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Posts Tagged ‘musical’

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Funny Girl is based on the life of Fanny Brice, a singer and entertainer who became famous in the early 1900s. It’s definitely a fictionalised account of Fanny’s life, so if you are after a biography this is not the show to see. But if you are after a couple of hours of great entertainment, delivered by a superb cast, then you should definitely see it.

The story tells how Fanny didn’t fit into the leggy beauty look that people wanted to see on stage, and instead had to rely on her humour and fantastic voice. And the audience loved her! She joined the Ziegfeld Follies and became a main attraction and a huge star. Her private life was less successful – she fell deeply in love with Nick Arnstein, a cad and a gambler, but through it all the show went on, as it always must.

Natasha J Barnes was outstanding as Fanny – she had something of a baptism of fire in the role, being understudy for Sheridan Smith and finding herself thrust into the main role when Smith had to leave the tour for a while under fraught personal circumstances. Barnes has a quick wit, a very expressive face and a cheeky nod and wink, all with perfect comic timing. She is utterly endearing – and that voice! Wow!

Darius Campbell was fetching and charismatic as Nick. Far too smooth a character for my personal taste, but he inhabited the part well and his singing voice was just right too.

Full credit too to Rachel Izen who played Fanny’s mother and almost stole every scene she was in; Myra Sands as family friend Mrs Strakosh and Zoe Ann Brown as another family friend Mrs Meeker. Also to Joshua Lay who played Fanny’s friend, fellow performer and ardent admirer Eddie. His dancing was excellent, and I wished Fanny had ended up with him.

Beautiful songs, with the two most well known probably being People, and the uplifting belter, Don’t Rain On My Parade.

Overall, it’s a feel-good show with some poignant and tender moments. Natasha Barnes fully deserved the standing ovation she got at the end…I highly recommend this production!

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La Cage Aux Folles tells the story of Georges, a night club manager (played here by Adrian Zmed) and his romantic partner and star attraction Albin (John Partridge). Happily together for 20 years, their lives are thrown into disarray when Georges’ son Jean-Michael (Dougie Carter) wants to marry a young woman named Anne, but her ultra-conservative parents do not approve of homosexuality (or much else it appears). Jean-Michael wants Albin to stay away when Anne and her parents visit, as they believe that his biological parents are still married. This naturally leads to devastation for Albin, who has raised Jean-Michael as his own for years, and also paves the way for a hilarious evenings of misunderstanding, mistaken identity and shocking revelations.

During the show, the audience are treated to a smorgasbord of highly imaginative, colourful and flamboyant dances by Les Cagelles, the dancers at Georges’ nightclub – a group of young men who dress like beautiful young woman. Albin of course is the club’s star with his alter-ego Zaza, a bitchy, vulnerable and extremely funny drag queen. Stage veteran Marti Webb also appears as restauranteur and friend of the couple, Jacqueline.

I loved the show – the songs, which include the showstopping I Am What I Am as well as others like With Anne On My Arm, Look Over There and The Best of Times, were all performed to perfection. John Patridge’s rendition of I Am What I Am moved me to genuine tears.

Despite the subject matter, this is most certainly a comedy, and Partridge and Zmed make the most of their roles, with Patridge (as Zaza) riffing with the audience for some time in the first half of the show. The more farcical elements are in the second half with the visit of Anne and her parents.

The show got a standing ovation at the end, and it was well deserved. If you want to hear some beautiful musical numbers, watch some spectacular dancing and have a good belly laugh, you should definitely try and see La Cage Aux Folles!

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There can’t be many theatre goers who have not at least heard of Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice’s musical Evita, which tells the story of Argentine First Lady Eva Peron. And surely any musicals fan worth their salt knows the shows most famous song, Don’t Cry For Me Argentina. I saw my first production of this musical back in 2013; I went to see it pretty much on a whim and was absolutely blown away by it, so when I heard that another production of the show was touring, I just knew I had to see it.

In this particular production, Emma Hatton – fresh from the West End production of Wicked – takes the title role and Gian Marco Shiaretti has been making waves with his excellent performance as the cynical narrator Che.

However, during the performance that we saw, Che was played by understudy Matias Stegmann – and he certainly did not disappoint!! With arguably the largest part in the whole play, tasked with relating Eva’s story to the audience while maintaining a healthy cynicism about how effective she actually was in her role of First Lady, Matias Stegmann radiated star quality – he had a beautiful voice and the charisma required for the role and I will be looking out for this actor in the future.

Emma Hatton as Evita was also superb throughout – her voice is second to none and her rendition of Don’t Cry For Me Argentina actually moved me to tears. This is the song that the audience was waiting for and she did not disappoint – as she stood on the balcony ready to begin, you could have heard a pin drop in the auditorium. What pressure!! I must also mention Sarah O’Connor, who played Juan Peron’s girlfriend (ousted when the social climbing and ambitious Eva came on the scene) and who performed the beautiful Another Suitcase Another Hall wonderfully. Such a sweet sweet voice – another one to look out for in future. Kudos also to Kevin Stephen-Jones as Juan Peron. Peron himself is actually not a major role in the play, but Stephen-Jones nevertheless stood out in the part.

With beautiful music and a stellar cast, this show is one to look out for – if you get chance, I highly highly recommend that you go and see it!

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Click here for my review of the 2013 production of Evita

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As the subtitle suggests, this musical tells the story of Buddy Holly – or at least the story of his rise to fame, for the show starts while Buddy is looking for a record deal. Naturally it contains all his most famous songs, and given just how well known and loved those songs are, it must be a daunting task to take on the role.

Full disclosure here – I probably would not have gone to see this show if I hadn’t been taking my mother, who really likes Buddy Holly’s music, given that she spent much of her youth listening to it. But along I went, looking forward to an enjoyable afternoon, and I have to say this show delivered enjoyment by the bucketload. Alex Fobbester played Buddy (he alternates performances with Glen Joseph), and he was absolutely fantastic. Like the rest of the cast, Fobbester played his instruments live during the performance  and they did full and complete justice to the songs.

The story charts his career, taking in his marriage to Maria Elena, and his fallout with backing band The Crickets.

The second half of the show is given over to a performance of touring show that Holly was doing with The Big Bopper and Ritchie Valens when all three were killed in a plane crash in 1959. This gives Thomas Mitchells and Jordan Cunningham playing Big Bopper and Valens respectively the chance to shine, as they perform those singers’ most famous songs – Chantilly Lace (Big Bopper) and La Bamba (Valens) – and they both thrilled the crowd.

The entire audience were up on their feet clapping along by the end of the show, with many of us dancing in the aisles. The standing ovation that the cast received at the end was very well deserved. And me? I am most definitely a Buddy Holly convert, and am in fact sitting typing this with Buddy Holly’s music playing in the background. For a career that last less than two years, this man gave the world of music a precious gift and a lasting influence. Whether you are a Buddy fan or not, I strongly recommend this show.

For anyone who is interested, here is a list of songs that feature in this production:

Rose of Texas

Rip It Up

Changing all those Changes

That’s Be the Day

You’ve Got Love

Brown Eyed Handsome Man

Everyday

Shout

Not Fade Away

Peggy Sue

Words of Love

Oh Boy

Listen to Me

Think it Over

Well Alright

True Love Ways

It’s So Easy

Why Do Fools Fall In Love?

Chantilly Lace

Maybe Baby

Peggy Sue Got Married

Heartbeat

La Bamba

Raining In My Heart

It Doesn’t Matter Anymore

Rave On

Johnny B. Goode

 

 

 

 

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“Joy in it’s purest form,” says the poster for this show – I think that’s an understatement. This show is simply delightful, and absolutely flawless.

For anyone who does not know the story, it is set in New York in the 1950s. Gambler Nathan Detroit (here played by Maxwell Caulfield) is trying to find a location for his floating craps game, but is struggling to find the$1000 dollars he needs to pay a local gangster the rent to use his location for the game. To add to his woes, Adelaide (Louise Dearman), Nathan’s fiancee of 14 years has got tired of waiting for them to get married and is putting the pressure on.

Enter compulsive gambler Sky Master (Richard Fleeshman), who Nathan sees as his ticket to $1000 – knowing that Sky can rarely resist a bet, Nathan bets him that Sky can’t take a girl of Nathan’s choosing to Havana for the night. The rub is that the girl that Nathan picks is Sarah Brown (Anna O’Byrne), a local missionary who has little time for gamblers and sinners, and is certainly not someone likely to fall for Sky…

I don’t mind admitting that I had extremely high expectations for this play – I love the film, which featured Marlon Brando as his most beautiful as Sky Masterson, and Frank Sinatra is fine voice as the seedy but loveable Nathan Detroit. This production exceeded all my hopes – I can honestly say that I loved every minute. The four main leads were all excellent- Sky is a character who is both something of a bad boy, but who is also a gentleman and reveals depth of character. Richard Fleeshman was perfect in the role – lovely to look at, with a super singing voice, and perfectly embodied the character of Sky. He was paired perfectly with Anna O’Byrne who had the most beautiful voice, and was wonderful as Sarah Brown.

Maxwell Caulfield and Loouise Dearman were also both excellent and extremely funny as hopeless gambler Nathan (who needs to be both exasperating to his long-suffering fiancee, and endearing to the audience) and ever hopeful Adelaide. In fact, were it not for the fact that the rest of the cast were so terrific, Louise Dearman would have stolen every scene. She has a great voice, spot-on comic timing and the warmth the character needs.

Special mention to Jack Edwards as Nicely-Nicely Johnson, who delighted the entire audience with his spectacular rendition of Sit Down, You’re Rockin’ The Boat – just one of the many musical numbers which featured splendid choreography, excellent singing and so much colour and energy that you couldn’t help but be swept along.

If there was one thing I could change about this show, it would be that I wish I had bought tickets for more than one performance. Simply fantastic on every level.

(For my review of the 1955 film, please click here.)

 

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Andrew Lloyd-Webber and Tim Rice’s musical Joseph is 46 – yes, 46!! – years old. And, I’m ashamed to say that I have never seen it before today! In fact my only real awareness of the  show comes from Jason Donovan being cast in the lead role in the early 1990s, and the surrounding hoo-ha his casting caused (although he was apparently brilliant and soon silenced his critics).

So I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect when I went to see the show – I knew the basic storyline…Joseph is given a fantastically colourful coat and ends up as a slave, and there’s loads of music during the story – but that was about it. What I certainly didn’t expect was so much energy, colour and humour. If this show doesn’t make you smile, then you need your sense of humour checking.

X Factor winner Joe McElderry played Joseph, and brought a real freshness and vitality to the role. He also has a beautiful singing voice, shown off to full effect in such numbers as Close Every Door, and Any Dream Will Do. However, his is arguably not the largest part – that would go to the nameless narrator who has the dual task of being on stage pretty much throughout the entire show, yet not getting in the way of the action taking place. Lucy Kay and her stunning soprano voice  accomplished this beautifully.

I loved the array of musical styles, from country to gospel to calypso and some rather amazing Elvis Presley inspired numbers from the Pharaoh, played by Emilianos Stamatakis – who I had never heard of before, but I am willing to bet my bottom dollar that I’ll be hearing of him again…what a talent!

The cast were supported by local schoolchildren who were on stage the whole time and sang along beautifully with the music while remaining observers only to the story. Twhole cast seemed to be having a wonderful time, and so did the audience. By the end of the show, everyone was on their feet, singing, dancing and clapping along.

Truly fantastic, and a show not to be missed.

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When you go to see a show and the stage has a giant pink lipstick in the middle of it, you have to suspect that you are in for a evening of glitzy camp fun. Of course, if the show you’re going to see is Priscilla, Queen of the Desert, that’s probably what you’re expecting, and indeed would be disappointed if it turned out to be anything other than campy fun.

Well fear not – this show delivers on every level. With more outrageous outfits and lines than you can count, more 80s hits than you can remember and a laugh in every scene, you would have to be a real curmudgeon to leave this show without a huge smile on your face.

Jason Donovan, who previously played the character of Tick in the West End, reprises the role here (alternating with Duncan James). He is excellent as the drag queen, who crosses the Australian desert with his two friends Bernadette the transsexual (Simon Green, and fellow drag queen Adam (Adam Bailey), to see his former wife and finally meet his young son.

Green and Bailey are both perfect. Having recently watched the film with Terence Stamp and Guy Pearce in these respective roles, I thought that anyone performing these roles on stage had a lot to live up to, but by goodness these two actors managed it. Green was wonderfully bitchy but also displayed a genuine vulnerability as a literally new woman, who feels that her glory days are behind her. `Bailey (like Pearce before him) also makes a brash and often insensitive character, actually very sympathetic and likeable.

Of course, with more glitter and sequins than you can imagine, the whole thing is as camp as Christmas, and intentionally so, but there is a also a real heart running through this story – the theme of acceptance runs throughout  as the trio encounter hostility, rejection and prejudice during their journey.

A special mention also for Philip Childs, who plays open minded but unhappily married mechanic Bob – he eventually joins the trio on their journey. Bob was one of the more sympathetic characters – sensitive and kind, but living in a world of close minded people. Julie Yammakee as his bride Cynthia also definitely makes her mark with a saucy dance routine where she does unimaginable things with ping pong balls! Her role may not be that big, but it is certainly memorable.

The cast seemed to be enjoying themselves as much as the audience – I had a huge smile on my face from start to finish, and the standing ovation at the end was well deserved.

Fantastic show, with lots of wonderful music and dance, some unbelievably creative costumes and great acting – this is a must-see production which the term ‘feel-good’ should have been created for. Don’t miss it.

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