Tag Archives: STEPHEN WEBB

REVIEW: Titanic The Musical – King’s Theatre, Glasgow

Maury Yeston and Peter Stone’s Titanic: The Musical first appeared on Broadway in 1997, winning five Tony Awards in the process. Director Thom Southerland’s stripped back production, first seen at the Southwark Playhouse in 2013, was revived to great acclaim in 2016, and is now touring the UK.

While the subject matter may seem unlikely (an event where 1517 people lost their lives), even morbid, composer Yeston has himself claimed that the musical isn’t based on tragedy alone. Instead, it represents the hopes and dreams of all those on board: the 3rd Class passengers, their dreams of immigration to a new life; those in 2nd Class with their aspirations to live life like those in 1st Class; the 1st Class passengers hoping to forever maintain their positions of privilege in the New World. Writer Peter Stone achieves this. There’s yearning, optimism and a finger firmly on the pulse of society (both high and low) in the early years of the 20th Century.

It also neatly catalogues the seemingly endless list of wrong decisions that set the ship on its tragic course, the desire to make history eerily prophetic: ignoring warnings not to push the ship hard; constantly pushing the speed; ignoring almost constant warnings of icebergs from fellow ships on the same journey; the feeling of invincibility over common sense; changing course to save a few hours (to get some publicity) which puts the ship on a collision course with tragedy, the list is too long to chart here. This is a work of infinite quality, wonderfully researched, that manages to stir the heart and soul. These are the stories of the real people who boarded the ship for that fateful journey, this is no lazy dramatization.

Whilst written by Americans, this is a uniquely British story. Stylistically the music too is quintessentially British: heavily influenced by both Elgar and Vaughan Williams it is simply beautiful. The ensemble shine and when singing as one, have the ability to raise the hairs on the back of your neck.

In a cast that is uniformly excellent, it seems churlish to single out any member but Matthew McKenna as First Class Steward Henry Etches is an actor of exceptional quality, who is infinitely watchable throughout.

If any criticisms can be levelled at the work it is the sheer number of characters who appear, as each is given their moment, it makes the running time a hefty two hours 40 minutes, that said, this is also laudable as it gives voice and equal weight to every type of passenger and crew. The actors do a fine good job of paying respectful tribute to these real people’s lives, Titanic – The Musical truly has the power to move.

Don’t be put off by the subject matter or puerile previous adaptations of the story on screen, this is a respectful, perfectly judged piece of writing that packs an emotional punch.

Runs until 26 June 2018 | Image: Scott Rylander

This review was originally written for The Reviews Hub

 

REVIEW: Wonderland – King’s Theatre, Glasgow

In Gregory Boyd and Jack Murphy’s Wonderland, their take on Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland, Alice is now a 40-year-old divorcée. After a particularly bad day: lost her job, car stolen, ex-husband about to get re-married (you get the picture), the White Rabbit appears to Alice and her teenage daughter Ellie. Alice follows Ellie and her next-door neighbour (and secret admirer) Jack down the rabbit hole (a broken high-rise lift shaft) so far, so psychedelic and the trio embark on a voyage of discovery and redemption for both Alice and the whole of Wonderland.

Despite initial impressions that this is merely a modernised Alice, it’s actually a riff on finding yourself, moving forward instead of remaining mired in the past and the corruption of power, with a few dozen extra plot lines unfamiliar to anyone’s who has read Carroll’s work thrown in for good measure. All wrapped up in such a coating of saccharine sweet sentiment that any message it hoped to convey is in a diabetic coma. The song titles alone indicate the production’s intentions: I Am My Own Invention, This is Who I Am, I Will Prevail.

Festooned in eye-popping visuals (it’s a rainbow smorgasbord of colour) and delivered at road-drill volume, this mish-mash relies heavily on its performers to keep the attention, thankfully, they are largely excellent. Leading lady Rachael Wooding is a fine-voiced Alice as is Jersey Boys veteran Stephen Webb who provides some memorable comic relief. TV favourite Wendy Peters particularly impresses with a phenomenal set of pipes. Less successful is Naomi Morris as Alice’s daughter Ellie, in a rush to machine-gun her lines out, they are completely garbled. The supporting performers and ensemble are universally strong.

While the songs are executed well, they are largely forgettable and every one of them, two verses too long. It’s all a bit Eastern European Eurovision Song Contest circa 1990. Untroubled by any sense of self-doubt or skills of self-criticism, it’s never knowingly understated.

While this is a colourful spectacle with a fine cast, the material is just too in your face and the sentiment too forced to have any impact.

Runs until 8 July 2017 | Image: Paul Coltas

This review was originally written for The Reviews Hub

REVIEW: Jersey Boys – Playhouse, Edinburgh

This review was originally written for and published by www.thepublicreviews.com

Oh what a night it is as Marshall Brickman and Rick Elice’s West End and Broadway smash Jersey Boysarrives in Scotland’s capital. The rags to riches tale of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons has always been a sure-fire winner with audiences and this first UK tour doesn’t disappoint.

Those coming to the tale expecting the run of the mill jukebox musical will be pleasantly surprised, while most may have heard the astonishing back catalogue of hits, many may be less familiar with the real-life antics of the quartet and the gritty reality provides a welcome foil to the showbiz glamour. This is so much more than a thinly drawn narrative stringing the band’s greatest hits together: the whole show has heart and guts and something to get your teeth into.

Though ever so slightly streamlined from the West End version, Klara Zieglerova’s simplistic but effective set is still very much in evidence, as is Sergio Trujillo’s iconic choreography, but what elevates this production is its cast. As Valli, Belgian actor/musician Tim Driesen is an absolute knock-out, he has the rare distinction of being able to sing at full power in every part of his range and oh boy what a range he has, going from baritone to eye-watering falsetto with ease, his New Jersey accent is also pitch-perfect. He is more than ably supported by Sam Ferriday (Bob Gaudio), Lewis Griffiths (Nick Massi) and Stephen Webb (Tommy DeVito), each in possession of impressive vocal chops and the combination of all four provides many a hairs on the back of the neck moment. They rival and at times, vocally surpass the original West End cast. Matt Gillett’s Bob Crewe also provides some welcome light relief throughout the piece.

This is a crowd pleaser in every way: great songs, great story, great singers and actors and the perfect antidote to the chilly autumn blues. It’s one of the world’s best-loved musicals and it isn’t hard to see why. Do yourself a favour and get along to see it if it comes to a city near you.

Runs until 25 October then touring