Review: 5***** Death of a Salesman – Piccadilly Theatre @SalesmanWestEnd @WendellPierce @TeamPiccadilly

A heavyweight cast join forces with a heavyweight writer to create a tour de force in theatre; an intoxicating mix of style and attitude. Not to be missed.

The cult of celebrity does sometimes work in mysterious ways; my earliest recollection of Arthur Miller was not as a great 20th Century playwright. But more as the third husband of Marilyn Monroe; a nerdy, bespectacled egghead in the wrong relationship.

It looked a monumental mismatch of two very different legends. I’ve happily learnt otherwise down the years. And now this stunning Young Vic production has transferred to the West End, Miller’s work can be savoured by a much wider audience. Death of a Salesman premiered on Broadway in February 1949, and subsequently won the Pulitzer Prize for Drama and Tony award for Best Play. For a story that’s now 70 years old it still feels remarkably fresh; universal themes are explored in a riveting study of family life that will strike a chord with everyone.

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Review: 4**** God’s Dice – Soho Theatre @sohotheatre @Baddiel @exitthelemming

For someone who made his name in stand-up and sketch based comedy, David Baddiel’s first outing as a playwright comes as something of a surprise. God’s Dice sets an examination question that is both daunting and challenging. What would happen if the existence of God could be scientifically proven? It seems a million miles away from the Mary Whitehouse Experience and whimsy of Three Lions. But Baddiel has created an intelligent and original piece of theatre.

Henry Brook (Alan Davies) is a highly respected but unfulfilled professor of physics. His wife Virginia (Alexandra Gilbreath) is a leading writer whose books have set the benchmark for academic research in atheism. The attractive Edie (Leila Mimmack) joins Henry’s class and offers him a proposition; being asked to accept the principles of quantum physics is much like being asked to believe in God. Henry is intrigued by Edie’s assertion; and they begin work on a scientific explanation for miracles in the Christian faith. Virginia is naturally dismissive and wonders if Edie has aroused more than his intellect. Best friend Tim (Nitin Ganatra) is an IT professor and ageing lothario. He too doubts Henry’s claim he is only interested in Edie’s hypothesis. Henry decides to write a book on the subject with Edie as his researcher; he feels invigorated by the opportunity to step out of Virginia’s shadow. When the book is published Edie’s motives become clear as events take an unexpected turn. The origins of Tim’s friendship with Henry are also revealed as skeletons rattle in the closet. Henry now has to decide how finish something he started.

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Review: 4**** Katheryn Howard – Hope Theatre @TheHopeTheatre

The Tudors represent a tumultuous period in British history and arguably provided the inspiration for Game of Thrones. Henry VIII ruled for 38 years and collected six wives along the way. But who of the six spring most readily to mind; Catherine of Aragon, long suffering first wife, whose divorce sparked the reformation; or the scheming, seductive Anne Boleyn; how about Jane Seymour, the perfect wife who provided Henry with a cherished male heir? But Katheryn Howard wedged between Anne of Cleves and Catherine Parr doesn’t necessarily stand out?

A play solely about Katheryn is therefore long overdue. But some context might be in order before our story begins. In 1540, Henry marries Anne of Cleves using the 16th century equivalent of Tinder. On the strength of a portrait painted by Hans Holbein the deal is duly sealed. But Henry likes her not; he does however like Anne’s Lady-in-Waiting Kathryn Howard. Henry is immedietly smitten by the teenager 32 years his junior. Henry’s marraige to Anne is quickly annulled and Katheryn lined up as his new Queen.

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Local theatre – trying out my new home town’s theatre for the first time and we are going big with @7oaksPlayers ‘ Jesus Christ Superstar!

Things to make sure you have access to when moving to a new place :

  1. A decent coffee shop which does a proper flat white and offers a variety of milk (yes I am a spoiled middle class Londoner)
  2. Some good cosy pubs with big chairs and tasty pub grub
  3. Some good spots for sitting and reading in the park
  4. A shop where you can get all your nerd requirements – dice, board games and other accessories
  5. A theatre which puts on a variety of great shows throughout the year.

I have lived in Sevenoaks for the last 3 months and have managed to find the first four but now, I am excited to say, I get the opportunity to take the theatre for a test run too when I go to see the Sevenoaks Players putting on Jesus Christ Superstar

The Sevenoaks Players are an amateur dramatics society local to Sevenoaks and have been performing in the area since 1922. In their time, they have performed a huge array of musicals, plays and variety shows and perform up to 4 shows a year!

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Review: 3*** The Last Act of Harry Houdini – The Cockpit Theatre @cockpittheatre @UKTheatreNet @TheCompanyO

Tweetingit: 3* A solid one man show delving into the mind of a puzzling and often misunderstood showman. Harry Houdini wouldn’t have had it any other way.

On 31 October 1926, magician and escape artist Harry Houdini died in Detroit. Ninety three years later almost to the day, Barry Killerby performs The Last Act of Harry Houdini at the Cockpit Theatre in Marylebone. There was certainly an eerie atmosphere as the spotlight settled on a top hat glistening with stardust. Our story begins two weeks prior to his death in Montreal, where he is preparing for a theatre show. Aged 52 Houdini’s glory days were largely behind him and had returned to his roots in Vaudeville.

The circumstances of his life and death are analysed in a highly literate one hour monologue. The narrative works well in flashback as snap shots feature key stages in Houdini’s life. The son of a Rabbi, Houdini was born Erik Weisz in Hungary. The family immigrated to America in the late 1870s, where they struggled to find their way. Houdini’s courtship of future wife Bess is well documented; so too his rise to prominence as an escape artist and keen eye for a photo opportunity. His obsession with spiritualism was evident and frequently clashed with mediums, whom he saw as nothing more than poorly trained magicians.

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Review: 5***** Calendar Girls The Regent Theatre Ipswich @thegirlsmusical @IpswichRegent

We at Playhouse Pickings have seen Calendar Girls a few times and, once again, it has not failed to make us laugh, make us cry, and be quite simply one of the best shows we have seen.

A story of loss, love and hope all stemmed from a tragic story back in 1998, when Angela Baker lost her husband to non-Hodgkins’s Lymphoma, and sought comfort in making something good out of something so heart-breaking – with the aim of providing the local hospital with a new sofa through sales of their nude calendar, and to prove John wrong (he thought they’d never do it!). Ladies of the WI banded together to create a never-seen-before Calendar that gained a place in the national newspapers, international press attention, and sold out in the first week. All proceeds were used to fund lymphoma and leukaemia research (now known as Bloodwise) and have so far raised over £5 million. Until the 26 th October, Tim Firth and Gary Barlow are bringing this story to life, once again, with just as much humility, love and affection as it has always deserved.

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News: Moulin Rouge! The Musical coming to Piccadilly Theatre in March 2021!! @MoulinRougeBway @moulinmusicaluk #PiccadillyTheatre #Voulez-vousCoucherAvecMoiCeSoir

If this doesn’t make your Friday, I don’t know what will…..

The Moulin Rouge. A night club, a dance hall and a bordello. Ruled over by Harold Zidler. A kingdom of night time pleasures. Where the rich and powerful came to play with the young and beautiful creatures of the underworld. AND NOW IT IS COMING TO LONDON

Global Creatures, the producers of Moulin Rouge! The Musical, are thrilled to announce today that the first UK production of the acclaimed show will open at the Piccadilly Theatre in London in March 2021.

“After ten years in development, and following the fantastic response to Moulin Rouge! The Musical in New York, we are thrilled to be sharing this musical with audiences in the UK. We can’t wait to bring the show to London!,” said producer Carmen Pavlovic, Global Creatures.

Enter a world of splendour and romance, of eye-popping excess, of glitz, grandeur and glory! A world where Bohemians and aristocrats rub elbows and revel in electrifying enchantment. Pop the champagne and prepare for the spectacular spectacular…Welcome to Moulin Rouge! The Musical.

Watch the trailer here

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Review: 4**** The House of Yes – Hope Theatre @TheHouseOfYesH1 @TheHopeTheatre

Tweetingit: 4**** Warring siblings clash in the very definition of a dysfunctional family. The Kennedys loom large as a certain pink two piece and pill box hat take on new significance; top drama not to be missed.

A fascination with the Kennedy clan endures partly because they are the closest America will ever come to a royal family; but more because they were truly aspirational. Descended from poor Irish immigrants they fought for power and status. No wonder the Pascals are so enamoured of a family that still has a compound; opposite their home in a wealthy suburb of Washington D.C.

Our story lands on the eve of Thanksgiving 1983; exactly twenty years after JFK was shot in Dallas. A hurricane is brewing outside and things are just as stormy in the Pascal household. Mother (Gill King) is frenetically preparing for the homecoming of son Marty (Fergus Leathem). Twin sister Jackie-O (Colette Eaton) is beside herself with excitement. Her mood drops to sub-zero when she learns that Marty has his fiancée Lesly (Kaya Bucholc) with him. Younger brother Anthony (Bart Lambert) is deeply impressed by Lesly’s presence and feels a certain frisson with his brother’s intended bride.

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Review: 4**** Fame – The Peacock Theatre peacocktheatre @famemusicaluk

Tweetingit: 4* Dust off those leggings and crop tops, it’s time to sing and dance the night away in this brilliantly staged piece of 80s popular culture.

I can catch the moon in my hands don’t you know who I am…remember my name..fame!..I wanna live forever; I want to learn how to fly. I always found those lines vaguely psychedelic with more than a passing nod to some dodgy cigarettes. But of course it’s really about the wholesome world of stage school; a world that might have been inhabited by Simon Cowell in a previous life. The narrative falls on the New York High School For Performing Arts in the early 80s.

It is the latest incarnation of a story that began life as a highly acclaimed film directed by Alan Parker. It spawned the hugely successful but inferior TV spin-off; and then the Kids from Fame, a thankfully short lived recording act. Now, the musical complete with original songs is beginning to mature in this excellent production at the Peacock Theatre.

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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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