Tag Archives: Musical

REVIEW: The Book of Mormon – Theatre Royal, Glasgow

Trey Parker and Matt Stone’s musical satire on the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, The Book of Mormon, is finally in Glasgow after a postponement due to a little thing called COVID.

Premiering on Broadway in 2011, winning nine Tony Awards and after running in the West End for nearly a decade, its reputation precedes it, but you’d be wrong to judge without seeing for yourself. On the surface crude, cruel and pushing the envelope, it is certainly not for the easily offended, but dig a little deeper and it is so much more than that.

Two hapless, polar opposite LDS missionaries, the wide-eyed, idealistic Elder Price and the pathological liar Elder Cunningham, are sent on their two-year Mormon mission to a remote Ugandan village. Suffice it to say, the locals aren’t exactly welcoming them with open arms. Added to that there’s the AIDS crisis, famine, poverty and a despotic warlord for good measure. Of course, there are the inevitable ‘journeys’ everyone embarks on to find one’s true self, all done with a tongue planted firmly in the cheek.

It is a musical that heavily relies on shock and surprise, and it would be churlish to give away the funniest scenes. There are laughs on laughs and foot tapping tune after tune, all delivered by a knockout cast. Principal among them are Conner Peirson as Elder Cunningham, who steals every scene he’s in; the beautiful-voiced Aviva Tulley as Nabulungi and Jordan Lee Davies wrestling gloriously with his homosexual urges as Elder McKinley.

It’s clear that the whole thing has been written with affection by Parker and Stone and of course, musical theatre royalty Robert Lopez (Avenue Q, Frozen, Coco) there is no way that it could get away with what it does, if it were purely cruel rather than impressively clever.

It is a giant juggernaut of a show and serves up a slice of unashamed satire that’s much needed in our easily offended world. If you needed any other reason to see it, ask yourself where else will you see Genghis Khan playing guitar with the Devil onstage in Glasgow on a weekday night?

Runs until 26 November 2022 | Originally published at The Reviews Hub

REVIEW: Rocket Post – Platform, Easterhouse

The story of the Rocket Post (the subject of two films and this stage production) is a long-told but largely forgotten Scottish legend.

It’s July 1934 in the Western Isles and there’s a crowd gathered on a sandy beach to watch German scientist Gerhard Zucker. Zucker wants to connect the world and believes the future of communication is rockets, more specifically, rocket post. He chooses a 1600 metre flight path between the Isles of Harris and the (now) unpopulated Scarp to deliver his cargo. Zucker loads the letters, lights the fuse and… well, what could possibly go wrong? Plenty as it happens. The gunpowder fuelled rocket disintegrates into a hailstorm of singed paper confetti and he only has three days to fix it.

Revived from the original 2017 National Theatre of Scotland production, this utterly charming musical play aimed at children aged six plus, combines, to great effect: storytelling; puppetry; clever and captivating props, and a mix of songs old and new in German, Gaelic and English.

It is a story of hope and optimism, of faith in the future, traditional versus new, the status quo versus change, life at home or venturing into the big wide world as well as a subtle musing on the effect of technology that resonates down the years. Amid great scepticism and a little anti-German sentiment from the local population, Gerhard pursues his dream and along the way inspires local woman Bellag to see beyond her horizons.

The mark of success for this production is its ability to appeal to its wide-ranging audience. The smallest members are awe-struck at the storytelling and stage craft, and the writing is highly amusing and has a cleverness that has much to be appreciated by the adults. The cast (David Rankine, MJ Deans and Ailie Cohen) have a magnetism that draws you in and keeps you enthralled. Utterly, utterly charming, it leaves you with a feeling of warmth as you step out into the cold Autumn night.

Reviewed on 24 October 2022 and continues touring | Image: Contributed

NEWS: CRAIG REVEL HORWOOD TO STAR AS MISS HANNIGAN IN ANNIE IN GLASGOW

The King’s Theatre has announced that Craig Revel Horwood will play Miss Hannigan in Annie at The King’s next year.

The Strictly judge is no stranger to the stage and has previously played the famous orphanage headmistress in the West and on tour. He’s also played Munkustrap in Cats, Miss Saigon at the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane and Harry in Crazy for You at the Prince Edward Theatre as well as choregraphing and directing tours of Sister Act and Strictly Ballroom. He also choreographed the film Paddington 2.

Set in 1930s New York during The Great Depression, Annie is the classic story of a brave young who’s forced to live a life of misery and torment at Miss Hannigan’s orphanage. Determined to find her real parents, her luck changes when she is chosen to spend Christmas at the residence of famous billionaire, Oliver Warbucks. Spiteful Miss Hannigan has other ideas and hatches a plan to spoil Annie’s search…

With its award-winning book and score, this stunning production includes the unforgettable songs It’s the Hard Knock LifeEasy StreetI Don’t Need Anything But You and Tomorrow.

THE KING’S THEATRE, GLASGOW

MONDAY 29 MAY SATURDAY 3 JUNE 2023

REVIEW: South Pacific – Theatre Royal, Glasgow

Unlike other works of the period, Richard Rodgers, Joshua Logan and Oscar Hammerstein II’s 1949 musical South Pacific, has largely stood the test of time. Originally written with the intention of sending a strong progressive message on racism, it also benefits from a re-imagination in this incarnation originally staged at Chichester Festival Theatre in 2021. There are re-orchestrations, the introduction of a prologue, additional music from the 1958 film version and most importantly, a fixing of the racial overtones and elimination of the ethnic stereotypes in the characterisations of Bloody Mary and her daughter Liat.

Set during World War Two on an island in the Pacific, it is essentially two intertwining love stories; Ensign Nelly Forbush (Gina Beck) falls for older plantation owner Emile de Becque (Julian Ovenden) but despite the strength of her feelings, Arkansas native Nellie struggles to accept his mixed-race children. The tandem love story is that of Princeton educated, US Marine Lieutenant Cable (Rob Houchen) and Tonkinese woman Liat (Sera Maehara), and the pressures on their mixed-race relationship.

The set is simplistic, projections on a corrugated back drop with different scenery rolled in and out, and no less effective for it. The lighting too is gorgeous and atmospheric. It all provides a darkness that the subject matter warrants and a suitable back-drop to the talent on stage.

From the first swelling bars of this lush-sounding orchestra to the final notes, this is a work of infinite quality, it simply oozes perfection from every pore, there is not a weak link among this large and hugely talented cast. Gina Beck is suitably perky as nurse Nelly and a rich-voiced Julian Ovenden is perfectly pitched as a more realistic, well-rounded, less caricature Emile. Instead of swanning around in a white linen suit, this Emile looks as if he might actually work on a plantation in the south Pacific. The male chorus are unmatched in the memory of this writer, the sound they create is simple sumptuous, and the female cast give them a good run for their money. The two child actors who portray Emile’s children are again, much more realistic, less stereotyped. The casting overall, couldn’t be better.

That such subject matter, and songs like Carefully Taught, shone a light at racism in America in 1949 is brave indeed, but there’s a discomfort to some of the material to 21st Century ears. Of particular note, is the re-orchestration of the usually saccharine Happy Talk, sung by Bloody Mary (Joanna Ampil). Here it is a pleading tune of desperation at the fate of her daughter and the American serviceman, instead of a silly ditty written (in a now uncomfortable to hear) pidgin English.

Almost every aspect of this production is to be lauded, from its design, its re-imagination, re-orchestrations and ultimately its astounding cast. This is a production not to be missed.

Runs until 8 October 2022 | Image: Johan Persson

Originally published at The Reviews Hub

Amélie – King’s Theatre, Glasgow

Amélie:The Musical is based on Jean-Pierre Jeunet’s 2001 Academy Award-winning movie about eternal altruist Amélie Poulain, whose desire to help others, through a series of simple acts of kindness, prevents her from finding love. Amélie escapes her dysfunctional childhood and unhappy home life to work as a waitress in a Paris café where she encounters a rag-tag bunch of bohemian misfits, whose lives she sets out to make that little bit better. This 2019 musical version has been significantly re-worked for the UK tour after a less-than-successful and hugely curtailed run on Broadway in 2017, where it ran for only 56 performances after a hefty 27 days of previews.

Any production has to compete with the visually arresting movie and the tobacco-stained design by Madeleine Girling, with gorgeous lighting by Elliot Griggs, largely succeeds in distancing itself from the iconic big-screen version and establishing itself as its own visual entity. It does however exploit many Gallic clichés in its presentation of the Montmartre café where the action takes place. That said, it is an absolute treat to behold.

The film is a series of quirky vignettes from Amélie’s childhood to her life in Paris (the journey necessary to understand Amélie’s future motivations) and as a result there’s a lot of time spent establishing the back story, resulting in the first act of the musical taking its time to come together and hit its stride. The second act is more cohesive and as a whole it manages to almost replicate the entire movie storyline in the confines of a small-scale, fixed set, an impressive feat.

There are an astonishing 35 musical pieces in total, and if any gripe remains with the show, it’s the lack of variety in style and tone of much of the music, motifs are repeated just a tad too often. Yes, many are gorgeous, and they are perfectly played and sung by the actor/musicians, but many add nothing and arrest the progress of the narrative rather than advance it.

The cast are universally first class, Audrey Brisson (Amélie), a Cirque du Soleil veteran is a less soft but compelling version of our heroine and Danny Mac as the object of her unrequited admiration Nino, is sure-footed throughout.

Amélie seems to have largely overcome its previous faults. It’s a tad too long, something which seems to be endemic in most musicals, and there are a few too many musical intervals, but it looks beautiful and is imaginatively staged, with a plethora of tiny, quirky details to delight. And where else can you see ‘Elton John’, some people-sized, singing and dancing figs,  a suicidal goldfish, a Brazilian carnival dancing gnome and a leading lady coming and going by flying lampshade?

Runs until 24 August 2019 | Image: Contributed

This review was originally written for The Reviews Hub 

REVIEW: The Rocky Horror Show – King’s Theatre, Glasgow

There are few other shows so beloved or so enduring as the Rocky Horror Show. It’s a summer Monday evening and the theatre is packed from floor to rafters with fans clad in their best Columbia, Magenta, Rocky, Brad, Janet and even a few Frank N. Furter costumes for the latest tour of this nearly 50-year-old show.

The audience is in full-on participation mode and the excitement before curtain up is tangible. The second the Usherette (a fabulous Laura Harrison, who also doubles up as Magenta) steps onstage, the audience is raring to go. Every infamous call back is on cue, every moment for joining in is taken – this is a crowd that knows every word and every step to every song and is here to enjoy the night to the fullest.

There are many reasons why Rocky Horror has been performed almost continuously since its creation in 1973 – the big hits come thick and fast, the dialogue is cheeky and cheesy in equal measure, it never takes itself seriously, but the talent and commitment of the cast and the quality of Richard O’Brien’s genius writing means that under the 1950s B-Movie veneer, this is a show of quality.

Boy band royalty, Blue’s Duncan James steps into Frank’s glittered platforms and satin corset and boy does he give it his all. From entrance to exit he looks like he’s living his best life and judging from the ear-splitting reception from the audience they are loving every minute along with him. James is ably supported by dance royalty Joanne Clifton, who again demonstrates how multi-talented she is, singing and acting as Janet and there’s strong support from a fine-sounding James Darch as Brad. While Rocky Horror veteran and fan-favourite Kristian Lavercombe is indisposed tonight, his understudy Andrew Ahern is a revelation as Riff Raff and Philip Franks, arguably one of the finest narrators in the world of Rocky Horror, returns.

There are few shows that pack more entertainment into two hours, and few that stand up to repeat viewing like Rocky Horror. Hands-down one of the best musicals of all time and with this first-rate cast, it would be a crime to miss it.

Runs until 17 August 2019 | Image: Contributed

This review was originally written for The Reviews Hub

REVIEW: Hair – King’s Theatre, Glasgow

While Hair has lost its shock value and the antics seem risible to a 21st Century audience, the celebratory and catchy songs still stand the test of time and the committed cast of this 50th Anniversary tour throw themselves fully into the action.

After a 15 minute delay and an unannounced change of leading man, we’re whisked to 1967 New York, where the shadow of the Vietnam War looms over the whole of the US, but particularly the East Village,where Berger (Bradley Judge) and his band of subversive misfits are railing against the world. It’s only Claude (Paul Wilkins) who doesn’t fully buy in to the Hippie counterculture, conflicted between turning on, tuning in and dropping out (to paraphrase Timothy Leary) and fulfilling his duty to his country after being drafted into the Vietnam War.

The plot is scant and there are times when the dialogue is reduced to merely shouting out anti-establishment phrases, so the songs need to be strong to sustain interest. There are plenty of stand-outs: Aquarius, Easy to be Hard, Good Morning Starshine, Let The Sun Shine In and the title track Hair, to name a few. The only gripes would be that there are so many of them – several could be chopped without being detrimental to the show. There’s also a lot less audience interaction – this is not as immersive as expected, at times, it seems more fun for those on stage than for the audience.

The design by Maeve Black, complimented by Ben M Rogers’ lighting does evoke a trippy hippie camp and the costumes are largely on point, these are the final dates of a long tour, so the increased tattiness adds to the atmosphere.

The energetic and accomplished cast clearly give their all and play a large part in bringing the audience in. 

It doesn’t have the impact that it once had and the shock value has gone, even the full-frontal nudity barely raises an eyebrow, but it stands as a window to another time and provides some insight on a pivotal time in social history. It is still worth seeing as a cultural landmark – it, and the shows that followed in its wake, widened the boundaries, gave voice to the youth of the day and changed the theatrical landscape forever.

This review was originally written for The Reviews Hub.

REVIEW: Made in Dagenham – The New Auditorium, Glasgow Royal Concert Hall

A fictionalised version of the true story of the sewing machinist’s strike at Ford’s Dagenham plant in 1968, where the female workers walked out in protest against unequal pay for equally skilled work, Made in Dagenham is based on (but not wholly a copy of) Nigel Cole’s 2010 film of the same name. It drops many of the movie characters, introduces some new ones and expands parts of the storyline only touched on in the film version.

The stage version had a short, and somewhat problematic life in the West End in 2014, this time it’s tackled by the students of the Dance School of Scotland. What is always guaranteed from this unique school is quality, total professionalism and commitment to any work they tackle, however, the issues that plagued the musical’s short run in the West End remain. The book takes what feels like an eternity to get anywhere and the score, while lively in part, lacks the standout tunes that make a successful production ( Stand Up) the show closer, is the only one that gets near. It’s laudable that any show gives voice to women and to a life-changing moment in British history, but it’s unsubtly done, too caricatured and over-long.

That said, there’s terrific work from Charlotte Power (meant to play the role later in the week, but stepping in due to illness) as Rita O’Grady – the heart and soul of the dispute and the force behind the law change in 1970. The supporting cast of women (played by these high school aged pupils) also manage to breathe believable life into their parts, steering them clear of exaggeration and keeping them wholly realistic. The boys, while portraying men from an utterly different era, one of out-right sexism and derision towards woman, play it a lit bit too broad, too stereotypical, a little too out-there comedic. One wonders if these were directorial choices, or dictated by the script.

There were also issues to overcome with a band that totally overwhelmed the singers at points, (the venue can’t be blamed as it was purpose built for the Royal Scottish National Orchestra, with world-class acoustics) and poor and rushed diction (nerves may be to blame on this opening night) that rendered a lot of the script inaudible.

The sheer energy and vitality with which the company attacked the material, elevated it above the source material, and one can’t fault the commitment of each and every performer. With better material to work with this company of performers are sure to go far.

REVIEW: The Music Man – Eastwood Park Theatre, Giffnock

Runway Theatre Company again prove their worthy position at the top of the tree of amateur companies in Glasgow, reviving Meredith Willson’s Tony and Grammy Award-winning, little-seen, musical theatre classic, The Music Man, with aplomb. A timely choice too, with the announcement that in 2020, Hugh Jackman will lead the first Broadway revival in nearly two decades.

It’s 1912 and the people of sleepy River City, Iowa really don’t know what’s in store for them when smooth talking swindler Harold Hill rolls into town. However, Hill’s plans to con the innocent townsfolk are foiled when his heart finally starts to rule his head.

Old-fashioned in the nicest possible way, this is a light-hearted, undemanding tale with a bunch of quirky characters and two of musical theatre’s most enduring tunes: the oom-pah-pah-ing 76 Trombones and the much-loved classic ballad, Till There Was You.

Its old-fashionedness is both its strength and its weakness. The public’s appetite for nostalgia is sated with the homely, feel-good storyline, the period costumes and score. However, the hokey dialogue has aged badly and the heightened characterisations required by the script, render it too caricatured at times. That said, any criticisms of this production are entirely at the hands of the source material not the actors or musicians.

This is a show with a rousing chorus, the ensemble fill the auditorium with the biggest, most glorious sound you will have the pleasure to hear, and the quartet comprising Tom Russell, Ross Nicol, Cameron Leask and Bob McDevitt are just heavenly sounding. Brendan Lynch (Harold Hill), once again proves to be an adept leading man and a true triple threat, and Catherine Mackenzie (Marian Paroo) is a beautifully toned soprano. The costumes are of an excellent quality. The set and lighting are functional and easy on the eye and the transitions, especially in a theatre with no fly tower, are smooth and pacy. The child actors, of which there are many, are drilled to perfection as are the dancers – it’s unusual in an amateur production to have such universal quality.

A warm and comforting and very welcome blast from the past that will leave audience members of all ages thoroughly entertained.

Runs until Saturday 18 May 2019

 

REVIEW: Nativity! The Musical – King’s Theatre, Glasgow

The clocks have gone back, Hallowe’en and Bonfire Night are over, so, of course, Christmas is here. Seven weeks early, but who’s complaining when it’s the stage version of Bafta Award-winning Debbie Isitt’s hugely loveable 2009 movie, Nativity?

For those familiar with the big-screen trilogy, the stage plot is lifted entirely from the first film. Mr. Maddens (Scott Garnham) is a less than effective primary school teacher, having previously been an even less than successful actor. With the festive season approaching, the school Nativity show looming and a broken heart courtesy of his ex-girlfriend Jennifer (Ashleigh Gray) who dumped him to pursue her career dreams in Hollywood, things can’t possibly get worse. Unfortunately they do. Competition arrives in the form of his former best friend, Gordon Shakespeare (Andy Brady), who is now receiving plaudits for his festive extravaganzas at a rival primary school. Maddens declares that a Hollywood producer is coming to film his Christmas show, needless to say they’re not, and mayhem ensues, aided and abetted by hyperactive classroom assistant Mr. Poppy (Simon Lipkin).

With such well-loved source material, the cast need to step up and fortunately they more than match, and in some cases exceed that of the film. For West End theatre buffs, this is dream casting. Scott Garnham is entirely believable as the lovelorn Mr. Maddens with a gorgeous voice to boot, Ashleigh Gray makes her mark in the relatively small role of Jennifer and manages to showcase her phenomenal vocal skills, Andy Brady is a suitably manic Mr. Shakespeare (his Herod is a gem) but it is the utterly irresistible Simon Lipkin as Mr. Poppy who thoroughly steals the show. Lipkin is a star in everything he’s in and here he gets to showcase his formidable talents while still bringing out the best in everyone around him.

But what about the kids?, after all, this really is a children’s show. The local children cast as the pupils of Oakwood Primary School are drilled to perfection, but the pupils of St. Bernadette’s are truly phenomenal. Added to an already spectacular cast, there’s also an irresistible pooch called Cracker to crank up the cute factor.

The production values are high and the set looks as good as anything your likely to see on a West End stage, and the choreography from the always reliable Andrew Wright is perfectly reflective of that of children in 2018. The roster of musical numbers has been significantly upped from the half a dozen songs in the movie and each is a catchy delight.

Nativity! starts on a high and the entertainment factor never diminishes for the entire running time. It knows how to tug at the heart strings without becoming over schmaltzy, you’d need to be hard-hearted indeed not to be touched by this. This is a show of infinite quality from start to finish and stands head and shoulders above most festive offerings.

It preaches a laudable message of the power of a positive mindset and that sometimes the good guys can win in the end. Ultimately it’s a festive, feel-good, feast for the eyes that fills you with the warm and fuzzies.

Beg, borrow or steal to get a ticket, this really is an unmissable show.

Runs until November 2018 | Image: Richard Davenport

This review was originally written for The Reviews Hub. The UK’s leading and most prolific digital portal for the performing arts. With 150 reviewers spread across the UK, managed by 10 editors, The Reviews Hub publishes reviews, previews, features and interviews on entertainment throughout the whole country.

 

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