Review: 4**** We Will Rock You – Ipswich Regent Theatre @wwryglobal @QueenWillRock @wwrytour

Dazzling screens projecting the galaxy with shooting stars and the feeling that something momentous is about to happen, greet you as you enter the Ipswich Regent Theatre, promising a glittering show of the music we all love and adore by Queen.

The immensely talented Ben Elton has recreated the incredibly popular show, with a return already promised for 2020, showcasing some of Queens best hits through an insta-selfie-no-instruments futuristic world where a group of Rock Rebels called the Bohemians fight for their freedom, and the right to express themselves through the music that reflects there individualism.

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Review: 4**** Vivaldi Meets Werther: Four Seasons – Bridewell Theatre / Opera in the City Festival @TimeZoneTheatre @OperaCityFest @BridewellCentre

The concept alone makes this production intriguing: two famous artistic works – one musical, one literary – being paired up to provide a new way to experience each of them. 

Pamela Schermann splices together a rendition of Vivaldi’s Four Seasons with Goethe’s pro-romantic novel The Sorrows of Young Werther. Passages of music are interwoven with extracts of Werther’s letters which comprise the novel, delivered by Samuel Lawrence as Werther. Just as the music moves through the stages of the year, so the narrative traces Werther’s various psychological transitions. The spring of his youthful, carefree passion for the betrothed Charlotte inevitably collides in due course with the reality of her marriage to another and the impossibility of his position. Ultimately his emotional journey arrives at a place of a wintery solitude, leading him on to take drastic steps to curtail his bleak future. 

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Review: 4**** A Beautiful Noise – Lyric Theatre #ABeautifulNoise @TheLyricTheatre @FisherStevensUK

Tweetingit: 4* Dust off your best karaoke voice for a good old sing song; but more importantly, the celebration of a great modern songwriter.

So the great tribute bandwagon rolls on with A Beautiful Noise at the Lyric Theatre in Shaftsbury Avenue. The title song was a top 20 hit for Neil Diamond, one of the greatest songwriters of his generation. Such tribute is even more poignant now Diamond has retired from touring due to the onset of Parkinson’s disease. Longevity is rare in an industry that no longer cares for talent or innovation; only the next puppet on the production line.

Neil Diamond in contrast represents staying power; producing roughly an album each year since 1966, he has sold 100 million records worldwide. With a guitar over his shoulder, Diamond might have been a cut price Dylan, straddling folk and blues on his early recordings. However, a label switch in the early 70s produced a succession of classic pop songs including Cracklin’ Rosie, I am…I said and Sweet Caroline. All three are featured in this excellent show starring Fisher Stevens as Diamond.  

Thankfully, there are no half-baked storylines clinging to the songs; it is treated as a conventional live set and is all the better for it. A back screen provides a brief biography of the singer’s life while Stevens chipped in with anecdotes. Every notable Neil Diamond song is covered including the ones that were hits for other artists. For example, I’m a believer and A little bit you, little bit me by the Monkees, The boat that I row; a hit for Lulu; and Red red wine a number one hit for UB40 in the 80s. One of my personal favourites checked in early; the dark, haunting Girl you’ll be a woman soon; so memorably covered on the Pulp Fiction soundtrack.

For all its inclusivity the show did carry a fair amount of padding. For example, the biog rightly made reference to Diamond’s time at the Brill Building in New York; the songwriting powerhouse that produced Carole King and Neil Sedaka among many others. But why feature a medley of songs by Ellie Greenwich and Jeff Barry (another product of the Brill Building)? Similarly, Woman in love was performed for no other reason than it’s a Barbara Streisand song; who duetted with Diamond on You don’t bring me flowers, which is more logically included in the set list. A glorious finale featured one of Diamond’s greatest creations, the anthemic America from the soundtrack of the Jazz Singer, his only film role.

The seven piece band and two backing singers provided solid support to Fisher Stevens, who effected a pretty decent impression of his subject. However, his carefully constructed New York accent quickly slipped into the ether. It might seem terribly unsporting to point this out, but he’d given up on it by Act II. One thing that didn’t slip was his hair, which didn’t move for two and a half hours; isn’t it amazing what some good hair product can do?

Neil Diamond is a songwriter and performer whose ear for a ballad made him housewife’s choice and a staple of the Radio 2 playlist. Popularity rarely goes unpunished and Diamond became another victim of rock intelligentsia. His induction into the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame in 2011 was long overdue. A Beautiful Noise is a thoroughly entertaining tribute that keeps you singing long after the show has finished. As Alan Partridge once said ‘You can keep Jesus Christ. That was Neil Diamond truly King of the Jews!’  Well not quite, but close enough.

Music Director: Mark Burton

Producers: Dave Mackay/Flying Music Company Limited

Booking Until: Touring nationally until November 2019

Booking Link:

Review: 4**** The Greatest Love Of All – The London Palladium @TGLOAShow @LondonPalladium‏ @BelindaDavids

Tweetingit: 4* Belinda Davids pays tribute to Whitney Houston in a sparkling show at the London Palladium. If only all Sunday nights could look and sound this good!

A film documentary entitled Can I Be Me spoke volumes for the painfully short life of Whitney Houston; interviews with those closest to her showed how she fought to simply be herself. An upbringing drenched in gospel set the template for a unique talent to blossom. Her mother Cissy Houston was a legendary session singer, her cousin the incomparable Dionne Warwick, her godmother was Darlene Love of the Crystals and an honorary aunt was Aretha Franklin; could Whitney have been anything else but a diva? She went on to record nine albums and sell in excess of 200 million records worldwide. 

In spite of the adulation, glamour and wealth she yearned to be an authentic blues singer; just like the other women in her family. There’s a fine line between commercial success and critical acceptance; 13 chart topping US pop singles were not going to cut it. She had a stormy, tempestuous marraige to singer Bobby Brown. A union of two addictive personalities led both into regular periods of rehab. Three years after Whitney’s passing daughter Bobbi Kristina died aged 22; two tortured souls who left us far too soon.

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Review: 4**** George, Eventim Apollo Hammersmith @EventimApollo ‏#Rob Lamberti #GeorgeMichael

Tweetingit: 4* Bouffant hair, three day stubble and regulation ray-bans all present and correct; oh the voice is pretty bloody decent too! A highly enjoyable celebration of the man and his music; all courtesy of the brilliant Rob Lamberti.

When George Michael died on Christmas Day 2016, it marked the end of a wretched depressingly flat year. Along with David Bowie and Prince pop music had lost three of its brightest stars. Inevitably and quite rightly life goes on; but I still wonder what George might have gone onto achieve? Many would argue his best years were behind him; fighting his demons undoubtedly took their toll creatively. 

Although recording shortly before his death, the release of new material has been decidedly piecemeal; a re-worked version of Fantasy featuring Nile Rogers was released in 2017, but a reputed three albums are yet to see the light of day. A new film Last Christmas starring Emilia Clarke will also feature unreleased songs; but is not due for release until November. So for now, we have to make do with a catalogue of songs and performances to savour. 

The tribute market has responded with a slew of acts that are more often lookalike than soundalike. We were fortunate to have Rob Lamberti playing at the Eventim Apollo in Hammersmith. Rob is by far the best tribute act, having cut his teeth on TV shows Stars in Their Eyes and more recently Even Better Than The Real Thing. The Apollo has a natural vibe and its art deco interior has never looked finer. The venue has played host to the greatest artists ever to have lived. Everyone from Buddy Holly to the Beatles, Queen and the Clash have graced this wonderful stage. Wham also played here on their first tour, so would seem the perfect location for such a tribute.

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Review: 4**** The Bowie Experience: The Golden Years Tour Hackney Empire @HackneyEmpire @bowieexperience

Tweetingit: 4* A true icon and his live show re-imagined; A hugely entertaining take on a greatest hits package. I defy anyone not to enjoy this show!

June 1983: post-punk, pre Band Aid and belted safari jackets were inexplicably in fashion. But more importantly, it marked the only occasion I saw David Bowie play live. The Serious Moonlight tour showcased the critically panned but commercially successful Let’s dance album. I happily ticked off the classics and revelled in the presence of a true icon.bowie-loti-768x480

Thirty five years have passed since that memorable summer evening, and the Brixton boy is sadly no longer with us. Watching a tribute act is a challenge for the senses; you might disappear down the rabbit hole of YouTube for clips and draw a comparison. But having seen the real thing, one sets the bar unreasonably high. Going to the Hackney Empire further extends the nostalgia vibe; I was born and raised a stone’s throw away from the Empire, a once legendary music hall venue. But it has since relaunched as a theatre and is thriving with a variety of shows on offer. As the song goes ain’t nothing like the real thing; but overall, the Bowie Experience does a damn good job.

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Review: 4**** Songs For Nobodies @WiltonMusicHall

I should start by saying I’m not a music aficionado, so this review is the honest opinion of your average 20-something who decided to see a one-woman musical performance with little to no prior knowledge of what it actually is.” Songs for Nobodies” celebrates five amazing singers: Judy Garland, Patsy Cline, Billie Holiday, Edith Piaf and Maria Callas and while you may think it’s a tribute show, it’s rather… something else – something incredible and beautiful. DZNObH2XcAAXuU9The show was written for Australian Bernadette Robinson after she approached Joanna Murray-Smith (playwright) and Simon Phillips (director). This resulted in a solo play that not only showcasesRobinson’s extraordinary musical talent but also celebrates these amazing five artists that come from very different musical backgrounds. The show itself is a sort of snapshot into the lives of five “ordinary” women (the “nobodies”) whose lives were somehow altered by their encounters with the five extraordinary singers (the “somebodies”). Each scene tells the story of the woman who met one of the divas and includes some of their best-known songs. Overall, it’s a beautiful performance, humoristic at times, and tugging on your heartstrings on occasion – I can definitely see why it had such a success in Australia.

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