Earlier this week an article written by Stuart Heritage caused anger throughout the musical theatre community. The article was in response to the announcement of the cast of BBC’s 6 Part version of Les Misérables. Heritage said he was thankful for the BBC for the adaptation of Victor Hugo’s novel that doesn’t have the ‘annoying singing.’ The most dreaded line was ‘theatre is a dying art form.’ This statement shocked and angered actors and fans alike, even I had a few words to say about it. This is what encouraged me to write this. There is so much you can write about it, you can’t fit it into a single tweet, or a thread.

There was a time, I believe, when it could be argued that theatre was a dying art form. Where musicals on the West End and Broadway were barely lasting a year. If I were to put a date on the most recent decline, it was probably around mid to late 2000’s. Maybe it’s because the shows weren’t good quality, or maybe even that audiences weren’t interested in seeing shows at the time. Right now, the West End is solid. We have shows that are staying because of the popularity with the audience. I can name loads off the top of my head: The Lion King, Wicked, Phantom of the Opera, Thriller, Les Misérables, Kinky Boots.

The dedication of the fans makes all the difference. Especially when the musicals have been on the West End for a long time. I’m taking from my own personal experience here. Although I had seen musicals before then, the musical that made me fall truly and deeply in love with musicals was Phantom of the Opera. My mum is a big fan of the musical and even saw the Original Cast 7 times! Seeing the show justified why she was so captivated by it. Because My Mum was in her late teens/early twenties when these ALW and B&S musicals came out, like so many people, their children grew up with the songs and now we have a whole new generation of fans who have now grown up and now seeing shows.

I really think I can’t do this post without talking about Hamilton. It took the world by storm and interested people that wouldn’t listen to musicals and because they like Hamilton, they listen to other musicals. Hamilton has brought in more people into the community. Also, how can you say Theatre is dead when Hamilton is sold out until May? Like, seriously?!

Original Broadway Cast

Hamilton

It’s not just musicals, The Mousetrap, The Woman in Black, The Play That Goes Wrong. All Plays that have been running on the West End for more than a couple of years. The Mousetrap is the West End’s longest-running show. Yes, plays don’t usually have a long run, but there still are some that stick. Even The Ferryman, which opened last year is doing amazingly well!

Yes, the recorded performances and film adaptations have probably stopped people from seeing the stage show, however, there is nothing like the exhilarating thrill of live theatre. The film sometimes encourages people to see the show live, because the film will always be different to the musical.

I wanted to write a response to this statement because it made me really think about my degree. I’m studying Film and Screen Media. This degree doesn’t just teach me about Film and the Media as a whole, but question it. Even though I’m looking forward to the adaptation of Les Misérables and I do watch live broadcast television, it can be argued that live television is a dying art form. Everything is going online, Netflix, Amazon Prime, IPlayer. People don’t want to sit in front of a television and watch normal TV.

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Charlie’s Top 10 Shows of 2017! 

By Charlie White

So this year I have been lucky enough to see some incredible shows and trying to rank them  has been one of the toughest decisions ever! But here we go, my top 10 shows of this year are…

10: The Wild Party

The Other Palace

A rather adult themed show involving a group of people in the 1920s throwing a party which got a bit out of control (to put it lightly). I think the general concept was good and the people were great, just didn’t really have enough substance for me.

9: Priscilla Queen of the Desert

Courtyard Theatre, Hereford

A fun loving heart warming story which tells the tale of drag queens making there way across australia to perform their act. But for one of them, there’s a slightly more personal motif for heading on the road. Even though this was just an amateur production, the talent was amazing and it was such a fun show with all the cheesy hits you know and love.

8: The Wedding Singer

Touring

I managed to see this on tour with the wonderful Jon Robyns playing ‘casualty of love’ wedding singer Robbie Hart who gets his heart broken on his wedding day. He then meets a certain young woman who might just be able to fix it…whilst helping to plan her wedding! Classic 80s vibes and really enjoyable show (plus Jon Robyns is super talented and hilarious in this role).

 7: Mamma Mia

Novello Theatre

Using the great well known Music of Abba, this show takes us on a journey to a Greek island where a young girl is about to be married, but before she does , she wants her father to walk her down the aisle. The problem is, she has invited all 3 possible dads! Great night out with all the Abba hits and loveable characters with a heart warming story.

 6: Aladdin

Prince Edward Theatre

The classic Disney tale of the diamond in the rough who goes from ‘street rat’ to Prince Ali and shows Princess Jasmine a whole new world whilst trying to stop the evil doings of the royal advisor, Jafar. Great show stopping numbers like Friend Like Me, this is a perfect pick for the younger ones.

 5: 42nd Street 

Theatre Royal Drury Lane

With the biggest cast in the West End, 42nd street is a spectacle of dancing feet as they try to get to Broadway but with the leading lady Injured, can they convince newbie Peggy Saywer to step in and wow the audience. The sheer size of this cast makes it very impressive with toe tapping numbers like lullaby of Broadway, it’s a definite crowd pleaser.

 4: Our Ladies of Perpetual Succour

Duke of York’s theatre

When a group of young Scottish girls go to Edinburgh for a choir competition, they decide to see what sort of trouble they can get up to (the answer is quite a lot). But whilst beautifully singing classic songs from ELO, we see how each of the girls find themselves as we witness this journey of discovery. The music was a great accompaniment to the story and the harmonies were spot on!

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 3: Half A Sixpence 

Noel Coward Theatre 

Years after Arthur Kipps leaves his childhood sweetheart to work selling haberdashery, his life changes when he discovers he’s come in to a large amount of money. Living the life of luxury, he courts a fine young lady from a wealthy family. However, when he is reunited with his childhood sweetheart, he wonders if he’s made a mistake. I actually thoroughly enjoyed this show, Charlie Kemp really does shine and the energy in this show is fabulous!

 2: The Toxic Avenger 

Arts Theatre 

A town called Tromaville in the state of New Jersey has a new smell in town..it’s giant vats of toxic nuclear waste! So who will save New Jersey? Melvin ferd the third! After being tossed in to the nuclear waste, he came out a ‘big green freak’ but luckily he’s in love with a visually impaired librarian (thank God she’s blind!) and he uses his new found powers to save the town from Jersey girl mayor Belgoody and the toxic nuclear waste. This show was so hilarious my cheeks actually ached from smiling and laughing so much and David Bryant did a fantastic job with the soundtrack.  Click here to read our full review of The Toxic Avenger!

 1: Lizzie the Musical

Greenwich Theatre

The infamous story of Lizzie Borden and the unfortunate death of her father and step mother told in unique way. With a cast of just 4 incredibly talented women, a fantastic rock score goes alongside this gothic mystery based on a true case of what might have happened in the House of Borden. I have to admit I was a bit unsure when I first went to see it but by the end I absolutely fell in love with it. The girls rocked it with insane voices,  a unique story and it’s such a shame it didn’t get a longer run. Click here to read our full review of Lizzie The Musical!

Nathan’s TOP 10 SHOWS of 2017!

By Nathan Deane

Ah, yes. The time has come for us to look back on what we saw in 2017 and put together our top 10 of the shows we saw.  I’ve been working on mine for the past week, and now I’ve seen my last new piece of theatre for the year, here’s my top 10!

10: tick, tick…BOOM!

Park Theatre

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“tick, tick…BOOM!” is Johnathan Larson’s autobiographical musical, often overshadowed in the success of his other musical, Rent. The production was directed by Bronagh Lagan, produced by Aria Entertainment and Joe C Brown, and starred Chris Jenkins, Gillian Saker and Jordan Shaw. This production was immersive, minimal and wonderful. I thoroughly enjoyed every minute of it.

9: Bananaman: The Musical

Southwark Playhouse

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Based on the comic strip and animated TV series, Bananaman tells the story of Eric Wimp, an average schoolboy, who turns into a superhero (the titular Bananaman) whenever he eats a banana. Directed by Mark Perry, produced by Sightline Entertainment and starring a large cast, the show is brand new for 2017 and was an extremely fun, camp and silly night out.

8: Hair

The Vaults

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Back for it’s 50th anniversary, Hair tells the tale of a tribe of hippies in New York’s Central Park. This production was fresh, vibrant and extremely fun. Read my full review of Hair here.

7: Lady Day At Emmerson’s Bar and Grill

Wyndham’s Theatre

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Starring the incomparable Audra McDonald, Lady Day shows us one of Billie Holiday’s very last concerts before her death in the 60’s. The show is painfully beautiful, and Audra’s performance as Billie Holiday was truly spectacular. The play made me cry, laugh and feel many different emotions. I was lucky to have been able to see the show twice.

6: Everybody’s Talking About Jamie

Apollo Theatre

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One of London’s newest musicals, Everybody’s Talking About Jamie tells the true story of Jamie, a 16 year old boy who wants to be a drag queen and go to prom in a dress. The story was relatable, emotional and often funny. John McCrea is a real star in the making, and Dan Gillespie-Sells’ music is catchy and modern.

5: The Toxic Avenger

The Arts Theatre

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Taking the mick out of superhero movies is a tricky game, but The Toxic Avenger does exactly that. And it’s hilarious. Read my full review of The Toxic Avenger HERE!

4: The Wild Party

The Other Palace

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Gin, skin, sin and fun are four words to describe this devilishly delightful show. This show was sexy, emotional and…wild. The cast were sensational, and Michael John LaChiusa’s music is terrific. It tells the story of Queenie and Burrs, two love-birds stuck in a relationship going nowhere. To spice things up a bit, they throw a party fuelled by bathtub gin, sex, and cocaine. It also features themes like murder, racism, and various other things…some worse than others.

3: Pinocchio

The National Theatre

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Colourful, wonderful, and magical. This show can brighten even the darkest winters. Read my full review of Pinocchio HERE!

2: Our Ladies of Perpetual Succour

Duke of York Theatre

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What happens when 6 Scottish schoolgirls go out on the town in Edinburgh before the nation’s biggest choir competition? Well, that’s what Our Ladies is all about. The fiery cast of 6 girls backed by a 3 piece band, singing songs ranging from Mendelssohn to ELO made hairs stand on end. The story is wonderful, it’s not just about girls getting wasted, it’s about discovering yourself in your teenage years. And that’s a tricky thing to get right, but Our Ladies of Perpetual Succour did it beautifully.

1: Lizzie

Greenwich Theatre

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4 women singing killer rock and roll songs in tight leather whilst telling the story of American murderess Lizzie Borden? Sounds epic. And this show was epic. Only playing 20 performances means only a small handful of people got to experience this fierce production. Let’s hope it gets a revival soon! Read my full review of Lizzie HERE!

REVIEW: Pinocchio @ National Theatre

Reviewed by Nathan Deane

When you hear the name Pinocchio, you’ll probably think of the 1940 Disney movie. A lot of people don’t know, however, that Pinocchio is based on a children’s novel written in 1883 by Carlo Collodi, an Italian writer. So when a lot of families walk into the Lyttleton Theatre at the National Theatre to see the new musical version of Pinocchio by Dennis Kelly, they’re probably not going to realise that this is a combination of the original story and the Disney film. The original story was a much, much darker tale of boyhood and Dennis Kelly went about translating the darkness of the original story onto the stage, with the help of Martin Lowe, who adapted the five original songs from the Disney film to be suited for a full-length musical.

Visually, this show is stunning. The design, by John Tiffany, is the most beautiful set design I’ve seen all year. The use of ladders on wheels to represent faraway houses, a bridge, and cars, for example, is extremely creative. The set was a lot less whimsical than what was happening in the show as if to say that the characters are living in a normal world – not a fantasy world.

The role of Pinocchio is played by Joe Idris-Roberts whos boy-like energy and wonder are spectacular. He really captures the spirit of a boy seeing the world around him for the first time perfectly, and his movement to make him seem wooden is great. But what’s a puppet without his maker?

The role of Gepetto, and all the other adult parts really, are played by large rod-operated puppets, designed by Bob Crowley. This is a unique way to show the size of Pinocchio compared to others, and it works. Each puppet has four or five puppeteers operating it, one of which is the voice actor for the puppet. It took some time to get used to, but it was extremely creative and it fits the story, too!

Audrey Brisson plays the conscience everyone knows and loves, Jiminy Cricket. Jiminy is portrayed by a small puppet, operated by Audrey and another puppeteer, James Charlton. The two worked brilliantly as a team to operate Jiminy, and Audrey’s portrayal of the character is hilarious. In this version of the story, Jiminy is a female hypochondriac who is very easily annoyed by Pinocchio.

Other standout performances for me were by Dawn Sievewright as Lampy, one of the boys from Pleasure Island. Lampy is aggressive and cocky and suffers a horrible fate. Do you remember that scene from the film in which the boys at Pleasure Island are turned into Donkeys? Yeah? Well, imagine that…just in real life. That scene turned dark super quickly, but it helped to keep the atmosphere going. Jack Wolfe played Waxy only briefly but he was a standout performer. His character made me laugh a lot and his interactions with Lampy and the rest of the cast were brilliant. And you can’t forget the story’s villain, The Fox, played by David Langham. David brought a completely new take on the part. In the film, the Fox was a smooth-tongued, persuasive and charming animal. Whilst the Fox, in this version, is persuasive, he looks and feels truly evil, a trait that David plays really well.

The show really only had the five songs from the Disney film in it. I didn’t sense any new original material. Because there were only five songs and various reprises of those songs, I feel this show is more of a play with songs than a musical.

Overall, I really loved this piece. From the set design, to the puppets and to the actors, this show is one not to be missed over the Christmas season!

5stars

 

REVIEW: Mad On Her @ Above The Arts Theatre, London

Reviewed by Rhiannon Templeman-Horton

An 80s Jukebox musical sounded like it would be a great night, so I decided to give ‘Mad On Her’ at the Arts Theatre, a go.

Mad On Her is based on a range of 80s songs, where a man falls desperately in love with a girl on a night out at Lynn’s Bar. His then fiancé Cindi appears to ruin things for Donna, a fashion designer wannabe.

I would say that there are a few tweaks for this show, as it’s their first performance at this location, but after seeing the show, I learnt that they had already done a run on the Fringe and in Manchester, and people have picked up on the same things.

From the very beginning of the show, a lot of things went wrong. A mic was dropped, and although one actor remained in character to pick up the mic and give it back to the one who dropped it, the one who dropped it made it obvious that it was a mistake. The mics were an issue throughout the whole of the first act. I would usually understand this if the actors managed to carry on without the mics and project without breaking character, but this is something they didn’t manage to do. I feel that the mics were an unnecessary prop, and because of the small space, they could have worked without. They relied far too much on having a mic there, that they didn’t have strong enough voices when they weren’t working,

However, Laura Wilson who played Cindi, I would argue, saved the show. After feeling awkward through much of the first act, she came on with a very strong performance. She has an extremely powerful voice, that brought the house down, and although her acting was extremely over the top, it suited the character well and got a lot of laughs from the audience. She played the desperate ex-lover perfectly and added comedy to the show. Phoebe Rose White is also another actress that stood out with her performance. She made some strong acting decisions that made the show feel less awkward and uncomfortable.

The ensemble were all incredible dancers, but a critique I would make against the amount of dance they did is that it drowned out the main characters and made the story within the show a sideline. Also, due to the small space within The Arts Theatre Studio, I was nearly kicked multiple times in the face by one of the dancers, making me feel a little uncomfortable.

Something that added to the uncomfortable feeling I felt during the show, was the performance from James Colebrook as Rikki. He was given some very powerful songs, that he didn’t have a strong enough vocal ability to sing. He also only acted when he had dialogue so that when there was a pause, you are waiting for some action, as you see no response from him. This was similar to Sarah Watson who played the role of Donna, yet she was good at acting when she wasn’t distracted by the mic not working. She has a very strong voice in the higher range, but when she was in the lower end of her range, it sounded like her voice had lost all strength.

The characters were very forgettable, as they didn’t say the character’s names very clearly, so I ended up not knowing who the characters were, and what their relevance was to the show. There was a moment when Phoebe Rose White was singing to comfort Donna, but she was standing on the other side of the stage, barely lit, and this completely took you attention away from her and onto the 3 girls on the other side of the stage that were only sitting on the floor, and trying to comfort Donna. It would’ve been best if she was with the 3 girls on the other side of the stage and lit, to create a connection.

This show is not a show I’d recommend seeing, as I feel like the performances from the main cast were very dead, and the performances from the ensemble were so big that the main cast looked even worse.
3-stars
Mad On Her runs until the 3rd of December at the Above The Arts Theatre, within the Arts Theatre London. Tickets here.

 

 

 

He’s Here…- The Phantom of the Opera New Cast Review

Reviewed by Sophie Reed

Phantom of the Opera, a timeless classic that has been running on the West End for 31 years. I went to see the new cast at the evening show of the 19th of October and was thoroughly impressed. For me, it’s in my top 5 favourite musicals and I can be quite critical when it comes to the performance. Along with this performance, I’ve seen the show 3 times live on stage and this performance definitely lived up to my expectations.

The first actor I’ve got to talk about is Ben Lewis who has just taken over as the Phantom. Ben is probably most well known for playing the Phantom in the shows sequel, Love Never Dies, a performance which I have seen and wasn’t very fond of. Because of this, I was quite anxious about what he would be like as the younger Phantom. Ben is most definitely better suited to Phantom than to Love Never Dies. There was something about the Phantom score that is better suited to his voice. In addition, for someone who has only be playing the role on stage for a month, it came very naturally to him. I don’t know whether if this was because he’s played another version of the Phantom before, but if not, god he was good. My favourite part of his performance was in the Final Lair when Raoul shows up. Ben, just sits on his throne, utterly bored at Raoul’s pleas to see Christine. His ‘Your lover makes a passionate plea’ was more mocking than it was threatening. Also, in ‘Stranger Than You Dreamt It’ the difference between masked and unmasked Phantom was so clear, he wasn’t just using the mask to cover his physical problem, but also his emotional problems. It was nice to see a different take that I hadn’t seen before.

The next member of the company that needs to be discussed is Kelly Mathieson, who played the role of Christine. WHAT A VOICE! Her high notes were just perfection and so was her acting. During Notes II and ‘Wishing’ you could see how broken, confused and scared Christine was. My favourite part was when she sobbed into her cloak between the ‘and speaks my name’ line and ‘Little Lottie’ in ‘Wishing You Were Somehow Here Again’ it made her seem more vulnerable, it made Wishing seem a lot more than Christine missing her father. Kelly made it seem like Christine was begging for strength. It really struck me. However, by the final lair, her Christine was feisty! She was blocking and protecting Raoul for her life. Her ‘You deceived me’ was just mind blowing, she screamed it, like she did not care anymore.  In addition, another thing I liked was the face that Kelly is a trained ballet dancer, I was almost annoyed that Christine doesn’t get a lot of dancing in the show apart for ‘Hannibal’ and ‘Masquerade’ because it would’ve given her more chance to show off those skills.

At the performance, the actor who played Raoul was the 1st Cover, Jordan Simon Pollard and he proved, that understudies are just as good as the covers. This was his first day on as Raoul and looked like he’d been playing the role for years. A favourite part of his performance was in ‘All I Ask of You’ when he dipped Christine into a kiss. It was so romantic! Another part of his performance that I liked was that you always felt liked he protected her, not just because it was his duty, but also because he really loved her. His reaction to the Phantom and Christine kissing was also utterly heart-breaking.

The other main characters were also particularly strong. Georgia Ware who played Meg Giry, brought a new innocence to a usually bland character. Paul Ettore Tabone and Lara Martins chemistry on stage make the Carlotta and Piangi romance seem more real, genuine and less staged than what I’ve seen in the past. In addition, they’re comedy timing was next to none. Siôn Llyod as Firmin and understudy Andre, Richard Kent, both held the comedy timing needed for the two managers without going too satire and over the top, like Lara done perfectly with Carlotta.

The only thing disappointing with the production would be the fact that there were some technical difficulties with the chandelier falling, some glitchy lighting. However, if you weren’t as experienced with the show, they wouldn’t have been as noticeable. I also sort of liked that it went slightly wrong because it shows that even a show that has been running for 31 years can still have problems like that.

Overall, I give this timeless classic 5 stars!

5stars

REVIEW: The Toxic Avenger @ The Arts Theatre

Reviewed by Nathan Deane

Pollution and superheroes combined don’t sound like the most appealing subject for a musical – so as we sat in the Arts Theatre waiting for the show to start, we here hesitant to find out what was about to unfold in front of us.

The Toxic Avenger is based on a cult 80’s horror/superhero movie of the same name, which was considered so horrifying many cinemas refused to show it.

The musical, however, has had a slightly different history. The musical’s London premiere was in 2016 at the Southwark Playhouse and subsequently transferred to the West End this year. The show tells the tale of Melvin Ferd (The Third), a pro-environment scientist who falls into a vat of toxic goo, emerging as The Toxic Avenger – a green mutant with superhuman strength, aptly nicknamed Toxie. Toxie has to save the town of Tromaville from the pollution caused by the evil mayor as well as win the heart of the town’s blind librarian, Sarah.

Mark Anderson, who plays Toxie, is such a gem. It’s rare to find a musical theatre actor that plays a role as perfectly as he plays Melvin/Toxie. Mark’s singing voice is crazy amazing, his dynamics are out of this world, especially in his big act two number “You Tore My Heart Out”. His acting is so fresh, and the contrast between Melvin and Toxie is insane, they’re both the same person yet have so many differences, aside from skin type.

Emma Salvo plays Sarah, the librarian. I can’t think of any other musical theatre characters that are blind throughout the entirety of a show, so seeing Sarah is kind of like…a breath of fresh air? Emma brings an innocence to the character that helps bring the laughs. Emma stops the show. Literally. (You’ll understand what I mean once you’ve seen the show.) Her belt blows the audience out of the water, especially at the end of “All Men Are Freaks” – probably the funniest moments in the show is Sarah’s obsession with Oprah Winfrey, which I relate to a lot. I mean, who doesn’t love Oprah?!

Emma Salvo & Mark Anderson, photo credit Irina Chira

Ché Francis (as Black Dude) and Oscar Conlon-Morrey (as White Dude) have possibly the hardest job in the show, playing 5+ characters raging from the town bullies to sassy ladies Shinequa and Diane. They sing some vocally challenging, crazily written songs as well as crushing some of the fastest costume changes I have ever seen. How do they do it? I just don’t know! But they rock!!

Last but definitely not least, Natalie Hope plays Melvin’s mother, Ma Ferd, the town’s corrupt Mayor, and a nun. Her vocal ability is KILLER! She slays every song she sings, and playing 2 main characters must be a challenge…especially when you have to sing a duet…with yourself. Which, by the way, she slays. That number closes act one, and I can tell why! It’s one of the many “wow!” moments of the show.

Oscar Conlon-Morrey, Natalie Hope & Ché Francis, photo credit Irina Chira

The show is fantastic from top to toe, musically creative and the book is hilarious! Such a perfect show, and definitely my new favourite. I pray to the musical theatre gods that this show gets extended – it’s what the West End has been needing!

5stars

The Toxic Avenger runs until 3rd December.

https://toxicavengermusical.co.uk for tickets

Mad On Her! Is Back In The Heart of London

Feast your eyes upon the glamourous and glitzy cast of “Mad On Her” – 80s Jukebox musical, say Mad On Her fast- you’ll get the gimmick, Mad On Her is back after a successful short tour around the UK’s top Fringe venues including Hope Mill Theatre, Manchester, and is ready to take The Heart of London by storm.
Mad On Her will play Sundays in November and December at the Above The Arts Theatre, Leicester Square, from the 5th of November to the 3rd of December, and the line up is through the roof. (5th November is Sold Out!)

Mad On Her Principal Cast includes  Emmerdale’s Sweetheart Kelsey Beth Crossley, X Factor/ Loserville’s Sarah Watson, Jade Johnson (CBBC’s Worlds End), James Colebrook and West End Power-House Laura Wilson, joining them are Jordan Todd (BGT semi-finalist) Dani Acors (Jesus Christ Superstar) Brooke Havana Bailey (Billy Elliot) Simone Kite (Moulin Rouge) Sara Latif (BBC Bollywood), Emily Shuck, Hollie Steel and Phoebe Rose White (Rent).


Mad On Her – 80s Jukebox Musical takes you on a journey through all your favourite smash hits of this ‘Glamtastic’ decade. Get your Gladrags on and Glitter up as Donna and Tina party through the nightlife and drama of 1985.
Donna, ambitious and stylish, is climbing the ladder of success. Finding ‘Mr Right’ is the last thing on her mind – little does she know he could be just around the corner.
Tina, with her big hair and big heart, is the disco diva of the boulevard. As Donna’s best friend she sets out to play cupid. Step into the nostalgia of the neon lights and “Get ready to party the night away.”

Written, Produced and Directed by Ashley Luke Lloyd.
Co-produced by Sam Ohlsson for BlackDeer Productions and Co-Written by Koryann Stevens Delves.

Tickets from £16.

https://artstheatrewestend.co.uk/whats-on/mad-on-her—80s-jukebox-musical/

Review: HAIR @ The Vaults

Reviewed by Nathan Deane

When you enter a theatre to find it completely transformed into a “mini Woodstock”, you’d generally have high hopes for the show. And walking into The Vaults Theatre to see “HAIR”, I had extremely high hopes. And this show exceeded them.


From the moment you enter the auditorium, you are transported back into the 60’s. Paper garlands hang above the audience members heads as the “tribe” sit in a circle, meditating around some incense. The cast are full of energy from the top of the show right to the finale, with a huge finale involving all the audience in a big “dance along”.

Andy Coxon as Berger was perfectly cast – hilarious and quite emotional when needed. Liam Ross-Mills captured my heart as the lighthearted Woof – one member of the tribe.

Laura Johnson as Sheila particularly stood out to me, with amazing vocals that echoed through the house – particularly in her number “Easy To Be Hard”.

Robert Metson as Claude was another amazing casting choice, the transition the character makes throughout the show is lost very easily if done wrong, yet Robert demonstrated excellent ability to make that character his own. The character arc was well thought out and done perfectly.

Jonathan O’Boyle’s simplistic yet effective direction was brilliantly highlited with William Whelton’s highly energetic choreography. This is a truly immersive show, with the audience in a thrust position, so extra attention was taken by O’Boyle and Whelton in each scene and song.

As a whole, the cast were sensational. The powerhouse vocals during the show’s biggest number “Let The Sun Shine In” really brought the audience to their feet – an iconic musical theatre moment done to perfection. This show is perfect. I’ve never seen anything like it before, from the transformation of the theatre to the sensational and diverse cast. This is a show not to be missed.

Let the sun shine in and book tickets to visit the age of Aquarius.

Hair runs until the 21st January 2017. Tickets available from http://www.hair50.com

In Conversation with KATY LIPSON of ARIA ENTERTAINMENT

Interview lead by Nathan Deane

From Page To Stage is a London based musical theatre festival showcasing brand new musicals, featuring staged readings, concerts, snippets of new shows and one fully produced musical by Aria Entertainment. Click here to read more about FPTS on The Thespians Blog, and click here to read about the amazing cast at this years FPTS.

The Thespians Blog were invited along to an event at The Other Palace, marking the opening of the 5th year of FPTS. This included watching some amazing performances from the new Burt Bacharach and Steven Sater musical, Some Lovers (tickets here), which looks absolutely fantastic. We also got to watch a performance by Miiko Toiviainen from the new musical XY (tickets here), which also looks amazing.

Amongst watching the amazing performances, we got to sit down with the woman behind the festival, Katy Lipson. Katy is director of production company Aria Entertainment and has produced many fan favourites, including Lizzie, The Addams Family (UK Tour), and YANK! (Off-West End). 

From Page To Stage 2017 Launch

Steven Sater (book/lyrics – Some Lovers), Chloe Carrington (Dinostory and Chicken Little), Gemma Wardle (Some Lovers), Ben Richards (Some Lovers), Jenna Innes (Some Lovers), Aaron Kavanagh (Some Lovers), Gloria Onitiri (Showcase), Miiko Toiviainen (XY), Katy Lipson (Producer – From Page To Stage).

You’ve worked with Burt Bacharach before, you did Promises, Promises back in February, so what is it like working with Bacharach again but with a completely now show that’s never been produced?

Maybe I’m playing this too casual, but I guess I feel extremely lucky to be presenting in the same year, but a new musical that’s never been put on in this country and never had a production before in the US. He’s one of the most iconic living writers thanks to this 50 year career he’s had. The songs are amazing, they’re really, really beautiful. The sound is as commercial as some of his early hit songs. I’m just really keen to see that we get this show right and move this show on. I’m more focused on nailing it and getting it right, we all want it to be successful and we want people to connect with it. If Burt was coming over I guess I would be nervous about that performance, but he’s not coming over for this first performance but he will come over when we do the show for a full run with a press night. Steven Sater’s wonderful to work with, he’s a great book writer and lyricist, he wrote Spring Awakening which was a game changer for musical theatre and one of the shows that I love, and I feel just so incredibly lucky!

Promises, Promises has some iconic numbers like “Turkey Lurkey Time” which has iconic choreography and everyone knows it, is there going to be anything as iconic in Some Lovers?

I think you’ve got some hit songs in there in a different way. Turkey Lurkey was famous for being quirky but I think there are some hits in here because they’re stunning. We’ve got some hits like Say a Little Prayer and I’ll Never Fall In Love Again and I think the album will become a hit album, rather than a song. It is an album of love songs, and it’s very arty. I assume people will get lost in the music and love it!

 This is your fifth year doing FPTS, how has the festival changed each year?

I’ve become more ambitious and more savvy and my reputation is higher so each year more and more industry come, more  and more venues come, more and more work is submitted of higher standard, I reach out to more and more established writers as well. We wouldn’t have had a Burt Bacharach musical five years ago. I raise more and more money, get more recognition. We moved from The Landor Theatre from the first two years to the Tristan Bates Theatre and now we’re at The Other Palace so I’ve learnt a lot more. I’ve learnt more about who I want to collaborate with and what I want to get out of it. Whereas in years one and two I’m establishing a brand, something that people recognise as an investible festival, whereas now we’re  starting shows out on the right track.

You’re working with Paul Taylor-Mills, another producer, whilst you’re in The Other Palace, so how has that worked out?

So Paul and I didn’t actually work together. It’s just our festival. Andrew Lloyd-Webber invited us to The Other Palace and Paul saw the repertoire we are doing but we’re an outside company that are coming in and rent the theatre, but with Andrew’s support. We all want the same things, new musicals and a safe space for new musicals to flourish and to present them.

You’re a really innovative producer, you’ve got an iconic musical which is touring right now (The Addams Family), and you’ve done Lizzie which isn’t so traditional with a blistering rock score, you’ve done Burt Bacharach, he’s only written two shows and you’ve produced them both, and this year you’re doing Hair. It’s just been leaked that you’re selling tickets to a clothing-optional performance. How did that performance idea come about?

We were approached by a naturist group. They said “oh my god you’re doing Hair and in this intimate theatre, would you consider doing a clothing optional performance?” This group had been trying to get other theatres in Westminster to do it and they all said no but we said ‘why not?’ So we made a private link that you could only buy tickets for if you were sent. Somehow, it leaked out and so we told the press that we were offering this performance. Hair is a show about being liberated, it’s a show about free love, it’s a show about having a free sexuality, free with your identity, free with who you’re marrying, interracial marriage. It’s amazing. If you see Hair, you’re going to love it. So we’re doing it for one performance and if it’s successful,  we’ll do another it’s as simple as that!

Have you had a favourite musical you’ve produced?

I think a new musical I did called Return of the Soldier was very special because it was brand new and I really, really loved it. I’ve loved doing some of the cabarets I’ve done. Also Jerry’s Girls, the Jerry Herman musical. I absolutely adored putting one two of my biggest shows so The Addams Family and The Mystery of Edwin Drood, which I did in 2012. And also my latest show, The Toxic Avenger, which is absolutely mental. It’s so fun. Before Toxie (The Toxic Avenger) I didn’t do any comedy in my shows but to hear an audience erupt in laughter is an amazing feeling. My portfolio is so diverse like with YANK! which is an incredible show about the officers in the army falling in love and gay rights to Toxie which is completely un-PC and hilarious, then to The Addams Family which is a caricature of these iconic characters to Burt Bacharach. There’s no point of strategy, you gravitate towards pieces you love and they really take off and you think ‘Oh. Okay. I need to make room in my life now to make the most out of it.

 

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Hair at the Hope Mill Theatre, Manchester

I’d really love to thank Katy Lipson for sitting down and talking with me.

From Page To Stage festival runs until the 3rd of September 2017 at The Other Palace in London. For more information and tickets, click here.