Tag Archives: Katie Hall

REVIEW: West Side Story – King’s Theatre, Glasgow

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This post originally written for and published by The Public Reviews at: http://www.thepublicreviews.com/west-side-story-kings-theatre-glasgow/

Book: Arthur Laurents

Music: Leonard Bernstein

Lyrics: Stephen Sondheim

Director/Choreographer: Joey McKneely

Reviewer: Lauren Humphreys

The Public Reviews Rating: ★★★★★

The glorious finished product that West Side Story became is extraordinary considering how fraught the relationship between the show’s tyrannical director Jerome Robbins (whose choreography is re-produced on this tour by his former assistant Joey McKneely) and the creative team of Leonard Bernstein and Stephen Sondheim. Shocking audiences and changing the history of musical theatre on its debut in 1957, this ground-breaking musical is a re-telling of Romeo and Juliet, our Montagues and Capulets this time two gangs; the Polish-American Jets and the Puerto Rican Sharks. Re-set on the mean streets of 1950′s New York, it tells a tale of gang violence, rape and rampant racism.

When looking at the show from a distance of sixty years there has to be an acceptance that in this age of daily exposure to violence and tragedy some of its impact and shock value has been lost but what hasn’t eroded is the emotional impact that the piece has on its audience.

The staging is simplistic, nothing more than a few spindly fire-escapes, some balconies and black and white projected backdrops of New York and Arthur Laurents book, though light on dialogue is effective, but this really is a show whose magic lies in its music and choreography to drive the story and ramp up the tension. With a score that includes the now classic songs, ‘Maria’, ‘Tonight’, ‘Somewhere’ and ‘I Feel Pretty’ and the show-stopping set pieces ‘America’ and ‘Gee, Officer Krupke’ executed with impressive precision by the hugely talented ensemble, it’s impossible not to be won over. The only jarring note is the overly sentimental dream ballet sequence during the emotive ‘Somewhere’, mawkish in its day it is just too syrupy for a modern day audience.

The cast are universally deserving of praise, in particular Louis Maskell as Tony, a star in the making with an evocative voice, rich in tone and emotion and an appealing stage presence. In support Djalenga Scott is a fire-cracker Anita, Javier Cid, an elegant and imposing Bernardo and Jack Wilcox a power-house Riff. Katie Hall in the pivotal role of Maria, captures the accent well, managing to maintain it whilst singing, but she’s physically unconvincing as the young Puerto Rican immigrant Maria and whilst her clear soprano is impressive (as it was as Christine in the recent Phantom of the Opera tour) her acting skills leave a lot to be desired. That said, any minor quibbles, and there are few, are easy to forgive in the face of such talent and quality.

Deserving of its status as an all-time great, this beautifully executed production with its pitch-perfect cast is simply unmissable.

Runs until Saturday 25th January 2014

Image courtesy http://www.westsidestorytheshow

REVIEW: Phantom of the Opera – Edinburgh Playhouse with John Owen-Jones, Simon Bailey, Katie Hall.

After 25 phenomenal years in the West End and the 25th anniversary concert at the Royal Albert Hall last year, this new production, based on the Albert Hall celebration, is touring the UK.

The rather decaying glamour of the Edinburgh Playhouse with its faded colours, peeling paint and candle-lit gloom, is unintentionally, atmospherically and appropriately setting the scene for this production of what it is arguably Andrew Lloyd Webber’s masterwork Phantom of the Opera.

The key to the success of this re-staged Phantom is a foot-perfect, note-perfect and emotionally pitch-perfect cast. Added to that the brilliantly inventive design and new direction by Laurence Connor this is now a show with greater emotion and depth.

John Owen-Jones as The Phantom is an actor playing his strongest role. It is a role he has played a record-breaking 2000 times but to his credit it is as fresh as someone playing it for the first time. He brings real emotion and a tender vulnerability to his acting which makes you feel the pain of the man in the mask. He does, as always, sing with a voice so beautiful it would soften the hardest of hearts. 

Katie Hall, is a very young Christine, but despite her youth she manages to convey the necessary fearfulness, love and a real sense of longing, which makes the love triangle between the Phantom, and Raoul far more believable.

Simon Bailey is renowned for his beautiful voice but here he gets the chance to show his acting chops, delivering a well-rounded performance, imbuing the often weakly characterised Raoul with drive and strength.

The production is impeccable throughout. It would be easy to enthuse for hours about the set, costumes and music, but that would only spoil the surprises in store. Tickets are like gold-dust for this month-long run and deservedly so, it is a rare thing to see a cast of this calibre and a production of this quality on tour. Beg, borrow or steal a ticket – you’ll regret it if you don’t.

Runs until 20th October at Edinburgh Playhouse details here.

FEATURE: Les Miserables 25th Anniversary Concert DVD

Last night’s DVD was the Les Miserables 25th Anniversary concert with a cast, orchestra and choir of 500.

Alfie Boe (above) is Jean Valjean and showed remarkable control of his operatic tenor,  delivering a full-throttle vocal intensity only when absolutely necessary in the role. His  inspirational rendition of “Bring Him Home” stopped the show. Boe appeared sincerely moved by the enthusiastic standing ovation of the over 18,000 in  attendance at the O2 arena. It was completely deserved.

Norm Lewis who plays Javert, is a Broadway veteran and here he finally has a starring, rather than supporting role. I was lucky enough to see him play Javert in the full production of Les Mis at The Queen’s Theatre. Thanks to this DVD, many others will now get the chance to hear his excellent voice.

Ramin Karimloo freed from his Phantom makeup was a handsome, inspiring and strong-voiced Enjoloras and received a massive cheer at the end.

Nick Jonas (a controversial casting) is not equal in voice in any way to  his co-performers and had the most peculiar expressions throughout, but here (above) with Katie Hall as Cosette, he made for a suitably youthful Marius.

The highly talented and ever reliable Hadley Fraser (above) is a fine Grantaire, his voice here is astounding, his range and tone are just fabulous, it’s a pity he doesn’t have a bigger role. Fraser is another performer I’ve had the pleasure of seeing in the Queen’s Theatre production – that time playing Javert.

Matt Lucas fulfils a lifetime dream of appearing in Les Mis and uses his comedic talents to their best effect as Thenardier.

Lea Salonga is Fantine and equips herself well enough, but I must admit I found her American twang a bit strong.

Special mention must also go to little Robert Madge (above), a scene-stealer as Gavroche.

This is, of course, a concert, but in order to add more of a theatrical feeling to the performance the actors were  costumed in either designs from the original production or the 25th Anniversary UK tour. The production  design was enhanced with a multi-level set to accommodate the 500-member cast,  orchestra and choir. In lieu of the  building of the barricade, the massive lighting tracks descended and tilted  complemented by spectacular lighting effects. Video projections from the stage version added further drama to replace scenes  that could not be conveyed in a concert environment. Overall only minor cuts were made from the full theatrical version – and none of the cuts particularly hurt the  final product.

Due to the  constraints of a concert production, and the fact that this was being filmed for both cinema and DVD release the actors had obviously been told to rein in the theatrics. Several of the ensemble  were on the verge of acting out the roles they had either played before or were currently playing in the West End in full theatricality if not for the  reminder of the microphone in front of them.

A highlight of the evening was the  appearance of The Four Valjeans (above l-r); Simon Bowman (Queen’s  Theatre cast), Alfie Boe, Colm Wilkinson (the  original cast) and John Owen-Jones (Barbican  Theatre cast) their version of “Bring Him Home” was utterly moving. Each of the four are supremely gifted performers. I love this musical, it really does have the power to move you. I defy anyone not to have a tear in their eye at the end of this and I urge anyone who gets the chance to go and see it on stage.

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