Tweetingit: 5* Victor Hugo’s sprawling epic seamlessly transfers from stage to the stadium rock atmosphere of London’s 02 Arena. A perfect production showcasing rare genius.
Once upon a time I acquired the hardback version of Les Miserables by Victor Hugo. Needless to say 1,232 pages stayed in pristine condition as I contrived excuses not to read it. Hugo’s masterpiece had so many alternative uses – mine was primarily a doorstop before its convenient loss during a house move. Any literary guilt was assuaged by the brilliant stage version that first graced the London stage in 1985. My own twisted logic dictated that I no longer needed to read the book. It is after all a brilliantly distilled version of the novel that marries narrative with beautifully constructed songs.
This film made in 2010 marked the 25th anniversary of the show’s first production at the Barbican. The transfer from theatre to the stadium like 02 Arena might at first present a challenge. However, Les Mis easily fills the 20,000 capacity venue as the songs grow bigger and better. Two giant screens flank a full orchestra and huge choir stretching across the stage. Sets are stripped away as cast members take the stage in authentic 19th Century costume. The unique atmosphere was obvious even on the small screen and one could sense the film captured a very special night.
Tweetingit: 5***** A chess Master-piece makes a triumphant return to the West End. Beautifully sung & visually stunning – if you’ve got a pulse, you’ll love this!
Chess had its first West End run at the Prince Edward Theatre from 1986-1989. Having seen the latest production two questions persistently nag at the back of my mind; how on earth did I miss this show first time around…and why has it taken over 30 years to make its London return? I arrived at the London Coliseum unfashionably early. The paps were gathering around the main entrance, but managed to give them the slip as I brushed shoulders with Michael Grade.
A grand four-tier auditorium greets patrons with a sense of occasion slowly takes hold. An excellent set design was predictably based on a chess board illuminated according to the scene. The orchestra were pitched centre stage and flanked by giant screens; always useful in a theatre of this size, and also means you don’t stare at dots if seated in the balcony
It tells the story of two grandmasters striving for supremacy; their respective nations (USA and Russia) see their match as symbolic of conflicting ideologies and covet the propaganda value of victory – a scenario reminiscent of the duel between Bobby Fischer and Boris Spassky in 1972. A new cold war may well have begun, but the reference point for this portrayal is firmly rooted in the 80s.However, it doesn’t need to make political points and is not an academic study of east-west relations; it’s really a love story providing a highly effective vehicle for some great songs.
#Tweetingit – Sequins, costume reveals, skirt removals, questionable sexual content, bearded ladies, rollerskates, leather, 8 of the best shows in the west end, not a nul points, duff note or tech fault in sight AND LULU! An amazing evening for an incredible cause
What a night. I could not imagine a better treat than seeing 8 of the best West End casts performing on the same stage in the same night. Not only that but we had this year’s
Eurovision entry, Surie, last year’s Eurovision entry, Lucie Jones, (“Fucking”) Lulu, an appearance from Leslie Joseph, Cheryl Baker, and Graham Norton, a fantastic host in Richard Gauntlett, and an amazing judging panel of Alene Phillips, John Partridge and Tom Allen. And finally, to top it all off, it was for the amazing cause which is TheatreMAD – supporting those with HIV and AIDs.
“There are no new steps!” But as of March 29th, there will be when beginner dancer, Fran has the audacity to approach Scott Hastings, an open amaetur, to dance with her once more, as Strictly Ballroom comes to Picadilly Theatre.
If you haven’t seen this film, get on to it and then get tickets for what is set to be a fabulous production. The cast has serious dancing prowess and should not disappoint. Lead by Jonny Labey, Zizi Strallen and Will Young, alongside Anna Fancolini and Gerard Horan, this musical also features some truly iconic music such as Love is in the Air, Perhaps Perhaps Perhaps and Time After Time.
4* Aladdin The Musical- A Brilliant Night Of Entertainment
Disney’s Aladdin has certainly made an impressionable debut on British soil! Featuring all of the main songs from the Academy Award-winning classic film, this shining spectacle is a good take on the much-loved Disney film.
Although perhaps not the intention, elements of Panto were visible throughout and were particularly heightened by the Genie’s over powering persona. Whilst I’m impartial to a bit of Panto, there were moments where I did question the direction the show was headed.
#Tweetingit – Pixie Lott was superb but this, unfortunately, did not make up for the show being, frankly, dull.
I should probably start this review with something of a confession. Neither I nor my companion at last night’s production of Breakfast at Tiffany’s had seen the film version starring Audrey Hepburn so we went to the show not knowing the story and without expectation. This proved to be a blessing and a curse.
I suspect had we known the lack of sympathy we’d have felt for the characters, or that Capote’s tale is one of the dullest ever told, but alas we went in full of hope which slowly drained out of us over the 2 ½ hour show (which felt far, far long.
#Tweetingit – 5***** A cool, sexy rundown of Whitney Houston’s finest moments, brilliantly staged and set in a world class venue. For what more could anyone ask?
Downsizing a Hollywood movie to the stage is no easy task, but this latest production of The Bodyguard hits the mark with consummate ease. Many will remember the star vehicle featuring Kevin Costner, and a soundtrack that spawned five top 20 singles, including the chart topping million selling smash; I will always love you by Whitney Houston. Logic requires the show to double up as a greatest hits package; but there are only six Whitney songs on the original soundtrack; so ten carefully chosen songs from her back catalogue were added to create a seamless link with a storyline that resonates with those in the public eye.
#Tweetingit – review in 140 characters: 5* A magnificent tribute to the originators of cool Britannia.Great songs written by Ray Davies provide a timely reminder of when we were proud to be British.
To a nostalgia obsessed geek like me, the 1960s were mainly about two things; the music and England winning the World Cup in 1966. Yes, our heroes in cherry red shirts despatching the Germans with a style befitting Swinging London. But what was riding high in the charts when Bobby Moore lifted the Jules Rimet Trophy? Sunny Afternoon by the Kinks of course. The epitome of cool Britannia summed up in a tantalisingly brief moment of perfection. The Kinks remain one of my favourite 60s bands (second only to the Beatles), and felt like a kid on Christmas Eve as I strolled up to the Harold Pinter Theatre.
Guys and Dolls is a seminal Broadway musical, a classic. Full of instantly recognisable characters, sing-along songs and adapted on to the silverscreen by luminaries such as Frank Sinatra and Marlon Brando. But at its base it is a spangly curtain covering one of the worst periods of depression in American history and, intentionally or not, some of the raggedness of the age creeps into Chichester Festival Theatre’s performance. From the rather scatter-gun choreography of “Take back your Mink” to Richard Fleeshman’s lyric-distorting accent, this show lacks a little of the polish one would expect. There is, however, a hell of a lot to enjoy about this production.
#Tweetingit – review in 140 characters: Roald Dahl, Oompa-Loompas + cool cat in a top hat and chequered trousers!? = irresistible chocolate fantasy. 5*
Roald Dahl once said ‘watch with glittering eyes the whole world around you because the greatest secrets are always hidden in the most unlikely places. Those who don’t believe in magic will never find it’. Man, ain’t that the truth! As the lights dimmed, I raced back to my childhood and the first time I read Charlie and the Chocolate Factory; could it possibly be as good as I imagined it? Notwithstanding the films starring Gene Wilder and Johnny Depp, the stage is a much greater test of the story’s strength and durability. And yes it is good and took me further than my imagination would ever have gone as a child.
For those unfamiliar with the story, Charlie tells of Willy Wonka, owner of the greatest chocolate factory in the world. When his secret recipes are stolen, he closes the doors and no workers are seen entering or leaving the factory for 15 years; although his chocolate is still being produced and sold around the world. However, Willie comes up with a plan to open his factory and reveal his secrets to five lucky children who find golden tickets inside Wonka chocolate bars. Greedy Augustus Gloop is the first to find a golden ticket, followed by the spoilt Veruca Salt and competitive gum chewing Violet Beauregarde; chocolate hating Mike Teevee is the fourth winner while Charlie Bucket holds the final golden ticket. Charlie opts to take Grandpa Joe with him, a former factory employee; the other four children are accompanied by their parents on what proves to be a wondrous, magical tour of a lifetime.
I found my jaw continually crashing to the ground as the set transformed into different parts of the factory. It was a magnificent spectacle to witness; I couldn’t help but marvel at the simplicity and ingenuity of the overall design. The visuals were complemented by highly creative puppetry and illusions that left me wondering how they achieved such brilliant effects. The songs were bright and tuneful with smart choreography that got the very best from a talented cast. The Oompa-Loompa tribe were soon revealed as the factory’s workforce; they toiled like Trojans, singing and dancing for payment in cocoa beans. Alex Jennings, always a reassuring presence on the West End stage, played Willie Wonka with a cool, sureness of touch while Barry James as Grandpa Joe and Paul J. Medford as Mr Beauregarde lent solid support. The juvenile leads were excellent, displaying a nerveless air of professionalism throughout.
I tried hard to find fault with this production, but couldn’t detect even the slightest chink in its armour. With the calibre of creatives involved (Sam Mendes among others) you wouldn’t expect anything less than perfection; but a technically brilliant show can leave the audience cold unless it buys into the story’s ideas; so I return to my opening quote from the genius that was Roald Dahl; did I believe in magic…and did I find it….? For 2 hours 30 minutes, I was 10 years old again and not only found the magic but embraced it. As the song goes, use pure imagination.
Author: Roald Dahl
Book: David Greig
Music & Lyrics: Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman
Choreography: Peter Darling
Set & Costume Design: Mark Thompson
Director: Sam Mendes
Producers: Langley Park Productions/Neal Street Productions/Playful Productions