Archive | December, 2011

Spamalot, UK Tour (Theatre Royal, Brighton)

16 Dec

Spamalot, “a new musical lovingly ripped off from Monty Python and the Holy Grail” by Eric Idle and John du Prez opened this Thursday at the Theatre Royal in Brighton. I love Monty Python and saw Spamalot several times in the West End, so I was looking forward to seeing finally seeing the touring production.

It’s hard to not compare it to the West End production. It took me a while to get used to the very bright and colourful sets and costumes that looked very panto-y. The cast is also a lot smaller with only four ensemble members and therefore some scenes have either been shortened (Run Away) or look a bit empty on stage (pretty much all ensemble scenes), though I don’t think it’s obvious if you’ve never seen another production.

Marcus Brigstocke as King Arthur is a genius casting decision. He really nails the part and has the audience eating out of the palm of his hand in no time at all. Todd Carty as his faithful “horse” Patsy isn’t a great singer, but it didn’t really bother me with this part. Jodie Prenger as the Lady of the Lake has a surprisingly strong voice and her comic timing was spot on. Robin Armstrong gives a very strong performance as Sir Bedevere (who is now highly intelligent instead of flatulent), Dennis’ Mother, Concorde and other female roles including Susan Boyle. I really liked Jon Robyns as Sir Dennis Gallahad, but I thought his Black Knight and Prince Herbert’s Father were even better. Some of his funny lines fell a bit flat, but it was only his first performance. Graham MacDuff gave another amazing performance, he was hilarious in all of his parts, especially as the French Taunter, but of course also as Sir Lancelot, Knight of Ni and Tim the Enchanter. However, there were two people who stood out for me: Rob Delaney and Adam Ellis. Ellis’ Historian is very matter-of-fact, but also a bit camp, which makes his short scenes a joy to watch. His Prince Herbert is fabulous and his Not Dead Fred and Minstrel are hilarious. Delaney really is outstanding in all his roles, his Sir Robin is excellent. I’m not a fan of the new You Won’t Succeed in Showbiz, but he almost managed to make me like it (I have the cast recording, so I already knew it) and that says something. His comic timing is spot on, as are his facial expressions. Both have incredible stage presence and were great vocally. Tim Bonser, Rachel Knowles, Hannah Malekzad and Kit Orton play all the other minor parts and are wonderful, too!

Yes, this production is very downscaled, but it just goes to show that a great musical doesn’t need fancy sets etc. I enjoyed it very much, laughed a lot and I honestly think this cast is among the strongest I have seen.

Spamalot is on in Brighton until the 14th January 2012 and then embarks on its UK tour. Tour dates and ticket info can be found here.

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Goodbye Barcelona, Arcola Theatre

14 Dec

Goodbye Barcelona is a new musical by Judith Johnson and K. S. Lewkowicz set in the Spanish Civil War. It follows the story of Sammy, an 18-year old Jewish boy from London, who decides to join the International Brigades to fight against Franco and the fascists. In Spain he falls in love with with Pilar, who has lost both her parents in the war and now has to look after her sister. His mother Rebecca misses him so much that she decides to join up too to find him in Spain. Working as a nurse, she falls in love with the anarchist Ernesto, who decides to help her find Sammy. Meanwhile Sammy, Jack, George and the rest of the International Brigaders prepare for the last decisive battle…

Katie Bernstein & Tom Gill

Tom Gill is excellent as the naive and ideallistic Sammy, his acting is very intense. Lucy Bradshaw gives a very moving and heartfelt performance as his mother Rebecca. Katie Bernstein (Pilar) has a great voice, another first class performance. John Killoran‘s performance as Ernesto is incredibly moving. Jack Shalloo as George, the leader of their unit, has a very distinctive voice that stands out from the others. It’s nice to see him in a completely different role for a change and he definitely doesn’t disappoint. Mark Meadows is equally great as the bitter, disillusioned and cynical Jack, the oldest and most experienced

Laura Tebbutt

member of their unit. His You’ll Learn was great. Laura Tebbutt shows her amazing voice as La Pasionaria and also plays Ernesto’s sister Maria.

Goodbye Barcelona has a very strong score, I couldn’t name a single song that I did not like. The rousing ensemble numbers sounded amazing. I especially liked the way they incorporated the Internationale into it and then reprised it later with different lyrics. Speaking of the lyrics, I thought they were very moving and heartfelt. The story itself is quite predictable, but despite of this I found the ending very hard to watch.

It’s a story of courage, love, passion and war, brought to life by an excellent cast. I found it completely gripping and really hope that his production is not the last that will be seen of this musical.

Goodbye Barcelona runs until the 23rd December at the Arcola Theatre. Tickets can be booked online.

Peter Pan, Mayflower Theatre, Southampton

14 Dec

This Christmas, the Mayflower Theatre is showing a new musical version of Peter Pan by Roger S. Moss and Robert Scott.

Here the well-known story is set in the present, with the explanation that the story repeats itself again and again and Wendy being the original Wendy’s grandaughter.

Peter Pan is played by Daniel Boys. I was a bit worried that he might look to old for the part, but in this version this works perfectly. I didn’t really warm to Katie Ray‘s Wendy. I always think Wendy should have a certain naivety and innocence about her and Katie’s more grown-up and assured take on her didn’t do it for me at all. Ben Richards as Captain Hook looks like he’s just jumped out of Pirates of the Carribean, great performance though. Lucy Benjamin as Mrs. Darling has a great voice and Les Dennis as Smee was very good too. In fact, the whole cast was, but the show itself just left me completely cold and not even the excellent cast could make up for its short-fallings.

The positive things first though, I thought the flying was very well done. I’m not usually a fan of projections (and the one at the beginning almost made me feel sea-sick), but the underwater scene in the Blue Lagoon looked absolutely stunning.

However, that’s as far as it goes. Musically, I though it was pretty forgettable. There is one good song (Never Stop Telling the Story), which is then reprised again and again until you can’t hear it anymore. But for me the biggest problem is that it’s just not really a musical. It’s more than a panto, but it still has so many elements of one in it. And why the pirates sing YMCA/In the Navy at one point is completely beyond me. Right now, it’s somewhere in between those two and just feels uninspired. It also dragged quite a bit in places. I was almost relieved when it was finished (with, surprisingly, a reprise of Never Stop Telling the Story…).  It’s a shame, because it’s such a wonderful story, but this musical doesn’t do it any justice. It’s got potential, but the creative team should decide where they want to go with the story.

There is already a wonderful musical version of Peter Pan (by Stiles & Drewe), which is far superior to this one and it’s a shame that it’s not put on anywhere. It would have made for a far more entertaining evening, that’s for sure.

If you want to judge for youself, Peter Pan is on until the 14th January 2010

The Lost Christmas, Waterloo East Theatre

14 Dec

The Lost Christmas is a new family musical by Laurence Mark Wythe, which is shown at the Waterloo East Theatre until

It’s the year 3999 and a robot feels that something is missing, a special day, but neither he nor his friend know what it could be. So they decide to travel back in time to year 2011 to ask the humans what it is. They arrive in the Henderson’s living room, where young Sophie is waiting for Santa to bring the presents. Shocked at the idea that there won’t be a Christmas anymore in the future, she decides that they all have to go to the North Pole to speak to Santa. After discovering that their daughter has disappeared in the middle of the night, her parents follow them too. Once there, it is up to Sophie to convince Santa that children still believe in him and the spirit of Christmas.

I thought the cast was great throughout. Erica Birtles shines as Sophie and has a lovely voice. Kate Brennan and Phil Pritchard as her parents have some lovely moments and Action Man is a real show stopper. Stephen Oliver-Webb and Natalie Law as Elfina and Elfaffa look wonderfully geeky with their glasses. Michael Hobbs as Twofour and Greg Herst as Threesix, the two robots, are great, both have very strong voices. Tim Heath as the disillusioned Santa and Natalie Morgan as his headstrong daughter Santina complete the cast.

The songs are all very catchy, I’m still trying to get Christmas Eve at the Hendersons out of my head. I also liked that every character gets their own special moment and a chance to shine. It’s a funny, heart warming and ultimately very entertaining musical. It’s also only about 70  minutes long, so suitable for younger children as well. Those around me were captivated all the way through and I left feeling all Christmassy. It’s the perfect alternative for those who might not want to see a panto.

The Lost Christmas is on until the 23rd December. You can book tickets online or by calling 0207 928 0060.

Cinderella, Tabard Theatre

4 Dec

This musical by Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II was originally written for television in 1955  and later adapted for the stage. I wasn’t very familiar with the musical before I saw it, I had only heard a couple of the songs before. The story, of course, is based on the well-known fairy tale Cinderella. The musical sticks very closely to the original and doesn’t really add anything new, but then, why should it.

Kirsty Mann is a simply charming Cinderella with a lovely voice. I thought she was just perfect for the part. Vlach Ashton as the dashingly handsome Prince Christopher was equally great, his voice easily filled the theatre. Their duets were a joy to watch (and listen to)!

Lydia Jenkins and Kate Scott as Cinderella’s (misleadingly named) stepsisters Grace and Joy are hilarious. Their facial expressions are wonderful.

Helen Colby plays both the Stepmother and the Fairy Godmother and is great as both, though I did prefer her as the latter. Her Fairy Godmother is quite unique and not really how you’d imagine her to be, which I really liked.

Josh Carter as the Prince’s stewart is quite camp at times, but never over the top, and there are some especially great moments between him and Cinderella’s Stepmother at the ball.

I really enjoyed Sarah Dearlove and Brendan Matthew as Queen Constantina and King Maximillian. They made a sometimes very funny, but always endearing royal couple and I loved their duet “Boys and Girls Like You and Me”.

Paul Dyke and Louise Gookey complete the cast and play various ensemble parts.

I thought this production used the limited space very well and I liked the staging a lot. I often complain about the sound levels, but (for the first time, I think) I found it pretty much perfect, I could hear and understand everything just fine.

Cinderella is simply a great piece of musical theatre, full of Rodgers’ sweeping melodies. The best proof of how good it is, for me, was the two-year old girl sitting in front of me, who was completely enthralled (and perfectly behaved) all the way through. So it really appeals to and is suitable for all ages. It’s such a simple story, but it’s got so much heart and just put a smile on my face. It’s perfect for a Christmas show and really puts you into a Christmassy mood. With this production, the Christmas season has definitely started now.

Cinderella runs at the Tabard Theatre (Chiswick) until the 8th January 2012. Tickets can be booked on their website. I’d really recommend this production to everyone, it’s the perfect Christmas entertainment for the whole family!