Thursday, 30 April 2020

Online Theatre: 'Treasure Island', 'Love Never Dies' and 'Take Me to the World: A Sondheim 90th Birthday Celebration'

Hey readers!
It is officially week 6 of the lockdown for those of us in the United Kingdom, and yet the theatre community is still going strong. There continues to be a wide array of online theatre available online, leaving audience members spoilt for choice. I myself have continued my occasional experience of online theatre, and have very much enjoyed it. Without further delay, here are the shows that I have had the pleasure of seeing throughout the past two weeks:

Treasure Island

"It’s a dark, stormy night. The stars are out. Jim, the inn-keeper’s granddaughter, opens the door to a terrifying stranger. At the old sailor’s feet sits a huge sea-chest, full of secrets. Jim invites him in – and her dangerous voyage begins."

The most striking aspect of the National Theatre production of Treasure Island was its extraordinary scenic design, created by Lizzie Clachan. The set really brought the surroundings of the play to life, and made it easy to immerse yourself within the action. In particular, the design of the pirate ship was remarkable, as was the island scenery. Treasure Island also boasts an exceptional cast, with Patsy Ferran in the leading role of Jim. Ferran gave a remarkable performance, and was excellent from beginning to end. Finally, I also greatly admired the animatronic parrot that was used in the show. It was an excellent addition, and added a lot of much-needed humour to the show.

Treasure Island can no longer be watched on YouTube.

Love Never Dies

"The musical is set in 1907, a decade after the end of Phantom. Christine Daaé is invited to perform at Phantasma, a new attraction in Coney Island, by an anonymous impresario and, with her husband Raoul and son Gustave in tow, journeys to Brooklyn, unaware that it is the Phantom who has arranged her appearance in the popular beach resort."

Prior to watching the livestream of Love Never Dies I was quite familiar with the show, having seen the US National Tour in Summer 2018. Whilst I know that the show has a tendency to divide opinions, I personally quite enjoy it. First and foremost, I am very fond of the musical score, which is truly enchanting. I am quite a fan of Andrew Lloyd Webber's work, and he never disappoints. Among my personal favourites from this score are 'Til I Hear You Sing', 'Beneath a Moonless Sky' and 'The Beauty Underneath'. In addition to that, the entirety of the cast were utterly captivating to watch. It was however Anna O'Byrne as Christine Daaé that stole the show. O'Bryne had a beautiful voice, and delivered a wonderful rendition of the titular song, 'Love Never Dies'.

Love Never Dies can no longer be watched on YouTube for free, though it can still be purchased either on Digital HD or DVD.

Take Me to the World: A Sondheim 90th Birthday Celebration

"Take Me to the World: A Sondheim 90th Birthday Celebration was chock-full of Broadway goodness: Mandy Patinkin singing outside with his dog, Beanie Feldstein and Ben Platt's adorable "It Takes Two," Bernadette Peters' a cappella "No One Is Alone," Neil Patrick Harris' "Witch's Rap," Patti LuPone breaking hearts with "Anyone Can Whistle," a Sunday in the Park with George reunion for Annaleigh Ashford and Jake Gyllenhaal, Hamilton creator Lin-Manuel Miranda's "Giants in the Sky," Christine Baranski, Audra McDonald and Meryl Streep's highly GIF-able "Ladies Who Lunch" and so many more!"

Take Me to the World was an absolutely incredible event to witness; it was well and truly awe-inspiring in every sense of the word. It featured a number of my all-time favourite artists, and it was such a privilege to have the opportunity to watch them all perform. The event in itself was very well done and was masterfully edited, featuring a great variety of different shows and songs. The concert proved to be the perfect tribute to Sondheim's long-lasting legacy, and I am thrilled that he was honoured in this fashion. Additionally, not only did the concert serve to honour Sondheim, but the event also helped to raise money for the charity of 'Artists Striving to End Poverty'; a very good cause indeed. My personal favourite from the evening was Alexander Gemignani, who performed 'Buddy's Blues' from Follies. Gemignani was thoroughly entertaining throughout the entirety of his song, and was just so much fun to watch. I also greatly enjoyed Annaleigh Ashford and Jake Gyllenhaal performing 'Move On' from Sunday in the Park with George. Watching that performance brought back so many memories of watching them together on Broadway, and I hope we can see them return to the stage sooner rather than later. Special mentions must also be given to Raúl Esparza, who performed 'Take Me to the World' from Evening Primrose, and Randy Rainbow, who performed 'By the Sea' from Sweeney Todd. 

Take Me to the World: A Sondheim 90th Birthday Celebration can be watched on YouTube for free here:

Thanks for reading!

-The Basic Theatre Reviewer

Saturday, 18 April 2020

Online Theatre: 'Only the Brave', 'Jesus Christ Superstar' and 'The Phantom of the Opera'

Hey readers!
In these rather uncertain times, the theatre community has continued to remain strong, and we still stand as one. A number of individuals within the industry have carried on undertaking some very kind deeds, allowing people to stream theatre online from the safety and comfort of their homes. I, along with many others, have very much appreciated these acts of kindness, and have really enjoyed my weekly dose of online theatre. It still continues to be a very positive experience, and I would highly recommend it. So, without further ado, here are the theatre shows that I have seen throughout the past two weeks:

Only the Brave

"Only the Brave, recounts the raw courage and determination of those who fought and felt the physical and emotional pain of the Second World War. It tells the story of a group of brave soldiers embarking on a dangerous mission that holds the key to the success of the D-Day Landings. This rousing and original musical interweaves the soldier’s stories with that of their families and loved ones. Based on true events, Only The Brave evokes the camaraderie and bravery of the second world war generation."

Only the Brave follows a really moving story, and I for one was very touched by it. The fact that it was inspired by true events makes it all the more heartbreaking, and I was in tears by the end of the show. The pacing was absolutely excellent and I was on the edge of my seat throughout; I personally found that the time flew by. It features a really talented cast, all of whom created characters that proved easy to sympathise with. The leading actors, David Thaxton and Neil McDermott, were particularly outstanding and had remarkable chemistry with one another. I was surprised that I had not previously heard of this show, and was seriously impressed by it. When theatres re-open, it would be nice to see Only the Brave transfer to the West End.

Only the Brave can be watched on Vimeo for free here:

Jesus Christ Superstar

"The musical looks at the last week of Jesus’ life, including his arrival in Jerusalem with his disciples, and crucifixion. It includes a number of classic rock musical numbers including 'Gethsemane', 'I Don’t Know How To Love Him', 'Everything’s Alright' and 'Superstar'."

Prior to watching this livestream, I had previously seen two different live productions of Jesus Christ Superstar: the 2015 UK tour and the 2017 Regent's Park Open Air Theatre revival. This production however, staged at the O2 music venue, is like no other; it takes the show into the modern-day, using the 2011 London riots as inspiration for the setting. The interpretation of Jesus bring a political leader and moral philosopher of sorts is an interesting one, and is particularly compelling from the viewpoint of one who has studied religion and philosophy. In relation to the cast, Tim Minchin steals the show with his extraordinary performance as Judas Iscariot. Minchin has an incredible presence about him, and his vocal range is sensational. Alexander Hanson, as Pontius Pilate, is also worthy of a special mention, giving an intense and exceptional performance. 

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

The Phantom of the Opera

"Deep in the bowels of the Paris Opera House a disfigured genius becomes obsessed with a young ballet dancer, Christine Daae. As he teaches her singing, becoming her 'angel of music', she finds herself drawn to his charm and mystery, unable to resist his talents as a composer. The Phantom haunts the opera house, making demands of its new owners in an attempt to get Christine to star in a new opera that he has written especially for her. The handsome Raoul is also in love with Christine and challenges The Phantom for her affections, leading to an onstage disaster that literally brings down the house. The Phantom of the Opera is a haunting, romantic epic that will delight audiences both young and old."

This production of The Phantom of the Opera was done in honour of the show's 25th anniversary, and was staged at the Royal Albert Hall. This was a really special production, and quite possibly the best filmed theatre show I have sever seen. What makes this production so extraordinary is its stellar cast, all of which are marvellous; there was not one weak link among them. The highlight of this production is arguably Sierra Boggess's portrayal of Christine Daaé, who excels in this role. Having seen a fair few portrayals of Christine during my years of theatregoing, it is safe to say that Boggess delivers one of the strongest and most convincing performances of the character. Ramin Karimloo, as The Phantom, and Hadley Fraser, as Raoul, were also spectacular, with each giving memorable performances. In addition to this, the scenic and costume designs, by Matt Kinley and Maria Björnson respectively, were amazing and really added to the effect of the whole production. It was truly a pleasure to watch this, and I was thrilled to have such an opportunity.

The Phantom of the Opera can be watched on YouTube for free until 18th April here:

Thanks for reading!

-The Basic Theatre Reviewer

Friday, 3 April 2020

Online Theatre: 'Ghost Quartet', 'Eugenius' and 'One Man, Two Guvnors'

Hey readers!
As many of you are likely aware, all West End theatres closed with immediate effect on 16th March, with Broadway theatres having shut down several days prior to that. These are obviously difficult times for those who work in the entertainment industry, and my thoughts and prayers are with all of those that have been affected. In the meantime however, a number of stage shows, musicals and opera have been released online for people to watch online now for free; a truly wonderful gesture from some very kind producers. For those that have been missing the theatre in recent weeks, I would highly recommend taking part in online theatre streaming. Within the past two weeks, I have watched three excellent productions, and I am pleased to report positive experiences. Without further a do, here are the shows that I have seen throughout the past two weeks:

Ghost Quartet

"Rose has a problem. She’s been betrayed by her lover, a local tree-dwelling astronomer, with her very own sister. Rose seeks vengeance and a passing bear might just offer the answer. But his services come at a price: a pot of honey, one piece of stardust, a secret baptism – and a photo of a ghost. A kaleidoscopic journey spanning continents, centuries and the cosmos ensues. But even through the fogs of time and a haze of whiskey, Rose can’t shake the feeling that she’s done this all before…"

Ghost Quartet is a distinctive and quirky show, and it proved to be unlike anything I had ever seen before. Its unique nature is undeniable, and seemingly adds to the show's charm. It is almost entirely sung-through, and features an excellent musical score written by Dave Malloy. The score does bare a certain resemblance to one of Malloy's other works, 'Natasha, Pierre and the Great Comet of 1812', so admirers of the Great Comet are likely to appreciate Ghost Quartet as well. Personal favourites of mine from the score include 'The Astronomer' and 'Hero'. The interaction with audience members was a particular highlight of the production, and it was fun to watch people involving themselves in the show. 

Ghost Quartet can be watched on YouTube for free here:


"The story is about a teenager whose dreams provide him with the inspiration for a Hollywood blockbuster. Eugenius! boasts a totally originally score – Ben Adams’ homage to all the great sounds of the '80s - plus a scintillating script that makes you laugh, cry, and punch the air shouting #GoEugenius! This is a show where geeks rule, dreams come true, and everyone finds the superhero inside themselves – you’ve just gotta know where to look."

Eugenius boasts a brilliant cast, full of extremely talented individuals. In particular, Rob Houchen, Laura Baldwin and Dan Buckley were all phenomenal. They had excellent chemistry with one another, and delivered all-round outstanding performances. A department where Eugenius thrives is the feel-good factor which, at a time like this, is absolutely essential. It's an unquestionably fun show from beginning to end, and provided barrels of entertainment. 

Eugenius can be watched on YouTube for free here:

One Man, Two Guvnors

"Fired from his skiffle band, Francis Henshall becomes minder to Roscoe Crabbe, a small time East End hood, now in Brighton to collect £6000 from his fiancee’s dad. But Roscoe is really his sister Rachel posing as her own dead brother, who’s been killed by her boyfriend Stanley Stubbers. Holed up at the Cricketers’ Arms, the permanently ravenous Francis spots the chance of an extra meal ticket and takes a second job with one Stanley Stubbers, who is hiding from the police and waiting to be re-united with Rachel. To prevent discovery, Francis must keep his two guvnors apart. Simple."

The cast of One Man, Two Guvnors were truly incredible. James Corden and Oliver Chris are especially outstanding, with both actors delivering marvellous performances. Corden won the Tony Award for Best Leading Actor in a Play for his work in One Man, Two Govnors, and after having seen the show for myself, it is easy to see why. His comedic timing was absolutely impeccable, and he was utterly hilarious to watch. In addition to this, he interacted with the audience very well, and proved rather talented at improvisation. The scenic design by Mark Thompson is another high point of the show, and really helped the play come to life. One Man, Two Govnors is a remarkably funny show, and its release comes at a time when comic relief is drastically needed in the world. The infamous dinner scene proves to be the highlight of the show in relation to comedy, and I was in stitches laughing. 

One Man, Two Guvnors can be watched on YouTube for free until 9th April here:

Thanks for reading!

-The Basic Theatre Reviewer