23 December 2020

Sunset Boulevard In Concert At Home - Review

With the COVID pandemic, meaning Curve hasn't been able to welcome audiences into their theatre spaces for over 9 months and their re-opening plans delayed by further restrictions and the Curve team having already adapted the two performances spaces (The Main Stage and The Studio) and created a stunning in the round auditoria, the decision was taken to film and stream the planned concert production of Sunset Boulevard. The result is a remarkable hybrid of theatre and film. 

Danny Mac as Joe Gillis. Photo by Marc Brenner

Huge credit must go to Nikolai Foster and all the Curve crew who transformed the space in the first place, and with the help of a stage revolve that was kindly donated to the theatre by Cameron Mackintosh. Without the audience in the space, the use of the whole auditoria is fantastic and really shows what a great space Curve is. 

Right from the Hollywood-esque opening credits and the striking up of the orchestra this concert staging is a joy to behold. That 16 piece orchestra under the musical direction of Chris Mundy is the largest used by any production in the UK since the pandemic began. The sound they make is breathtaking, breathing new life into the score by Andrew Lloyd Webber and into the largely empty theatre. The songs with lyrics by Don Black and Christopher Hampton are a joy for the ears.

Visually this production is faultless. The camera adds a new dimension to the drama especially in the scenes between Norma and Joe. The team at Crosscut Media have captured the show exquisitely. Taking the action all around the theatre auditoria is a genius idea. It creates striking visuals of the socially distanced adapted space. There are some great shots of Norma from the Circle, particularly ones at the end of both acts.

Ria Jones as Norma Desmond. Photo by Marc Brenner

Nikolai Foster's direction really lets the drama play out well and he's backed by a brilliant creative team. Colin Richmond's design is stunning. There's no set as such but the costumes are gorgeous, especially the gown's worn by Norma. Ben Cracknell's lighting design is fantastic, adding another layer of dimension that is captured really well through the lens. Tom Marshall's sound design is strong. Lee Proud's clever choreography is performed well.

The production reunites the cast of the 2017 Award-winning production. Ria Jones returns as Norma Desmond and she captures every single emotion of the character perfectly. Her maddening eyes and ultimate sad demise really hits home with Ria giving a masterclass in performance in every moment. Her renditions of 'With One Look' and 'As If We Never Said Goodbye' are deeply moving. Danny Mac oozes charm as Joe Gillis, he is at real ease with the role and interacts brilliantly with Ria's Norma. His strong vocals pack a punch too especially in the title number. 

Adam Pearce does a fine job in the role of Max Von Mayerling. His deep booming vocals are great to hear. He is a looming figure with a really likeable presence. Adam brings out the character warmth really well especially when Max tries to keep Norma believing her fans are still there for her by forging fan mail letters. Molly Lynch's gives a beautiful turn as Betty Schaefer who ultimately is shafted by Joe. 

Molly Lynch as Betty Schaefer and Danny Mac as Joe Gillis. Photo by Marc Brenner

There are good supporting performances by Carl Sanderson as Cecil B. DeMille, Dougie Carter as Artie Green and Kristoffer Hellström as Sheldrake but the entire cast give their all to the production. Lovely voices and great movement mean the ensemble numbers hit all the right notes. 

The story is somewhat poetic with the sad demise of theatre this tough year but unlike Norma's ultimate fate theatres WILL rise again. This at-home concert version of Sunset Boulevard has the potential to be a real game-changer of how filmed theatre is captured. It's a technical marvel in how to capture a show. This is right up there with the best theatre of the year.

Let's hope it's not long till audiences are back in the Curve auditorium (and auditoriums up and down the country) and themselves feeling like it's 'As If We Never Said Goodbye'. Powerful, breathtaking and astonishing theatre. Unmissable.

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Sunset Boulevard in Concert streams from Curve until Saturday 9th January with various performance times. For more details and to book tickets visit www.curveonline.co.uk/

The company of Sunset Boulevard. Photo by Marc Brenner

The Theatre Channel Episode 4 Review.

With Christmas, just a couple of days Adam Blanshay Productions and The Theatre Cafe have dropped their latest episode in The Theatre Channel series, The Holiday Special. (all previous episodes and this episode can be purchased to stream from www.thetheatrecafe.co.uk/channel)

This episode continues in the same strong vein as the previous episodes in the series. The use of The Theatre Cafe space and surrounding area is superb. It allows the audience to feel like they are right there, that each number is being performed for them. Ben Hewis's camera work, in particular, continues to be outstanding as is Bill Deamer's direction and choreography.

Alyn Hawke Sophie-Louise Dann and Alex Woodward. Photo by Edward Johnson

The first number is one of the most notable Christmas songs to come from a musical, 'We Need A Little Christmas' from Mame performed by Sophie-Louise Dann backed up by Cafe Four (Alyn Hawke, Emily Langham, Sadie-Jean Shirley and Alex Woodward) who accompany many of the numbers. Sophie is such an accomplished performer and on top form here.

Recent ArtsEd graduates perform 'Seasons of Love' from Rent. It's a great moment for these graduates to shine considering the year they've had where there have been very few opportunities to perform. 

Zizi Strallen performs 'Turkey Lurkey' from Promises, Promises. This number shows of Zizi's vocal talents as well as her skill in dance. Performing Bill Deamer's fabulous choreography superbly. 

Zizi Strallen and Cafe Four. Photo by Edward Johnson.

Tosh Wanogho-Maud and Matt Croke perform 'Happy Holidays/Let's Start The New Year Right' from the Irving Berlin musical Holiday Inn. It's a wonderful number, properly what I'd call old fashioned charm. Tosh and Matt's vocals are smooth and charming.

Manon Taris sings 'Ave Maria Païen' from Notre Dame De Paris. It's a beautiful number which Manon sings tremendously in French. The number is dedicated to Charles Talar, the originating producer of Notre Dame De Paris who sadly passed away in October. 

Cassidy Janson sings Irving Berlin's classic 'White Christmas'. Her lovely warm rendition starts at the piano and builds well.

Rachel John (centre) and full company. Photo by Edward Johnson.

Rachel John
sings the joyous soulful 'A Brand New Day' from The Wiz. There's a great transition from the opening part of the number in The Theatre Cafe before it ends up next door at The Duke of York's Theatre. There's a great use of different parts of the theatre including the Box Office, Front of House and the stage itself. There's more outstanding choreography here performed by a large ensemble of performers, and what a joy it is the see this amount of performers on a West End stage again.  

All in all, this is another fantastic episode of a brilliant theatrical series which is keeping a flame of the sadly currently closed West End lit. Festive stagey goodness, what more could you ask for? 

You can purchase this episode (and the previous episodes) now from www.thetheatrecafe.co.uk/channel

22 December 2020

All I Want For Christmas Is Theatre Review

Thespie continues their Reunited series of streamed concerts with a wonderful festive episode, All I Want For Christmas Is Theatre (is there a more fitting title currently!). This episode features some of the casts seen in the first 3 episodes (all of which are available to stream here) and those who will be appearing in future ones.

T'Shan Williams, Sophie Isaacs and Jodie Steele, the three leading ladies from the original London cast of Heathers open with 'Santa Claus Is Coming To Town'. Their voices blend so well together and it's lovely to see their chemistry together. The three return later in the episode with a performance of 'Christmas (Baby, Please Come Home)'.

T'Shan Williams, Sophie Isaacs and Jodie Steele. Photo by Danny Kaan.

Sophie Evans, Carl Man, Alice Fearn, Dianne Pilkington, Alexia Khadim, Nikki Bentley, Liam Tamne and Oliver Tompsett (all current or previous Wicked cast members) give a great rendition of the classic Irving Berlin song 'White Christmas'. Liam's jumper alone stands outs here!

Bob Harms sings 'Christmas Song'. There's so much warmth and joy in this song and Bob's rendition just made me feel in such a nice Christmassy place. 

Jemma Alexander, Charlotte Yorke, Aimie Atkinson, Serina Mathew, Rachael Wooding, Joanna Woodward and Hannah Ducharme (all from the London cast of Pretty Woman) sing the Wham number 'Last Christmas'.  The number features some particularly brilliant choreography and harmonies in this number. Jemma, Charlotte, Serina, Joanna and Hannah also return with 'Santa Baby'.

The reunited cast of Pretty Woman. 

'Miss You Most at Christmas Time' fits perfectly to the vocal range of Natalie Paris. She sings with such assurance and skill.

'Merry Christmas, Everyone' reunites the London cast members of Dear Evan Hansen (Alex Thomas-Smith, Courtney Stapleton, Tricia Adele-Turner, Nicole Raquel Dennis, Lauren Ward, Rupert Young, Natalie Kassanga, Sam Tutty, Rebecca McKinnis, Marcus Harman, Lucy Anderson, Jack Loxton, Hannah Lindsey and David Breeds). It's fantastic to see the cast back together singing such a fun song.

'Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas' reunites & Juliet cast members Grace Mouat, Jordan Luke Gage, Cassidy Janson, Oliver Tompsett and Tim Mahendran

Tricia Adele-Turner, Natalie Kassanga, Hannah Lindsey and Sam Tutty. Photo by Danny Kaan 

The highlight of the episode is Alice Fearn's rendition of the Joni Mitchell song 'River'. Alice performs at the piano and plays and sings beautifully. 

Sam Tutty sings 'Jingle Bells' backed up by Natalie Kassanga, Tricia Adele-Turner and Hannah Lindsey. 

The finale is Mariah Carey's 'All I Want For Christmas Is You' sung by Seven (the original London Queens from Six The Musical; Aimie Atkinson, Jarnéia Richard-Noel, Alexia McIntosh, Maiya Quansah-Breed, Grace Mouat, Natalie Paris, and Millie O'Connell. 

Aimie Atkinson, Maiya Quansah-Breed, Alexia McIntosh, Millie O'Connell, Grace Mouat, Natalie Paris, Jarneia Richard-Noel credit Danny Kaan

Credit must go the creatives behind the episode, in particular, musical directors Nick Barstow and Gareth Weedon who bring to life these classic songs in a fresh way.

The whole 50 minutes is a fantastic festive watch. It's so wonderful to watch these talented performers reunited to sing these Christmassy classics. Theatre is something we all crave to be back, but until then this delivers enough festive theatrical joy to fill the void.

All I Want For Christmas Is Theatre is streaming from Thespie - stream it from their website now.

21 December 2020

Best of 2020 Theatre

What a horrible year, especially for all associated with the arts. The COVID pandemic has been devastating for the industry. It seems strange to think how wonderful my theatrical year started especially around shows like Amelie and The Boy in the Dress (both aren't really mentioned in this because I first saw them in 2019) and how much hope I had at the start of the year, now we're just over a week from 2021 and I've not been able to be back in a theatre since March and quite frankly it's been a pretty crap year. Here's to a better 2021 for us all.

Thankfully though, many theatres have created work for a virtual audience which has been a joy and I'll be celebrating those streamed productions in another post but in this post, I'll celebrate with my end of year 'awards' of the shows I did actually get to see this year.

Set Designs
Philip Witcomb - Mame (UK Tour)
Rae Smith - The Girl From The North Country (Gielgud Theatre)
Maria Bjornson (original designs) and Matt Kinley - The Phantom of the Opera (UK Tour)
Max Johns - King John (Royal Shakespeare Company)
Ioana Curelea - The Strange Tale of Charlie Chaplin and Stan Laurel (Told by an Idiot)
Rob Howell - A Christmas Carol (The Old Vic)

King John. Photo by Steve Tanner.

Lighting Designs
Charles Balfour - Alone in Berlin (Royal and Derngate/Oxford Playhouse/York Theatre Royal)
Mark Henderson - The Girl From The North Country (Gielgud Theatre)
Andrew Bridge - The Phantom of the Opera (UK Tour)
Lizzie Powell - King John (Royal Shakespeare Company)
Hugh Vanstone - A Christmas Carol (The Old Vic)

A Christmas Carol. Photo by Manuel Harlan

Costume Designs
Philip Witcomb - Mame (UK Tour)
Max Johns - King John (Royal Shakespeare Company)
Rob Howell - A Christmas Carol (The Old Vic)
Rae Smith - The Girl From The North Country (Gielgud Theatre)

Mame. Photo by Pamela Raith

Nick Winston - Mame (UK Tour)
Lucy Hind - The Girl From The North Country (Gielgud Theatre)
Chrissie Cartwright - The Phantom of the Opera (UK Tour)
Tom Jackson Greaves - King John (Royal Shakespeare Company)
Jos Houben (Physical Comedy Consultant)/Nuna Sandy for ZooNation - The Strange Tale of Charlie Chaplin and Stan Laurel (Told by an Idiot)
Lizzi Gee - A Christmas Carol (The Christmas Carol)

The Strange Tale of Charlie Chaplin and Stan Laurel. Photo by Manuel Harlan

Nick Winston - Mame (UK Tour)
Conor McPherson - The Girl From The North Country (Gielgud Theatre)
Seth Sklar-Heyn - The Phantom of the Opera (UK Tour)
Paul Hunter - The Strange Tale of Charlie Chaplin and Stan Laurel (Told by an Idiot)
Eleanor Rhode  - King John (Royal Shakespeare Company)

The Girl From The North Country. Photo by Cylla Von Tiedemann 

Orchestra/Musical Direction
Jason Carr (Orchestrations) and Alex Parker (Musical Direction) - Mame (UK Tour)
Simon Hale (Orchestrator/Arranger/Musical Supervisor) and Tarek Merchant (Musical Director) - The Girl From The North Country (Gielgud Theatre)
David Cullen and Andrew Lloyd Webber (Orchestrations) and Matthew J Loughran (Musical Director) - The Phantom of the Opera (UK Tour)
Zoe Rahman (Composer)/Sophie Cotton (Song Arranger) -The Strange Tale of Charlie Chaplin and Stan Laurel (Told by an Idiot)
Christopher Nightingale (Composer and Arranger) and Oli Jackson (Musical Director) - A Christmas Carol (The Old Vic)

The Phantom of the Opera (UK Tour). Photo by Johan Persson

Supporting Actress in a Play
Charlotte Randle (Constance) - King John (Royal Shakespeare Company)
Katherine Pearce (Cardinal Pandulph) - King John (Royal Shakespeare Company)
Sara Alexander (Chaplin's Mother) - The Strange Tale of Charlie Chaplin and Stan Laurel (Told by an Idiot)
Rebecca Trehearn (Belle)- A Christmas Carol (The Old Vic)

Katherine Pearce in King John. Photo by Steve Tanner.

Supporting Actor in a Play
Joseph Marcell (Inspector Escherich) - Alone in Berlin (Royal and Derngate/Oxford Playhouse/York Theatre Royal)
Andrew Langree (Father/Marley) - A Christmas Carol (The Old Vic)
Brian Martin (Lewis, The Dauphin) - King John (Royal Shakespeare Company)
Michael Abubakar (The Bastard) - King John (Royal Shakespeare Company)
Nick Haverson (Various Roles) - The Strange Tale of Charlie Chaplin and Stan Laurel (Told by an Idiot)

Joseph Marcell, Clive Mendus and Jessica Walker in Alone In Berlin. Photo by Manuel Harlan

Leading Actor in a Play
Denis Conway (Otto Quangel) - Alone in Berlin (Royal and Derngate/Oxford Playhouse/York Theatre Royal)
Jerone Marsh-Reid (Stan Laurel and others) - The Strange Tale of Charlie Chaplin and Stan Laurel (Told by an Idiot) 
Paterson Joseph (Ebenezer Scrooge) - A Christmas Carol (The Old Vic)

Rebecca Trehearn, Myra McFadyen and Paterson Joseph in A Christmas Carol. Photo by Manuel Harlan

Leading Actress in a Play
Charlotte Emmerson (Anna Quangel) - Alone in Berlin (Royal and Derngate/Oxford Playhouse/York Theatre Royal)
Rosie Sheehy (King John) - King John (Royal Shakespeare Company)
Amalia Vitale (Charlie Chaplin) - The Strange Tale of Charlie Chaplin and Stan Laurel (Told by an Idiot)

Rosie Sheehy (centre) in King John. Photo by Steve Tanner.

Emma Jane Morton (Gina) - Amelie (The Other Palace)
Jamie Tyler (Mr Hawtrey) - The Boy in the Dress (Royal Shakespeare Company)

Jamie Tyler as Mr Hawtrey in The Boy in the Dress.
Photo credit Jamie Tyler.

Supporting Actress in a Musical
Harriet Thorpe (Vera) - Mame (UK Tour)
Laura Baldwin (Cynthia Well) - Beautiful (UK Tour)
Rachel John (Mrs Neilsen) - The Girl From The North Country (Gielgud Theatre)
Gloria Obianyo (Marianne) - The Girl From The North Country (Gielgud Theatre)
Saori Oda (Carlotta Giudicelli) - The Phantom of the Opera (UK Tour)

 Oliver Boot, Adam Gillian, Daisy Wood-Davis, Cameron Sharp, Laura Baldwin in Beautiful (UK Tour) Photo Helen Maybanks

Supporting Actor in a Musical
Cameron Sharp (Barry Mann) - Beautiful (UK Tour)
Shaq Taylor (Joe Scott) - The Girl From The North Country (Gielgud Theatre)
Colin Bates (Gene Laine)  - The Girl From The North Country (Gielgud Theatre)

Colin Bates (Gene Laine) and Gloria Obianyo (Marianne) in The Girl From The North Country. Photo by Cylla Von Tiedemann

Leading Actress in a Musical
Tracie Bennett (Mame) - Mame (UK Tour)
Daisy Wood-Davis (Carole King) - Beautiful (UK Tour)
Katie Brayben (Elizabeth Laine) - The Girl From The North Country (Gielgud Theatre)
Holly-Anne Hull (Christine Daae) - The Phantom of the Opera (UK Tour)

Tracie Bennett (Mame) and the Company of Mame. Photo by Pamela Raith

Leading Actor in a Musical
Donald Sage Mackay (Nick Laine) - The Girl From The North Country (Gielgud Theatre)
Killian Donnelly (The Phantom) - The Phantom of the Opera (UK Tour)
Rhys Whitfield (Raoul, Vicomte de Chagny) - The Phantom of the Opera (UK Tour)

Killian Donnelly (The Phantom) and Holly-Anne Hull (Christine Daae) in The Phantom of the Opera (UK Tour) - Photo by Johan Persson

Alone in Berlin (Royal and Derngate/Oxford Playhouse/York Theatre Royal)
King John (Royal Shakespeare Company)
The Strange Tale of Charlie Chaplin and Stan Laurel (Told by an Idiot)
A Christmas Carol (The Old Vic)

King John. Photo by Steve Tanner.

Mame (UK Tour)
Beautiful (UK Tour)
The Girl From The North Country (Gielgud Theatre)
The Phantom of the Opera (UK Tour)

The cast of The Girl From The North Country.  Photo by Cylla Von Tiedemann

19 December 2020

Girl Power Review.

Following on from their two successful virtual concerts in their Reunited series, Thespie now brings us their third episode this time it's the turn of the 7 original West End Queens from Six The Musical who reunite to perform some girl band classics.

The cast of Queens, Aimie Atkinson, Alexia McIntosh, Grace Mouat, Millie O’Connell, Natalie Paris, Maiya Quansah-Breed and Jarneia Richard-Noel, are all outstanding in their own right but this concert showcases their outstanding vocal ranges with some tremendous harmonies and powerful voices.

Alexia McIntosh, Aimie Atkinson, Natalie Paris and Millie O'Connell. Photo by Olivia Mitchell.

Through the 40 minute concert, the sheer class and quality of the 7 women's vocals are superb. Opening with 'Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy' the Queens take us through a musical journey from the 60's Motown with to modern pop using songs by artists including The Shirelles, En Vogue and The Spice GirlsThe highlight number for me was the cover of 'Up The Ladder To The Roof' by The Supremes

There's a great use of lighting and changes of outfits and some brilliant choreography especially in The Cheetah Girls's 'The Party's Just Begun' and the final number Little Mix's 'Power'

Having worked on Six for so quite a substantial amount of team it's clear how well they all get on and this really comes across both in their skill of singing together but also in the interview snippets in between the numbers. Their clear love and appreciation for each other are lovely to watch especially as they try to describe each other in 3 words.

Grace Moaut. Photo by Olivia Mitchell.

Six has gained them all a big following, especially of young girls and it's brilliantly inspiring to hear all the 7 women talk openly about sexuality and body confidence. 

40 minutes of world-class vocals by 7 of the hottest women from the stage right now. Vocal skills that are off the chart.

You can purchase the stream of Girl Power now from Thespie's website where you'll also find lots of theatrical goodies including the other concerts in the Reunited series. Click here.

All 7 Queens (from left to right; Alexia McIntosh, Aimie Atkinson, Jarneia Richard-Noel, Maiya Quansha-Breed, Millie O'Connell, Natalie Paris and Grace Mouat.

18 December 2020

The Snow Queen: A Rock 'N' Roll Panto - Review.

The pantomime season is usually the highlight of the year for many theatres up and down the country. Naturally, this year's picture for the season is bleak with many productions having been cancelled or postponed. 

The New Wolsey Theatre in Ipswich has thankfully managed to go ahead unaffected and has re-invented their own popular Rock 'N' Roll panto for both a socially distance audience in the theatre but also live-streaming the production to homes.

The restrictions mean things are scaled back but none of the production value is lost. Peter Rowe and the team have managed to create a wholesome production that delivers great escapism despite the challenges in their way. 

The Snow Queen takes us to the town of Ballbroken (yes really!) where the evil ice queen and her sidekick Icicle are spreading coldheartedness when they break a mirror sending its shards to freeze hearts. She kidnaps the young Kay taking him to her palace and putting him under her control. Villager Greda is tasked by the Spirit of Spring to go and rescue him, choosing Kay's mother Dame Sigrid Smorgasboard as her companion.

Steve Simmonds, Lucy Wells, Adam Langstaff and James Haggie.

With just a cast of five actors, who also play all the music, there are some clever scene changes using pre-recorded video allowing the actors to change between the roles. There's a lovely duet of 'Happy Together' shot on location in Ipswich. The video allows for The Snow Queen's arrival to be more powerful as she glides in on her sleigh. The best use of the video comes as Gerda and Dame Sigrid travel to rescue Kay, they leave Ipswich accompanied by The Proclaimers classic 'I'm Gonna Be (500 Miles)', they gradually get faster and faster before they end up in Norwich. The video design by Peter Hazelwood is brilliant.

That cast of five is clearly having a blast performing in this production. Steve Simmonds is a delight as Dame Sigrid, his delivery of the jokes had me in stitches. It's been so long since I've seen (even virtually) such brilliant live comedy. Being panto there are lots of jokes that will certainly fly over the kid's heads and plenty of COVID references including a Boris Johnson gag using a puppet in the second act. There's a tremendous sequence with fish jokes and props. Although there are certain moments like the use of 'Sex On Fire' that I think didn't fit in. 

James Haggie, who is vocally outstanding, gets to play both simpleton Simon and the villainous Icicle. Natasha Lewis is endearingly lovely as Primrose before switching to the evil Snow Queen. She gives a fine rendition of Madonna's 'Frozen' towards the end of the first act.

Adam Langstaff splits between Kay and his father Sven well. Lucy Wells excels both in terms of performance and vocals as Gerda. She has a really warm presence. It was lovely to see characters have interactions without socially distancing (I presume the cast have formed a bubble), there's even an onstage kiss! 

Sure with the COVID restrictions, you do miss the audience reactions, although Dame Sigrid does have a great interaction with a member of the front row. You lose some of what makes panto well panto, there's no "it's behind you" and that but there is still boos and cheers, but one thing you don't lose is the fun and enjoyment. 

Much credit to the design team who have effectively created the world. Barney George's set design cleverly uses the space, David Phillips's lighting enhances the feel of the Ice world as well as life in Ballbroken. The sound design by James Cook is strong and there's great camera work that puts the virtual audience right at the heart the production. 

There's definitely a lot of work gone in to make sure both audiences feel involved. There's a great interactive moment at the interval as viewers both in the theatre and at home get to vote on the name of the hammer which plays a central part of the second act. The theatre must be commended for making this production one of the most accessible productions, everyone performance is captioned and audio described. The theatre has a signed performance for next week and is also planning a relaxed performance. 

Adam Langstaff and Lucy Wells.

To pull off such a brilliant production during these challenging times is a real feat and everyone at The New Wolsey have done an outstanding job. Even in the pre-show videos featuring previous Dames I just felt a warmth happiness flow through me. It was so lovely to get lost in some joyous live family entertainment. 

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐ - dazzling uplifting pantomime spectacle pulled off superbly. 

15 December 2020

Oops!... I Streamed It Again Review

The fabulous theatre platform Thespie have begun a series of streamed concerts developed by the theatre star Aimie Atkinson (Thespie's Creative Producer and star of Pretty Woman and Six). Each of the concerts is filmed in a COVID safe venue and features music from musical theatre, pop and Christmas music. The first episode Unlimited: The Songs of Stephen Schwartz is streaming on the platform now as is this the second episode Oops!... I Streamed It Again. 

This second episode brings 5 of the cast members, Oliver Tompsett, Cassidy Janson, Tim Mahendran, Jordan Luke Gage and Grace Mouat, of the Olivier Award-winning & Juliet back together whilst the show is currently postponed during the COVID pandemic for performances and chat. It's a lovely watch as these 5 cast members all clearly get on tremendously and all have massive talent.

The concert opens with the title song, the Britney Spears classic 'Oops!... I Did It Again', it's sung by all 5 of the cast and their harmonies are a delight. It's a fantastic more jazzy rendition of the song.

Tim Mahendran sings my personal highlight of the episode with a beautiful performance of Robyn's 'Dancing On My Own'. Tim's vocals are effortlessly powerful.

Jordan Luke Gage sings the David Bowie song 'Life On Mars' before performing what both him and Grace Mouat describe as their "dream duet" when the pair sing 'All I've Ever Known' from the musical Hadestown

There's a great interview with the cast as they discuss their favourite roles to date. One of the great things about this stream is the camaraderie and banter between the performers. They clearly all get on well and are having a blast performing together again after so long. 

Grace Mouat sings 'Journey To The Past' from the animated musical movie Anastasia. Grace has bundles of talent and such a warm likeable presence. She'd be a great fit for the role if the musical transfers to the UK. 

Cassidy Janson and Oliver Tompsett give a great throwback performance of 'As Long As You're Mine' from Wicked, with both performers being alumni from the production. It's a thrill to hear both performers singing this lovely duet again. Cassidy then sings a gorgeously moving version of Oleta Adams's song 'Get Here'

Another real highlight is the bromance performance of 'I Can't Fight This Feeling' sung by Oliver and Tim. There are hilarious quips throughout the number which both combine with their superb vocals.

Closing the episode all 5 join together to sing 'Kissing You' by Des'ree which featured in the Baz Luhrmann 1996 film version of Romeo and Juliet. Much like the opening number, this allows for divine harmonies between the performers and wraps up a delightful 40 minutes of song and chat.

You can purchase a stream of Oops!... I Streamed It Again from the Thespie website. You can also purchase a season pass which will enable you to watch all 4 streams from this series. 

11 December 2020

Peter Pan - The Barn Theatre Virtual Review

The Barn Theatre in Cirencester has to take the award for Theatre of the Year for 2020. Throughout this whole difficult time, they've managed to create some truly outstanding work both on the stage and digitally. Their latest offering is a re-telling of the J.M. Barrie classic Peter Pan, which is being both performed on stage and streamed internationally.

Waylon Jacobs in Peter Pan. Photo by Eve Dunlop.

Waylon Jacobs plays a Dad who enters a hotel room thousands of miles away from his family. He video calls his daughter (voiced by Georgia Dibbs) who wants him to read her Peter Pan as a bedtime story. Rather reluctantly he gives in and begins this enchanting tale using the things around the hotel room as props, for example using two teddy bears as the Darling brothers, John and Michael. 

Jacobs throughout is fantastic, enchantingly bringing each character to life perfectly. He is mesmerising to watch with such a strong stage presence. I was so engrossed in his storytelling that I completely forgot that we were even in a hotel room!

The whole production value on this show is remarkable. Everything part of the creative team has superbly created Neverland on the Barn Stage. Director Kirk Jameson's production is first class.

Waylon Jacobs in Peter Pan. Photo by Eve Dunlop.

Designer Gregor Donnelly uses what at the start appears a fairly bare space and transforms the audience right into the heart of Neverland. The transition from the bare white wall of the hotel room into the Neverland as the Darling's fly off is brilliant. The use of props is really well thought through, whether it's the bears I already mentioned or the use of a coat hanger as a bow and arrow, it allows your imagination to be transported right to the heart of the story. Joe Price's lighting design is clever, the reveal of Captain Hook using an umbrella is outstandingly staged. Nick Barstow's gorgeous score adds a layer of real emotion that can be both thrilling and heartfelt.

The visual highlight of the production comes in the way of the projections by Benjamin Collins. The animators have created great drawings that really enhance the production. It's like having the world that J.M. Barrie created jump right out of your imagination and on to the stage. The sequence as the Darling's return to London was particularly powerful.

As an audience, you want to hear stories told well that give you escapism. Here I felt like I was a young boy again watching a magical tale being told right before my eyes. Theatre at it's best transports you to a different place. It allows you to leave your troubles at the door and be free for the duration of a show. Whilst I watched the production in my bedroom rather than in the Barn itself I felt as if this story was being told just for me and I was in Neverland. This is theatre at its powerful storytelling best. Utterly magical.

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ 

Peter Pan plays at the Barn Theatre in Cirencester until January 3rd 2021. The production will stream internationally between 23rd December 2020 and 3rd January 2021. For tickets visit https://barntheatre.org.uk/ 

Waylon Jacobs in Peter Pan. Photo by Eve Dunlop.

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