Tag Archives: Landor Theatre

A Spotlight on Matthew Gent, Landor Theatre

19 Jan

A Spotlight on… is a series of one-night cabarets at the Landor Theatre, which  give performers the opportunity to share their talents and their favourite songs and tell their stories in this intimate 60 seats venue.

Matthew Gent’s credits include Les Misérables and  Phantom of the Opera in the West End, Bright Lights Big City (Hoxton Hall) and The Hired Man (Landor Theatre). He was accompanied on the piano by Magnus Gilljam.

Matthew started off with Running Wild from the movie Some Like It Hot and then proceeded to sing a  musical medley that included everything from Mary Poppins to Andrew Lloyd Webber, which was wonderful and very entertaining.

Next up was Something’s Coming from West Side Story, another very impressive performance.

I’ve only ever listened to The Wiz once some time ago and it didn’t leave a great impression, but I loved Matthew’s What Would I Do If I Could Feel from it.

His I Get a Kick Out of You from Anything Goes was great, the song suited his voice so well.

I really liked his jazzy My Baby Just Cares For Me.

Jessie May

For There Once Was a Man from The Pajama Game Matthew was joined by his first guest of the evening, the very talented Jessie May. I loved this song.

Next up was a medley of three Rodgers and Hart songs: You Mustn’t Kick It Around from Pal Joey, My Funny Valentine from Babes in Arms and Manhattan from Garrick Gaieties.

Gavin James

He then sang Take Me To The World from Sondheim’s Evening Primrose with Gavin James. This was one of the highlights of the evening for me, their voices sounded just wonderful together.

Now For The First Time from The Hired Man. I loved the production at the Landor Theatre last year and his rendition was very good, but I still think I prefer it as a duet.

Matthew’s Does The Moment Ever Come from Stiles & Drewe’s Just So was great. It’s such a lovely song anyway, but he managed to make it even better.

The last song before the interval was What Kind of Fool Am I from Stop the World, I Want to Get Off. A perfect way to end the first half.

The second half started with Boy With Dreams from Edges. This is one of my favourites songs from it, a wonderful performance by Matthew.

Run Away With Me is probably one of the most popular cabaret songs at the moment. It is great though, and so was his rendition.

Jessie May came back on stage to sing Get Out and Stay Out from 9 To 5. She really has a fantastic voice.

Tabitha Webb

Matthew then was joined by Tabitha Webb for “The Rooftop Scene” from Phantom of the Opera (Why Have You Brought Us Here/All I Ask of You). I must admit that I’m not a great fan of this musical, but I saw him as Raoul once and thought he was great, so I enjoyed hearing it again.

Next up was Love Look Away from Flower Drum Song. Another great song and Matthew sounded stunning.

I absolutely loved his Where Do You Start (Michael Feinstein). It’s a beautiful song and he sang it with so much emotion.

Tabitha Webb came back on stage to sing So Many People from Sondheim’s Saturday Night, before Matthew sang Hero and Leander from Guettel’s song cycle Myths and Hymns.

Matthew then sang a beautiful song by Ricky Ian Gordon. Unfortunately I have no idea what it’s called.

The last song was Grace Kelly (Mika). I don’t particularly like this song, but it definitely showed off Matthew’s versatility.

His encore was If, again from Stiles & Drewe’s Just So. I think it’s one of the best MT songs I know and he nailed it. For me it was the perfect ending to such a wonderful evening.

In the course of the evening, Matthew Gent did not only show what a fantastic voice he has, but his stories and anecdotes in between the songs were witty, interesting and very entertaining.

All in all, it was a highly enjoyable evening and proved to me that he is one of those incredibly talented young performers you should watch out for.

Matthew is also a regular host for Show Off! at Cafe Koha. More information can be found here.

Stand Tall, Landor Theatre

13 Oct

Stand Tall is a new musical with music by Aldie Chalmers and Sandy Chalmers and book and lyrics by Lee Wyatt-Buchan. This production is directed by Simon Greiff.

It is a modern re-telling of the Biblical story of David and Goliath with a contemporary rock score. Here, David (Ryan O’Donnell) is a shepherd by day and a rock star by night. His life is alright until the mystical Black Sheep (Keisha Amponsa-Banson) chooses him to become the new King. He isn’t so sure about that, especially as he is also in love with Princess Mia (Natasha Barnes), the daughter of King Saul (Martin Pirongs). When word gets around that he is supposed to be the new King, Goliath (Jack Shalloo) becomes jealous and angry and starts to threaten and attack David. He finally challenges him to a guitar battle to decide who should become King and get Princess Mia. David has only one option: He needs to stand tall!

I did enjoy this musical, probably more than some other rock musicals out there (which shall remain unnamed). There are some good songs in it. I especially liked Goliath’s Song, Hold Me/Don’t Cry and of course the title song Stand Tall. Having said that, I don’t think they were very memorable though and I think the different styles don’t add anything to the musical, apart from making it appear very fragmented.

Ryan O’Donnell makes a great David and he’s got a very good voice. He was very believable and I especially liked his interactions with the Black Sheep.

Keisha Amponsa-Banson as the Black Sheep acts as a sort of narrator to the whole story, she holds it together and keeps it going. She’s got an incredible voice and has some great one-liners.

Natasha Barnes as Princess Mia has a very sweet voice and I liked her performance a lot. Personally, I find Mia not a very interesting character, but she made the most of it. She and Ryan O’Donnell had great chemistry and I loved their duet towards the end of the show (So Indecisive).

I loved Jack Shalloo’s Goliath. He always seems to play a similar type of character, but he was great. Menacing, but also vulnerable. He’s got a very distinctive voice and it suited these songs perfectly.

I wasn’t too keen on Martin Pirongs, who plays King Saul, Cassius and Jessie (the fathers of Goliath and David). There was absolutely nothing wrong with his performance, so I think the main reason for this was the he was very quiet and I found it hard to hear him most of the time. Out of the three parts I probably preferred his King Saul.

Despite all this, I left the theatre not really knowing what to think of the musical and it took me a while to figure out what it was. I personally find the story and most of the characters too simplistic. It isn’t bad, but they could have made so much more out of it. I thought the characters weren’t really three-dimensional, with the exception of Goliath and, to a lesser extent, David. This made it difficult for me to really  get “into” the story. The cast worked very well together and you couldn’t tell it was the first ever performance, but there was just something missing. I somehow expected to be more moved by it, as it sounds so promising. Yes, there is an anti-bullying message, but it could have been explored more. There is a lot more focus on David’s self-esteem issues and Goliath’s abusive father. So for me, while I liked the concept of the show, it was a bit of a missed opportunity.

However, as I said before, I did enjoy it and the story isn’t in any way worse compared to those unnamed rock musicals, but I think it needs a lot of reworking.

The musical runs until the 12th November 2011 at the Landor Theatre in Clapham (which is a lovely venue by the way, by far my favourite fringe theatre!). There is also a four track studio recording (with a different cast) available, which can be purchased here.

The Hired Man, Landor Theatre

12 Aug

The Hired Man is a musical with music and lyrics by Howard Goodall and book by Melvyn Bragg, directed by Andrew Keates. It follows the life of John Tallentire, a farm labourer and later coal miner, and his family between 1898 and 1921.

I found the story very captivating, complete with three dimensional characters. Musically I think it’s a masterpiece. I love Goodall’s music anyway and this is the 4th production of one of his shows that I’ve seen this year, but it completely blew me away. He writes such wonderful melodies that haunt you for days and days.

The musical is brought to life by a top-notch cast, who play their respective parts with so much passion and have such great, strong voices. There simply is no weak link in this cast.

Joe Maxwell is pretty much perfect as John Tallentire. Blackrock (What Would You Say To Your Son?) was one of the highlights for me and he had wonderful chemistry with Catherine Mort (Emily Tallentire). Her singing wasn’t flawless, but she has such a sweet  voice and her last duet with Joe (No Choir of Angels) was incredible, as was I Cannot Be Like You. Her last scene was very moving.

Abigail Matthews and Ben McMath play their children May and Harry. Abigail, again, has an outstanding voice (I saw her as the Mistress in Evita and thought that she easily had the best voice on stage that night). I enjoyed her You Never See The Sun very much. Ben was also very good and made me laugh a couple of times.

Martin Neely (Seth Tallentire) was wonderful in the Union Song (Man of Stone) and Farewell Song, as was Sean-Paul Jenkinson (Isaac Tallentire). I especially liked him in the scene when he comes home from the war and brings Emily a message from Jackson.

Ian Daniels plays Jackson Pennington, the son of the farmer John works for and whom she falls in love with. His Hear Your Voice was hauntingly beautiful. Again, great chemistry with Catherine Mort.

I also loved Kimberly Powell’s (Sally) duet Who Will You Marry Then? with Catherine Mort. They’re voices sounded so lovely together.

Mark Fredrick, Garry Mannion, Matthew Gent, Emily Barlow, Matthew McLoughlin, James Parkes, Ruri James, Alistair Baron and Jamie Birkett play various parts in the ensemble and play a significant part in making this piece so special.

The set was very simple, yet effective, mainly some bales of straw and barrels, a cartwheel and a rocking chair, but there was no need for anything more.

I was very disappointed when Gypsy (which should have played at the Landor) fell through, but now I’m almost glad that it did, because otherwise I would have never seen this wonderful piece of musical theatre. It was one of the special evenings that remind me just why I love theatre so much.