Archive | December, 2017

The Rat Pack live from Las Vegas

22 Dec

Live from Las Vegas
Directed and choreographed by Mitch Sebastian.

The boys are back – well, not quite. The three main characters in this cabaret have good voices and can impersonate the three guys vocally. Although Sammy David Junior (David Hayes) is probably the nearest vocally and, if you shut your eyes, you can imagine Sammy – except of course for the fact that although facially he resembles him, he does not don tap shoes- and that is a real disappointment.
It is also worrying- probably only to me, that there are inaccuracies in the lyrics. Simple things that stand out “Faithful friends who are near to us will be near to us once more?” Maybe not everyone will notice – are they banking on that? Also “A hole in the head” is not the same as “a kick in the head”. The problem is that when you do a number – it is essential to think like an actor to make sure the words make sense.
These guys are at such a disadvantage. If you are a star personality it is quite fun to fool around, but if you are pretending to be someone else – a disadvantage to begin with – and then you start fooling around it becomes a waste of time.
In the same way Sinatra – who had years of experience hitting the notes right in the middle and learning all his lyrics – if he wants to fiddle around with the tune, change the words that is fun. If someone pretending to be Sinatra does it, it is irritating.
Dean Martin (Nigel Casey) is charming, with raffish good looks and a wonderful voice with unusual timbres. I suppose it makes sense for him to forget his lyrics. I would love to see him in something else.
Sinatra is the leader of the pack. Garrett Phillips’ first number is “The lady is a tramp”. He sings dice games instead of crap games = why? It adds nothing to the song. Was the word crap considered bad language in the fifties?
The orchestra is magnificent under the direction of Matthew Freeman who has devised some exceptionally effective musical arrangements. A joy to hear so much brass and members of the orchestra get chances to do solo work – much to the joy of the audience who save a lot of their applause for the musicians.
The Burelli sisters are a fictional group to give the show an excuse to have a little girl power and to accompany Dean Martin in his numbers. They are a fairly constant presence in glamorous costumes, harmonising the odd vocals and performing some dance routines.
It is important to realise that this is based on the Rat Pack shows set in a different age, but the script seems a little tired and it would have been better to pick a few more interesting gags that the cast would find more comfortable. They often seem to be making excuses for the jokes.
There are three Sinatras who appear in turn, two Sammy’s and two Deans. The producers have thrown quite a bit of money at this show. A brilliant band, great costumes and a star cloth. Next month they are adding an Ella Fitzgerald to the mix.
The audience seemed happy. It’s a big night out but for me it could have been better. I have seenthe similar show several times before and was more impressed.


18 Dec

TOP HAT by Irving Berlin
With book by Matthew White and Howard Jaques.
Every year we have a big Christmas treat. The famous Gatehouse musical comedy. Top Hat is inspired by the film starring Astaire and Rogers and it has the usual idiotic, unbelievable and improbable plot.
Jerry Travers is a famous American song and dance man. He does his opening night in London to great acclaim and then rushes to Venice after a girl he fancies. So what happens to his next performance?. Does the understudy go on? Won’t the audience throw a fit? We do not worry over it, because we are having such a good time watching the dancing, listening to the beautifully rendered, mostly familiar songs and enjoying the wonderful Gatehouse band led by musical director Charlie Ingles
John Plews the director has of course, had years of experience in musical theatre and knows exactly how to work it. For this production, the audience is split in two and one can have fun before the show begins, waving to fiends on the opposite side.
The very lovely Joanne Clifton – one of the professional dancers from Strictly Come Dancing plays Dale Tremont, Her Italian couturier and crazy admirer Alberto Beddini is played by Matthew James. Horace Hardwick (Darren Benedict) the harassed producer, has an incredibly ridiculous man servant played by Samuel Haughton who only manages to put extra difficulties in the way of true love. Joshua Lay dances up a storm as Jerry. The piece is well cast and all are quite wonderful – and what a pleasure to see the incredibly talented Ellen Verenieks as Madge the wife of Horace. She carries most of the comedy in Act two and she delivers her comedy lines like a young Eve Arden. The Ensemble work together brilliantly and each has a role to play in addition to the splendid dance routines. Chris Whittaker has devised the choreography well adapted to the talents of the principals and the ensemble.
Emily Bestow has designed an adaptable set with a platform at one end with treads leading up to it allowing for interesting stage pictures. The period costumes are stunning. The girls look ravishing whether in their colourful evening dresses or with top hat, white tie and tails.
Here is an evening full of joy warmth and friendship. The audience are like guests at a wonderful party and that is what I think musical theatre should be all about.


9 Dec

Christmas Cabaret
At the Other Palace. –
OK EVERYBODY. This is THE ONE. Go to the Barricade Boys at The Other Palace to begin your Christmas with a swing. We know we are in for a great evening from the very beginning as they stroll on to the stage singing their exquisite version of Silent Night
These four guys are all West End leading men and as you may guess from the title of the group, they have all worked in Les Miserables so obviously here are songs from that show including, ‘One Day More’ and a rollicking version of ‘The Master of the House’.
There are some serious numbers like the Michael Jackson classic ‘The man in the Mirror’ and two heart-breaking Christmas numbers ‘I’ll be home for Christmas; and the wartime song ‘Bring Him Home’. Plus some idiotic ones like ‘Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer; complete with the practically unknown verse.
The company was started by two handsome young men Scott Garnham and Simon Schofield (who can also perform a neat Charleston if not prevented). The other two they have gathered are equally attractive and talented, Kieran Brown and Craig Mather. They are complete individuals, different from each other but their close friendship is obvious as they send each other up – apparently ad-libbing.
They are proving without doubt that operatic singers, musical theatre professionals and rock stars can doing anything they want – Their version of ’Great Balls’ of Fire got the whole audience rocking. Their greatest tour de force is their version of ‘The Bohemian Rhapsody’ – that unsingable song, which they perform brilliantly.
They are accompanied by their work by the wondrous fedora hatted piano player Noam Galperin and he is given moments of his own every so often to show off his amazing prowess on the baby grand. I believe the piano player will change from night to night and also the guest star – who on the first occasion was Michael Zavier who gave us a lovely rendering of ‘Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas’, after which he was thrust willy-nilly into the boys’chaotic version of ‘Twelve days of Christmas’.
The greatest pleasure I think of this show is the relationships the boys have with each other The songs are sung accurately, professionally but above all with Heart. These are numbers they love themselves and it shows in their enjoyment – how much they love doing them. The boys enjoy their work and show it. They have a good time and so do we.
. Love them all. Take the Victoria trip and be happy

The Woman in White

5 Dec

Woman in White
Adopted from the novel by Wilkie Collins
Music by Andrew Lloyd Webber
Lyrics by David Zipper
Book by Charlotte Jones
Another big press night at the Charing Cross Theatre and another triumphant opening for Thom Southerland, the resident Artistic Director.
It is a highly strung melodrama sung right through by a cast of extremely accomplished singers with a recurring musical theme to carry the dramatic events. To illuminate the lighter scenes there are some very funny panto style rhyming lyrics. Mostly effective in the ‘I hope you like it here’ Sung by Mr Fairlie (Anthony Cable) to Walter Hartwright who is hired to be drawing master to his two daughters Laura and Marion to
This is the first resurrection of this Andrew Lloyd musical since 2003. I saw it at this time and was not terribly enamoured of it. At that time Michael Crawford was playing Count Fosco – a huge sinister/comedy role and cohort of the villain Sir Percival Glyde Crawford played the part as an obese philanderer, suffered terribly from the discomfort of the fat padding, .and had to leave the production through exhaustion.
In Thom Southerland’s version, Greg Castiglione plays it as a rascally, but rather attractive would be seducer of the powerful heroine Marion. These days we have discovered that all villains are not ugly. He has a total stage to himself in his final number ‘You can get away with anything’ which he sings with his wonderful voice and some impressive vocal gymnastics that almost stop the show. Fosco is a man who believes in charm and he has a bundle of it, though he has no chance of getting away with Marian who is only teasing him to get information about her young sister Laura. Laura has married the evil Sir Percival (Chris Peluso) because her father thinks he needs a man to inherit all his fortune.
Morgan Large’s gothic settings are economical but extremely versatile The first scene is the misty gloom of a railway siding, where Walter Hartwright is warned by a sinister signalman that there is doom in the air. It is there that Walter first glimpses the mysterious ghostly figure of The Woman in White (Sophie Reeves)
Walter becomes the beloved of both Marion and Laura. The two girls are beautifully contrasted = beautiful wistful blonde Anna O’Byrne as Laura and the equally beautiful feminist Marion is Carolyn Maitland. All the singing is unusually magnificent and the actors are well chosen.
A special mention to Jonathan Lipman for the sumptuously gorgeous Victorian costumes and to Rick Fisher who lit it and created the atmosphere so beautifully.
I’m told that Lloyd Webber, Southerland and the rest of the creatives have adapted the story to work with modern day ethics and this turns a melodramatic thriller into an interesting political drama.
Yes, it is good news and I hope it will be appreciated. It certainly was on the first night.

peter pan

2 Dec

A real old-fashioned lavish production in the real Christmas panto spirit and at the same time remarkably faithful to J M Barrie’s famous story.
This lovely new Theatre searing 1200 persons is this afternoon is awash with tiny children for the 1.30 matinee
The Happiness begins when Chris Wong’s Overture strikes up with ‘Bring Me Sunshine.’
At the same time, on the enormous screen there are pictures of London with the old dirty Big Ben – then the curtain rises and we are in the Darling’s nursery. This is when we are first introduced to the additional character to the Pan story. Mrs Smee played by Ben Roddy – the Marlowe would be bereft of their Dame if Mr Roddy was left out. Mrs Smee does not, of course, exist in the Barrie story, and I am not quite sure whose side she is on as she appears in every single scene – always in yet another sumptuous frock. An unexpected noise causes her to say, ‘That is J M Barrie Whirling in his grave’
Wendy Peters is a sweet Mrs Darling who every so often appears on stage, or in a box singing Nothing’s gonna harm you = a theme repeated by other characters throughout. Ms Peters also has a great fun as Chief Squatting Cow of the Crazy Horse Tribe and also as a daft TOWIE style Mermaid.
David Ribi is a perfect rascally Peter who flies in from the Gods over the excited audience. He introduces Tinkerbell (Jo Osmond)as his friend who came from Boulogne to Calais – a Cross Channel Fairy? Yes, there are a lot of gags – some of them unheard before by me. Samantha Dorrance is a gentle and motherly Wendy in contrast with Gemma Hunt as Tiger Lily, a feisty young woman who gives a great feminist speech which is hugely applauded by the audience. (You are never too young to be political)
There are teachers in the audience who get a lot of ribbing from the cast. Smee has a feather duster to dust the head of one, ‘He’s not bald, he is just taller than his hair’.
The settings and costumes by Melga Wood and Morgan Brind and lit by Peter Harrison are magnificent. The settings are helped by a revolve which allows frequent scene changes and a gauze front cloth. The Black Eagles acrobats are frequent visitors to the scene and perform seemingly impossible stunts and pyramids. I love the Totem Pole they make in the Indian scene.
Shaun Williamson is a wicked, brilliantly attired, but comical Hook whose best laid plans never seem to work out and he is pursued by the life-size crocodile. The pirates are a scurvy lot and one in particular shivers her timbers at every impossible opportunity – billed as ‘the overacting pirate’
It is an intelligent script by Paul Hendy who also directs and the choreography is by Jono Kitchens.
This is a pantomime for children, but it is equally enjoyed by the grown ups present.
It is a lovely show full of surprises. Much laughter and a few tears. A Real Christmas Treat.