film · film review · Musical · review

The Greatest Showman

I’ve tackled book reviews, theatre shows, trips to museums and galleries — but now it’s time to try a different genre.

I always advocate that the book is better than the film — but what about those films not based on books? The stories that use this platform as a unique story telling experience, and one that can only do it justice.

The Greatest Showman is a cinematic experience from start to finish, visually exciting, the music embodies the tale; enhancing the feeling the story conveys. The music is a triumph that stays with you long after the final credits. There are dreams of a better future, fantasies that can come true and a mindset that the world is yours to take . A message that seems very poignant today.

Yet there are a few downsides to this dream-state world — each issue in the storyline is quickly resolved — making life appear perfect. The gambles of every decision seem insignificant as the reward is instant. A theme that certainly wasn’t true in the real life of P.T. Barnum, but this can maybe be forgiven in the showmanship of Barnum, he’s a storyteller after all.

For any fan of musical theatre this is a film for you, a chance to see a man live a life of showmanship, regardless of the consequences.

After all, we have P.T.Barnum to thank for the entertainment industry of today — entertainment for everyone, and I think that is something worth seeing.

The Greatest Showman was released in the UK on 26th December.

London · Musical · review · The Book of Mormon · Theatre · West End

The Book of Mormon

I’ve wanted to see the Book of Mormon for quite a little while now, it’s a musical that I know very little about. Although it’s been in London’s West End for four years, it’s managed to keep its plot fairly secret if you don’t go looking too closely.

book-of-mormon-2

Although I’ve stood in line for the lottery on two different occasions, failing each time to be the lucky one, I finally booked tickets for the show. It was certainly well worth the wait.

The show is a spectacular twist of comedy and musical – combining the very best of both. I’ve never laughed so hard while being sat in the stalls, and briefly I think even the actors corpsed on stage. Occasionally when at the theatre, you have an audience that heightens every emotion of the show, we laughed together, gasped in shock together, and stood together for a well-deserved standing ovation. It certainly added to the atmosphere and in response the actors put on a brilliant show.

The songs are incredible, brilliantly slotted into the plot of the musical. There are unexpected moments around every corner as the plot twists and turns at every opportunity. A hilarious and clever production.

 

 

manchester · Musical · Palace Manchester · performance · review · Theatre

Billy Elliot

It’s not very often that we get great northern theatre — theatre based in the north but also about the north. Now that Billy Elliot’s tour has made its way to Manchester’s Palace Theatre the north is in for a treat.

The tale of Billy Elliot is heart warming from start to finish, it explore issues covering the miner strike of 1984/5 to one boy’s dream to dance. Yet it’s the little things that also matter in this tale, Billy’s desire to be accepted by his family and a community fighting for justice in amongst the ballet and boxing lessons.

billy-elliot

I am continuously amazed by the talent in these productions; Billy can sing, can act, and boy, he can certainly dance. You forget in each scene change it’s the same incredibly talented boy who has just danced, sung and acted weaving humour and emotions when required. The set too almost comes alive, and is amusingly mirrored during Billy’s audition at the Royal Ballet School.

This tale is certainly a treat and a wonderful introduction to musical theatre, if you’re around Manchester this Christmas, I would certainly recommend a trip.

Finding Neverland · Harry Potter · London · Musical · play · Preview · The Girls · Theatre · West End

Looking Forward to the West End

As Harry Potter and the Cursed Child begins to hold previews this week, it’s time to look forward to the plays and musicals that are soon to open.

cursed-child-palace-theaterI managed to gain Harry Potter and the Cursed Child tickets back in October, although I’ve still got five months until I see the play in November, the recent photo releases have certainly intrigued me. The world has been waiting for the next Potter instalment for nine years, and I am certainly excited to see what Harry has been up to. We will re-visit the magical world once again, it’s almost like going back home. The two-part play will be a first for me, an insight into splitting the story in two – but a whole day at the theatre can only be a good thing.

FindingNeverland0040_Rev02-OBC-1024x683Next on my list is Finding Neverland, I fell in love with the story, the music and the characters when I saw the original broadway cast in the Lunt-Fontanne theatre, New York. Thankfully, they’re flying the show over to London, landing in January 2017. I’m looking forward to re-emerging myself into the story of how Peter become Pan, a story within a story, full of life, laughter and sorrow.

Finally, Gary Barlow’s The Girls is ready to make it’s West End debut in 2017. Having seen The Girls premiere in The Lowry, Manchester; the musical was one destined for London’s stage. It’s depiction of Yorkshire was amusingly realistic, and the songs full of humour and heartache. It’s a musical to make you laugh and cry.

So I have a few theatre trips to plan, and many more plays to review this autumn and winter. Are there any new play you’re looking forward to?

London · Musical · Phantom of the Opera · review · Theatre · West End

The Phantom of the Opera

The first May bank holiday arrived, and with the sun shining, I headed to London for the long weekend and, of course, a musical.

Phantom - boatCurrently in its 30th year, phantom had been scaring the stage and keeping the audience on their toes in critical acclaim. It’s been a musical I’ve been waiting to see for a while. Full of suspense and the power of music. Yet I was surprised by the many stories told within this tale. The original opera working in parallel to the Phantom’s own musical. It’s an incredible act of story telling. While simultaneously creating a range of emotions which take the audience through this journey.

Further to this, the elaborate staging enhanced the story line, the boat through the Phantom’s later was incredible to watch, a space full of suspense, appeared intimate despite the full house. Let alone the many secrets spaces the Phantom himself managed to hide within, taking me by surprise each time.

It was a breathtaking experience, the incredible cast and music kept the audience spell-bound throughout. It made me wish, once again, that I could somehow be apart of this theatre world, but we’ll just have to see what time will bring.

phantom

The Phantom of the Opera is playing at Her Majesty’s Theatre, this classic is not to be missed.

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

Curtain Up at the V&A

IMG_6145As the Olivier Awards turn 40, the V&A has created an exhibition exploring the last four decades of theatre, plays and musicals on West End and Broadway. It was evident I needed to go and have a look.

Featuring backstage details, first scripts, notes and editorial requests, I felt as though I was getting a small glimpse into the hidden side of theatre. The exhibition held design plans, amazingly scaled model boxes, costume designs and even lightening plans, it shows just how much work is required to begin the staging process, let alone the ongoing work once a production has started.

There were interactive elements, allowing you to arrange the sound of Hairspray, balancing the singers and musicians alike. Equally a lighting deck presented the many spotlights and various coordination of lighting available to the light managers each evening. It showcased the work required for each production to even exist, the detail of plans and notes to ensure each show is perfect.

I also learned a lot more of the world of theatre, various facts and figures were presented across the exhibition, showing the difference between West End and Broadway productions but also the similarities and incredible records some productions held to their name.

IMG_6147It was great to see the set and costume designs for one of my favourite shows: Matilda, to see the essence of the character in each sketch and the grand scale of the stage. Alongside stepping into the stage of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, allowing you to feel the confusion Christopher goes through on stage.

If you’re around London and a theatre fan, it’s an exhibition not to be missed. The exhibition is at the V&A until 31st August before it moves to New York.

manchester · Musical · play · review · The Girls · The Lowry · Theatre · Yorkshire

The Girls

Gary Barlow, Tim Firth and the Calendar Girls credit John Swannell

The Girls held its world premier at The Lowry this week, having seen the West End play a fair few years ago, I was intrigued to see how a new production of the same story would be unleashed. I was pleasantly surprised. The music added a new dimension to the tale; it allowed the characters to express their thoughts and feelings in a deeper sense then words alone can convey. It encapsulated the humour and sadness the story manages to conquer, holding and carrying the story through the music.

Being a Yorkshire girl across the roses border, The Girls made me feel very patriotic to my county, the introductory number Yorkshire, shouting proudly of the dales and fells I call home. It shows the relationship people have with their home, the pride to be a part of the community and desire to belong. It is after all the community spirit alone that triumphs in this story, the daring to stand together, and it’s surprising just what can come out of it.

Gary Barlow, Tim Firth and the original Calendar Girls credit Matt CrockettThere was the expected sad delicate numbers that deal with loss, grief and sometimes the denial of death, beautifully written and projected to the audience. Yet alongside great sadness, comes great joy. The humour brought by Claire Moor as Chris, whipping her bra off on the fell, and the humiliation of our parents every teenager goes through is conveyed expertly by the young actors playing Danny, Tommo and Jenny.

Let alone to how brilliantly the calendar shoot is played by all of ‘The Girls’, it was done in elegance, amusement and humour. Yet, best of all I felt the audience were laughing with the nervous characters on stage, impressed and amazed by the bravery the actors put on show. It was tasteful; it was funny and entertained the whole audience.

Everything from the stage set, the music to the actors was brilliant, it deepened my current understanding of The Calendar Girls story, and proves the bravery and determination of one set of ruthless WI girls. It’s an incredible true story, which only heightens the pressure and exposure of the show, a musical that brings more to life then music and words, a story to be shared.

 

The Girls deserved its standing ovation; make sure to catch this show, while you still can. The Girls is playing at the Lowry until 30th 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.