Wednesday, 31 July 2019

Review: The Lehman Trilogy

Hey readers!
It's time for my review of The Lehman Trilogy.
Beginning in 1844, The Lehman Trilogy charts the formation of the Lehman Brothers bank, as a young man from Bavaria with a big dream made a splash in New York with the help of his two brothers. From here, the play skips through  163 years of banking history, and tells of the establishment of the bank, and its doomed fate which led to the biggest global financial collapse in history, affecting each and every one of us.

The tale of The Lehman Trilogy is a truly fascinating one. The play begins with three young brothers, who have only recently immigrated to the United States of America and have very little to their name. They had very humble beginnings, and despite the odds not being in their favour, the three Lehman's were able to create a successful small business that flourished soon after being founded. The Lehman Brothers business went bankrupt when I was at a fairly young age, and as a consequence I knew very little about this company prior to seeing the play. Thanks to the detailed and insightful storytelling of the show, however, I have now gained a vast amount of knowledge regarding this particular topic. New knowledge is always welcome, and especially when it is presented in such an intriguing manner. I also admired the way in which various elements of American history were seamlessly integrated into the lives of the leading characters. Throughout the course of the show, the story takes place against the backdrop of events such as the American Civil War and the Great Depression. As a result, The Lehman Trilogy not only provides historical presentations on personal matters, but also national matters as well. The play stands at a grand total of three and a half hours, but despite its long running time, the time flies by. With the exception of the final 20 minutes, the show retains its momentum and fast pace throughout, thus ensuring that the show does not feel overly prolonged.

The adaptor of The Lehman Trilogy, Stefano Massini, has stated in past interviews that the original vision for the play included a grand total of 18 actors. This production, however, has one sixth of that and features only three actors who play over 100 roles between them. These three actors are Simon Russell Beale, Adam Godley and Ben Miles, all of which were remarkable. The play requires these actors to portray a wide range of different ages (the youngest being a toddler, whilst the oldest being gentlemen in their 90's), an assortment of personalities, a number of accents, as well as multiple women. The amount of versatility needed to successfully pull this off is astonishing, and yet these three actors give it their all, providing masterful performances. Each portrayal was incredibly distinct and unique, which in turn helps the audience to differentiate between characters. Costumes remain the same throughout the play, meaning that character differentiation relies solely on the actors. Additionally, holding the audience's attention for an extended period of time with so few actors can be challenging, and yet the three of them excel at this. They are each highly engaging, allowing them to captivate audience attention throughout.

The Lehman Trilogy is directed by Sam Mendes, who recently garnered both Olivier and Tony Awards for his extraordinary work on The Ferryman. Mendes is, clearly, exceptionally talented and I believe that The Lehman Trilogy stands as testament to that claim. He has made a number of bold decisions with this production, particularly with choosing to feature only three actors. All of these decisions have paid off, however, and it is an excellently staged production. The scenic design, by Es Devlin was also outstanding, cleverly taking the approach that 'less is more'. The revolving office scenery felt very life-like, helping to make the play feel ever more realistic. The set is complimented nicely by sensational video designs played across the back of the stage, created by Luke Halls. The projections show the changing landscape of America throughout this extended period of time, which was both effective and interesting to look at. I particularly admired the colourful screen projections that were used during the nightmare sequences, which was incredible to witness. In regards to creative aspects, I would also like to add that the inclusion of music, performed by a live pianist, was a welcome addition and worked well in serving the tone of the play.

Now for my final verdict on The Lehman Trilogy. I give The Lehman Trilogy...

The Lehman Trilogy is an outstanding play, which is largely as a result of its three actors. Beale, Godley and Miles give phenomenal performances, and the amount of versatility shown was quite something.

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

Friday, 19 July 2019

Review: Rosmersholm

Hey readers!
It's time for my review of Rosmersholm.
An election looming. A country on the brink. A rabid press baying for blood. At the centre of the storm stands Rosmer's home, the grand house of an influential dynasty. This is where the future will be decided by John Rosmer - a man torn between the idealised hope of the future and the ghosts of his past.

Rosmersholm was first written in 1886 by Norwegian playwright Henrik Ibsen, however for the new West End revival, the original source material has been adapted by Duncan MacMillan. Whilst the play still takes place in the late 1800's, certain elements of the story have been updated to cover a range of topical issues, which has been done in order to reinforce its relevance to a modern audience. The aspect of Rosmerholm's story that I personally found to be the most interesting was the character of Rebecca West, the show's rebellious young heroine. Rebecca is an exceedingly determined woman who, despite not having the right to vote, will do everything within her power to influence politics. In defiance of the men that tell her to avoid such matters, nothing will stand in her way when she decides to give assistance to a progressive and liberal political party, thus unseating the incumbent conservative government. Whilst some of her methods end up going to the extreme, her relentless strength of character makes her fascinating. Whilst those watching the play in 1886 would likely have disapproved of Ms. West, modern audiences are likely to adopt to a more sympathetic view of the character, simply viewing her as a woman ahead of her time. The power struggle and clash of ideologies that takes place between Rebecca West and conservative Governor Andreas Kroll makes for interesting viewing, and their final 'show-down' was very well-acted. The political topics explored within Rosmersholm are extremely compelling, with Ibsen and MacMillan offering criticisms on both left and right political viewpoints. The criticisms made towards politics are still highly relevant today, which shows that, even 100 years later, not all that much has changed.

As John Rosmer is Tom Burke, who performs the role with excellent skill. Burke perfectly conveys Romser's inner-sadness and lack of joy, giving a heartfelt and sincere performance. Playing such a broken man for an extended period of time can be difficult, but Burke portrayed this flawlessly. In the role of Rebecca West is Hayley Atwell, who is completely and utterly mesmerising. Atwell fully immerses herself in the role, resulting in a performance that is both believable and spellbinding. She puts an abundance of emotion and passion into her portrayal, and as a consequence her characterisation is intriguing. Giles Terera, as pompous conservative Governor Andreas Kroll, is also outstanding. Terera's demonstration of his Kroll's lack of heart and pragmatism was very interesting indeed, especially in contrast to Atwell's Rebecca West, who was more of a romantic. Terera is evidently a gifted actor, whose abilities were well-suited to this particular role.

The scenic design, crafted by Rae Smith, was sublime. From the second I entered the Duke of Yorks Theatre, I was immediately struck by the immense detail of the set. I particularly admired the decision to have the portraits of John Rosmer's relatives hung up on the wall, due to the fact that it helped to add a number of layers to the story. Throughout the course of the play, John Rosmer tarnishes his family's legacy, and it seemed at times as if the portraits were staring down at him in disapproval. I also rather admired the lighting, which has been designed by Neil Austin. The lighting gradually changes as the play goes on to show the progression of time, therefore using different coloured lights for the morning, afternoon and evening. Whilst a small touch, it really helped to make Rosmersholm feel all the more life-like.

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

This new adaptation of Rosmersholm is remarkable. The performances of Burke, Atwell and Terera are all astounding, and in addition to this there are also a number of masterful creative features.

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, 18 July 2019

Review: The Starry Messenger

Hey readers!
It's time for my review of The Starry Messenger.
The play centres around an astronomy teacher whose life is spiralling away from him: the planetarium he works at is under threat, his marriage is on the rocks, and he’s mourning the recent loss of his father. Though things begin to change when he meets a trainee nurse called Angela.

Unfortunately, The Starry Messenger was not my cup of tea. Whilst there are certain elements of the story which I did enjoy, the play as a whole does feel somewhat dull and never quite takes off. The writing is not particularly engaging which, speaking on a personal note, made it difficult to connect with these characters. Whilst I understand that playwright Kenneth Lonergan is attempting to convey that the show's leading character, Mark, lives an unexciting life, this does not make for particularly interesting viewing. The Starry Messenger currently stands at 2 hours and 50 minutes, which seemed far longer than it actually needed to be. The scenes relating to Mark's home life, in particular, felt rather tedious and began to somewhat drag. The play could really benefit from some trimming, and I actually think it might have been a far more engaging play had it only been 90 minutes, with no interval. Having said all of this, I did enjoy all of the scenes featuring the character of Angela, excellently portrayed by Rosalind Eleazar. Angela makes for an intriguing character and the scenes that take place in the hospital surrounding her job as a nurse were the most engaging scenes of the play. I also enjoyed the scenes whereby eager student Ian presents his teacher, Mark, with a number of harsh criticisms in regards to his teaching style. These scenes were very amusing, and were responsible for the funniest moments of the play. If the play had featured more humour such as this, then The Starry Messenger may not have been as dull. Therefore, whilst I did not like the overall concept of the play, there were a number of scenes which I did, in fact, enjoy.

In the leading role of Mark stars Broadway veteran Matthew Broderick, who is making his West End debut with The Starry Messenger. I had previously seen Broderick star in 'It's Only a Play' in New York City, where he gave a superb performance. Broderick has a very unique persona that I do not believe I have seen in any other performer; he always seems to ooze calmness and tranquility. This given quality makes him extremely interesting to watch live onstage. Whilst I wasn't entirely convinced that this was the perfect role for him, Broderick still delivers a solid performance. Despite not being one of the show's advertised stars, I personally felt that it was Rosalind Eleazar, as Angela, that stole the show. Eleazar was the life and soul of this play, and whenever she re-entered the stage, the pace really picked up. She has a brilliant stage presence, and has created an excellent characterisation for the role. A special mention must also be given to Sid Sagar, in the role of eager student Ian. Sagar successfully delivered comedic relief, which was much appreciated. The humour came easily to him, and the scenes in which he featured were very enjoyable.

Now for my final verdict on The Starry Messenger. I give The Starry Messenger...

Whilst there are certain redeeming factors, The Starry Messenger simply was not for me. In my personal viewpoint, the run-time was far too long and the writing was not as engaging as I would have liked it to be.

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

Wednesday, 17 July 2019

Review: Frankie and Johnny in the Clair de Lune

Hey readers!
It's time for my review of Frankie and Johnny in the Clair de Lune.
In this new Broadway production, Audra McDonald and Michael Shannon, two of the most acclaimed actors of their generation, bring the bruised dreamers of Terrence McNally’s classic romance to new life. Frankie and Johnny in the Clair de Lune is a portrait of a lonely waitress and a short order cook whose first date turns into a one-night stand – and maybe more.

The story of Frankie and Johnny in the Clair de Lune is quite interesting for the most part, which is a factor that I would largely accredit to the show's intriguing main characters. Both Frankie and Johnny are somewhat tragic figures, with both of them having suffered several grievances in their pasts. Their conversations detailing such backstories are quite compelling and make for interesting viewing. They are both quite ordinary people, which allows audience members to easily find ways in which they can relate to these characters. Their discussions about searching for love and happiness come across as heartfelt and genuine, which is also another way in which it becomes easier to connect with Frankie and Johnny. As well as the well-written characters, I also appreciated the humour which author Terrence McNally has inserted throughout the play. There are some genuinely funny moments, which are also aided by the precise comic timing of the two leading performers.

In the leading role of Frankie is six-time Tony Award winner Audra McDonald, who has an electric stage presence. I thoroughly enjoyed her performance, which was largely as a result of her natural ability to demonstrate all of the different elements of Frankie's personality. McDonald perfectly portrays the comedic side, as well as the more tragic element of the character. She goes through a roller-coaster of emotions as the show progresses, and McDonald flawlessly conveys this every step of the way. Starring opposite McDonald is Michael Shannon, in the role of Johnny. For his performance Shannon has perfected the portrayal of a rather intense character, which is something that he has mastered skilfully. He seemed so believable in this role, and it really felt as if he truly did care a lot for Frankie. Shannon has fully immersed himself in this role, and it is evident that he is a very gifted actor. The two actors have brilliant chemistry with one another and worked brilliantly together. They created an interesting dynamic as Frankie and Johnny and were exceedingly compelling to watch.

In regards to creativity, both the scenic and lighting, designed by Riccardo Hernández and Natasha Katz respectively, were superb. They contributed nicely to the overall atmosphere of the play, and the lighting, in particular, was especially effective when representing the sunrise.

Now for my final verdict on Frankie and Johnny in the Clair de Lune. I give Frankie and Johnny in the Clair de Lune...

In my personal opinion, at the heart of Frankie and Johnny in the Clair De Lune is not so much the writing, but more so the actors that portray the two leading characters. In this particular production, the two actors in these roles are phenomenal; without them, I doubt I would have enjoyed this production anywhere near as much as I did.

Think it should have 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: The Prom

Hey readers!
It's time for my review of The Prom.
A high school student named Emma wants to take her girlfriend as her date to the prom at her local high school in Edgewater, Indiana, to the shock horror of the school's PTA members. She is therefore excluded from the celebrations and a motley crew of Broadway actors (desperate for some positive publicity) come rushing to her aid to fight a noble cause (albeit originally for self-centred motivations).

The book, written by Bob Martin and Chad Beguelin, is able to capture the perfect balance between comedic elements and more serious matters. The Prom is a true musical comedy in every sense of the term, and yet despite the show's humorous nature it still explores some important issues relating to LGBT rights that are still divisive within America. Throughout the show there are dozens of exceedingly amusing moments, and in particular there were some rather comical one liners which had me laughing out loud. As previously mentioned though, not only does the show make you laugh, but it also makes you feel and experience a wide range of different emotions. There are several moments of The Prom which are tremendously heartwarming, and the show's overarching message of acceptance is both moving and uplifting. The one aspect of The Prom's storyline which I found distinctly moving was the unlikely friendship that forms between characters Barry Glickman and Emma Nolan as the show progresses. Barry is a narcissistic award-winning Broadway actor, whilst Emma is a shy and unconfident high-schooler from Indiana. The two characters seem worlds apart, and yet the two of them forge a beautiful friendship and learn a lot from each other; consequently, this is one of the many examples as to why The Prom is so heartening.

Featuring a wide array of different styles, the musical score of The Prom, written by Matthew Sklar and Chad Beguelin, is excellent. There are a number of old-fashioned, theatrical and big musical numbers, whilst there are also several modern songs reminiscent of pop music. In addition to this, there are some rather nice ballads featured within the score. A few of my personal favourites from The Prom's score include 'Dance with You', 'Tonight Belongs to You', 'The Lady's Improving' and 'Barry is Going to Prom'.

Usually the role of Barry Glickman is portrayed by Brooks Ashmanskas, however at the specific performance I attended,Josh Lamon was carrying out understudying duties. I was not disappointed in the least however, due to the fact that Lamon was astonishing. He has such an infectious energy whilst performing and really gives it his all throughout. Furthermore, Lamon has excellent comedic abilities, and is also a talented dancer. I am thrilled to have had the opportunity to see him perform in this role. Starring opposite Lamon is Tony Award winner Beth Leavel as Broadway diva Dee Dee Allen. Leavel's comedic timing was impeccable, and her rendition of 'The Lady's Improving' was extremely amusing. She is also a remarkable singer, delivering two show-stopping musical numbers. Caitlin Kinnunen is equally outstanding, giving a nuanced portrayal of high-schooler Emma Nolan. Kinnuen delivers a genuine and heartfelt performance, giving the character a sweet innocence that makes the audience want to root for her. She too is a gifted singer, which is particularly evident during the number 'Dance with You'. Despite having singled a few performers out, the entirety of the whole cast are absolutely stunning.

The choreography, by Casey Nicholaw, was well and truly extraordinary. The dance sequences carried out during the school prom were utterly mesmerising to watch. I was quite surprised to find out the The Prom's choreography was overlooked at the Tony Awards, as I personally feel it is unquestionably among the best I have seen within recent months. The costumes, designed by Ann Roth, were also wonderful and worthy of much praise. I particularly liked the displayed contrast of costumes; whilst the older characters wore glitzy, glamorous and old-fashioned tuxedos and dresses, the younger characters wore exuberant displays of brightness and colour. It created an interesting contrast, and it was apparent that a lot of thought had gone into these designs.

Now for my final verdict on The Prom. I give The Prom...

The Prom is a remarkable production; it boasts an enjoyable feel-good story, an up-beat musical score and a very gifted ensemble of actors. 

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

Tuesday, 16 July 2019

Review: Ain't Too Proud

Hey readers!
It's time for my review of Ain't Too Proud.
Ain't Too Proud follows The Temptations’ extraordinary journey from the streets of Detroit to the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. With their signature dance moves and unmistakable harmonies, they rose to the top of the charts creating 42 Top Ten Hits with 14 reaching number one. The rest is history — how they met, how they rose, the groundbreaking heights they hit, and how personal and political conflicts threatened to tear the group apart as the United States fell into civil unrest. This story of brotherhood, family, loyalty, and betrayal is set to the beat of the group’s many hits, including “My Girl,” “Just My Imagination,” “Papa Was a Rolling Stone,” and a dozen more.

Having not grown up in the era of Motown, the music of The Temptations is not as familiar to me as it would be for fellow audience members. My only exposure to such music is through my Mother, as well as the recent Motown the Musical, which had a successful three year run in London's West End. Despite not being too familiar with the music prior to entering the Imperial Theatre, however, I still very much enjoyed a number of the songs. A few of my personal favourites of Ain't Too Proud's musical score included 'My Girl', 'Get Ready' and 'Just My Imagination', all of which were unforgettable. I was also rather fond of the Supremes Medley, which served as a good, however brief, diversion from the main story.

Throughout history there have been over 20 singers to join the Temptations. As the band's leading singer observes early on in the show, “sometimes Temp stood for temporary.” Ain't Too Proud, however, largely focuses on the "Classic 5" line-up, which consisted of Otis Williams, James Harkness, Melvin Franklin, Eddie Kendricks and David Ruffin. These well-known singers were portrayed by Derrick Baskin, James Harkness, Jawan M. Jackson, Jeremy Pope and Ephraim Sykes, respectively, all of which were exceptionally talented. All five performers are triple threats; they were talented actors, gifted singers and skilled dancers. Portraying real well-known people such as these can be a difficult task, and yet they are more than capable of pulling it off. Each and every one of them threw themselves into the role and embodied their characters flawlessly. After watching the show, I took the decision to listen to a number of Temptations songs, and in comparison the performers sound very much alike to their real-life counterparts. Their natural ability to harmonise with one another was also rather impressive. Furthermore, their dance abilities were superlative. The choreography is quite intricate, but they completely nailed each and every routine. A special mention must be given to Ephraim Sykes, who was able to pull off striking scissor splits. These five performers really were outstanding, and were likely the main reason as to why I enjoyed Ain't Too Proud as much as I did.

My one slight criticism for Ain't Too Proud is its book. There were certain elements of the story that felt somewhat cliched in comparison to other biographical jukebox musicals. Having seen Four Seasons musical 'Jersey Boys' and Kinks musical 'Sunny Afternoon', I couldn't help but notice the similarities between the storylines. Such similarities may be unavoidable however, due to the fact that the majority of musical groups have origin stories that are much alike. Despite this, I still felt it was a marvellous production.

One of the show's best aspects is its choreography, which has been created by Sergio Trujillo. Trujilo recently won a Tony Award for his work on the show and deservedly so. This up-beat and fast-paced choreography was awe-inspiring. It is intriguing to watch, and faultlessly carried out by a talented ensemble. The costumes, designed by Paul Tazewell, were magnificent. They were well-suited to the era in which Ain't Too Proud is set, thus helping to transport the audience back to the 1960s and become fully immersed. The lighting, designed by Howell Blinkey, was also admirable and was particularly impressive during the use of spotlights, which made the show feel as if it were a real-life concert.

Now for my final verdict on Ain't Too Proud. I give Ain't Too Proud...

Whilst I took certain issues with the book, I simply cannot deny that it is a remarkable production. For me personally, it was the cast full of triple threats that were worth the ticket price alone; they really were quite something. 

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, 15 July 2019

Review: Waitress (Broadway - July 2019)

Hey readers!
It's time for my review of Waitress.
Waitress tells the story of Jenna Hunterson, an expert pie maker stuck in a small town and a loveless marriage. Faced with an unexpected pregnancy, Jenna fears she may have to abandon the dream of opening her own pie shop forever… until a baking contest in a nearby county and the town's handsome new doctor offer her a tempting recipe for happiness. Supported by her quirky crew of fellow waitresses and loyal customers, Jenna summons the secret ingredient she’s been missing all along – courage. I first saw Waitress on Broadway in June 2016, and later watched it a second time when it transferred to London's West End earlier this year. Whilst in New York City I ended up seeing Waitress again because, as the old saying goes, "third time's the charm".

With a book written by Jessie Nelson, Waitress has an exceedingly compelling story, which is mainly as a result of its larger than life characters. The show features a number of characters that are highly relatable, thus making them interesting. These qualities make it easier for the audience to become immersed in their world, and by the end of the show I always find myself really rooting for them, particularly Jenna and Dr. Pomatter, to find happiness and success. The book also has a number of interesting moral dilemmas, and asks its audience to give consideration to what is viewed as right and wrong. The show features an extra-marital affair at the centre of its plot, and whilst by conventional standards this would be morally unethical, there are likely to be many in the audience that actually want this couple to end up together. Nelson's book is excellently written, and certainly makes for interesting viewing.

Waitress's musical score is written by American singer-songwriter Sara Bareilles and, like Jenna's pies, it is absolutely irresistible. I first listened to the music of Waitress in 2016 and even after listening to it far over a dozen times, I have yet to tire of it. There are a number of extremely catchy and memorable tunes within the score that are likely to stay with you long after you leave the theatre. In addition to this, there are also a number of beautifully written ballads. A few of my personal favourites from Waitress's score include 'Never Ever Getting Rid of Me', 'Bad Idea', 'You Matter to Me' and 'She Used to Be Mine'.

In the leading role of Jenna currently stars Shoshana Bean, who was exceptional. Bean gave an all-round excellent performance, and her voice in particular was remarkable. As Jenna's best friends, Becky and Dawn, Charity Angél Dawson and Caitlin Houlahan, respectively, gave wonderful performances. Both actresses mentioned are clear examples of perfect casting; Dawson and Houlahan are so well-suited to their roles and have perfectly mastered their portrayals. Bean, Dawson and Houlahan all had magnificent chemistry, and it was easy to believe their roles as best friends to one another. Portraying Dr. Pomatter is Erich Bergen, who may be familiar to some as 'Blake' from the CBS political drama 'Madam Secretary'. Having now seen three actors take on the role of Dr. Pomatter, it was great to see Bergen really make the role his own. He excels at the comedic element of the role, maximising the character's awkward nature in order to create humour. Bergen is also a gifted singer, and his duet with Shoshana of 'You Matter to Me' was utter perfection. Now, last but by no means least, a special mention must also be awarded to Noah Galvin as Ogie. Galvin is the youngest incarnation of Ogie that I have seen, and I personally felt that having a youthful Ogie worked very well indeed. Galvin really put his own spin on the role and provided a characterisation that I had not seen in prior portrayals of Ogie. I admired his fresh take on the role and thoroughly enjoyed his performance. The entirety of the Waitress cast are all excellent and I cannot praise them enough.

Even after seeing Waitress for a third time, I still found the show to be as charming as ever. Shows can often be just as enjoyable, if not more, when seeing them again and this is particularly true for Waitress. This cast were excellent and maintained a great chemistry; they were a delight to watch.

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

Waitress boasts an excellent book, brilliant musical score and numerous outstanding performances, consequently making it a highly enjoyable show. 

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: Be More Chill

Hey readers!
It's time for my review of Be More Chill.
Based on the cult sensation novel by Ned Vizzini, Be More Chill is the story of Jeremy Heere, your average, nothing-special teenager at Middleborough High in New Jersey. That is, until the day he finds out about "The Squip." Thus begins a journey that pits Jeremy's desire to be popular against his struggle to remain true to his authentic self. This original musical comedy looks at modern issues like depression, bullying, and anxiety through the lens of sci-fi films of the 50s, horror flicks of the 80s, and teen movies of the 90s.

The musical score of Be More Chill, by Joe Iconis, is one that I was actually quite familiar with prior to entering the Lyceum Theatre. I first started listening to the Off-Broadway Cast Recording of Be More Chill in late 2018, and instantly adored the music. In addition to this, I later garnered the Original Broadway Cast Recording when it was first released in May of this year. Iconis's score features a number of exceedingly catchy and memorable songs that I could simply never tire of. Despite having already listened to this music over a dozen times, I still thoroughly enjoy it. Furthermore, I would say that this in itself is testament to Iconis's talents at composing music. A few of my personal favourites from Be More Chill's musical score include the titular song 'Be More Chill', 'The Pants Song', 'Voices in My Head' and lastly, but certainly not least, the infamous 'Michael in the Bathroom'.

Leading the cast of Be More Chill is Will Roland, who portrays the show's protagonist Jeremy. Roland demonstrates in his portrayal that he is both a capable and talented actor, and felt very believable as Jeremy. As Jeremy's best friend Michael is George Salazar, who has been with the production since its first production in New Jersey in 2015. Salazar is an immensely talented singer, which is evident by his show-stopping number that takes place in Act Two, 'Michael in the Bathroom'. Salazar has also crafted an excellent characterisation, perfectly conveying the character's anxious nature. Jason Tam, for his portrayal of the SQUIP, is also outstanding. From the second he enters, Tam immediately commands control of the stage through his large presence. He embodies the character well, and was a skilled singer and dancer.

The lighting, designed by Tyler Micoleau, was also commendable. Throughout the show, lighting was used in order to reflect mood and atmosphere, which was particularly evident when the SQUIP made his first appearance. The costumes, designed by Bobby Frederick Tilley II, are a stand-out feature of this production. Filled with colour and light, the costumes seemed well-suited to the show's tone. The design for the SQUIP costume was distinctly good, due to its unique nature.

Be More Chill is a very unusual show, and it might not necessarily appeal to everyone. It's certainly unlike anything I have seen for quite some time. I, however, admire the show's ambition and gladly welcome its creativity. Be More Chill has accumulated a large fanbase since it first opened, which certainly speaks volume to the impact that this show has on people.

Now for my final verdict on Be More Chill. I give Be More Chill...

Be More Chill has an excellent musical score, a number of remarkable performances and should be praised for its level of creativity. 

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

Sunday, 14 July 2019

Review: Tootsie

Hey readers!
It's time for my review of Tootsie.
Based on the 1982 movie starring Dustin Hoffman, Tootsie tells the story of a talented but difficult actor who struggles to find work until an audacious, desperate stunt lands him the role of a lifetime.

Tootsie's book, written by Robert Horn, has received almost universal acclaim and has been the garnered Tony, Drama Desk and Outer Critics Circle Awards. The book is completely deserving of such praise, and them some. The show is centred around mistaken identity, following a highly entertaining and imaginative concept. Not only does Horn execute the show's story flawlessly, but he is also able to find endless amounts of humour from within. From start to finish, the show is filled with quick-fire jokes that never tire. It is utterly hilarious and had the entirety of the audience laughing in hysterics. I personally found that the jokes were reminiscent of humour found in popular and much-loved sitcoms, such as hit 1990's television show 'Frasier'. In addition to this, I also admired the way in which Horn has decided to tackle a number of difficult gender issues that we currently face in the modern day. Whilst not a central plot point, such topics are handled in a nuanced and subtle manner which I personally considered to be careful and considerate. Horn has done wonders with the book of Tootsie, and can be credited for large portions of the show's success.

The musical score of Tootsie is written by David Yazbek, who is also known for writing the score of the recently closed award winning musical 'The Band's Visit'. Yazbek's lyrics, in particular, are superlative. Finding lyrics that can both rhyme and create comedy is quite the skill, and yet Yazbek is more than capable of fulfilling both of these requirements. His lyrics are extremely witty, which is quite evident in the songs 'What's Gonna Happen' and 'Jeff Sums It Up'. As well as comedic musical numbers, Yazbek is also very good at composing more heartfelt songs, as shown by the number 'There Was John'. After seeing Tootsie, I am fairly confident in asserting that David Yazbek could write for any genre. The musical score for 'The Band's Visit' is an entirely different musical style, and yet Yazbek has excelled at writing for both types of music. It is quite clear that he is an exceedingly skilled composer.

In a dual role he seemed born to play, Santino Fontana leads the cast as Michael Dorsey and Dorothy Michaels. In every aspect of his portrayal, I genuinely believe Fontana was faultless. Comedy clearly comes easily to him, which is evidenced by the fact that his comedic timing is second to none. His facial expressions, in particular, were extremely funny. Furthermore, Fontana is also a very talented singer. He boasts an incredible vocal range which allows him to alternate between Michael's deeper singing voice and Dorothy's high falsetto. Lilli Cooper, as Julie Nichols, was superb and created a really good chemistry with Fontana's Dorothy. She too has a lovely voice, which becomes clear through her renditions of 'There Was John' and 'Who Are You?'. Sarah Stiles, in the role of the neurotic actress Sandy Lester, gives a performance that is both entertaining and hilarious. She completely nails the role, and her number 'What's Gonna Happen' is one of the show's highlights. John Behlmann, as Max Van Horn, was also outstanding. Behlmann has a difficult role to play, portraying a dim-witted and dense wannabe actor that eventually falls in love with Dorothy. Despite this, Behlmann has mastered the role and was simply perfect in every way. The scene in which Max declares his love for Dorothy was the funniest scene in the whole show, which was largely thanks to Behlmann's brilliant delivery. Finally, last but by no means least, a special mention must be given to Andy Groteluschen, who portrayed Michael's best friend Jeff Slater. Groteluschen and Fontana create a fantastic dynamic when together onstage, and the Act Two opening song 'Jeff Sums It Up' was a delight. The ensemble of Tootsie are all splendid, and there are a number of very talented dancers among them.

The costumes, by William Ivey Long, were expertly designed. Tootsie is Long's 74th Broadway show, which certainly speaks volume to his level of skill. Dorothy's costumes, as well as the hair and make-up by Paul Huntley and Angelina Avallone respectively, were stunning and were essential in ensuring that Michael's transformation was as believable and realistic as possible.

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

Whilst this review is already quite prolonged, I could continue to rave about Tootsie for even longer. I adored this show, and I look forward to its transfer to the West End in 2021.

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

Thanks for reading!

-The Reviewer

Review: Beetlejuice

Hey readers!
It's time for my review of Beetlejuice.
Beetlejuice tells the story of Lydia Deetz, a strange and unusual teenager obsessed with the whole “being dead thing.” Lucky for Lydia, her new house is haunted by a recently deceased couple and a degenerate demon who happens to have a thing for stripes. When Lydia calls on this ghost-with-the-most to scare away her insufferable father and his new girlfriend, Betelgeuse comes up with the perfect plan, which involves exorcism, arranged marriages and an adorable girl scout who gets scared out of her wits. Plus singing and dancing, of course.

This quirky and eccentric musical may not appeal to everyone, but I personally found Beetlejuice to be an extraordinarily entertaining piece of theatre. The show follows a fun and enjoyable story, whilst retaining a quick pace from beginning to end. The book, by Anthony King and Scott Brown, is excellent and had me laughing in stitches. The humour within the show is somewhat dark, and often relied on a number of one-liners. I often find that it will take a lot for me to laugh out loud, but Beetlejuice was truly and utterly hilarious. I also appreciated the writers ability to carefully balance the amount of comedy with the more sadder moments of the show. Whilst one scene will have its audience in hysterics with laughter, the next scene may have a  particularly poignant and tear-inducing moment. I was highly impressed with the book of Beetlejuice and thoroughly enjoyed watching this unconventional tale unravel.

As well as the book, I was also fond of the vast majority of the musical score, which has been written by Australian singer-songwriter Eddie Perfect. The songs featured with the show are exceedingly catchy; even one week after watching Beetlejuice for the first time, the songs have yet to fade from my memory. A few of my personal highlights from the score include 'Invisible', 'The Whole Being Dead Thing, Parts One and Two', 'Say My Name' and 'Home'. The songs were all excellently carried out by the remarkable cast and marvellous orchestra.

The cast is led by Alex Brightman, who portrays the mischievous titular character. Brightman is not someone that I would have immediately thought of when casting this role, and as a consequence this is a good example of inspired casting. Brightman appears well-suited as Betelgeuse, which is largely as a result of his precise comedic timing and high levels of charisma. Right from the get-go, he puts maximum levels of energy into his performance, giving it his all from beginning to end. By his side is Sophia Anne Caruso, who portrays gothic teenager Lydia Deetz. I had previously seen Caruso's remarkable performance in Lazarus, and I am pleased to say that she was once again outstanding. She is an immensely talented singer, and arguably has one of the most astonishing voices on all of Broadway. In addition to her singing abilities, Caruso is also a talented actress, excelling at both the comedic and more sadder parts to the character of Lydia.

The scenic design, by David Korins, is largely centred around a haunted house which has three different renditions that change as the show progresses. At first the scenery depicts the original home of the Maitland couple, which Korins himself has described as a "bleached country chic". It then changes to a more zany appearance once the Deetz family arrive, and soon after it changes yet again to an ominous black and white appearance in order to mirror the clothing of Betelgeuse. The three variations are both visually and structurally ingenious; it was clear that a lot of thought had gone into the process of creating this particular aspect. Both the costumes, by William Ivey Long, and lighting, by Kenneth Posner, were also stunning and highly creative. All three of these particular aspects complimented the show's tone and mood nicely. The special effects featured in Beetlejuice were also rather impressive, and in particular the uses of levitation tricks and the appearance of the giant sandworm were quite remarkable.

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

Whilst I understand Beetlejuice will not be to everyone's liking, I personally adored it. It had an exciting book, an enjoyable score, a number of outstanding performances, as well as a number of ingenious creative aspects; as a consequence, I believe that Beetlejuice is worthy of a five-star rating.

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

Thanks for reading!

-The Reviewer

Saturday, 13 July 2019

Review: King Kong

Hey readers!
It's time for my review of King Kong.
Based on the 1932 novel, the stage production of King Kong is a contemporary take on the classic tale of Beauty and the Beast. The story follows a young actress and a maverick filmmaker as they voyage from the bustling streets of 1930s New York to an uncharted island to capture the greatest wonder the world has ever seen. King Kong is a larger-than-life encounter with a legend that’s always been too big to contain.

The main attraction of this musical is, arguably, the 2,400-pound and 20-foot-tall puppet star used to portray the titular character of King Kong. The puppet's limbs are operated by 10 different actors, whilst three "voodoo operators" control more robotics involved with the character off-stage. The puppet is a true spectacle and immediately steals the show upon its entrance. It is unlike anything that has ever been done on Broadway before, and the creative team behind this project should be commended for ambition and determination to create this. A particular highlight of the puppet's design are the different facial expressions that King Kong uses, which was exceedingly helpful in ensuring that the character was as life-like as possible. Whilst suspension of disbelief may be required in order to forget the somewhat visible puppeteers, it is still awe-inspiring. Earlier this year, the production received a Special Tony Award for the design of the King Kong puppet, which I would agree was well deserved. 

Whilst impressive creatively, the show is not as successful in regards to its book, which has been written by Harry Potter and the Cursed Child author Jack Thorne. Whilst Thorne is an immensely talented playwright, his book for King Kong was not flawless. The story starts out very strong and sets the scene for an interesting narrative, but it then begins to falter as the first act progresses. The dialogue begins to become somewhat drawn-out, causing the show's pacing to drastically slow down. Having said this, the pace does pick up again with act two, whereby the book seems to become more compelling.

Christiani Pitts, in the leading role of Ann Darrow, was excellent. Pitts has a remarkable singing voice, and gave an all-round outstanding performance that I would not be able to fault. As well as Pitts, Erik Lochtefeld also deserves a special mention for his portrayal of the character Lumpy. Lochtefeld gave an exceedingly heartfelt performance, and conveyed the most well-developed characterisation within the show. The entirety of the ensemble were also all exceptional, and it was evident throughout that there were a number of extraordinary talented singers and dancers among them. 

The scenic design, by Peter England, mainly consisted of a backdrop containing a number of different screen projections that changed depending on the location of the scene taking place. All of the screen projections featured a vast amount of detail and were of the highest possible quality. The lighting, by Peter Mumford, was masterfully designed. This particular design aspect is particularly effective when used to place King Kong into the spotlight, whereby the lighting is used to conceal the puppeteers controlling the puppet star. The choreography, by Drew McOnie, was yet another highlight. The choreography was most impressive during the show's opening musical number, whereby a large crowd of New Yorkers hastily dance through the city's busy streets. The choreography remained action-packed and exciting throughout the show, which in turn reminded me of McOnie's previous choreography for London shows such as In the Heights and Jesus Christ Superstar.

Now for my final verdict on King Kong. I give King Kong...

Whilst the book is not quite as good as it could have been, King Kong redeems itself in a number of different ways. The puppet star is jaw-dropping, whilst the majority of the cast and creative aspects were also excellent.

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

Friday, 12 July 2019

Review: Ink (Broadway)

Hey readers!
It's time for my review of Ink.
Set in London, 1969, the brash young Rupert Murdoch purchases a struggling paper, The Sun, and sets out to make it a must-read smash which will destroy - and ultimately horrify - the competition. He brings on rogue editor Larry Lamb who in turn recruits an unlikely team of underdog reporters. Together, they will go to any lengths for success and the race for the most ink is on. I had previously seen Ink during its run in London and absolutely adored it. After seeing it the first time, Ink instantly became my favourite play of all time. As a consequence, I jumped at the opportunity to see it once again whilst in New York City.

Ink's story is gripping from beginning to end, giving its audience a fascinating insight into the world of journalism and the early days of 'The Sun' newspaper. Despite Ink being set in the 1960's, the play's recurring themes of using populism and mass media in order to attract high levels of popularity is still something which is likely to resonate with audiences today. Similarities have been made between the show's main character, Larry Lamb, and Facebook founder Mark Zuckerburg, both of whom created forms of media that would empower millions of people. Using populism in this manner can also be seen in modern politics as well, with the rise of politicians such as Nigel Farage and Donald Trump, both of whom have run on populist platforms and have claimed to speak for the masses. Whilst Ink does set its focus on journalism, its wider themes can be applied to a number of different aspects of society. I personally find the play to be thrilling from beginning to end, and even watching a second time my attention did not drift once. I was fully focused from beginning to end, and despite knowing what would happen, I still remained on the edge of my seat. James Graham's writing simply cannot be praised enough.

In the leading role of Larry Lamb, Jonny Lee Miller was exceptional. He provides an electric performance, and retains exceedingly high levels of energy from start to finish. Miller perfectly demonstrates the character's rising ambition, and cleverly portrays the effects that working in the world of journalism has on Lamb. It was a truly intriguing performance. Bertie Carvel, in the role of Rupert Murdoch, was equally outstanding. After first seeing Bertie in the role, he has since won both an Olivier Award and a Tony Award for his portrayal of the infamous media mogul, both of which are well-deserved awards. This performance is mesmerising, with Carvel nailing the role down to a tee. Every aspect of the performance is excellently and carefully carried out, including posture, movement, hand gestures and voice. Carvel has a very engaging persona, making him an absolute delight to watch. The entirety of this cast are marvellous and, despite the fact that the majority are American actors, their English accents were perfect.

The direction by Rupert Goold was sublime, who has helped to ensure that the pacing of Ink remains fast and upbeat throughout. I can remember stating in my previous review of Ink that the staging of this production was among the best I had ever seen, and a year and a half later I continue to stand by that statement. The scenic design, by Bunny Christie, encompasses a landscape of battered metal desks, stacked on top of each other in the form unsteady hills and valleys. The set was filled with immense detail, and felt very true to the style of a 1960's office. Christie also designed the costumes, which are also rather admirable and well-suited to the setting of the play. The lighting design, by Neil Austin, recently garnered a Tony Award and deservedly so. The lighting perfectly reflects the mood of the piece at several moments throughout the play, therefore helping to further the atmosphere.

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

Even after a second viewing, Ink remains my favourite play of all time. The intelligence of Graham's writing is really quite something, and believe that the themes explored within the play will continue to resonate with audiences for many decades to come. In addition to the writing, each and every single performance is flawless, whilst the direction and creativity also remain superlative. I simply cannot rave about Ink enough. Sadly, this production has now closed, but hopefully it will be making another appearance within the near future.

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

Thanks for reading!

-The Reviewer