The National Theatre’s acclaimed production of War Horse, based on the novel by Michael Morpurgo arrives at The SEC Armadillo from 15 January – 2 February 2019 as part of a national tour.
Joey, the life-size equine puppet from War Horse made a special early appearance in Glasgow next to The Duke of Wellington Statue last week as well as his home for January – The SEC Armadillo. The event also included a talk about the history of the show from War Horse’s Assistant Puppetry Director, Matthew Forbes.
The puppeteers operating Joey in Glasgow are: Gareth Aled (Head), Michael Taibi (Heart) and Antony Antunes (Hind).
Topped and tailed by a standing ovation, Al Pacino took the packed auditorium at the Clyde Auditorium on a near three hour journey from his origins in The Bronx to Hollywood super-stardom.
Detailing his acting process and sharing anecdotes about his equally famous co-stars he had the audience in his thrall. Displaying an energy and undiminished enthusiasm for his craft of a man half of his age the evening flew past in the blink of an eye.
The night, hosted by Billy Sloan who set the context for Pacino’s anecdotes and insights, was interspersed with clips from his lengthy and distinguished career. The only crimp in an otherwise top-notch evening was a particularly cringe-worthy Q&A session with the locals (the most cripplingly embarrassing from a soap actress with an accent so impenetrable and an attitude so inappropriate it elicited boos from the audience and a plea for a message to a recently dead relative from another). A real disappointment and a missed opportunity as when questions of real quality did get through Pacino provided some valuable and at times unexpected answers.
A worthy evening and a rare chance to get inside the mind of a superstar.
Celebrating 20 years since it’s first staged performance, West End and Broadway leading lady Kerry Ellis stars with runner up of ITV’s Superstar Rory Taylor in this concert of the hit musical RENT.
Set in the East Village of New York City, Jonathan Larson’s RENT is about falling in love, finding your voice and living for today. Winner of the Tony Award for Best Musical and the Pulitzer Prize for Drama, this musical has become a pop culture phenomenon with songs that resonates with audiences of all ages. Taking Giacomo Puccini’s La boheme as its inspiration, RENT follows a year in the life of a group of friends struggling to make it in the big city under the shadow of HIV and AIDS in the early 90’s.
Despite opening in the West End in 1998 and running for only 18 months, RENT is one of a band of musicals which has inspired a dedicated following down the years, all the most astonishing is the fact that it has achieved a mythical status among theatre fans whose only exposure to the show is the 2005 film.
This concert version, which has been imaginatively designed to re-create some of the atmosphere of the original stage production affords fans of the show the chance to finally experience the music live. Whilst never able to convey the emotion of the fully staged musical this production delivers on many levels.
Primarily it is the casting that elevates this above your run of the mill re-hashes of musical classics. Standout amongst a fine ensemble cast is ITV Superstar runner up Rory Taylor as Roger. During that show Taylor got the chance to showcase his vocal talents so it shouldn’t have come as such a surprise that he was so impressive. His range and tone were a true treat for the ears, he also delivered a finely judged acting performance as the young musician and songwriter. The same cannot be said though for Kerry Ellis, her status among theatre fans having always been a mystery to me – every time I have seen her, her voice has either been seriously underpowered or she has been utterly lifeless. Here she doesn’t fare well as Mimi the HIV positive erotic dancer – she looked as if she was dialling in her performance and there was much and very vocal muttering from the audience during the interval and at the end. We can only be thankful that due to a fine casting director we were spared seeing her in the show-stopping role of Maureen – the lesbian performance artist – here the role goes to scene-stealer Nickki Davis-Jones who gives a master class in how to fully inhabit a role. Eliciting some audience participatory moooos during her vivid performance art! Also deserving of praise is Iain Stroughair as the AIDS suffering, percussion playing, gay, drag queen Angel, when he is on stage it is impossible not to be mesmerised by him, playing the role with such commitment and tenderness that his untimely end was met with sobs from the audience.
The quality of the rest of the cast is exceptional, in particular Beth Humphries and Tim Prottey-Jones who get to display their impressive vocals in the beloved Seasons of Love. The production values too are impressive – many could learn from a show of such high quality – the thought that has gone into the staging should be applauded – the only bugbear being the size of this venue, the stage is massive and the audience in the stalls have to constantly look side to side and up and down to keep track of everyone onstage – physiotherapy needed all round. That aside this was a rare opportunity to see a cast and show of such high quality. Let’s only hope there will be more like it.
There are few who could fail to be charmed by the affable personality of the musical theatre juggernaut that is Michael Ball, and the sold out and very vocal audience at the Clyde Auditorium testify to that.
This is a show of two halves, Ball showcasing his new album of pop standards Both Sides Now in the first and his personal musical theatre favourites in the second.
The two halves though adding up to a thoroughly enjoyable whole, were unequal in their quality. Had it not been for the sheer charm of the man, the somewhat middle of the road first half, populated with songs from artists as diverse as Dolly Parton and Snow Patrol would have merely been a pleasant excursion into Radio 2 territory. While it’s thoroughly understandable that artists wish to showcase their range, the song choices only sold Ball’s phenomenal talent short. That said, the material was well received and easy on the ear.
The second half by contrast was a spectacular showcase for Ball’s powerful voice. At the top of his range he is truly unbeatable and the songs chosen, a selection of the cream of the crop from a career spanning nearly thirty years, had the crowd in his thrall, the cheers getting louder and more sustained as the night drew to a close. Ball is a man who truly knows how to work a crowd and present a show tailored for maximum effect and to give maximum enjoyment. He ended the night with the tune that earned him his place in the nation’s affections Love Changes Everything with the crowd on its feet roaring for more.
With an innate ability to read a crowd, Ball then returned to keep the party going with a rousing encore, which included his Eurovision hit One Step Out of Time replete with cheesy, audience-participation dance moves.
A phenomenal performer, a stupendous voice and a true gent – thoroughly recommended.
Alfie Boe’s plain speaking 2012 biography Alfie: My Story charts in heart-felt detail Boe’s rather colourful and frustrating relationship with the classical music world, and in many ways this Storyteller Tour illustrates how much Boe wishes to distance himself from his operatic roots.
It was an Alfie acting out his rock star fantasies: hair cropped short and wardrobe updated, bounding across the stage, that greeted the audience in this vast, cavernous auditorium. With songs ranging from rock classics like the Rolling Stones Angie and Elvis’ classic If I Can Dream; pop standards Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood and Bridge Over Troubled Water; to the gospel Rank Strangers and Poor Wayfaring Stranger, this was a vastly different experience to last year’s sell-out musical theatre based Bring Him Home Tour.
I am a huge fan of not only Boe’s sublime voice, but of the man himself who appears genuinely thankful for the place he has in the public’s affections and this was a performance both faultless vocally and musically. Personally I enjoyed the evening immensely and it is laudable for an artist to push the boundaries to discover what their voice can achieve and what they can accomplish as a performer, however, there were many around me who did not agree.
The Glasgow audience has a well deserved reputation as the most vocal and demonstrative in the UK and a trip 40 miles east to our capital city perfectly illustrates the difference, however Boe appeared at times genuinely disappointed in the reactions of this mixed age audience, and ill at ease in his banter. His desire to give the event a more “rock” feel was not well received by the very oldest members of the audience who had doubtless bought tickets on the strength of Boe’s operatic and musical theatre output: there were a few walk-outs; some comments of “stick to what you’re good at” and those who remained stoney-faced throughout the two hour show.
Some blame must be laid at the song choice and the programming. I believe Boe’s aim was to present songs that had personal meaning to him but the unevenness of the scheduling of them in the evening led to a lack of continuity and cohesion. Boe’s appeals to get up and dance were taken up by many (mostly women upwards of 50) however he then proceeded to sing Everybody’s Talkin’ a song not noted for its danceability. If Boe truly wanted people up on their feet there’s a century of popular songs to choose from and when you get them up you need to keep them up by choosing songs that people can truly get involved with, not a country-style ballad.
Blame must also go to the venue choice. This is a beautiful auditorium inside and out with state of the art acoustics, it is also equipped with spacious, comfortable, almost armchair like seating none of which contributes to getting an audience on its feet or encouraging the atmosphere of a rock concert. It also suffers due to the fact that in order to provide the best acoustic experience from the stage the sound proofing in the auditorium deadens any audience noise so reactions seem muted.
The moments of the evening that were best received were an interlude of three Neopolitan songs from the roots of Boe’s career and the always show-stopping Bring Him Home, the audience surging to its feet as the last note rang out, Boe commented on the fact that he knew that was what people had come for and we could all go home now – and my feeling is that the comment was made only half in jest.
Boe is a supremely talented artist, with a voice few could better, and I personally enjoyed myself greatly, appreciating the musical tour through the 20th Century with some stops in the classical world, however a little more thought for the programming of the evening may have resulted in the evening Boe envisaged. I look forward to what comes next.
Tim Prottey-Jones is a multi-faceted artist. As well as being a finalist in the hit ITV show Superstar Tim is also a talented composer at the forefront of new musical theatre writing in the UK, a multi-instrumentalist and vocalist, oh, and producer too. It was a great pleasure and surprise that Tim actually had a minute in his schedule to talk to Glasgow Theatre Blog about his burgeoning career and his forthcoming appearance in Glasgow with the 20th anniversary concert tour of RENT.
You’re a hard man to pin down: you first came to my attention when I was asked to write an article about young British composers, then of course you came to national awareness with ITV’s Superstar, but you also songwrite for artists, are a vocalist in a band, are a multi-instrumentalist and producer! I think we need to go back to your roots – can you tell us about your background and what set you on the path to such a diverse career?
I have studied music throughout my life, from learning the piano from the age of 7 to teaching myself guitar, bass, drums and finally how to sing. Doing a degree in music seemed like a natural step after doing GCSE and A-Level and it wasn’t until I left University that I can honestly say I wrote my first proper song. I would consider myself a bit of a late started in the things where I think my talents lie. University was where I started to develop my voice, locking myself in my room and trying to sing ‘Gethsemane’ like Steve Balsamo was a very revealing time for me.
When I turned 23, I was offered a publishing deal for my songs, I was on top of the world when just 3 months later I landed some song placements through Sony Europe and Warner Brothers in Nashville. The life of a writer however is not an easy one and it certainly wasn’t a full time job at that stage. Looking back, I didn’t have a substantial enough catalogue of songs or the maturity to do the research to create essentially hit songs.
The next stage of my career was all about writing, touring and recording with an original rock band. This was a very happy time for me and my band mates, great reviews, support slots and a loyal following gave us a very stimulating few years, but again, it wasn’t enough and I started to lose faith in the music industry.
My next notable foray into music brought me to musical theatre. Collaborating on new theatre pieces of my own and also performing in other new writers works, this gave me a hunger for it. ‘After the Turn’ was developing nicely and my idea to record and release two albums of original musical theatre featuring the best voices of the West End and Broadway got me a very loyal following which I am still so grateful for to this day.
Just as I was starting to settle in to a life of writing in my spare time, ‘Superstar’ came about. It was an unexpected diversion but one I am very glad to have been a part of.
Until 2012, I have always had a 9-5 job. My writing and performance work had always been my 5-9 job. Now, for the first time, I am able to put in the necessary time to make sure my music and theatre work is heard.
Your musical theatre writing has been especially well received particularly AftertheTurn: do you think that you might revisit this and develop it further?
‘After the Turn’ has new plans. If I’m honest, it’s been a labour of love as a stage musical so I’ve always strived to find a home for it that feels…right! I think I’ve found it now and all will be revealed in 2013. I am also writing a new musical with a wonderful author venturing into musical theatre for the first time. We have some wonderful backing and support for this project, so here’s hoping 2013 will be a key year for that project too.
Tell us a bit about what is developing with Straight on Red – I hear there’s an album in the pipeline for this year.
‘Straight on Red’ is a fascinating band and project. There are 8 of us in the band, all of whom bring diverse influences and ideas to the group and hence the music can be very hard to categorise and pigeon-hole. However, there are clear funk, jazz and even rock infused aspects to the music and all I suggest is that you take a listen and judge for yourself what/who we sound like. Our self-titled debut album was released in July 2012 and we hope to have the follow up album completed later this year.
You have also launched a business Demo Studio can you tell us about that?
Demo studio is very much targeted at songwriters and budding composers who have ideas for songs and tracks but perhaps can’t produce them to industry standards. What I offer is a high level of musicianship, production and composition knowledge that can transform just the basis of a track recorded on an iPhone into a structured professional sounding track ready to shop to labels and publishers. I use the best vocalists, equipment and musicians to create these tracks. As part of the company, I also record and produce demos and showreels for up and coming artists/theatre performers.
I’ve got to ask – what effect did your Superstar experience have on you?
‘Superstar’ was a very surreal venture. I have never had an interest in being famous or on television as my aim has always been to write music and not necessarily perform it. However, ‘Jesus Christ Superstar’ has always been a show that I connect with. I think vocally, the role of ‘Jesus’ sits very well in my range and comfort zone. Because of that, and because of my respect for the writing partnership of Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice, I wanted to put myself in for it, regardless of nerves and reticence. I genuinely loved the entire process, even if it made me a bit of a nervous wreck. I met incredible people, I was surrounded by amazing talent and my end goal had always been to appear in the Arena Tour of the show. Doing the tour was an honour and covering Tim Minchin’s Judas was a privilege.
You’re about to be reunited with your fellow Superstar alumni Rory Taylor in the national tour of Rent in Concert, are you looking forward to being back onstage performing in front of massive arena audiences?
Yes indeed, back with Rory! Listening to Rory sing was always a treat during ‘Superstar’, so to experience that again will be great. Rent is another one of those shows that is on my “Shows I’d love to be in” list. Getting back out on the road again will be great, playing some new venues and I think this tour will take me back to my earlier years of playing and touring in rock bands. I can’t wait.
I get the impression that you are a bit of a workaholic – what do you do to relax?
I fear you may be right! I’m fairly certain that I don’t relax or switch off. It can be hard to deal with, but I’m certainly never bored. The aim then is perhaps to get to stage in my career that I don’t have to write or work for a few days/weeks/months…but I certainly cannot sit back and expect things to come my way, so I will always strive to achieve my goals and to make a better life for me and my little family.
Finally, what can we expect next from Tim Prottey-Jones?
As mentioned above, 2013 could be a massive year for me and my music. The groundwork is being put in to create something very new that will test me, will push the boundaries of my writing capabilities and that will break down barriers in the musical theatre genre. I promise that I will shout it from the rooftops as soon as I’m able to announce the project so please do keep an eye and ear out.
With regards to performance, I am massively looking forward to Rent, but there are also a number of shows that I would love to be a part of. My dream role is still Jean Valjean in Les Miserables.
RENT in Concert is at the SECC, Glasgow Clyde Auditorium on Friday 3rd May – Ticket information here
In anticipation of the blockbuster show Madagascar LIVE! coming to the Glasgow Clyde Auditorium next month, Glasgow Theatre Blog was granted an audience with King Julien, Lord of the Lemurs in order to prepare the citizens of Glasgow for his royal visit.
King Julien, can you tell us more about the story of Madagascar LIVE!?
Madagascar LIVE! is, of course, mostly about me. But you are right, I am often busy with our many lemur parties, so we had to include other shiny entertainments in the show too. Alex who is a Lion, Gloria who is a Hippo, Melman who is a giraffe and Marty who is a zebra, escape from their zoo and find themselves in my royal kingdom on the island of Madagascar. Somehow the penguins end up there too. Do not ask me how. As always when I am around, there is much singing and dancing – but also thrilling jeopardy and excitement.
What can fans of the Madagascar films expect from the live arena show?
If you are dancing and singing in the cinema people might say “Sit down! Be quiet!” But when you come to see our show, live, you can boogie on down and no one will tell you to stop. You will also be laughing out loud. Indeed there will be generalised hilarity, colourful scenes and much joyful music, along with lots of lemurs. You like lemurs? Of course you do.
What is the most challenging part of the show for you to perform and why?
What is this word “challenge”? For a King of such royal Kingliness I do not get challenged by something as simple as performing for my loyal subjects all over the UK every night. This is very easy for me, and in fact I am insulted by the question.
What is your favourite song to perform in the show and why?
The greatest song of my liking is ‘I Like to Move it Move It’. Because it is true! We all love to move it move it, and I would move it move it all day if I did not have important royal duties to attend to, such as having my face fanned, being fed fresh fruit, and sleeping. If you are, for some reason, not agreeing with me, there are lots of other songs for you to enjoy too as well as lots of dancing.
Who or what has been the biggest influence on your career so far?
Of course the greatest influence on King Julien is King Julien himself. Wise. Powerful. Handsome. What more influence could a lemur need??
We know the show will be enjoyed by younger audience members, what can adults expect?
Just like big and small lemurs enjoy my parties, human adults and their offspring will enjoy Madagascar Live!. They will be liking the excellent humour, sophisticated music and of course my acting performance – it rivals the greatest of your British thespians.
Your career so far has included a successful reign as king. Has coming to the UK to perform in Madagascar Live! presented any new challenges?
I am finding these shores very cold upon my soft and delicate furs. For this, Maurice is designing me a new crown with some sort of thermal lining. Aside from the temperature, I am greatly looking forward to meeting the loyal peoples of the UK.
Do you have any final words for your loyal fans in the UK?
What better way to proclaim your love for your great leader (me) than to come along to Madagascar Live! to bask in my warm and powerful glow? Come, worship your king and I promise you too will learn how to MOVE IT MOVE IT like the grooviest of lemurs.
KING JULIEN will be appearing in Madagascar LIVE! at the Glasgow Clyde Auditorium from:
The story, expanded from that of the Green Day concept album, centers on three disaffected young men, Johnny, Will, and Tunny.
In a nutshell, Johnny (Alex Nee) and Tunny (Thomas Hettrick) hop on a bus out of stifling suburbia and their parents’ restrictions to look for meaning in life and try out the freedom and excitement of the city. Will (Casey O’Farrell) stays home to work out his relationship with his pregnant girlfriend, sit on the sofa, drink beer and sink into desperation.
Tunny quickly gives up on life in the city, joins the military, and is shipped off to war in the Middle East. Johnny falls in love with a girl called Whatsername and even more in love with drugs.
This is an excellent show, despite being a bit thin on plot, it is full of life and energy and above all emotion, thundering along with relentless energy and contains some truly brilliant songs by Green Day. My only complaint would be the fact that this was originally a straight through 90 minute show, here, it’s split into two halves which ruins the momentum and the power of the story.
The 20-strong all-American company are fantastically talented and the whole show shines with quality throughout, Nee and O’Farrell are both in possession of particularly fine voices. Special mention must also go to the onstage band who reproduce the sound of Green Day with aplomb. An interesting, different and welcome addition to the musical theatre world.