Tag Archives: Rory Taylor

REVIEW: Thriller Live – King’s Theatre, Glasgow

Neither shoe-horning the hits of Michael Jackson around a flimsy storyline, nor taking his life story as narrative thread (it wisely avoids miring itself in the unpalatable controversy of Jackson’s later life), Thriller Live eschews the usual jukebox musical format, instead, it presents a roughly chronological, concert-style tribute production to the self-proclaimed ‘King of Pop’.

The recently revamped opening medley doesn’t quite get the crowd going from the offset and the production takes some time to find its feet. The limp linking monologues with proclamations of Jackson’s greatness serving only to add to the running time rather than add any colour. However, it soon hits its stride and from the early days of the Jackson Five, through over 30 other songs, the hits keep on coming at an astonishing rate and an ever more astonishing decibel level.

Taking the idea that Jackson transcended age, race and gender, the songs are delivered by a quartet of lead vocalists: Angelica Allen, Adam J Bernard, Shaquille Hemmans and Rory Taylor. The quartet varies in their ability to deliver the mega-hits. There are some quite frankly shocking renditions: a mauling of the classics Man in the Mirror and Human Nature and a barely audible Never Can Say Goodbye, render these pop standards unrecognisable. Only Taylor survives unscathed and his strong rock vocals stand head and shoulders above his fellow cast members. However, much of the singers’ troubles can be blamed squarely on the imbalance between the vocal sound level and that of the on-stage live band who drown out the performers throughout.

The staging is simple (read for that cheap looking) with out-dated pixellated LED screens providing some background colour to the proceedings. The costumes vary from authentic Jackson to technicolour eye-popping lycra. There’s even an Egyptian-clad Remember the Time that makes you feel as if you have stumbled upon a production of Aida and when the words hunger, conflict and racism appear on the LED screens and pictures of Dr Martin Luther King Jr, John F Kennedy, Mother Teresa and Nelson Mandela flash past, there’s the dread that we are about to travel down the path of sanctifying Jackson, but it laudably manages to stay on the right side of tasteful.

The choreography, while energetically executed throughout and incorporating Jackson’s signature moves, (every Moonwalk is accompanied by shrieks of delight) is somewhat repetitive and lacks originality in an age when top quality dance acts grace our TV screens on a weekly basis.

That said, the audience (some in costume) in the packed auditorium, was appreciative throughout and multiple ovations followed the biggest of the hits.

For the most part, Thriller Live provides a fitting tribute to Jackson and preserves the legacy of his music. It is undoubtedly a crowd-pleasing memorial for his fans but one can’t help feeling that for a man who was renowned for his ground-breaking originality, it could be so much more than a poorly executed conveyor belt of his biggest hits.

Runs until Saturday 23 April 2016 | Image: Contributed

This review was originally written for and published by The Reviews Hub here

REVIEW: Rent the 20th Anniversary Concert – Clyde Auditorium, Glasgow

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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.

Kerry Ellis and Rory Taylor performing in Rent 20th Anniversary
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.

Rent 20th Anniversary Concert at The Liverpool Echo Arena Audito

 

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.  

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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.