manchester · music · Musical · performance · review · The Lowry · Theatre · war

The Sound of Music

The_Sound_of_Music nunsThe Sound of Music bounced onto the Lowry’s stage in a musical extravaganza of a show for this Christmas. Filled with the classics of Do Re Me, Edelweiss and Sound of Music the music carried the show and transported the audience back to the 1930s.

Beginning in the Abbey, the nuns were serious and melancholy before being slightly mischievous in How do you solve a problem like Maria. It added a sense of cheer to the rather silent abbey, a distant past to the life Maria had expected to find here. Instead she’s packed off to govern seven Von Trap children and alter the expectations of a strict and repressive father. Music is of course the answer, teaching and guiding the children with her knowledge and love.

It is the love story of war, circumstances and needs, passion and short lives that bring this family together. Happy in the music and surrounding of the mountains, their perfect life becomes shattered by war.

For me, the Sound of music was at times a little too cheery in its portrayal, even in the shadow of war the characters continue with their music and life without care. Even the finale of their escape is rather modest, without much suspense or determination. I would have liked to see a slight twit in the portrayal of the story, something new and raw that could have been brought to the production. Yet the audience seemed spell bound, even singing along in places, it was the tale they expected and the tale they clearly wanted to see.

The Sound of Music is at The Lowry until the 2nd January 2016.

Broadway · Musical · play · review · Theatre · West End

A summer of theatre

ProgrammesAlthough autumn has now crept its way to us, I wanted to revisit my summer of theatre. From London’s West End to New York’s Broadway, I’ve had the privilege of seeing some wonderful plays and musicals over the last few months.

I began with a revisit to a show I’ve already written about, Matilda the Musical stayed with me for weeks as I relived the songs and cunning struggle Matilda herself portrayed. It was equally energetic, thrilling and fast paced – a delight even more so the second time round.

MEMPHISMemphis had been recommended to me on numerous occasions, and it more then lived up to its name. A fresh and uplifting portrayal of race-ridden America, where inequalities are fought against, race is questions and Huey goes against all odds and expectations. Currently staring Beverly Knight and Matt Cradle their powerful voices carried the performance in their fight for justice – an incredible performance.

Next on my list was The Railway Children, currently set at Kings Cross station. The story remained as it has for years, simple and spell-binding, with the stage and steam train standing out as the highlight of this production. It was clever and self-aware, leaving the steam train to take central stage, physically and metaphorically.

GypsyI was also lucky enough to see Gypsy, starring Imelda Staunton, who triumphed in her role as Momma Rose. Her determination and power made for one of the strongest characters on stage, with such an outstanding cast the performance was mesmerising, covering themes of love, jealousy, rebellion and determination.

Finding NeverlandMoving across the pond, my very first Broadway show was the phenomenal Finding Neverland, this musical has stayed with me over the last month, as I play the soundtrack on repeat. I loved the storyline, the clever twist of incorporating the well-known tale of Peter Pan to J.M. Barrie’s own thoughts. The cast were brilliant, the songs and lyrics clever, lively and touching. It may well have over taken Matilda in my favourite musical, and that’s a hard feat to beat.

On a very different scale, Kinky Boots tackled much harder themes, gender, sexuality as we identify who we are. The set and use of stage adapted for each scene, the boots were kinky and the cast, especially Lola, impressive. It was a great adaptation, and not surprisingly now appearing in London’s West End.

HamletFinishing off my theatre trip was a play I’ve long been anticipating, Hamlet; having bought tickets over a year ago, it was finally time to see Benedict Cumberbatch in his lead role. As a fan of both Shakespeare and Cumberbatch, the play was always on my wish list, and lived up to its name. I found it easier to follow then any previous Shakespeare I’ve viewed, it was funny and dark- everything required by a tragedy. Cumberbatch was phenomenal in his role, passionate and moving; everything Hamlet should be.

Now my next challenge is to fill autumn with trips to Manchester’s theatres…

London · Miss Siagon · Musical · Theatre · West End

Miss Saigon

Having played the music a few years ago, I finally visited the Prince Edward theatre for a performance of Miss Saigon.

EngineerThe show started with a bang, very suddenly we were transported to Vietnam, to a life of war as helicopters seemed to fly above our very heads. Opening the show, the Engineer engaged glamour to the bar he sold off his girls in, before providing light relief in his humour throughout the shows darker scenes. It may have begun in a world of perceived glamour and glory but reality soon hit home.

Kim and ChrisKim completely stole the show for me, as she transported the audience in her journey of love, hope, anger and betrayal. She represented the true harshness of war and the reality of our actions. Her desperation to regain control and find Chris in a world so distant form her own emphasises the passion and ability within us all to follow our hearts.

With outstanding music, clever scenery and an amazing portrayal of life in the Vietnam war, this production is certainly worth a visit.

Be quick, the final flight is scheduled for 27th February 2016

London · Matilda · Musical · West End

Matilda the Musical

When I was taken to see Matilda the Musical at the end of last year, I’ll admit I was expecting something similar to the film from my childhood.

I couldn’t have been more wrong.

MatildaFrom the very start I fell in love with the music, the lyrics, the actors and of course little Matilda. The show moved at such a fast pace, the audience were transported to Matilda’s brilliant brain and her naughty temptations. It permitted us to reach out, become petrified of Miss Trunchball; become as mischievous as Matilda and fight for the chance to be a little bit naughty.

So it seemed the logical thing to visit the show again and be spell bound in Roald Dahl’s imagination. It was even better second time around. I knew the songs, I understood the story and because of all of this I was able to focus on smaller things, to really listen out for some fabulous lyrics, spot clever set designs and incredible acting.

MatildaThe show portrays the very best aspects of childhood, when we dreamed of eating sweets on our way to work or watching cartoons until our eyes went square. But now that I can, it just doesn’t have the same appeal. The only advantage is I don’t have a teacher like Miss Trunchball nor Parents like the Wormwoods, for that I count myself very lucky.

Matilda was outstanding, with that one little girl stealing the show. Its the cleverness of the choreography, the lyrics and of course the acting that makes this play stand out from the rest.

Matilda the Musical is playing at the Cambridge Theatre, London.

London · Musical · play · Theatre · West End

A Small History of London’s Theatre Land

As I head to London next week to begin an internship it seems fitting to research into my favourite London pastime- the theatre. Whether it be a play or musical, of old or young, I’m eager to see as much as I can in the next eight weeks. Yet how did our affection with the theatre begin?

Theatre LandThe very first West End theatre opened in 1663, sadly it burned down less then ten years later. However, it’s a clear starting point for London’s famous theatre scene. We’ve been venturing around Shaftesbury Avenue for over three hundred years. But we can do slightly better then that, Shakespeare’s play’s nearly 500 years later still appear to be timeless. We each know the love story of Romeo and Juliet, the revenge and jealousy of Othello down to the supernatural Macbeth. It’s an experience to be repeated, enjoyed again and again.

MousetrapSo it amazed me to discover that Agatha Christie’s murder mystery stands as the longest continuous play; currently in its 63rd year. That we continue to suspect, detect and manipulate show after show? The Mousetrap’s themes are echoed into our every day lives, relatable yet exaggerated. As we in turn take the role of detective for the evening, leaving our own life behind us.

Les Miserables stands behind in its 30th year but holds on to the longest running musical. How are we still being transported to France’s revolution eight times a week? Yet each audience fights alongside the revolution, witnesses the love story of Marius and Cosette all in amongst Javert and Jean Valjean’s quest for righteousness and justice; something is clearly working.

As new audiences arrive and others return, the theatre scene continues to succeed; we want to be transported to a different world, view a new scene and revisit tales told again and again.

What are your favourite theatre shows?

London · Musical · review · Theatre · West End

Les Miserables

Les MisWhen Les Miserables was released to critical acclaim in cinemas in early 2013 I joined many others with a love for the story line, for the strong characters and wonderful music. I then, of course, read Victor Hugo’s unabridged version (which took me much longer to get through) and dreamed for a chance to see it London’s West End.

So finally and quite spontaneously, I visited the Queen’s Theatre for Wednesday’s Matinee in the shows 30th year, and I was in for a treat.

Les MisAll musicals manage to capture me, the opening prologue of 1815 Digne transported me to the France of 200 years ago instantly. In the following three hours I became entrapped in battle of justice for both Javert and Jean Valjean, both whom believe their actions were just, both of whom portray the struggles of righteousness and dedication. But in amongst this a love story arises, proving how in the darkest times, hope is always apparent.

For Eponine longing to be noticed, willing to give up everything. For Cosette, to take trust in those who offer help and to love unconditionally. Then Marius, standing up for what is right, stuck between the barricades and a life of equality he strives for. Each character’s strengths are placed before us, each performer giving their absolute all to depict the contrast of hope and loss visible throughout the production.

The music encapsulates the performance, allowing each thought to linger and to become more pronounced then imagined. The tunes of One Day More, On My Own and I Dreamed A Dream have followed me since leaving the theatre, bringing the characters with them and keeping revolutionary France alive. The production was well executed, the emotions of each character pronounced and the music and acting extraordinary.

Les Mis  Les Mis Les Mis

Now in its 30th year, the world’s longest running musical should not be missed.

Queens Theatre, Shaftesbury Avenue, London