Review: Heathers @ The Other Palace

Reviewed by Charlotte White

When I managed to get a must have ticket to Heathers I was extremely happy. Of course I had heard of this show but I didn’t know much about it at all, so I went in to it with a very open mind.

For anyone who is also unfamiliar with the plot of Heathers, it’s the story of Heather Chandler, Heather McNamara, Heather Duke and Veronica Sawyer. As a student of Westerburg high life is difficult for Veronica, but not for the Heathers. So Veronica decides to make a deal with the Heathers to become popular. This new friendship seems to be going well, that is until new kid on the block Jason ‘JD’ Dean gets involved and things start to unravel from there.

Directed by Andy Fickman, the hugely talented cast put on quite the show. Starting with the leading role of Veronica, Carrie Hope Fletcher gave a gripping performance. After seeing her in Les Miserables as Eponine, this character was quite different and allowed the audience to see a different side to her. Carrie’s voice was certainly strong enough for the role and her portrayal of the character was everything you’d want as a ‘newbie’ watching the show- enticing, emotional and humorous. I enjoyed the comedic side to her performance and it seems the rest of the audience did too. I felt a sense of pride as I watched her and that she too felt proud of the role, exuding body confidence and empowerment to all us young women out there.

The three iconic Heathers played by Jodie Steele (Heather Chandler), Sophie Isaacs (Heather McNamara) and T’shan Williams (Heather Duke) did not disappoint. Their vocals worked extremely well together and all three seemed to have a good connection on stage. I feel Jodie really came into her own in this role and the two solos by T’Shan and Sophie were both performed brilliantly. They all nailed the comedy but also the emotion of the piece as well.

I was utterly captivated by Jamie Muscato as Jason Dean. He gave such a compelling performance throughout the entirety of the show, but I loved how the character developed as it went on. He was convincing the whole way through and I thoroughly enjoyed his interpretation of the role.

Jenny O’Leary gave such a touching performance as Veronica’s best friend Martha Dunnstock and Rebecca Lock was fabulous as Ms Flemming! Dominic Andersen and Chris Chung played the rather comedic duo of Ram Sweeney and Kurt Kelly. They gave the show a lighter feel and had me laughing the whole way through.

As I was new to the show (unlike the several ‘Heather Chandlers’ in the audience who were clearly familiar with it), I had nothing to compare it to. Perhaps some hardcore fans may not agree with all the decisions made but I thoroughly enjoyed it. There is quite a hype surrounding the show so I think it is good to come in with an open mind as there is a new song and new staging. Also, there are some very adult/dark themes explored during the show so it may not be for everyone. Having said this, I think it is done in a tasteful and fairly lighthearted way.

Did I hear the people sing? The Other Palace is quite a small venue which helped, but the cast were excellent in their diction and clarity both during their songs and dialogue. The volume was a comfortable level and I had no trouble at all hearing what was going on.

In summary, Heathers is a sexy, twisted, seductive tale that will give you a rush which is likely to ‘Freeze Your Brain’. Combine this with a soundtrack you’re bound to be singing for days on end after you leave, it’s a winner in my opinion. Even if you’re a bit unsure, try and grab a ticket if one comes up. I myself was quite surprised I liked it so much, I guess you could colour me stoked.

5stars

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REVIEW: Island Song @ Davenport Theatre Loft

All Things Broadway, a much beloved Facebook group, presented their first full-length show. The theatre was filled with family, friends and supportive theatre lovers. One of the producers, Eliyahu Kheel, addressed the audience, explaining in a short and heartwarming way the long road that lead to this production.

Island Song presents the overlapping lives of serval busy New Yorkers. The story follows 5 core characters, with actors doubling up to play minor characters. The show offered many opportunities to show off the actors’ vocal range, to my delight. The songs that bookend the show rang out through the theatre with the strong harmonies of a powerful cast.

The staging was interesting and the director, Keira Todd, impressively utilized the space and light of the Loft. The lighting stood out, as the twinkle lights around the room pulsed in time with the emotions and climax of each song. The small theatre space created an intimate atmosphere, and the show felt tailored uniquely for me. Focusing on romance and making it in the big city, the themes of the show resonated with me.

Each of the 5 characters struggled with living in the city and found strength in different ways. The pop songs illustrated the nuanced issues the characters were facing. Will (Mathew Billman) charismatically courted his girl-next-door, Jordan (Stephanie Michele Toups), and Shoshana (Kira Leiva) was just looking for love in all the wrong places. Caroline (Anna Harris) struggled with a purpose. The standout, however, was Cooper (Darren Cementina) who, through his story as a struggling artist, managed to give me goosebumps with his superb vocals.

Although there was a dense amount of songs, and there were some technical issues with the microphones, this show was undoubtedly heartwarming. The community produced show is representative of the great artistic creativity that can be produced with the faith and support of loved ones. Empowering and touching, this production showed me how much heart can be woven into a single show.

3 stars

Tickets for the performance 6/26 can be purchased at the door20180619_212412

REVIEW: Great Expectations @ Winchester Festival Theatre

Reviewed by Nathan Deane

A classic Dickens story I am ashamed to have not yet read, Great Expectations tells the story of Pip, a poor young boy who meets an escaped convict and has his life changed, meeting the extravagant Miss Havisham, falling in love with her adopted daughter Estelle, and falling into the lap of luxury when a mysterious benefactor pays for him to live a life of luxury in London.

The novel has been retold in many forms, most recently on screen starring Helena Bonham Carter and on TV in a 3-part mini-series commissioned by the BBC. I’ve never seen any adaptations so going into the Festival Theatre in Winchester, I was completely blind to the story, having only seen the haunting artwork on the posters around the city.

The play was written by Ken Bently, a writer most known for his audio plays. This play was written in a true Dickensian manner that some of the language went straight over the top of my head, nonetheless, I thoroughly enjoyed the humour and drama of the piece.

The direction, by Sophie Boyce Couzens, was original and intimate, making use of the beautiful rustic set by James Turner. The play was scored throughout with accordion and violin music composed by Ollie King, who, as well as playing the instruments, doubles up as a member of the ensemble.

Séan Aydon plays the story’s central character, Pip. Aydon played the role at a variety of ages, from a young child to a well-off adult gentleman. Aydon brought such energy to the role as well as raw emotion and the performance felt genuine and fresh.

Early on in the story, Pip is invited to the home of the elderly and reclusive Miss Havisham, played by the wonderful Nichola McAuliffe. McAuliffe commands the stage as Miss Havisham, the bride-to-be who was abandoned by her fiance on her wedding day. Her performance was haunting and captivating, and at certain points, throughout the second act, I felt my eyes well up at her portrayal of the iconic character.

The ensemble of 7 play a variety of characters and narrators and work as a team to make sure the piece runs smoothly, often playing musical instruments on stage for sound effects. They also sang quite a bit (well, more than I expected) which was a touch I thought was brilliant.

This was a beautifully staged piece of theatre that tells a chilling story and would do Charles Dickens himself proud.

4stars

Great Expectations is touring the UK until June. Tickets and more information can be found here.

REVIEW: Ms. Estrada @ The Flea Theatre

Reviewed by Annie Zeleznikow

The Flea Theatre that houses this production can be found off the beaten path in Tribeca, in a twist of oxymoronic fate this company is creating edgy and thought-provoking shows in the heart of the industrial upper class. This funky company introduced themselves by providing single pieces of paper, rather than a playbill. It was announced before the show began that this was a deliberate decision and that all other information can be found online. Their dedication to conservation is an interesting and thoughtful act towards global sustainability.

The show began with a disclaimer from the writers,The Q Brothers Collective. They astutely noted that they were all male, some gay, some of colour. The sensitive themes explored in Ms Estrada warranted the warning. The cleverly written prose professed profanity, and ultimately set the scene for a production that challenges and entertains.

Another visual that struck me before the show began was the DJ, Marguerite Frarey. Rather than having an orchestra, Ms Estrada had a band of one. Frarey would often shout and boo as the story developed. She was the first character you meet, and she remains a constant throughout. Frarey at times could be compared to an all mighty presence, watching the events of the show unfurl.

Ms Estrada focuses on a young woman’s experience through college. Written with dark humour and a clever sense of self-awareness, Liz Estrada (Malena Pennycook), a new college student, seeks the “power to change the system”. In an attempt to prevent the “Greek Games”, a sexist male competition focused on stereotypical frat games, Estrada convinces her fellow female classmates to withhold sex. With the support of her roommates and mentor (Jenna Krasowski), Estrada shows the Dean (Ben Schrager) how damaging the Greek Games are.

The songs in Ms Estrada are clever and catchy. With a flair for rap, the show slowly moves towards more traditionally female musical genres as the story progresses. “Ring the Bell” is a catchy earworm, as Estrada and the female rebels reprise the song whenever they are confronted. Estrada and her empowered peers rename themselves “Womxn with an X”, and flaunt their feminine power with some complex and intricate choreography. The boys begin losing matches and they complain to the Dean with a song that appears to find inspiration from Lin-Manuel Miranda and Macklemore. The show continues with a compelling blend of rap and pop.

Estrada’s compelling fight against an unrelenting torrent of sexism is remanent of Rob Thomas’ Veronica Mars. Young women are fighting for equality, and the stories focus on the struggle and success of these women. The storytelling and incorporation of Ms Estrada exudes a quirkiness similar to that of the charming Veronica Mars.

This masterful adaptation of the Greek Classic Lysistrata brings modern life to an ancient play. The in-house ensemble of The Flea Theater, The Bats, shine in this complex and captivating show.

4stars

Ms Estrada is playing at The Flea Theater until 28th April. You can buy tickets here

 

Going to the same show…again?

Written by Charlie White

Most of you reading this are presumably theatre fans, but how many of you go to see a show more than once?

I know there can be very different views on this subject, especially between theatre fans and non-theatre fans as not everyone understands why some of us theatre folk would want to go and see something like Wicked for example over 100 times.

So…why do we go and see the same show over and over again?

I think personally when you watch something that is so inspiring and makes you feel all happy inside, the obvious reaction for me is to want to experience it a second time (and maybe a third…and a fourth). When you love something so much and you have the opportunity to go then you think why not? We can all be fans of theatre in general but I’m sure most of us have that one show that is particularly special to us.

A large portion of the argument against this is of course…the money. When you add up all the times you’ve spent £30 here and there it can admittedly add up to quite a lot. Having said that,  from what I’ve experienced, most people outside the ‘theatre world’ assume most West End shows amount to something close to £100, or at least more than perhaps what we know we can get if you know the right places to look (and/or are willing to queue outside the theatre at 7am for day seats). I VERY rarely pay over £30 when I go to the theatre and this is mainly due to things like day seats, a policy which most theatres have now (TheatreMonkey is a great website to check these out if you’re wondering). Even big shows like Wicked and Kinky boots have front row seats allocated for under £30!

In addition to this, if you’re of the younger age group (like myself) aged between 16 and 25, you can tickets to Matilda for £5! So if you’re looking for something to do on a weekend, a west end show for a fiver is worth considering.

If we do go to the theatre often, we do tend to look for these sort of prices or cheaper seats as we’re perhaps not so bothered about having premium seats. Whereas someone who doesn’t go a lot might want to make the most of it and pay more for a top band seat, which is understandable.

Some people might call it obsessive, but so what!? Theatre is a hobby and yes even I have to admit perhaps we can get a bit carried away sometimes (I know I did), but it’s only because we’re so passionate about it. Theatre is a place where we can escape the world for 2 to 3 hours and not have to think about the stresses of day to day life.

When you’re a fan of something, you tend to notice the little things. If you’re sat on the front row you can see all the actors faces and expressions, and that’s what makes it different each time. You become really familiar with a show and you can pick up on any small differences. Different casts and actors can also add a new flavour to the show.

To summarise, if you can afford it…GO FOR IT! Seize the opportunity and go to the theatre whilst you can, and if you’re a fan of a certain show, go see that show! Happy theatre going everyone!

For more information on days eats and details of all the policies click here. 

 

Why is The Greatest Showman such a hit? 

Written by Charlotte White

Arguably one of the most raved about cinematic experiences of this year (yes I know we’re only in the first month), The Greatest Showman is all people can talk about on social media. So I thought we’d join the bandwagon  and discuss what makes The Greatest Showman so great.

To start with, let’s talk about Hugh Jackman who plays the ‘circus king’ himself P T Barnum. Personally I don’t think anyone else could have portrayed this role quite like him. He truly is a born performer and this comes through during the entirety of the film. He ‘Come[s] Alive’ in every number and exudes showmanship and pizzazz in the classiest way possible.

He’s back! Zac Efron makes his return to Musicals in a big way! With numbers like ‘The Other Side’ and ‘Rewrite the stars’ he reminds us why the world fell in love with him as Troy Bolton all those years ago. However, he shows us even more aspects of his talent as high class socialite Phillip Carlyle with technical choreography and his great partnership with the fabulous Anne Wheeler played beautifully by Zendaya.

Of course the film wouldn’t be the same without the incredible Soundtrack from Pasek and Paul. Each song is beautifully written and relates to the story perfectly. You can’t listen to these songs and not feel something whether makes you want to smile from ear to ear or burst in to tears.

With anthems like ‘This is Me’ (performed by the incredible Keala Settle), it puts across such a positive message saying it’s ok to be different. It inspires us to be more accepting of who we are and I think so many people can relate to that.

Throughout the film you can see there’s a good bond between the cast and this is shown by how well the cast work together. We can see them enjoying themselves and that makes us enjoy watching.

With a combination of all these things, The Greatest Showman has won over the world and gained a special place in our hearts. If you haven’t seen it yet, believe me, you won’t be disappointed.

Sophie’s Top 5 Favourite Shows of 2017

By Sophie Reed

 

5) Legally Blonde

UK Tour

Legally Blonde Lucie Jones (Elle Woods) left, Bruisey (Bruiser Woods), Rita Simons (Paulette Bonafonte) Photo Robert Workman_preview.jpeg

I went to see this with my best friend, Beth, for her birthday because it is her favourite musical. The musical follows a blonde named Elle Woods, who just got dumped by her ‘perfect’ boyfriend Warner. To win him back she follows him to Harvard Law school and ends up learning, not just a lot of law, but a lot about herself.

I was nervous seeing the UK tour because I am a big lover of Laura Bell Bundy’s version of Elle, but Lucie Jones made the role her own. Her performance acting wise and vocally was outstanding, maybe even surpassing Laura Bell Bundy. They accommodated well the set, baring in mind they are a touring production. I loved it.

4) Dreamgirls

Savoy Theatre

imageThis show is all singing, all dancing, glittering spectacular! Dreamgirls tells the story of 3 girls trying to break it into show business. I was lucky enough to see Amber Riley, who won an Olivier for her role as Effie White, and I’ve never felt more privileged to see a performance in my life. Her ‘And I’m Telling You, I’m Not Going’ left me feeling breathless, a reaction that I have never had to a performance before and then the talented ensemble’s constant energy has made it my number 4.

3) Venus in Fur

Theatre Royal, Haymarket

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The only play I saw this year. This 2-hander play tells the story of a Director, Thomas, played by Victoria’s David Oakes, auditioning women for his play, an adaptation of Venus in Fur. Vanda, played by Game of Throne’s Natalie Dormer believes she’s the one for the role. They perform parts of the play, so it becomes a play within and play and the actors play characters within characters.

This play is so enticing, it plays with the concept of domination and submission and questioning who is the one in control. It may be a difficult play to describe, however, the play itself is simple and easy to follow for the audience. I’m also a big fan of both Dormer and Oakes and it was refreshing to see them in something different to what they usually do. Also, there’s nothing like seeing actors live and it really showed the insane talent they both possess.

Read my full review of the show here!

2) The Woman in White

Charing Cross Theatre

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I was lucky enough to see The Woman in White on its 2nd Preview. The musical is adapted from the novel of the same name. A painter, while travelling to a stately home to tutor two well brought up ladies, is confronted by a woman in white warning him of a man named Percival Graves. After he arrives at the home, he falls in loves with the youngest go the two sisters, later to find out she’s is promised to marry Percival Graves.

The small theatre was fitting to this musical. Its not a big song and dance musical, not showy. It’s simple and intimate with beautiful melodies and songs. It has to be my number two because of the intimacy of it, it struck a chord with me. Though I have never been in a situation like the ones that are shown in the musical, it was personal to me.

1) Half a Sixpence

Noel Coward Theatre

wp-image1560871222.jpgThis has got to be my top show! Half a Sixpence tells the story of young man names Arthur Kipps, who has just come into some money, being stuck between choosing his childhood sweetheart and a new, richer sweetheart. With a crazily talented cast, special shout out to leading man Charlie Stemp, who’s heading to Broadway’s Hello Dolly in the New Year, a brilliant, catchy score and choreography that makes the audience feel tired. This show is one of, if not, the most uplifting, visually beautiful musicals that was on the West End this year.

REVIEW: The Band @ Mayflower Theatre, Southampton

Reviewed by Nathan Deane

Probably the most anticipated theatrical event of 2017, The Band is a new musical written by Tim Firth and with music by Take That. The Band is touring in the UK, opening in Manchester and making its way across the country.

The show tells the story of 1 group of girls 25 years apart, and their devotion to The Band.

So far, reviews from fans and critics alike praised the show for being “hilarious” and also “heartbreaking”. And whilst at times it had moments of hilarity, the book wasn’t the highlight of the show for me. The sadness definitely came through in a few moments, and at some points I did well up, but the book is often joyous and a celebration of life.

The titular Band are made up of five heartthrobs, AJ, Curtis, Sario, Nick and Yazdan. The boys provided immaculate harmonies throughout the show, and there is never a dull moment when they’re performing. They all work together as a veichle, although my eyes were often drawn to Sario Solomon. His vocal ability is angelic and his dancing was spectacular.

Nick Carsberg, despite being the youngest of the group, showed real talent vocally and dance-wise. AJ Bentley was fantastic to watch, his voice is stellar and he can move like no other! Yazdan Qafouri performed brilliantly, his acting skills really shone through even when performing as a part of the boy band. There were a few moments when he made me chuckle. Curtis T. Johns also showed excellent performance skills throughout, never failing to make me or the audience smile.

Another standout performance was Alison Fitzjohn as Claire. Her acting was phenomenal and her act two monologue really got me emotional.

Rachelle Diedricks plays Debbie. Whilst Debbie is a smaller role than the other characters, Rachelle owns the role and rocks every musical number she’s in.

Whilst the plot isn’t the most thrilling, the cast really work their bums off and deserve every standing ovation they get. Take That’s music is iconic, and they do more than justice to it. They slay every note they sing. The cast really appeared to be enjoying themselves – and that really made me happy.  The show is feel-good and a perfect night out.

The Top 5 Halloween-esque Musicals!

Written by Nathan Deane

Darkness falls across the land, and the midnight hour is close at hand. Yes, that time of year is here again. And as Halloween approaches, the hunt for blood-filled musical starts again. Finding musicals that will scare the living daylights out of you yet keep your feet tapping along is hard, but fear not! Here are my top 5 musicals that are perfect Halloween! And don’t worry, at the bottom of the article there are links to buy the cast recordings for each show.

5) The Toxic Avenger

Meet Melvin Ferd The Third – an aspiring scientist, who wants nothing more than to save his town of Tromaville from being killed by the rapidly expanding amounts of toxic waste. When Melvin gets thrown into a vat of toxic goo, he emerges as The Toxic Avenger – a mutant with superhuman strength. This musical is brilliantly funny and catchy. And it’s also currently playing in the West End! Click here to read our five-star review of The Toxic Avenger. 

 

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The Toxic Avenger

 

4) American Psycho

Patrick Bateman is a successful Wall Street banker with a secret – he’s also a serial killer. Based on a book by Brett Easton Ellis and a 2000 film starring Christian Bale, this musical had a brief run in London at the Almeida Theatre before making the leap to Broadway in 2016 where, unfortunately, it flopped. However, the show is full of catchy songs and iconic lines from both the movie and the book. Also, it has starred Matt Smith. If that interests you…at all.

American Psycho

American Psycho

3) Lizzie

As the rhyme goes, “Lizzie Borden took an axe, gave her mother forty whacks.” And that’s what this musical is about. This musical is a guitar-shredding, face-melting rock-fest based on the true story of the Borden murders. Basically, one autumn day in 1892, Abby Durfee-Borden and her husband Andrew Borden were found dead in their home in Fall River, Massachusetts. Andrew’s youngest daughter, Lizzie Borden, was trialled for the crimes and eventually acquitted. The case remains unsolved to this day. The show is limited to a cast of four women, and they kill every number their in! A particular highlight of the show is the act one finale, in which Lizzie murders her parents, displayed with watermelons. Click here to read our five-star review of Lizzie!

 

 

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Lizzie

 

2) Carrie

Carrie is an infamous musical. It opened in Stratford in the late 80’s, to mixed reviews, starring Barbara Cook, Charlotte d’Amboise, and Linzi Hateley. The show went through major script and technical re-writes, especially after Barbara was almost decapitated by a set piece. It opened on Broadway in the same year and received horrendous reviews. The show closed after 3 performances and 16 previews. It was classed as the biggest Broadway flop of all time. The show had a revival Off-Broadway in 2012, with MASSIVE revisions made. The show was far better received, and the show has enjoyed successful runs in London and LA since. The musical tells the story of Carrie White – a shy girl, bullied for her religious upbringing by her abusive mother. Carrie is also gifted with telekinesis – the ability to move things with the mind. When a group of bullies dump a bucket of blood on her at prom, all hell breaks loose. It’s based on a Stephen King novel and movie, so you know it’s gonna be horrifying.

 

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Carrie

 

1) Evil Dead

“Ah yes, Evil Dead. The movie about a group of teenagers who go to an abandoned cabin in the woods and resurrect a pact of ancient demons that have possessed the entirety of the cabin, including the woods surrounding said cabin and kill the teenagers one by one? Sounds like perfect material for a musical!” said no-one ever. Yet a team of creatives from Canada set out to turn the trilogy of movies into “the next Rocky Horror” – complete with singing and dancing demons! It’s a hilarious musical, including a musical number complete with instructions on how to dance along! Move over, Time Warp. The show has enjoyed success all around the USA and Canada, and I think it may be the time the UK enjoyed some of that success.

Evil Dead

Evil Dead

Buy The Cast Recordings Here:

Click on the title of a show to see the cast recording.

The Toxic Avenger 

American Psycho

Lizzie

Carrie

Evil Dead

REVIEW: Little Shop of Horrors @ Groundlings Theatre, Portsmouth

Reviewed by Nathan Deane

Little Shop of Horrors is one of my favourite musicals. I’ve seen a few different productions of the show and, if done well, the show can really be amazing. Right off the bat, however, this production was plagued with technical issues. These issues cannot be overlooked, however, when the two star vehicles are as strong as these were, you can at least be distracted from the horrifying “rain” noises and disruptive set changes.

Lee Backhouse as Seymour Krelbourne is a star in the making, and I believe he should be taken away from the world of drab am dram and put on a professional stage. His portrayal of the character is up there with Rick Moranis, at least to me. His comedy is on point and his singing voice is not half bad.

Nathalie Gunn plays Audrey, the ditzy blonde. Nathalie really made this character her own, bringing less of the ditzy and more of the sass. Her singing voice is beautiful and she suits the part perfectly, particularly in her act one solo “Somewhere That’s Green”.

That moment should be a particularly touching and lovely moment, not comedic in the acting but purely in the lyrics. This song was ruined for me, as the ensemble came on in tree costumes, making the audience laugh and distract from the true meaning on the song.

The ensemble were strong, despite there being 8 members of the 3 membered “geek” chorus. They made it work though, and some of their harmonies were on point. They had some fairly basic choreography by Lucy Saunders, which helped to highlight the vocal points.

The puppet is a strong point of the show, and when you’ve got a good puppet, the show is made! The puppet was very decently made, and whilst it was not a highlight of the show for me, the puppet was good enough to not take away from the fantastic vocals on display.

The set was particularly colourless, making the costumes pop against the background.

The director of the show, Richard Stride, also played the voice of Audrey 2. The director of the show should know his source marterial, yet he didn’t seem to at all. His singing was out of time and some of his directorial choices were…questionable, to say the least.

Perhaps a proper MD would have been better?

Overall, I was severely disappointed with the show. The cast had some real potential yet were let down by strange directorial and choreographic choices.