Monday, 31 December 2018

Review: Antony and Cleopatra

Hey readers!
It's time for my review of Antony and Cleopatra.
JuliusCaesar and his assassins are dead. General Mark Antony now rules alongside his fellow defenders of Rome. But at the fringes of a war-torn empire the Egyptian Queen Cleopatra and Mark Antony have fallen fiercely in love. In a tragic fight between devotion and duty, obsession becomes a catalyst for war. Politics and passion are violently intertwined in Shakespeare’s tragic tale of power.

In the leading role of Antony, Ralph Fiennes is utterly phenomenal. Fiennes is clearly a natural when it comes to Shakespeare, with the language easily rolling off of his tongue. Through his diverse range of acting abilities, I was utterly captivated by his performance. Fiennes makes for a flawless Antony. Playing opposite is Sophie Okonedo, who makes for the perfect Cleopatra. Okonedo shines in all elements of the character, successfully portraying both the comedic elements of the character, as well as the the more tragic parts to Cleopatra, which we see more towards the end of Act Two. As well as the show's two leading actors, the supporting cast are all excellent. There are no weak links among them; all cast members were filled with energy and enthusiasm for the entirety of the three and a half hours. Stand-outs include Tunji Kasim and Tim McMullan as Caesar and Enobarbus respectively, who each provide compelling characterisations.

In regards to creativity, this production of Antony and Cleopatra excels. A revolving set has cleverly been used by designer Hildegard Bechtler in order to transport the audience to a variety of different locations, and the end result is undoubtedly exceptionally  effective. All of the sets featured had an extensive level of detail to them. In particular, Cleopatra's luxurious palace and the Pompey's grand submarine were outstandingly detailed and realistic. The costumes, designed by Evie Gurney, are also to the highest quality; the entirety of Cleopatra's wardrobe were stunning. I also rather admired the music which has been added to this production, performed by a live orchestra in the Olivier Theatre boxes. The addition of live music really helped in achieving the show's desired effects, due to the fact that it made for a very exciting and lively atmosphere alongside the production's battle scenes.

My only slight reservation concerning this production was its length. Antony and Cleopatra stands at 3 and a half hours, with certain elements of the play feeling a little lengthy . I therefore believe that the production could have done a little bit of trimming from its original format.

Now for my final verdict on Antony and Cleopatra. I give Antony and Cleopatra...

Despite its long run-time, I still found this production of Antony and Cleopatra to be truly excellent. With a stellar cast and outstanding creativity, it really is outstanding.

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 Reviewer

Review: Caroline, or Change

Hey readers!
It's time for my review of Caroline, or Change. 
Based loosely on writer Tony Kushner’s life, Caroline, or Change is set in Louisiana in the 1960s where Noah is struggling with the death of his mother, and his father’s remarriage to her best friend. He spends his time with their maid, Caroline, who works in the family’s basement. Caroline, who has a family dependant on her, faces a moral dilemma when a novel opportunity to fund her family presents itself.

The best aspect of this production of Caroline, or Change is its stellar cast. Sharon D. Clarke, in the leading role of Caroline Thibodeaux, is truly and utterly astonishing. In a role she appears to be perfect for, Clarke has created an excellent characterisation. When we first meet Caroline, she is rather cold and describes herself as "mean" and "tough". However, as the show goes on we begin to see Caroline show more and more of her inner emotions, and this culminated in the song 'Lot's Wife'. Clarke brings the house down with this number; it would be an understatement to call it a showstopper. There are several other cast members within the ensemble who stand out, including Abiona Omonua and Teddy Kempner. Omonua, in the role of Caroline's free-spirited daughter, gives a very convincing portrayal and gives an all-round outstanding performance. Kempner, as Mr. Stopnick, gives an equally admirable performance and I found him utterly captivating to watch; from the moment he steps on stage he commands the stage with his presence. Additionally, child actor Aaron Gelkoff, as Noah Gellman, also gives a superb performance. I found Gelkoff to be extremely believable in this role and the dynamic created between him and Sharon D. Clarke was particularly interesting to watch.

Caroline, or Change is largely sung through, with a small portion of scattered lines. The lyrics were written by Tony Kushner, who also wrote the book, whilst the music has been composed by Jeanine Tesori. The musical is comprised of over 50 songs, and whilst there were a few of the songs which weren't particularly to my liking, the majority of the score is remarkable. For example, Clarke's show topping number 'Lot's Wife' is truly something quite special. The song features an exceedingly catchy rhythm, however it is in fact the lyrics which I hold the most admiration for. The lyrics help us gain a further understanding of the character of Caroline, which allows her to express all of her hidden-away emotions.

Other significant aspects of this production include the clever choreography by Ann Yee, as well as the well-designed lighting by Jack Knowles. The orchestrations, under the direction of musical supervisor Nigel Lilley, were also sublime!

Now for my final verdict on Caroline, or Change. I give Caroline, or Change...

Whilst certain elements of the book were not to my liking, I found the cast and the majority of the score and creative aspects to be excellent, hence why I have decided to award Caroline, or Change three stars!

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 Reviewer

Thursday, 27 December 2018

Review: Peter Pan

Hey readers!
It's time for my review of Peter Pan.
I had been to annual Richmond Theatre pantomimes every year from 2008 (Peter Pan, starring Simon Callow and Bonnie Langford), and that had become a tradition up until 2015 (Cinderella, starring Hayley Mills). I was not the greatest fan of the 'Cinderella' 2015 panto, and therefore in the past few years I have instead gone to the London Palladium pantomimes (2016 and 2017), as well two of the Wimbledon Theatre pantomimes (2015 and 2017). However, this year Richmond Theatre has recruited Tony and Olivier Award Winner Robert Lindsay to lead this year's panto; an actor that I greatly admire. I had previously seen Lindsay in Dirty Rotten Scoundrels a total number of four times, so was excited to see him perform in this.

Making his pantomime debut, Robert Lindsay excels in the role of Captain Hook. Considering Lindsay has never really done anything like this throughout his career, it is interesting to see him put out of his comfort zone. He lights up the stage whenever he enters and his comedic timing is impeccable. The highlights of this production are undoubtedly Lindsay's several big musical numbers. Among these songs were "You've Got to Pick a Pirate to Two', 'The Pirate Walk' and a hilarious rendition of 'Can't Take My Eyes Off You', where Captain Hook attempts to seduce a Mermaid with his hook. The best number, however, is a brilliantly re-imagined version of 'Reviewing the Situation', where Hook contemplates becoming a politician.

At Robert Lindsay's side is Jon Clegg, in the role of Smee. As always, Clegg provided lots of laughter, performing a wide variety of excellent impersonations. Additionally, he had great chemistry with Lindsay, with the pair of them making a good team. Harry Francis also gives a stand-out performance as the titular character of Peter Pan. Francis has a great stage presence, and was a particularly skilled dancer.

Having been disappointed with the Richmond Pantomime in 2015, I am glad to say that Peter Pan exceeded my expectations. Whilst the pantomimes of Richmond Theatre are lacking in some of the magic and special effects of those at the London Palladium, it still provides Christmas-fueled fun for all of the family.

The featured star of Peter Pan is, drum roll please... ROBERT LINDSAY!

Despite being out of his comfort zone, Lindsay is exceptional. He provides laughter throughout, particularly throughout his asides to the audience. All of his musical numbers were outstanding and an overall joy to watch!

Now for my final verdict on Peter Pan. I give Peter Pan...

Whilst this pantomime does lack in the story department, its cast are utterly delightful, and therefore I have awarded  Peter Pan with three stars!

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 Reviewer

Saturday, 22 December 2018

Review: Hadestown

Hey readers!
It's time for my review of Hadestown.
Hadestown has been receiving a lot of buzz since it first opened at the Royal National Theatre over a month ago. I've read a variety of different responses to this production, and it's been really interesting to see the way in which people have reacted. American responses to this production have been exceedingly positive, with many people claiming that it will sweep at next year's Tony Awards after it transfers in March 2019. On the other hand, British responses have been less unanimous in praise. From what I have read on several online forums, Hadestown appears to be rather divisive.

Hadestown tells the following story: 'In the warmth of summertime, songwriter Orpheus and his muse Eurydice are living it up and falling in love. But as winter approaches, reality sets in: these young dreamers can’t survive on songs alone. Tempted by the promise of plenty, Eurydice is lured to the depths of industrial Hadestown. On a quest to save her, Orpheus journeys to the underworld where their trust is put to a final test.' Sadly, I personally found the book of Hadestown to be its weakest element, and hence why I can understand some have given the show a lukewarm response. Whilst I appreciate the creativity of the concept behind the story, the reason I take issue with the book is because I felt that the vast majority of the main characters were largely underwritten. This caused a domino effect, meaning the lack of character development caused me to feel little sympathy for the show's protagonists. As a result of this, I found myself being unable to fully engross myself in the production. Hadestown certainly has a lot of potential, however the book could do with being tightened before transferring to Broadway, as I feel that this would definitely make the production more compelling. 

Hadestown is entirely sung-through, with a musical score written by Anaïs Mitchell. Whilst not all of the music was to my personal taste, there were a number of songs which I thoroughly enjoyed. One of my personal favourites was 'Wait For Me', which was a true show-stopper. I have listened to this number several times since watching this production and I still greatly admire it.

From the cast, both Eva Noblezada and Amber Gray, in the roles of Eurydice and Persephone respectively, are providing outstanding performances. I had previously seen Noblezada in her stunning West End debut in Miss Saigon several years ago, and once again she is giving a marvellous performance. Noblezada has an absolutely stunning voice which is always a delight to listen to. Meanwhile, Amber Gray's performance may very well be the highlight of the entirety of Hadestown. Gray is giving an enchanting performance; I was fully captivated by her characterisation of Persephone from beginning to end. Gray is a gifted actress, singer and dancer, presenting a stunning portrayal of the Underworld Queen.

Creatively, Hadestown is utterly remarkable. The set design, created by Rachel Hauck, ingeniously uses a number of revolving stage turntables, as well as elevators which allow the characters to disappear into the darkest depths of Hadestown. It helped to add a lot of the effect of the piece and allowed for unique staging. The lighting design, by Bradley King, was also excellent and complimented the set nicely. As well as these qualities, Hadestown also excels at both choreography and orchestrations, with both elements being utterly sublime.

The featured star of Hadestown is, drum roll please... AMBER GRAY!

I had previously seen Gray's stunning performance in Natasha, Pierre & The Great Comet of 1812 as Hélène, and I was thrilled to see her perform once again. Her excellent portrayal of Persephone gives a range of layers to the character, undoubtedly making Persephone the most interesting character in the piece. There are both elements of comedy and tragedy to Persephone, all of which Gray excellently conveys.

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

Whilst I felt the show could do with tightening its book, the performances of Gray and Noblezada as well as the creative aspects were excellent. Therefore, I decided to award Hadestown with three stars.

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 Reviewer

Monday, 17 December 2018

Review: Company

Hey readers!
It's time for my review of Company.
I had been following the progress of this revival of Company since it was first announced in late November 2016, over two years ago. I was rather interested in seeing it, due to the fact that it was one of the few Stephen Sondheim musicals that I had not yet experienced. In addition to this, Company's spectacular cast, featuring the likes of Rosalie Craig, Mel Geidroyc, Gavin Spokes, Alex Gaumond and the one and only Patti Lupone, made this show even more enticing.

Company tells the story of Bobbie, who spends her 35th birthday struggling to think of a wish to make as she blows out her birthday candles. Surrounded by her married friends, Bobbie is confronted with the question as to whether she should simply be happy alone, or whether she should wish for her own romantic partner. Over the course of the musical, Bobby explores the concept of relationships, vulnerability and "being alive". In its original form, Company told the story of Robert, a lone bachelor. However, in this modern take, the show now revolves around Roberta, a singleton. Along with this gender reversal, this production now features a same-sex couple, meaning that the characters of Amy and Paul are now Jamie and Paul. Such changes have occurred in order to represent today's society more accurately. On the whole, I would say that this change has been highly successful. Having read several articles by Marianne Elliot justifying these revisions to the original script, I can completely understand as to why she has made these adjustments. In today's society, it would appear that the story is both more compelling and realistic for the leading character to be female. My only minor criticism in regards to the show's book is that I did feel certain areas of the story could have potentially been shortened. In its current form, Company's running length is 2 hours and 45 minutes, and in order to stop certain segments from dragging, it could be cut down by 15 minutes.

My favourite aspect of Company is its musical score, written by the one and only Stephen Sondheim; both the music and lyrics are truly quite special. Several days after seeing this production, the music continues to repeat in my head. There are several exceedingly memorable tunes in the score; to call them catchy would be an understatement. The lyrics complement the music nicely, and in particular the lyrics to penultimate musical number 'Being Alive' are rather poignant. My favourite songs from this score include "You Could Drive a Person Crazy', 'Getting Married Today', 'The Ladies Who Lunch' and 'Being Alive'.

In the lead role of Bobbie is Rosalie Craig, who has embodied this role flawlessly. She creates a brilliant characterisation, skilfully balancing both the anxious and confident sides to Bobbie and therefore providing an utterly captivating performance. Additionally, Craig also boasts a stunning voice. Patti LuPone, as expected, also gives an amazing performance as the affluent friend Joanne. LuPone provides a real show-stopper moment with her number 'The Ladies Who Lunch' towards the end of act two, which ended up being a real highlight. Special mentions must also be given to Mel Geidroyc and Gavin Spokes, who portray Sarah and Harry. They had terrific chemistry with one another and were utterly hilarious. They had the audience in stitches, and I would have enjoyed seeing them feature more often.

I greatly admire Marianne Elliot's direction of this production; the way in which she has re-invented Company is truly ingenious. It is clear that a lot of thought has gone into the decisions surrounding this production, and it is safe to say that this hard work has definitely paid off. Creatively, this production shines. The set design, which has been crafted by Bunny Christie, is immensely striking. The illuminated box-like structures of each room really suited the production well. The lighting, which has been designed by Neil Austin, is also excellent. Parts of the stage are cleverly blacked out, subtly allowing certain characters to fade into the darkness, therefore helping to emphasis certain effects.

The featured star of Company is, drum roll please... ROSALIE CRAIG!

Rosalie Craig is astonishing in the role of Bobbie. She provides a great characterisation, and has the audience in the palm of her hand from start to finish. It is also rather impressive to think that Craig is onstage for almost the entirety of the play, meaning that she barely leaves the stage once.

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

This stunning production of company possesses a stunning cast, along with some rather impressive creative aspects. It certainly lives up the hype!

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 Reviewer