West End Calling 2019!

On Sunday 12th of May I was generously invited to the Grand Final of West End Calling. I had previously known about the competition since my friend attended the final last year so I was very excited to see what I was in for.

What is it?

The contestants come all around the country as the first stages of the auditions held in 7 cities around the country and performed in front of a panel of West End performers. And during the Grand Final of West End Calling they perform one song to a completely new panel of judges, previous judges have included Danielle Hope, Paul Wilkins, Jamie Lambert and Lauren Samuels.

The Judges

This years judges were the two leads of hit West End show, Aladdin (Prince Edward Theatre), Matthew Croke (Aladdin) and Courtney Reed (Princess Jasmine). The panel was completed by Heathers royalty, Sophie Issacs. However, today they definitely weren’t the envy of any of us having such a difficult decision to make picking the winners. 

I was also lucky enough to catch up with them at the end of the night and ask them why a competition such as this is so important for young people and the West End community.

Sophie Issacs
“I just think it’s amazing for us to witness such amazing talent and for everyone in the same age group to experience the talent that ewe have all across the country is an amazing this to see.”

Matthew Croke
“Tonight, West End Calling is so important because of these people that want to be in the West End or do this kind of thing in the industry anything that they want to do and want to see other people that want to do this type of thing. I brings out a healthy competeetaive side of the industry but also the experience that they get that West End Calling give is just incredible. If I was their age and had something like this to go to I would be the first one to enter. It’s such a good experience for them all.”

Courtney Reed
‘Tonight is just so important because you’re giving the youths such an opportunity to get in front of some working professionals and get out and perform in front of a wonderful, loving audience who’s really rooting for them and to see where their journey goes next.”

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From Left to Right: Matthew Croke, Courtney Reed, Oscar Conlon-Morrey and Sophie Issacs

The Grand Finals!

The Grand Finals were hosted at The Other Palace. The theatre home of shows such as Heathers, Eugenius, Toast and will be hosting the UK Premiere of Falsettos.

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The Grand Final is split into two groups, the Junior Final (under 16s) and the Senior Final (Over 16s) and have thirteen contestants each.

Both shows were hosted by Oscar Conlon-Morrey who effortlessly improvised with humour and ease. I was also lucky to speak to him after the show and ask him why he enjoyed hosting the final so much.

“It’s always and absolute joy because the amount of passion they bring to the stage is incredible. This year in particular was excessive talent that we have not seen before. They were incredibly genuine, truthful performers. Lot of really exciting, new and interesting vocal qualities and style that I haven’t seen before and I genuinely think that every single one of them could have very successful careers in the industry.”

In both of the finals, the standard of the performances delivered were out of this world, however, there were a few stand out performances for myself in each of the Finals.

The Junior Finals!

In the Junior Finals, Maya Rugen who performed ‘I Love Play Rehearsal’ from Be More Chill was the first one to stand out for me. As someone who is not very familiar with the show, her performance of the song made me very interested in sitting down and listening to the soundtrack. 

In addition Phoebe Maddison with who sung the song ‘Quiet’ by Jonathan Reid Gealt. Again, I was not familiar with the song, but she really invested me in the song and her story telling, in addition, her voice is insane! 

Sasha Roberts broke my (and everyone else in the audience) heart with a stunning rendition of ‘Words Fail’ from Dear Evan Hansen. As such a popular song from such a current musical, is such a risky move however, it totally paid off with acting and vocals at a sensational level for his age.

Bibi Simpson took the competition to a different level with her rendition of ‘Green Finch and Linnet Bird’ from Sweeney Todd: Demon Barber of Fleet Street. It was the only performance of that type so it would typically stand out however, the song is a personal favourite of mine and her voice is so beautiful that I could listen to it all day. I could see her playing roles such as Christine Daae and Cosette, she has a beautiful, classic soprano voice.

3rd Place in this Round was given to Charlotte Waller with a show-stopping rendition of ‘Dying Ain’t So Bad’ From Bonnie and Clyde

2nd Place of this round was given to Sasha Roberts for ‘Words Fail’ from Dear Evan Hansen.

1st Place of this round was won by Phoebe Maddison who sung ‘Quiet’ by Jonathan Reid Gealt.

The Senoir Finals

The second round included performers from the age 16 and up. Opening the show, and setting the standard really high, was Amelia Wilkins with ‘Out Here On My Own’ from the musical Fame. The performance to me felt so intimate and personal so was immediately a stand out one for me. 

Ashley Hartley performed a stunning rendition of ‘Stars’ from Les Miserables. As the song is in my Top 3 of all time favourite musical theatre songs, I was anxious to hear his rendition, and I was not disappointed! The judges remarked that they could close their eyes and believe that that was the actual actor playing Javert and I couldn’t agree more. I can’t wait to see Ashley performing the same song at the Queen’s in years to come. In addition, his acting was so strong, despite the lack of costume and context, you would know exactly who he was playing. It was a stunning performance.

The next stand out performance to me came even before it was performed. When I saw the words ‘Megan Lapper Memory- CATS’ in the programme. I might have had a little heart attack. It’s a very ambitious song to sing, even for the most trained singers. Although I have never seen the show Cats, ‘Memory’ is an iconic musical theatre song, my Mam’s favourite and my eldest cat is named after the character who sings it. Yes, my cat is called Grizabella. I couldn’t help by feel Megan had given herself a massive challenge… Challenge? She flew through the song with so much ease, a powerful belt and an amazing outfit on a tiger print variety in homage to the show. 

In addition, another song that really stood out to me as very ambitious to sing was ‘Rose’s Turn’ from the musical Gypsy. However, Megan Keaveny Brough the house down with her performance both vocally and physically.

3rd Place was given to Bryon-Rose Brookman for her portrayal of ‘Lost in The Brass’ from Band Geeks. 

2nd Place went to Megan Lapper for ‘Memory’ from Cats.

1st Place went to Serafina Bird for ‘Wait a Bit’ from Just So.

Overall Thoughts…

Although I have not mentioned each competitor by name in this post, doesn’t mean I didn’t appreciate and enjoy each and every performance. I can see them all standing on all the West End stages, leading the shows. I can guarantee everyone that I see that the future of the West End is in safe hands.

In addition, it’s so nice that there is a competition like this out there for aspiring performers, I wish I had known about West End calling when I was an aspiring performer because I would have applied for it, and got all of my friends in musical theatre to have done so as well! 

I can’t help but feel incredibly lucky that Alex was kind enough to invite us. The work that he is doing for these aspiring performers is astonishing. I really can’t thank him enough Even a week later finshing up this blog, I can’t help but feel incredibly lucky seeing the names of future West End shows performing in front of my very eyes, already trained to perfection, so in a few years time, they’re going to be unstoppable!

I you would like to get involved in West End Calling 2020, auditions for entry are now open. Please check out http://www.westendcalling.co.uk for more information. And for all I know, I might see one (or a few) of you there next year…

Written By: Sophie Reed @misssjreed_
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Nathan’s TOP 10 SHOWS of 2018!

Written by Nathan Deane

This year I saw a lot of theatre. In all honesty, 2018 was a brilliant year for theatre, and I though I’d round up my year with my top 10 shows of the year!

Read my top 10 of shows from 2017 here.

10: Hamilton

Victoria Palace Theatre, London

Hamilton

I first saw Hamilton way back in January, a month after it officially opened in London, to mixed emotions. Yes, what was presented in front of me was beautifully written and staged, but I felt a tinge of disappointment as I felt it didn’t live up to the hype. It wasn’t until a month later when I saw it again, that I understood Hamilton for what it truly is: a magnificent work of art. I have visited Hamilton since, and it just gets better each time. Give into the hype and give Hamilton a go, I’m sure you won’t regret it.

9: It Happened In Key West

Charing Cross Theatre, London

key west

As Count Carl Von Cosel sings in It Happened In Key West, “I promise you my undying love…”. IHIKW was a romantic, macabre musical comedy focusing around the story of Carl Von Cosel and the love of his life, Elena Hoyos, as she succumbs to tuberculosis, and the relentless effort of Cosel to bring her back to life. It’s such a shame that this show didn’t release the cast recording it announced, but the show will live on in my heart.

Read my five star review of It Happened In Key West here!

8: Once

Queen’s Theatre, Hornchurch

Once

I might be a little bit late to the Once train. I had to wait all this time to finally see it, and boy it didn’t disappoint. The production I saw at the Queen’s Theatre in Hornchurch was gorgeous, the intimate venue really suited the minimal style of the show. The cast were sensational, and the show left me sobbing as it ended. Let’s just say that Gold will be playing in my head for years to come.

7: Pippin

Southwark Playhouse, London

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A revival of Schwartz’s larger-than-life circus musical in one of London’s small fringe venues? Seems like a difficult task. However, it was pulled off beautifully and it payed off, as the run sold out fairly quickly. I was lucky enough to score two sets of tickets, so I could enjoy this beautiful show more than once. Once again, it was my first experience seeing Pippin, and I was enthralled from start to finish. A glorious production at the Southwark Playhouse.

6: The Jungle

The Playhouse, London

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Set in the real life Calais Jungle, a migrant and refugee camp in France, The Jungle tells the story of refugees and volunteers within the Jungle, all from different walks of life. A heart-wrenching and honest portrayal of life within the Calais Jungle, this production transformed the Playhouse Theatre to a mini Jungle within the theatre, immersing audiences as they watched the play and were served fresh naan, curry and chai tea. A beautiful and vital play that is now performing Off-Broadway.

5: Brief Encounter

Empire Cinema, London

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A truly captivating production taken away from London audiences too soon, Brief Encounter finished it’s run at the Empire Cinema on the Haymarket months too early. The story is based on the classic Noel Coward film, Brief Encounter, which is, in turn, based on the Noel Coward play, Still Life. This musical adaptation by Emma Rice and featuring songs from the Noel Coward archive was truly a feast for the eyes and ears, as the likes of Jos Slovick and Beverly Rudd serenaded each other and pranced around the stage in this gorgeous fusion of film and theatre.

4: Seussical

Southwark Playhouse, London

seussical

I’ve always been a Dr Seuss fan, and so seeing the marvellous Seussian universe come to life this Christmas at the Southwark Playhouse was truly a dream come true. Featuring performances from the likes of Mark Pickering and Scott Paige among this cast of musical theatre royalty, this hardly-revived musical captures the hearts of all that watch, from young children to the older generations, and inspires them to think that anything’s possible.

3: Six

Arts Theatre, London

six

This show, a concert re-telling of Tudor history, mainly the six wives of Henry VIII, has gripped audiences all over the country, and it’s easy to see why. Seeing the “queens” perform (divorced, beheaded-) live in front of your eyes with a wonderful pop score is truly a spectacle that everyone can enjoy.

Read Charlie’s review of Six The Musical here.

2: The Inheritance

Noel Coward Theatre, London

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A life-affirming two-part play transferred from the Young Vic to London’s West End, The Inheritance tells the story of a group of gay men who are telling their own story inspired by E.M Forster’s Howards End. An emotional, heart-warming drama showing the harsh realities of living with HIV/AIDS, this is a vital piece of theatre that everyone should see at least once.

1: Mythic

Charing Cross Theatre, London

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Greek mythology is always extremely interesting, and this updated version of the myth of Persephone and Hades captured my heart and practically every other heart that saw this show. A short 90 minute feast for the eyes and ears, this pop, rock, and even a hint of hip hop musical extended in London but closed a week earlier than expected. Good thing, though, that there’s a cast recording and it’s available for pre-order from Broadway Records now! Hopefully this wasn’t the last that London audiences have heard (and seen) of Mythic, as the world deserves to see this funny, heart-warming show.

Honorable Mentions:

The Ferryman (Gielgud Theatre), Instructions for Correct Assembly (Royal Court), Company (Gielgud Theatre), Billionaire Boy (Nuffield Southampton Theatres, City), Trainspotting LIVE (The Vaults), The Country Wife (Chichester Festival Theatre, Minerva) 

Do you HEAR the people sing?

Written by Charlie White

So, I recently went to the theatre and unfortunately…I struggled to pick up the dialogue and therefore missed parts of the story. This wasn’t helped by the fact that the actors didn’t wear mics (as it was a play) and they had extremely strong accents. This then sparked the idea for a blog focusing on the sound/hearing aspect of shows.

I myself am a hearing aid wearer and have had problems with my ears since being a child, so this is quite an important subject to me (especially when it comes to hearing in a theatre) as I’m sure it is to most theatregoers.

The majority of the time, most shows are pretty good at making sure things are at a suitable volume and of course there is the well know lesson of projection and ‘making sure your voice hits the back of the theatre’ (I assume…is this still a thing now?)

However, there are times when maybe the music can be a little overpowering or perhaps the characters might be deep in conversation and you can’t quite catch everything they are saying.

If any of you reading this are familiar with hearing aids or anything along those lines you’ll know most theatres now have what’s called the loop system, which if your hearing aid has it activated you can connect to it and the sound will be sent straight through to your hearing aid (I’m also an Audiologist so fit hearing aids for a living).

 

 

 

Some of the shows I’ve seen recently have varied a lot hearing wise. Firstly, the Ferryman. As much I loved the show and was extremely shocked by the ending (you have to be there), I did have a bit of trouble hearing it all. Yes, this is the play I mentioned at the beginning and I’m afraid I did struggle at times to understand what was being said. Despite this, you do get used to it by the end and I managed to follow the gist of it. My advice if you’re going to watch this is maybe trying to have a little idea of what it is about beforehand and have your concentrating caps on when you see it!

Another show I recently saw was the Cursed Child. I am pleased to say most of the actors in Harry Potter and the Cursed Child spoke very clearly and the sound was pretty good throughout the show! Occasionally if the characters were having an argument or got a bit carried away with emotion certain things might not come across quite so clearly.

Overall, musicals tend to be at an appropriate level in order for us to take in the beautiful scores or talented voices so generally, I’m sure a lot of people will manage fine. For those who do not or those who are interested in knowing a bit more about this side of things, there will be a short section on the sound/hearing quality included in our upcoming reviews. The aim is to hopefully help and guide people who may struggle so they know what to expect when going to see a particular show. So please keep an eye out for that in the future and be sure to hear the people sing!

REVIEW: SeatPlan

Written by Nathan Deane
Contributions from Charlotte White

A useful tool for UK theatregoers, SeatPlan is a website that takes the average auditorium plan and makes it interactive, allowing users to add photos from the seats and leave reviews of their seats. Users earn rewards from each photo uploaded and can also enter competitions and buy tickets via the website.

Despite a quite confusing interface, the tool is extremely helpful to the average theatregoer, if you’re based in London, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Milton Keynes, Manchester or Oxford. Whilst SeatPlan isn’t limited to those 6 areas, it doesn’t go much further than them, leaving people outside of those areas with local touring theatres in the dark of where to sit.

The site only has the major theatres, so you can’t get seating maps for some Off-West End venues such as Southwark Playhouse or Greenwich Theatre, which limits the usage to some theatre-goers.

The rewards are enticing, you earn 40p for each photo you add to the site and the pennies go towards theatre tokens – an exciting reward for any theatre fan. For an extra 40p, make sure you take a photo of your ticket stub!

The new, updated interface makes it hard to find the interactive seat plan, a feature I couldn’t find and had to ask my Facebook friends to help me find it when the update happened. Nevertheless, now I know where it is I can use the tool whenever I want.

The seat reviews are informative, usually accompanied by photos of the view and star ratings of the comfort, view, legroom and the show itself, providing a deep enough insight so that when you book your ticket you’ll know whether the seat is right for you.

The ticket booking system is easy enough, with discounted prices scattered around and easy to use seating charts.

I use the SeatPlan site quite frequently and, although it has a few minor issues, it’s a brilliant tool that anyone who is able to access a London theatre should use, and with the rewards system it’s a great way to fund your theatre-going!

4stars

REVIEW: Mirrors @ Leicester Square Theatre

Reviewed by Alex Kirk

Written and performed by Siobhan McMillan, Mirrors is a clever and humorous take on the classic Snow White story.

In Snow White, the Evil Queen discovers that there is another maiden in the land who dares to be fairer than she, and begins a hunt to kill her. In Mirrors, the Evil Queen is one of many personalities living inside the head of an enthusiastic yet entirely unoriginal and naive YouTube vlogger called ShyGirl, with a grand total of 30 subscribers.

When she is stood up by her ‘boyfriend’ (who merely uses her for sex and shows no romance at all), she becomes Shivvers – our ‘Evil Queen’ – a much more confident and down to earth character, who guides us through the story when her mirror tells her that she is no longer the most gorgeous woman alive, and begins her pilgrimage to kill her.

McMillan’s writing is clever and endearing, using mystical fairy-tale language to narrate the story, interjected with insults and stereotypes more commonly found in Facebook memes and ‘trash’ humour; the first woman that Shivvers believes is her new enemy is given the name ‘Bitchface’, and later in the play we hear all about another character’s love for chips and hummus (which was served to the audience after the show!). McMillan gives a strong performance throughout the play, in all of her characters, sometimes switching between them on alternating lines. She gives a masterclass in characterisation.

Gabi Maddocks’ direction is brilliant as well, and utilises the space superbly. The Lounge at the Leicester Square Theatre is a highly intimate space, and yet every single corner of the room is used throughout the show, thoroughly gripping your attention. The fairy-tale language in McMillan’s script parallels the fake oh-so-perfect world that YouTube vloggers pretend to have, and Maddocks’ direction heightens this further with some brilliant comedy moments – a personal favourite moment being ‘magical’ bubbles coming from a techie blowing very loudly at the back of the theatre. This is a production that is very self-aware and embraces its innocence and intimacy, and it is this that makes it such an endearing piece of theatre that will have you invested in ShyGirl’s journey.

Snow White parallels aside, I cannot compare this show to anything else. It’s thoroughly unique, totally personal, and I really enjoyed it.

4stars

REVIEW: Myth @ The Other Palace

Reviewed by Nathan Deane

Only in the workshop process, Myth is a new rock musical based on the Greek legend Orpheus. The show is presented semi-staged and aims for a full run in the near future.

The show tells the story of Orpheus, a rock-star in his band The Argonauts, with bandmates Jason and Theseus. The Moirai (fates) have their eye on Orpheus and change his fate. They get his band a record label at Underworld Records overseen by Hades and his right-hand woman Medusa, tempt Orpheus with “viper”, a harmful drug, and eventually lead his girlfriend, Eurydice, away from him, leaving Orpheus to quest through the underworld to find her.

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The show was spectacular from start to finish. Before going in to the show, I wasn’t really educated on the stories of Orpheus so it was a pretty strange introduction to the myth, I’ll admit. However, I’m a sucker for rock musicals, so seeing a brand new British rock score was incredible.

The music, book and lyrics, by Sam Cassidy were refreshing and vocally challenging. While it is a rock musical, Cassidy mixed various other styles into the score, most notably rap. This made the music extremely interesting and the cast were working their asses off to sing the score perfectly, which they did.

Orpheus, played by Joel Harper-Jackson, was an extremely well-written character. He has quite an intense character arc, and Harper-Jackson plays the role perfectly. His vocals were pretty insane, and he acted the part flawlessly.

The three fates, Atropos, Lachesis and Clotho, played by Jodie Jacobs, Jodie Steele and Eloise Davies, respectively, provided powerhouse vocals throughout the show and basically narrated the story, overseeing act one and most of act two. These 3 characters were my favourites as they got the best songs and provided the tightest harmonies on the London theatre scene right now.

Matthew McKenna played Hades, the comedic antagonist of the piece. He was smooth and charming, yet truly villainous at heart. McKenna was hilarious and this role was absolutely perfect for him. His sidekick, Miss M, also known as Medusa, was played by Zoe Birkett. Birkett provided a seductive, sassy feel to Medusa and some of her lines had me laughing out loud.

Diana Vickers played Eurydice, Orpheus’ girlfriend. Vickers played the role well, providing vulnerability but also strength at points. The fact that she is hardly seen after act one is incredibly sad, as Vickers’ talent deserves to shine, but she does get to showcase, she gives everything she’s got.

This show is absolutely incredible. It’s unlike anything I’ve seen, and it’s deserving of a longer run.

5stars

Myth runs at The Other Palace until 17th March 2018. Click here for tickets and more information.

 

Olivier Awards Nominations: MY PREDICTIONS

Written by Nathan Deane

It’s not common practice to predict nominations for awards ceremonies. But the 2017-2018 theatre season in London was so great that the Olivier Eligibility is one of the best things I’ve ever seen. I feel like I have to tell everyone (is predict the right word? Oh well.) what I hope is nominated for the Theatre section of the Oliviers this year! I’ve limited myself to 3 or 4 nominations per category. These are not the official nominations; just my predictions/wishes.

Best Revival

The Birthday Party – Harold Pinter Theatre

Frozen – Theatre Royal Haymarket

Glengarry Glen Ross – Playhouse Theatre

Stepping Out – Vaudeville Theatre

New Play

The Ferryman – Gielgud Theatre

John – National Theatre (Dorfman)

Lady Day At Emmerson’s Bar & Grill – Wyndham’s Theatre

Pinocchio – National Theatre (Lyttleton)

New Comedy

Labour of Love – Noël Coward Theatre

Mischief Movie Night – Arts Theatre

The Miser – Garrick

Musical Revival

42nd Street – Theatre Royal Drury Lane

Follies – National Theatre (Olivier)

On The Town – Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre

New Musical

Everybody’s Talking About Jamie – Apollo Theatre

The Grinning Man – Trafalgar Studios

Hamilton – Victoria Palace Theatre

The Toxic Avenger – Arts Theatre

Entertainment & Family

Dick Whittington – London Palladium

Five Guys Named Moe – Marble Arch Theatre

The Hunting of the Snark – Vaudeville

Affiliate

The B*easts – Bush Theatre

tick, tick…BOOM! – Park Theatre

Room – Theatre Royal Stratford East

Disco Pigs – Trafalgar Studios 2

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