REVIEW: Les Miserables – Festival Theatre

About

Based on the classic novel by Victor Hugo, Les Miserables is a story of Love and Loss set against the backdrop of the French Revolution.  Hailed as one of the greatest pieces of theatre of the last 50 years, it is perhaps it’s powerful melody’s and lyrics which have been setting it apart since its opening night 30 years ago.  Seen by over 120 million people worldwide in 45 countries and in 22 languages, Les Misérables is undisputedly one of the world’s most popular musicals.

Cast

Killian Donnelly – Jean Valjean
Nic Greenshields – Javert
Katie Hall – Fantine
Martin Ball – Thenardier
Sophie-Louise Dann – Madame Thenardier
Harry Apps – Marius
Tegan Bannister – Eponine
Will Richaardson – Enjolras
Bronwen Hanson – Cosette

 

It has been nearly a decade since the last touring production of Les Miserable which is now celebrating its 30th year running in the West End.

Set during the Student Uprising in Paris, Les Miserables follows the story of Ex-Con Jean-Valjean as he attempts to rebuild his life.   In theory it is everything a musical shouldn’t be: long; dreary; based on a historical novel.  However in reality, Les Miserables is everything but.

Now I should state, that this marks the 5th time that I have seen Les Miserables.  Having seen it twice in the West End, on Broadway and on the 20th Anniversary tour, I had extremely high expectations for this particular production.

Having previously seen Killian Donnelly as Charlie in Kinky boots I was aware of his vocal ability, however was unsure of how he would stand up to such a beloved role. Lets must say I was not disappointed – from the moment he stepped on the stage his performance completely captivating.  Along side other excellent cast members such as Nic Greenshields and Harry Apps the entire audience was transported back to France during the French Revolution.

An extremely intricate story with lots of twists and turns, it is easy to get confused if you are not paying attention for a minute or two.  (I had to explain to my dad that the man who escaped at the start was infact Jean Valjean as he had spent the entire first half waiting for him to come back).  Helpfully, this particular production had audio described screens which you could have a quick glance at during the performance if you forgot who was singing.  It also helps make theatre more accessible for those who may not usually be able to go.

The staging of this production was impeccable.  The movement of the set and barricades  was seamless making the audience feel as though they really were part of the action.  The scenes with the barricades in particular were spectacular with the staging and the lighting really coming together to create the desired dramatic effect.  The only missing element was the revolving stage which I have seen in previous productions, however it certainly didn’t take away from the overall feel of the show.

Although the story and staging were excellent, it is the music that really makes Les Miserable stand out. From the opening notes, the powerful score grabs the audience and shakes them to its core, making them feel things they didn’t realise was possible in a theatre environment.  Portrayed by such an excellent cast, this production was no different.  Katie Hall’s rendition of “I Dreamed a Dream” was a particularly stand out moment in a show full of beautiful and powerful music.

Although I have seen this show several times, I still find myself being drawn back over and over again to the story with each seemingly getting better and better.  This particular production ended with a deserved ∗∗five-minute standing ovation – at least I think it did, I couldn’t really see through my tears.

 

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REVIEW: Rock of Ages – Kings Theatre

About:

Set in 1987 on the Sunset Strip, Rock of Ages is an Arena-rock love story told through the glam rock music that defined America in the 80s.  With hits such as Don’t Stop Believing, Dead or Alive, I Wanna Know What Love is and The Final Countdown it tells the story of when boy meets girl in LA’s most famous rock club.

Cast

Zoe Birkett – Justice
Andrew Carthy – Franz
Vas Constanti – Hertz
Rhiannon Chesterman – Regina
Kevin Clifton – Stacee Jaxx
Kevin Kennedy – Dennis
Lucas Rush – Lonny
Jodie Steel – Sherrie
Luke Walsh – Drew

Do I love Glam rock? Yes.  Do I love musical theatre? Uh huh.  Do I adore Kevin Clifton? Absolutely.

However, having watched the mediocre 2012 movie adaptation starring Tom Cruise and Alec Baldwin, my expectations for this production were pretty low.  I was expecting to come out singing the songs yet feeling underwhelmed.  I couldn’t have been more wrong.

Lucas Rush (Lonny) was cast brilliantly as the narrator, interacting just the right amount with the crowd and getting everyone laughing from the offset. The relationship he portrayed between Lonny and Kevin Kennedy’s character of Dennis was sweet yet hilarious, and in the extremely LGBTQ+ friendly city of Glasgow got the biggest cheer of the night when the two characters finally got together.

Both Jodie Steel (Sherrie) and Luke Walsh (Drew) were respectively rockin’ in their roles.  Steel in particular has an incredible voice and her rendition of I wanna Know Love Is completely blew me away.

The rest of the cast was stellar with Pop Idol winner Zoe Birkett giving a memorable performance as Justice.
For me it was Kevin Clifton who stole the show.  As a long time Strictly Fan I was looking forward to seeing how Clifton’s Ballroom moves would incorporate into the glam rock scene of the 80s.  The character of Stacee Jax is an oddity, but Clifton played it excellently with just the right amount of bravado and lightness to keep it from falling over the edge to absurd.  His singing voice was much better than expected with a few stellar moments including the rendition of Wanted Dead or Alive (which coincidently happens to be one of my favourite songs).  There was little chance for Clifton to show of his dance moves which was slightly disappointing, however he did treat us to a little during the bows which had everyone cheering.

The production of this show was extremely slick with a big screen detailing any scene changes, allowing the audience to be aware of exactly where they were to avoid confusion.  Although from the upper gallery and the balcony the top of the screen was obscured so this effect was lost.

All in all it was an extravaganza of campness which had me up dancing for the final number and leaving with the biggest grin on my face.

 

West End favourite Mama Mia! extends booking until March 2018.

Following on from the wildly popular show’s 18th birthday, it was confirmed that the show will be continuing its run until 3rd of March 2018.

Not only this but new casting has also been announced, with Sara Poyzer taking the lead role of Donna Sheridan, one which she has just finished playing on the UK tour of the show.

Hailed as one of the most popular musicals of recent history, Mama Mia has been seen by almost 8 million people, and still continues to remain immensely popular.    Based on the music by the ever incredible ABBA, it is certainly one that will leave you singing for weeks afterwards.

Get your tickets here:

mamma-mia

 

 

 

Olivier Awards 2017

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Sunday night saw the Olivier awards showcase the best of British theatre and arts with its annual celebration of all that is wonderful about the theatre industry in the United Kingdom.

As was predicted Harry Potter and the cursed child made Oliver history, winning a record breaking nine awards in the glittering ceremony.  The wonderful production which follows the story of the Boy Who Lived as a parent and the trials and tribulations of his children, certainly seems to have made an impression on both audiences and critics alike. 

Other award winners were Amber Riley of Glee fame who won an award for her portrayal as Effie Trinket in Sonia Friedman’s revival of Dream Girls.  After receiving a standing ovation for her performance of hit “And I am telling you”, the west end star looked shell-shocked as she gave a heartfelt speech in which she tried to inspire other people into pursuing their dreams and ambitions. 

Other highlights of the night include a riproaring performance from the talented cast of School of rock and an incredibly passionate speech from Kenneth Branagh who was given the special award at Sunday nights ceremony.

The British theatre industry certainly is one that produces talent and productions like no other.  You only must look at the full list of winners below to see that.

 

Best Actress – Billie Piper for Yerma at Young Vic

Best New ComedyOur Ladies of Perpetual Succour at National Theatre – Dorfman

Outstanding Achievement in an Affiliate Theatre – Rotterdam at Trafalgar Studios 2

Best Lighting Design – Neil Austin for Harry Potter And The Cursed Child at Palace Theatre

Best Sound Design – Gareth Fry for Harry Potter And The Cursed Child at Palace Theatre

Best Costume Design – Katrina Lindsay for Harry Potter And The Cursed Child at Palace Theatre

Best Set Design – Christine Jones for Harry Potter And The Cursed Child at Palace Theatre

Best Actor in a Supporting Role – Anthony Boyle for Harry Potter And The Cursed Child at Palace Theatre

Best Actress in a Supporting Role – Noma Dumezweni for Harry Potter And The Cursed Child at Palace Theatre

Best New Opera Production – Akhnaten at London Coliseum

Outstanding Achievement in Opera – Mark Wigglesworth for his conducting of Don Giovanni and Lulu at London Coliseum

Best Revival – Yerma at Young Vic

Best Actor – Jamie Parker for Harry Potter And The Cursed Child at Palace Theatre

Best New Play – Harry Potter And The Cursed Child at Palace Theatre

Best Director – John Tiffany for Harry Potter And The Cursed Child at Palace Theatre

Best New Dance Production – Betroffenheit by Crystal Pite and Jonathon Young at Sadler’s Wells

Outstanding Achievement in Dance – English National Ballet for expanding the variety of their repertoire with Akram Khan’s Giselle and She Said at Sadler’s Wells

Best Theatre Choreographer – Matthew Bourne for The Red Shoes at Sadler’s Wells

Outstanding Achievement in Music – School Of Rock The Musical – Three children’s bands who play instruments live every night at New London Theatre

Best Entertainment and Family -Matthew Bourne’s production of The Red Shoes at Sadler’s Wells

Best Actor in a Supporting Role in a Musical – Adam J Bernard for Dreamgirls at Savoy Theatre

Best Actress in a Supporting Role in a Musical – Rebecca Trehearn for Show Boat at New London Theatre

Best Musical Revival – Jesus Christ Superstar at Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre

Best Actor in a Musical – Andy Karl for Groundhog Day at The Old Vic

Best Actress in a Musical – Amber Riley for Dreamgirls at Savoy Theatre

Best New Musical – Groundhog Day at The Old Vic

Special Award Winner – Kenneth Branagh

 

Broadway, Broadway, Broadway

Ever since I was little I have always loved the theatre.  For me there is something so magical about live theatre, about experiencing something in real time, happening directly in front of you and being part of a collective consciousness.

It’s extremely cliché but the first show that I remember having an impact was of course Les Miserables. It was simply breath taking – the way the music and staging came together to completely immerse the audience in 18th century France.  As soon as the opening song of “Look down” began I was hooked.  I simply knew that theatre was a medium that I would never get tired of. Over the years I have tried to see as many shows as possible.  However, living on the West coast of Scotland it was difficult – it either meant a trip down to London (which can be costly) or I had to wait until shows came nearer to myself.  The latter is obviously the cheaper option, however shows sometimes take YEARS to tour, for instance I didn’t see Wicked until 2014, 8 years after it made its debut!

Being in New York this meant one thing – Broadway.  Never mind the sports or nightlife in New York, the thing I was most excited about when I found out I was moving here was all the Broadway shows I was going to see.

Due to how busy I have been, along with lack of funds I have only managed to see 3 in the few months that I have been here.  Although I do have concrete plans to see a few more over the next few months).

So far I have seen:

  • Les Miserables – It HAD to be done.  There was no way I was going to live in New York and not see my all-time favourite show on Broadway.  I do have to admit however, as much as I enjoyed it, the Broadway production did seem to be lacking somewhat.  The music was excellent as always and the cast were wonderful, but there was no revolving stage, and the barricades simply didn’t seem to be as impressive as past productions that I have seen.   I was in floods of tears at the end, so it did something correctly!
  • Hamilton – On paper this show sounds incredibly dull.  It tells the story of the American founding fathers, in particular Alexander Hamilton and the decisions that were made in order to help create the country that we see now.  But on stage it is something completely different.  There are literally no words to describe how much I enjoyed this show. Creator Lin Manuel Miranda has created not only a Broadway musical, but a piece of art that has surpassed all boundaries that normally surround theatre.  I was extremely lucky to win tickets to see it in June this year with the original cast all still in it.  I could talk for hours about the production value, and how blown away I was by the talent on stage.  I know its convoluted to say “if you get the chance to see it go” as it is pretty much impossible to get tickets unless you are willing to fork out a small fortune, but I do believe that this musical has set a new standard for theatre.
  • Finding Neverland – the story of how J.M Barrie wrote Peter Pan with music written by one of my favourite men Gary Barlow.  I went into the theatre with extremely high expectations of this show as I had heard nothing but excellent things from people who had previously seen the show.  During the first act I found myself feeling extremely underwhelmed, there were certain points when I was looking at my watch and wondering when interval was, scoping out the best route to the bathroom.  However, during the last song of the first act “Stronger” my mind was completely changed – it is one of the most visually stunning numbers I have ever seen, and this was consistent throughout the second half of the show.  There was so much fairy dust and sparkles in the second half and I found myself weeping throughout several of the last songs.  Perhaps not the strongest show I have seen musically, but nothing will compete with how visually fantastic it was.

 

After seeing Finding Neverland the other night I made a conscious decision to utilize the fact that Broadway is right on my doorstep and I have plans to see; The colour purple, The Book of Mormon, Matilda and School of Rock over the next two months.

If anyone has any other suggestions, let me know!

A lot has changed

Since the last time I posted on here my life has changed dramatically. (For the good though don’t worry!)

It all started about August last year.  I was driving back from Edinburgh late one night, on the way home from a 12 hour shift, and began contemplating life.  I already had decided that I had gained all that I could from my current job and felt like it was time for pastures new.

So a simple google search and I discovered “Mountbatten Programme”.  It is essentially a programme which gives graduates the opportunity to live, work and study in New York.  I didn’t even hesitate, and when my finger hit the “apply” button there was no sense of sacredness, only sheer excitement for the possibilities of the future.

Fast forward to October and I was sitting in a hotel in London, nervously waiting to be interviewed for acceptance to the programme.  Anyone who knows me, knows that when I get nervous I don’t stop talking.  My interview was a blur, and I am unsure whether I wowed them with my skills or if I didn’t stop talking for 45 minutes and they took me just to shut me up!

I must of done something correctly as on March 7th I made the move across the Atlantic and am now residing in New York City. I now work for an Airline in Midtown and spend my evenings sipping cocktails on rooftops* and enjoying everything that NYC has to offer.

Moving so far away from home wasn’t a decision that I made rashly, there was a great deal of thought put into it.  I have done so much whilst being in this wonderful city so far, (some of which I will write about so bear with me whilst I update my whole life) and feel like I am truly now starting my personal and professional life.

*drinking dollar beers in a dive bar.