Monday, 31 August 2020

Review: Sleepless

Hey readers!
It's time for my review of Sleepless.
When eight-year-old Jonah phones a Seattle radio show and gets his dad, Sam, to talk live on air about the heart-breaking loss of his mother, Sam instantly touches hearts across America. Nearly 3,000 miles away, journalist Annie starts to ask herself whether Sam could be more than just a great news story. It looks like love is in the airwaves, but how do you know if he’s the one for you if you’ve never even met? Perhaps only a last-minute dash to the top of the Empire State Building can prove that somewhere there’s someone for everyone...

Development on a musical adaptation of the movie 'Sleepless in Seattle' first began in 2009, and continued all the way up until 2020. The show went through several creative overhauls and postponements, before finally announcing a run at London's Troubadour Wembley Park Theatre in early March of this year. Unfortunately, the show faced a further set-back with the COVID-19 pandemic, creating further obstacles. However, upon the recent announcement that live performances could re-start, the producers decided to push ahead and at last open Sleepless. This was a very bold move, and one that should be commended. Sleepless is the first large scale in-door show to open in Stage 4 of the government's roadmap to reopening, requiring social distanced seating. In spite of the financial impact this may have, the producers were still eager to open their show as planned in order to give the industry some hope and provide financial stability for those employed in theatre. One can only hope that this will pave the way for other theatrical productions to open in the near future, and hopefully this marks a new beginning.


Kimberley Walsh, formerly a part of girl group Girls Aloud, stars in the leading role of Annie Reed and completely steals the show. It goes without saying that Walsh is a talented singer, but her acting skills are equally as faultless. She conveys the character very well, clearly demonstrating Annie's overly idealistic and romantic nature. Harriet Thorpe, as Annie's mother Eleanor, was also outstanding, and proved to be one of the show's many highlights. Thorpe was very well-suited to the role, and had a real kindliness to her characterisation. Her rendition of 'The Way He Said My Name' was enchanting, and simply a delight to watch. Cory English is also worthy of a special mention, having performed the role of Rob. English has a huge stage presence, and stole the spotlight upon every entrance. He provided much needed comedic relief to the show as a whole, and really brought the fun-factor to it.

The musical score of Sleepless is entirely original, with music by Robert Scott and lyrics by Brendan Cull. The score is enjoyable, and has some pleasant tunes throughout. My one and only critique of the score is that it is not necessarily the most memorable. That is not to say that the music is disagreeable, but I imagine the show would likely benefit from adding one or two big production numbers that really stay with the audience long after departing the show. The orchestrations however, by Larry Blank, were flawless. The entire orchestra are very much worthy of praise, and they were truly excellent.

Now for my final verdict on Sleepless. I give Sleepless...


Sleepless features a handful of very talented performers, as well as pleasing music and outstanding orchestrations. It's great to see live theatre re-starting, and hopefully there will be more of this to come!

Think it should have got a higher rating? Agree with my rating? Think it should have got a lower rating? If so comment below.

Thanks for reading!

-The Basic Theatre Reviewer

Sunday, 30 August 2020

Online Theatre: 'Carousel', 'Kings of Broadway 2020' and 'Grease: Live'

Hey readers!
It's time for my mini-reviews of Carousel, Kings of Broadway 2020 and Grease: Live.
With live performances slowly re-starting across the nation, this is likely to be the last of my online theatre series. I thank all of those that have stayed with me during these trying and testing times, and I remain optimistic for the future. Hopefully theatre will be back in full force soon, both bigger and brighter than ever!

Carousel


"Set in a coastal New England town, Carousel tells the story of Julie Jordan and Billy Bigelow who fall in love one summer evening. The barker of Mrs Mullins' Carousel, Billy is known for his womanising, yet settles down with Julie despite the warnings from her aunt Nettie Fowler and best friend Carrie Pipperidge. As Julie and Billy marry their relationship becomes fraught and Billy does his best to stay out of trouble, especially when his friend Jigger offers him easy access to money."

I first saw Carousel two years ago during its Broadway revival at the Imperial Theatre and found it to be outstanding. As a result, I jumped at the chance to see a different take on the show, and was particularly intrigued to see Jessie Mueller tackle the role of Carrie Pipperidge, having previously seen her as Julie Jordan. The musical score of Carousel, by Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II, is utterly phenomenal. It's a true classic, with a handful of beautiful melodies throughout. A few of my personal favourites include 'You're a Queer One, July Jordan', '(When I Marry) Mister Snow' and 'Soliloquy'. In this particular production, Kelli O'Hara starred in the lead role of Julia Jordan; a role which she excelled at. O'Hara boasts incredible vocal talents, and had a clear warmth to her characterisation. Likewise, Nathan Gunn, as Billy Bigelow, also had a marvellous voice, and delivered a stellar rendition of 'Soliloquy'. Jessie Mueller was also excellent, giving the character of Carrie Pipperidge a sweet and child-like innocence.

Carousel can be watched on YouTube for free here: Carousel.

Kings of Broadway 2020


"Charity concert that premiered 31.5.20 and is raising money for Acting For Others, NHS Charities Together  and Black Lives Matter Global Charities."

Whilst having taken place quite some time ago, Kings of Broadway 2020 was a wonderful event that served a very fitting tribute to these brilliant composers, including the likes of Jule Stune, Jerry Herman and Stephen Sondheim. Some very talented performers were a part of this, and it was a true delight to watch. Whilst each and every singer was exceptionally gifted, it was Jamie Parker and Deborah Crowe that stole the show with their incredible rendition of 'Too Many Mornings'. In spite of my adoration for 'Follies', this is not a song that I have given much thought to prior to this point; never before had I appreciated how hauntingly beautiful it was. Ramin Karimloo was yet another highlight of the concert, giving a phenomenal rendition of 'Being Alive from the musical 'Company'. Karimloo has a real powerhouse of a voice, and I'd love to see him one day star in a revival of 'Company'. Special mentions must also be given to the stunning orchestra who performed the Overture from 'Gypsy', as well as Samantha Spiro. 

Kings of Broadway 2020 can be watched on YouTube for free here: Kings of Broadway 2020.

Grease: Live


"After enjoying a summer romance, high school students Danny and Sandy are unexpectedly reunited when she transfers to Rydell High. There Sandy must contend with cynical Rizzo and the Pink Ladies in attempt to win Danny's heart again."

Grease: Live features an exceptional cast, with each and every one of them having a wide array of talents. It is however Vanessa Hudgens, in the role of Betty Rizzo, who steals the show. On the day of this live broadcast, Hudgens was unfortunately struck by personal tragedy, and yet she still went ahead with the performance and gave it her all. This was an outstanding display of professionalism, and it was more than admirable. Additionally, the leading performers, Julianne Hough and Aaron Tveit, were also excellent, and well-suited to their roles. The musical score of Grease is written by Jim Jacobs and Warren Casey, and that too is remarkable. Almost every tune is extremely memorable, and will likely stay with you long after viewing. A few of my personal favourites include 'Those Magic Changes', 'Beauty School Dropout' and 'There Are Worse Things I Could Do'. The most remarkable aspect however of this particular production is the scenic design, by David Korins. The set covers a wide range of different locations, and the amount of detail and effort put into it is truly awe-inspiring. 

Grease: Live can be watched on Netflix here (please note that a subscription is needed in order to view): Grease: Live.

Thanks for reading!

-The Basic Theatre Reviewer

Thursday, 20 August 2020

Review: Jesus Christ Superstar - The Concert

Hey readers!
It's time for my review of Jesus Christ Superstar - The Concert.
Jesus Christ Superstar recounts the last days of Jesus Christ from the perspective of Judas Iscariot, his betrayer. As Jesus' following increases, Judas begins to worry that Jesus is falling for his own hype, forgetting the principles of his teachings and growing too close to the prostitute Mary Magdalene. After Jesus has an outburst in a temple, Judas turns on him.

After UK Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden announced that live performances could re-start whilst adhering to social distancing, Regent's Park Open Air Theatre took it upon themselves to meet the challenge, and declared they would be putting together a new production of Jesus Christ Superstar. It was an extremely ambitious project in these uncertain times, and all of those involved were venturing into uncharted territory. Nothing like this had ever been done before, and the stakes were very high indeed. I am thrilled to report that the hard work has more than paid off, and it was a night at the theatre I am unlikely to forget anytime soon; I was honestly blown away. More so than anything, it was great to be back in a West End theatre. There really is quite nothing like it, and I am delighted at how far we have come. Hopefully this will pave the way for a return to normalcy within the near future.

The musical score of Jesus Christ Superstar is a collaboration, with music by Andrew Lloyd Webber and lyrics by Tim Rice. A number of years ago I stated that the score of Jesus Christ Superstar is my favourite of Lloyd Webber's works; that statement is still true to this very day, and I continue to stand by it. Lloyd Webber is one of the greatest composers of all time, and he's truly in his element in this remarkable rock opera. Both the music and the lyrics are very easy to connect with on a personal level; in their own way, they are both uniquely powerful. The score is also bolstered by a very talented orchestra, who were beyond phenomenal. It was among the strongest live orchestras I have ever seen, and each of them were extraordinarily talented. In particular a special mention must be given to tenor saxophonist Howard McGill, whose solo in 'Damned for All Time' was spellbinding.


For this particular production, the roles of Jesus, Judas and Mary have been double-cast in order to allow for maximum flexibility in relation to scheduling or illness. At the performance I attended, the leads were as follows: Pepe Nufrio as Jesus, Ricardo Afonso as Judas and Maimuna Memon as Mary. In the role fo Jesus, Pepe Nufrio's vocals were genuinely astounding. To simply refer to him as vocally talented would not do his performance justice; his voice was a true powerhouse. The infamous 'Gethsemane' is among the most vocally demanding songs of all time, and yet his rendition was faultless. Ricardo Afonso, as Judas, was equally as mesmerising. Judas Iscrariot is arguably one of the best musical theatre roles ever written, meaning it requires the most talented of both actors and singer. Afonso more than lives up to the expectation, giving a performance that was well and truly spellbinding. Beyond this, his portrayal also proved to be very moving, making Judas's tragic demise all the more heartbreaking. Maimuna Memon, as Mary, was also excellent. Memon delivers a good characterisation, convincingly conveying the character's warmth and empathy. Additionally, she too had an outstanding voice, and one that was reminiscent of singer-songwriter Adele.

The choreography of this production, by Drew McOnie, had the added challenge of generating large dance numbers whilst still adhering to social distancing. It would have by no means been an easy feat, and yet it's still masterful. The large ensemble of dancers were incredible talented, and flawlessly in synch with one another. Additionally, the lighting design by Lee Curran was also dazzling, and proved particularly effective in a night-time environment. The lighting used to convey the tragic nature of certain events was particularly compelling, and really helped to add to the production's overall tone.

Now for my final verdict on Jesus Christ Superstar - The Concert. I give Jesus Christ Superstar - The Concert...


I am honoured to have had the chance to see this production. I thank all of those that have made this production possible, and hopefully this will mark a new beginning in the theatre industry. As Mary Magdalene says, "Could we start again, please?". 

Think it should have got a higher rating? Agree with my rating? Think it should have got a lower rating? If so comment below.

Thanks for reading!

-The Basic Theatre Reviewer

Tuesday, 18 August 2020

Online Theatre: A Taste of Pater Noster

Hey readers!
It's time for my review of A Taste of Pater Noster.
Pater Noster is a fusion of clown and bouffonnerie, following an eccentric Catholic monk who finds himself in sticky situation after sticky situation in his attempt to remain dutiful, yet God-fearing. With a clear focus on Catholic rituals and customs, Pater Noster explores the murky relationship between individual spirituality and the religious spectacle. Through the playful offering of religious-connoted motifs including idolatry, gluttony, and of course, Catholic-guilt, the piece considers the ways in which faith – a seemingly intimate relationship forged between self and God – is influenced by the often dogmatic practices of the religious collective.

To refer to Pater Noster as artistic would be an understatement; its creativity knows no bounds. I don't use this phrase lightly, but it really is quite unlike anything I've watched before, either live in the theatre or digitally. It's a very abstract piece of theatre, and one that proves to be simultaneously ambitious and intriguing. Praise must be given to playwright and star Francesca Caruso for her inventiveness in relation to this project. To carry out an idea such as this takes a lot of innovation, which is clearly a skill Caruso has plenty of.


The play is intended to be a satire on the Catholic Church, something which is conveyed quite well. Whilst on the outside the play may appear to be no more than slapstick comedy, there is more than meets the eye. There are a number of hidden messages to be found within the performance, examining devotion to one's faith and the ensuing practices.

Paster Nastor would usually last approximately 40 minutes with an audience; however, this particular version of the play without an audience stands at 7 minutes in length. This highlights how much the audience would add to the piece, as it would almost sextuple the play's duration. I do think that Pater Noster would likely play better in front of a crowd, though I appreciate that this is difficult at this current point in time. Hopefully it won't be too long before this is made possible, and Pater Noster can reach its full potential in front of an audience.

Overall, Pater Noster is extraordinarily inventive, and for that alone it should be commended. It's not a production that will appeal to everyone, but its imaginative nature is certainly worthy of praise.

Thanks for reading!

-The Basic Theatre Reviewer

Monday, 17 August 2020

Review: Pearl and Dagger

Hey readers!
It's time for my review of Pearl and Dagger.
Pearl and Dagger is the story of Tokoyo, a young woman dealing with the grief over her deceased mother. When her father, the former samurai Oribe, is wrongly imprisoned on a mysterious island, she sets out on a journey to find him, and must discover the secrets of the island, her family, and the meaning of real bravery.

The last time I attended the theatre was in early March, and as a consequence of this I have not attended any live theatrical production in over 5 months. Whilst it has been a privilege to watch so much digital theatre during this period of time, there really is nothing like being there in the moment and experiencing something live. I was so grateful to once again be reunited with the theatre, and it's certainly a step in the right direction. Whilst we still have a long road to go before reaching normalcy, we should be very grateful for what we have at this point in time. Those responsible for this production of Pearl and Dagger should certainly be commended for putting this together. It was an experimental project, intended to examine the ways in which live theatre could take place in the age of social distancing, and it appeared to go very well indeed. I would therefore like to extend my personal gratitude to all of those that took the time and effort to ensure this could run as smoothly as possible. In addition to this, it was also a free event, which is yet another quality worthy of commendation. By making these events accessible to all, it is possible for all within the community to engage with the arts. This too is remarkable, and worthy of high praise.


Pearl and Dagger's strongest attribute is its musical score, which has been written by Eden Tredwell. The songs proved to be quite powerful, with several melodies there were evidently quite haunting. In particular, the song 'Weightless' proved to be a particular highlight; it had a real emotional impact, with poignant lyrics and a beautiful melody. The orchestrations were carried out by a sole pianist, also Treadwell, who was simply wonderful. She really helped the musical score to come alive, and her precision was outstanding.

The entirety of the cast were excellent, and every one of them should be commended for their skills. They gelled very well together, and had good chemistry with one another. The stand-out performance however came from Sok-Ho Trinh, who portrayed Master Shima. Trinh had so much passion, his performance, and the affection he conveyed through his portrayal of a concerned father was genuinely believable. Beyond this, he was also an outstanding singer, demonstrating strong vocals throughout.

Now for my final verdict on Pearl and Dagger...


Pearl and Dagger was a very unique experience, and I am thrilled to have had the chance to attend. This production played for one day only, however I hope that the show will have a future life later down the line.

Think it should have got a higher rating? Agree with my rating? Think it should have got a lower rating? If so comment below.

Thanks for reading!

-The Basic Theatre Reviewer

Sunday, 26 July 2020

Review: Mascherato

Hey readers!
It's time for my review of Mascherato.
Set in the heart of 18th century Venice, the story follows Luca and Elena who meet and fall in love at the famous carnival. However, when the pair are separated by war, they must fight against the forces of fate in order to be reunited.

Mascherato is a brand new musical, having gone through the initial development stages and a staged workshop within recent years. Shortly after the COVID-19 pandemic lockdown was partially lifted, Mascherato was recorded as a concept album at the well-known Abbey Road studios. Taking into account that theatres across the globe have been forced to cease activity, this is a brilliant way to keep the arts alive during these uncertain times. Whilst many are obviously yearning to return to live theatre, projects such as Mascherato are excellent ways to still engage with this much-loved form of art. It is important to note that Mascherato is an entirely original musical, with a plot and musical score that has been written exclusively for the show. This can be quite a rarity in the UK and, truth be told, I cannot even recall the last time there was an entirely original West End musical. This demonstrates that Mascherato is quite an ambitious project, and should thus be commended. The fact that this album gives us a glimpse into the early stages of the show's creation is also fascinating, and I would be very interested to see how Mascherato develops further. It certainly has the potential to go to the West End someday, and I am sure it would prove very popular.

The original score, by Michael Elderkin, is utterly wonderful. It's truly enchanting, and feels as if it should belong to a fairytale. Each song is unique in its own way, and there are several memorable tunes featured throughout. The song 'See Her Again', which depicts an army general reminiscing over memories of his deceased wife, proved to be a particular highlight. With a beautiful melody accompanied by heart-breaking lyrics, it is a real stand-out. From a narrative stand-point, the song also proves useful, as it really adds depth to the character of General Attilo, and makes his eventual fate all the more tragic. Additionally, James Spilling's rendition of it is completely faultless. Another highlight to be found within the score is 'What's in a Memory?', which is equally as heart-breaking. The lyrics of this song are both profound and haunting, and it proves to be very impactful emotionally.

Mascherato's story is very charming, and I very much enjoyed following the narrative as it went on. Despite not actually watching it, the show is easy to envision, which demonstrates that the storytelling was done very well indeed. Narration and dialogue featured throughout, and I felt that this proved beneficial in advancing, as well as helping the listeners to understand, the narrative. The characters featured are also well-written, and I really felt myself rooting for the main characters of Luca and Elena to succeed. My only slight critique of Mascherato's story would be its ending, which I would have liked to have seen more fleshed out. For example, towards the show's ending, the character of Lenadros, an Ottoman general, vows to murder Luca, and yet this confrontation never actually takes place. It should be noted however that, as previously stated, the show is still in development. As a consequence of this, plot points such as these may evolve, should Mascherato ever make it to the stage.

The cast of Mascherato are all excellent, and the performers all portrayed their characters very well. In spite of the fact we could not see the actors, there was still clear characterisation, which demonstrates the extent of their talents. Rob Houchen, as Luca, was remarkable, and really embodied the role flawlessly. The character's excitable nature really came through, which was well conveyed by Houchen. Beyond that, he also boasts an incredible voice, as seen through his rendition of 'What's in a Memory?'. Oscar Colon-Murray, as Corto, Timeo and Pasqualin, is also worthy of a special mention. Conlon-Murray portrayed three different roles, which is no easy task, and yet he did so with great skill. As a performer he is naturally funny, and that is evident throughout the recording.

Thanks for reading!

-The Basic Theatre Reviewer

Sunday, 19 July 2020

Online Theatre: 'The Grinning Man', 'Hamilton' and 'Newsies

Hey readers!
It's time for my mini-reviews of The Grinning Man, Hamilton and Newsies.

The Grinning Man


"The king is dead, but who the hell cares? A strange new act has arrived at the fair in the centre of the capital, a grotesque oasis of entertainment. Soon everyone from the gutter-rats to the new queen has fallen for the hand-made freak Grinpayne and his hideously beautiful face. But who is he really? And how did he come to be so marked? Together with an old man, a blind girl and wolf, he has a story to tell. A tale so tragic and so strange that not even he can guess how it will end."

I saw The Grinning Man during its run in London's West End, and was quite taken by it. It was an extremely unique show, and quite different from anything else playing in London at the time. One of the show's most commendable elements is its entirely original score, jointly composed by Carl Grose, Tom Morris, Tim Phillips and Marc Teitler. The music proves to be quite haunting, and is thus well-suited to the show's dark and gritty demeanour. The songs 'Beauty and the Beast' and 'Labyrinth' are among my personal favourites, with compelling lyrics and affecting melodies. In addition to this, the puppetry, directed and designed by Finn Caldwell and Toby Olié, is also quite incredible. The puppets are all extremely realistic, and really help the story spring to life.

The Grinning Man can no longer be watched on YouTube for free.

Hamilton


"The musical centres on the life of Alexander Hamilton, who was orphaned and moved to New York in hope of a better life. While there, the smart up-start impressed with his hunger for revolution and reform, to take the United States away from British forces. The story sees Hamilton become George Washington’s right-hand-man, fall in love, and go on to become the first Secretary of the Treasury of the United States."

I should begin this mini-review by outright stating that Hamilton is my favourite musical of all time; I have seen it live a grand total of four times, and I doubt I will ever tire of it. In my personal opinion, it is a true work of art, and I see it to be flawless in almost every aspect. The narrative of Hamilton is one I find to be extremely compelling for a variety of different reasons. First and foremost, each character featured within the show is captivating within their own right. They are all flawed individuals, but this is in fact what makes them so spellbinding. Secondly, Hamilton's story is important from a historical perspective. It tells the story of a mostly-forgotten Founding Father, and details his remarkable life in the most extraordinary way. The show gives us a fascinating insight into the American Revolution as well, and is a must-watch for all historians. The musical score, with music and lyrics by Lin Manuel-Miranda, is also exceptional. There's so many different layers to every single lyric, and the music does a phenomenal job at conveying the story in an effective manner. 

Hamilton can be watched on Disney+ here (please note that a subscription is needed in order to view): Hamilton.

Newsies


"Homeless New York City newsboy Jack "Cowboy" Kelly (Christian Bale) befriends two newcomers to his trade, brothers David (David Moscow) and Les Jacobs (Luke Edwards). When publisher Joseph Pulitzer (Robert Duvall) sets new rules that make it harder for the young newspaper salesmen to make a buck, the boys go on strike."

The musical score of Newsies, written by Alan Menken and Jack Feldman, is utterly magnificent. There are some very meaningful and moving songs featured, which are particularly helpful at furthering character development. The song 'Santa Fe' was a particular highlight, and gave us a clear insight into Jack Kelly's hopes and desires. The choreography, by Christopher Gattelli, is flawless, and superbly carried out by a very talented ensemble of dancers. Their synchronisation with one another was remarkable, and the big dance numbers certainly made for enjoyable viewing. This production also benefitted from a stellar cast, all of which were incredible. The lead role of Jack was played by Jeremy Jordan, who proved phenomenal. Jordan has a marvellous voice, and his rendition of 'Santa Fe' was astonishing. 

Newsies can be watched on Disney+ here (please note that a subscription is needed in order to view): Newsies.

Thanks for reading!

-The Basic Theatre Reviewer

Saturday, 27 June 2020

Online Theatre: 'She Loves Me', 'An American in Paris' and 'Ben Platt: Live from Radio City Music Hall'

Hey readers!
It's time for my mini-reviews of She Loves Me, An American in Paris and Ben Platt: Live from Radio City Music Hall!

She Loves Me


"Meet Amalia and Georg, who work as clerks in Maraczek’s Parfumerie and aren’t exactly the best of friends. However, they have something in common. They both rapturously write to romantic pen pals. Despite the anonymity of their secret admirers, they live for the love letters that they exchange and the day they will finally meet."

I first saw the Broadway production of She Loves Me during my trip to New York in 2016, and loved it. As a result, I was thrilled to once again have the opportunity to watch this magnificent production. The show features an utterly stellar cast, and each and every one of them brings so much energy to their respective performances. They are all incredible to watch, and the range of talent shown is striking. In particular, Laura Benanti, Zachary Levi and Jane Krakowski were all spellbinding. The scenic design, by David Rockwell, won a Tony Award in 2016, and rightfully so. The attention to detail is absolutely extraordinary, and the level of thought and effort that had been put into it was remarkable.

She Loves Me can be watched on BroadwayHD here (please note that a subscription is needed in order to view): She Loves Me.

An American in Paris


"Based on the 1951 Academy Award-winning film of the same name, An American in Paris brings to life the beauty of post-war Paris with one of the most romantic stage musicals ever seen. World War II Army veteran Jerry Mulligan is eager to begin a new life in the newly-liberated city of Paris, following an army career and brutal realisation of combat. Dreaming of living in the city of love and making a name for himself as a famous painter, he meets the beautiful Lise, a young Parisian shop girl who has her own secret."

I viewed the Broadway production of An American in Paris in 2016, before getting the chance to see it again in Chicago the following year. I awarded the show five stars both times, and it remains to be one of the best musicals I have ever seen. The show is very dance-oriented, and the choreography in An American in Paris is among the best I have ever seen. In particular, the ballet section featured within the titular number is breathtaking, and the large ensemble of dancers are mesmerising. The cast featured in this production are also outstanding. I had previously seen Leanne Cope perform in the role of Lise on Broadway, and her performance was just as good as I had remembered it. Robert Fairchild, as Jerry, was equally as excellent. Fairchild is a very skilled performer, and proves to be a triple threat; he's a very good actor, a talented singer and a truly phenomenal dancer.

An American in Paris can be watched on BroadwayHD here (please note that a subscription is needed in order to view): An American in Paris.

Ben Platt: Live from Radio City Music Hall


"Backed by a full band and a ready wit, actor Ben Platt opens up a very personal songbook onstage - numbers from his debut LP, "Sing to Me Instead.""

Ben Platt is undoubtedly among my favourite performers; whilst I was familiar with his previous musical theatre work, I primarily came to know Platt through his work on the new Netflix show 'The Politician'. The Politician grew to become a personal favourite of mine, and thus it was a privilege to see Platt in a new light. Firstly, there can be no doubt regarding Platt's abilities as a singer. He truly has a voice like no other, and his vocal range is simply remarkable. It should be noted that Platt writes all of his own music, which is commendable in itself. His lyrics are very heartfelt, and I personally found it extremely easy to connect with his music. Platt expresses his emotions very well through his lyrics, producing outstanding results.

Ben Platt: Live from Radio City Music Hall can be watched on Netflix here (please note that a subscription is needed in order to view): Ben Platt.

Thanks for reading!

-The Basic Theatre Reviewer

Tuesday, 16 June 2020

Online Theatre: 'Kinky Boots', 'The Wiz Live' and 'The Madness of George III'

Hey readers!
It's time for my mini-reviews of Kinky Boots, The Wiz Live and The Madness of George III!

Kinky Boots


"Set in Northampton, a young Charlie Price reluctantly inherits his father's struggling shoe factory, much to the dismay of his demanding fiancé who dreams of a life together in London. Charlie wrestles with his desires to leave his home town whilst facing up with his responsibility to save his father's legacy and the family business from bankruptcy. After a slow start Charlie finds inspiration in the form of Lola, a fabulous drag performer who is in need of some sturdy stilettos for her act. Against all the odds Lola turns out to be the one person who can help Charlie, and they work together to ensure the factory becomes a success."

I first saw Kinky Boots in 2015 and instantly fell in love with it. It currently stands as one of my favourite musicals of all time, and I would even go as far to say that it would easily make my top 10. Its story, with a book written by actor and playwright Harvey Fierstein, is extremely heartfelt; the show's universal message of acceptance is well and truly timeless. Each and ever character is so well written, and you can't help but root for the leads, Charlie and Lola, to succeed in their endeavours. The musical score, by singer-songwriter Cyndi Lauper, is equally as brilliant. It proves to be very diverse, featuring a number of big and up-beat production numbers, as well as a few heartwarming ballads. The leading performances of this production, with Killian Donnelly as Charlie and Matt Henry as Lola, are magnificent. Their chemistry is electric, and they compliment each other's talents nicely. 

Kinky Boots can be watched on BroadwayHD here (please note that a subscription is needed in order to view): Kinky Boots.

The Wiz Live


"The Wiz Live!" brings the wonderful world of Oz to life like never before, featuring a star-studded cast of performers and the awe-inspiring Cirque du Soleil Theatrical. Whisked away from home by a tornado, young Dorothy finds herself transported to the magical Land of Oz, where she sets off on a quest to meet the powerful Wizard and find her way back home. Crossing paths with enchanting friends and wicked foes, Dorothy’s journey is a timeless tale about friendship, courage and learning to believe in oneself."

The star-studded cast of this television special are utterly phenomenal, and feature a wide array of very talented performers. In the leading role of Dorothy Gale starred Shanice Williams, who was making her professional debut. Williams was truly faultless in this role, and proved herself to be a remarkable singer. She also had a terrific presence about her, and gave an all-round outstanding performance. Ne-Yo, as the Tin-Man, is also worthy of a special mention, and he too was excellent. In particular, Ne-Yo's voice was extraordinary. The show was stunning creatively, and the scenic design, by Derek McLane, was dazzling to behold. The costumes, by Paul Tazewell, were similarly impressive, and the detail given to the design was simply incredible.

The Wiz Live can no longer be watched on YouTube for free, though it can still be purchased either on Digital HD or DVD.

Madness of King George III


"Aging King George III of England is exhibiting signs of madness, a problem little understood in 1788. As the monarch alternates between bouts of confusion and near-violent outbursts of temper, his hapless doctors attempt the ineffectual cures of the day. Meanwhile, Queen Charlotte and Prime Minister William Pitt the Younger attempt to prevent the king's political enemies, led by the Prince of Wales, from usurping the throne.

This play marks a period of history of which I knew to a certain extent, though I was not overly familiar with it. I therefore really enjoyed learning about this crucial element of our past, and it proved to be intriguing. This production starred Mark Gatiss in the titular role of King George, and he really was exceptional. It's an extremely difficult role to play, and yet Gatiss was utter perfection in his portrayal. He thoroughly immersed himself into the role, and the character's descent into madness was very believable indeed. This production should also be commended for its striking scenery, all of which was designed by Robert Jones.

The Madness of George III can be watched on YouTube for free until 18th June here: The Madness of George III.

Thanks for reading!

-The Basic Theatre Reviewer

Monday, 8 June 2020

Online Theatre: 'Buried Child', 'Putting It Together' and 'Daddy Long Legs'

Hey readers!
It's time for my mini-reviews of Buried Child, Putting It Together and Daddy Long Legs.

Buried Child


"Dodge and Halie are barely hanging on to their farmland and their sanity while looking after their two wayward grown sons. When their grandson Vince arrives with his girlfriend, no one seems to recognize him, and confusion abounds.  As Vince tries to make sense of the chaos, the rest of the family dances around a deep, dark secret. This wildly poetic and cuttingly funny take on the American family drama gleefully pulls apart the threadbare deluded visions of our families and our homes."

In this particular production, the role of Dodge is portrayed by Ed Harris, a role for which he received Lucille Lortel and Olivier Award nominations for. Harris was utterly outstanding in this role, and was highly believable from beginning to end. It was however Paul Sparks, as Tilden, that stole the show. Tilden is arguably the most challenging role in the whole piece, due to the character's apparent state of mental illness. In spite of this, Sparks excelled at creating a compelling characterisation, and was extremely convincing. In relation to the show's creative aspects, the scenic design by Derek McLane was yet another highlight, and proved to be rather effective.

Buried Child can be watched on BroadwayHD here (please note that a subscription is needed in order to view): Buried Child.

Putting It Together


"The show is a compilation of songs by Stephen Sondheim, including numbers from Follies, Company, A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, Sweeney Todd, Assassins, Dick Tracy, Merrily We Roll Along, Sunday in the Park with George and others. The theme is a party and the songs cleverly weave a tale of action and reflection on, of course, the subject of relationships."

Whilst there are many composers and lyricists out there who I greatly commend, it is Stephen Sondheim that I have the most admiration for. Whilst there are many who trail closely behind, I genuinely believe that Sondheim is the greatest musical theatre composer, and I consequently found this to be an outstanding tribute to his legacy. Putting It Together is very cleverly put together (pun not intended), and features a good selection of songs from a variety of Sondheim classics, including the likes of Sweeney Todd and Sunday in the Park with George. Additionally, the slight plot added to interlink the songs was an intriguing feature, and helped to make the show even more entertaining. The cast of this production featured Carol Burnett, George Hearn, Ruthie Henshall and John Barrowman, all of which were magnificent. Each and every one of them had phenomenal voices, delivering faultless renditions of these iconic songs. They also had great chemistry with one another, creating an interesting dynamic onstage. 

Putting It Together can be watched on BroadwayHD here (please note that a subscription is needed in order to view): Putting It Together.

Daddy Long Legs


 "Set in turn-of-the-century New England, the musical tells the story of orphan Jerusha Abbott of the John Grier Home and her mysterious benefactor who agrees to send her to college, who she dubs "Daddy Long Legs" after seeing his elongated shadow. Under the conditions of her benefactor, Jerusha sends him a letter once a month, describing her new-found experiences with life outside the orphanage."

Daddy Long Legs has an exceedingly compelling story to it, telling a tale that is both humorous and heartwarming. It favourably reminded me of the classic Harnick and Bock musical 'She Loves Me', and certainly had a similar charm to it. The show's musical score by Paul Gordon is equally as enthralling as its story, and is truly marvellous. The show is almost entirely sung through, and Gordon does a remarkable job of conveying the story and characters through the lyrics. The show features only two characters, who in this instances were portrayed by Megan McGinnis and Adam Haplin; a real-life husband and wife duo. This may go without saying, but McGinnis and Haplin had very good chemistry with one another, and created pure magic when together. Both are extraordinarily talented performers; they boast strong vocals, and each of them created a fascinating characterisation for their respective roles. 

Daddy Long Legs can be watched on BroadwayHD here (please note that a subscription is needed in order to view): Daddy Long Legs.

Thanks for reading!

-The Basic Theatre Reviewer

Friday, 5 June 2020

Online Theatre: 'Holiday Inn', 'Lady Day at Emerson's Bar and Grill' and 'Oklahoma'

Hey readers!
It's time for my mini-reviews of Holiday Inn, Lady Day at Emerson's Bar and Grill and Oklahoma!

Holiday Inn


"In this Irving Berlin musical, Jim and Lila are members of a performing trio who plan to quit and run a country hotel. When Lila says she has fallen in love with the dancer in the act, Ted, Jim leaves town with a broken heart. After turning the inn into a holidays-only live entertainment venue, Jim winds up booking -- and falling for -- Linda. But when Ted shows up at the place after being dumped by Lila, he too sets his sights on beautiful Linda."

The original 'Holiday Inn' movie, first released in 1942, is among my all-time favourite Christmas films; it's a movie that I find utterly delightful. As a result, I was rather intrigued to see how the film would translate onto the stage, and thankfully it lived up to my expectations. The choreography, by Denis Jones, is the show's most striking element, and was deservedly nominated for a Tony Award upon the show's debut. In particular, the show's big production numbers were truly awe-inspiring. Beyond its choreography, Holiday Inn also boasts an extraordinary cast, featuring the likes of Bryce Pinkham, Corbin Bleu and Lora Lee Gayer. The entirety of the cast were exceptionally talented, and there wasn't a weak link among them.

Holiday Inn can be watched on BroadwayHD here (please note that a subscription is needed in order to view): Holiday Inn.

Lady Day at Emerson's Bar and Grill


"Spend an intimate evening filled with some of the most inspiring and moving songs ever written and hear the personal stories of legendary jazz icon Billie Holiday's loves and losses through a turbulent but extraordinary life."

I had hoped to see Lady Day at Emerson's Bar and Grill during its brief stint in the West End a number of years ago, but unfortunately I never had a chance to do so. I was therefore overjoyed to finally have the opportunity to at last see it. For her performance in Lady Day, Audra McDonald received a Tony Award, and it's easy to see why. Her performance is well and truly mesmerising, and she fully immerses herself in the role from beginning to end. McDonald's transformation into Billie Holiday is very impressive indeed, and proves to be very believable. McDonald also has an excellent signing voice, and one which faultlessly matched Holiday's. 

Lady Day at Emerson's Bar and Grill can be watched on Broadway HD here (please note that a subscription is needed in order to view): Lady Day at Emerson's Bar and Grill.

Oklahoma


"Based on Lynn Riggs’ 1931 play, Green Grow the Lilacs, Oklahoma! is set in 1906 out on the farmyards near Claremore, Indian Territory, and it follows a courtship rivalry between a farm girl Laurey Williams and two would-be suitors in cowboy Curly McLain and menacing farmhand Jud Fry."

Although this production is over 20 years old, it is of a truly exceptional quality. I thoroughly enjoyed watching every minute of it, and it may very well be one of the best pieces of online theatre that I have seen throughout the lockdown. The show lasts three hours, and yet it held my attention from the beginning right up until the very end. The cast of this particular production are outstanding, featuring one of the strongest ensembles that I have ever seen. Hugh Jackman, Josefina Gabrielle, Shuler Hensley and Maureen Lipman all gave stellar performances, and none of them could be faulted in any way. Oklahoma's choreography, by Susan Stroman, is equally as magnificent; the dance numbers featured within the production were spectacular. Additionally, the ensemble proved to be a very talented group of dancers, and their level of skill was simply like no other.

Oklahoma can be watched on Broadway HD here (please note that a subscription is needed in order to view): Oklahoma.

Thanks for reading!

-The Basic Theatre Reviewer

Monday, 1 June 2020

Online Theatre: 'A Woman of No Importance', 'This House' and 'Hairspray Live'

Hey readers!
It's time for my mini-reviews of A Woman of No Importance, This House and Hairspray Live!

A Woman of No Importance


"Set in the nineteenth century, Oscar Wilde's A Woman of No Importance follows a group of guests at party at Lady Hunstanton's estate in the lavish English countryside. The party's guests, which include the widow Mrs Arbuthnot, her son Gerald and American outsider Hester,  uncover truths about themselves and each other that will alter their lives forever."

A Woman of No Importance has an interesting story to it, with an intriguing exploration into motherhood. In particular, it focuses in on life as a single mother, with Rachel Arbuthnot at the centre of this; a character that proves to be extremely compelling and easy to sympathise with. Eve Best did an excellent job at portraying Rachel, and accordingly created a characterisation that was both likeable and personable. Anne Reid, who portrayed Lady Hunstanton, is equally deserving of a special mention, and provided much needed comic relief to the production. Reid proved to be utterly hilarious throughout, and had impeccable comedic timing. The scenic design, by Jonathan Fensom, was yet another admirable element, and really brought the play's setting to life. 

A Woman of No Importance can be watched on BroadwayHD here (please note that a subscription is needed in order to view): A Woman of No Importance.

This House


"1974. The UK faces economic crisis and a hung parliament. In a culture hostile to cooperation, it’s a period when votes are won or lost by one, when there are fist fights in the bars and when sick MPs are carried through the lobby to register their vote. It’s a time when a staggering number of politicians die, and the building creaks under idiosyncrasies and arcane traditions."

I had previously seen the West End production of This House in 2016 and thoroughly enjoyed it, so I was overjoyed to have the opportunity to watch the original National Theatre production. Funnily enough, I think I may have even enjoyed it more the second time around, having been able to process everything that took place a lot easier. James Graham, the mastermind behind This House, is among my favourite playwrights, and This House is certainly one of this best works. Graham is particularly skilled at dialogue, and has a talent for continuously advancing the narrative whilst still keeping the audience engaged from beginning to end. The play covers a really interesting part of our history, and it's fascinating to see the parallels to modern-day politics. As in 1974, minority governments still often end in failure, and the Labour Party continue to suffer from bitter internal divisions. It would seem that 50 years on, not all that much has changed! The scenic design, by Rae Smith, is remarkable, and masterfully recreates the House of Commons live onstage. The idea to have audience members double up as parliamentary backbenchers was ingenious, and I'm sure being in those seats must have been quite the experience.

This House can be watched on YouTube for free until 4th June here: This House.

Hairspray Live


"In 1960s Baltimore, dance-loving teen Tracy Turnblad auditions for a spot on "The Corny Collins Show" and wins. She becomes an overnight celebrity, a trendsetter in dance, fun and fashion. Perhaps her new status as a teen sensation is enough to topple Corny's reigning dance queen and bring racial integration to the show."

Hairspray is a real feel-good show that will no doubt leave you in a good mood, whilst still tackling a number of exceedingly important societal issues. In spite of the fact that Hairspray is set in the 1960's, its message of racial tolerance is more relevant than ever in the present day. Similar to the show's story, the musical score of Hairspray is also timeless. Almost every single musical number is catchy, upbeat and memorable. In the leading role of Tracy Turnblad was Maddie Baillio who, in this instance, was making her professional acting debut. Baillio was utterly remarkable, and seemed like a perfect choice for the role. Jennifer Hudson as Motormouth Maybelle, however, stole the show. She proved to be an overall highlight, giving a scene-stealing rendition of 'I Know Where I've Been'. Special mentions should also be awarded to Harvey Fierstein and Ephraim Sykes, as Edna Turnblad and Seaweed J. Stubbs respectively; both of whom were phenomenal. 

Hairspray Live can no longer be watched on YouTube for free, though it can still be purchased either on Digital HD or DVD.

Thanks for reading!

-The Basic Theatre Reviewer

Thursday, 28 May 2020

Online Theatre: 'A Streetcar Named Desire', 'The Importance of Being Earnest' and 'Memphis'

Hey readers!
It's time for my mini-reviews of A Streetcar Named Desire, The Importance of Being Earnest and Memphis!

A Streetcar Named Desire


"This renowned drama follows troubled former schoolteacher Blanche DuBois as she leaves small-town Mississippi and moves in with her sister, Stella Kowalski, and her husband, Stanley, in New Orleans. Blanche's flirtatious Southern-belle presence causes problems for Stella and Stanley, who already have a volatile relationship, leading to even greater conflict in the Kowalski household."

This production of A Streetcar Named Desire, which first debuted in 2015, has a number of remarkable qualities; the most striking element however was the show's stellar cast, led by Gillian Anderson in the role of Blanche DuBois. Anderson delivered a truly captivating performance, putting boundless amounts of energy into her performance from beginning to end. A special mention must also be awarded to Vanessa Kirby, as Stella Kowalski, who likewise gave a remarkable performance. The play has an interesting story to it, and the play's focal character of Blanche makes for a unique protagonist. In spite of the fact that Blanche isn't instantly likeable, she really develops as the play goes on, and you can't help but sympathise with her position by the very end. The scenic design of this production, by Magda Willi, is also worthy of praise, and proved to be rather impressive. 

A Streetcar Named Desire can no longer be watched on YouTube for free. 

The Importance of Being Earnest


"Two bachelor friends, upper crust dandy Algernon Moncrieff and the most reliable John Worthing J.P., lead double lives to court the attentions of the desirable Gwendolyn Fairfax and Cecily Cardew. The gallants must then grapple with the uproarious consequences of their ruse, and with the formidable Lady Bracknell."

The Importance of Being Earnest is a play that I am very much familiar with; I had previously seen the UK tour in 2015, before viewing an abridged version of it on a cruise ship a number of years ago. As a result, I know the story quite well, and it was interesting to see another interpretation of it. The show follows a fun concept, making use of comical misunderstandings and farcical elements, as well as witty dialogue throughout. The strongest performances of this particular production came from Pippa Nixon, as Gwendolen Fairfax, and Fiona Button, as Cecily Cardew; both of which were excellent. Nixon and Button really struck a perfect balance between believable characterisation and effective comedy, delivering outstanding performances in the process.

The Important of Being Earnest can be watched on BroadwayHD here (please note that a subscription is needed in order to view): The Importance of Being Earnest.

Memphis


"Featuring an original score with gospel, rhythm & blues, and early rock 'n' roll fused with Byran’s own contemporary sensibility, Memphis follows the fictionalized life story of young, white radio disc jockey Huey Calhoon growing up in Memphis, Tennessee in the 1950’s. An unlikely hero with a great love of the music he hears in the black bars on Beale Street, Huey’s on-air antics and unstoppable enthusiasm for 'race records' creates a new white audience for African-American music. His personal life transcends the race line as well, when he falls in love with a beautiful black singer - with dramatic consequences."

I had previously seen the West End production of Memphis a number of years ago and adored it, so I was beyond thrilled to have the chance to watch the Broadway production. Memphis has a truly inspiring story, and it's gripping from beginning to end. The main character of Huey Calhoun is particularly compelling; the way his moral compass guides him throughout in order to bring about a more tolerant society is really moving, and his character development is excellently portrayed. The musical score, by David Bryan and Joe DiPietro, is yet another reason to admire Memphis. It primarily features soul music, all of which is masterful. The cast were all remarkable, and there really was not one weak link among the principal cast. Each and every performer was a triple threat, with excellent acting abilities, strong vocals and extraordinary dancing.

Memphis can be watched on BroadwayHD here (please note that a subscription is needed in order to view): Memphis.

Thanks for reading!

-The Basic Theatre Reviewer

Tuesday, 19 May 2020

Online Theatre: 'Falsettos', 'Pippin' and 'Sea Wall'

Hey readers!
This week comes with a small development in relation to my online theatre-going. I recently purchased an online subscription for BroadwayHD, which is an on-demand digital streaming media for theatrical productions. BroadwayHD has a wide array of phenomenal shows within its collection, so if you too find yourself missing theatre, then this may be something to look into. I have still continued to watch the free theatre made available online as well though, and consequently remain spoilt for choice.

Falsettos


"Falsettos is the story of a large, eccentric, and dysfunctional -- but loving -- Jewish family in New York at the end of the 1970s. Initially, Marvin seems blessed with the perfect family. He has a caring wife, Trina and a young son, Jason. Nevertheless, the family is soon broken apart, when the homosexual Marvin leaves Trina for a man called Whizzer."

Falsettos has a really interesting story to it, featuring a very clever concept and fascinating characters. The family dynamic portrayed is Falsettos is intriguing, and I really found myself sympathising with each and every character as the show went on. The musical score, by William Finn, won a Tony Award when the musical first premiered in 1992 and it is easy to see why. The show is entirely sung-through, meaning that it relies on the music and lyrics alone to convey the story; something which is done very well. I particularly admired the song 'What Would I Do?', which proved to be very touching. In the leading role of Marvin starred Christian Borle, who was utterly captivating to watch. Despite the fact that Marvin makes a number of bad decisions throughout the course of the show, Borle made it very easy for the audience to ultimately sympathise with him and understand his way of thinking. A special mention must also be given to Stephanie J. Block, who portrayed Trina. Block was incredible in her performance, and her rendition of 'I'm Breaking Down' was an undeniable highlight.

Falsettos can be watched on BroadwayHD here (please note that a subscription is needed in order to view): https://www.broadwayhd.com/movies/AW2GubDEpx3F9_4AqewY?display=poster.

Pippin


"Vaudeville, magic, comedy, romance – life is an adventure and Pippin has it all. A soul-searching exploration of one man’s journey to find himself, his place and purpose in life, Pippin is a musical about an ordinary man on an extraordinary journey."

I had previously seen an Off-West End production of Pippin two years ago at the Southwark Playhouse, and thoroughly enjoyed it. This particular production available on video however is a filmed version of the original, dating back to 1981. It was quite something to watch a theatrical production from so long ago, and certainly proved to be an unusual experience. The most striking aspect of Pippin is arguably its musical score, written by the extraordinarily talented Stephen Schwartz. It is filled with a dozen catchy tunes, and I listen to the cast album on a regular basis. Among my favourites are 'Corner of the Sky', 'Simple Joys' and 'Morning Glow'. Praise must also be awarded to the choreography, which was the work of Bob Fosse. Fosse's work is truly iconic, and was a joy to watch.

Pippin can be watched on BroadwayHD here (please note that a subscription is needed in order to view): https://www.broadwayhd.com/movies/AXDwGLqhDUy8ML9nzRxy?display=poster.

Sea Wall


"Sea Wall is a short play about a man named Alex who speaks of his wife, visiting his father in the south of France, and his daughter, peppered with musings about religion and beliefs."

Sea Wall consists of a 30 minute monologue, performed in its entirety by Andrew Scott without the assistance of any other performer. The monologue, written by Simon Stephens is intriguing, and keeps the audience engaged from beginning to end. It's a very well written piece of theatre, and is evidently very moving. Stephens wrote the play for Andrew Scott, who was unsurprisingly perfect for the role of Alex. Scott was remarkable, and held my attention throughout. He proved to be very engaging, and gave an enthralling performance. Scott is unquestionably a very gifted actor, and I hope one day to see him perform live. 

Sea Wall can be watched on YouTube for free until 25th May here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j01kVmBoJW0.