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.


"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 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):


"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):

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:

Tuesday, 12 May 2020

Online Theatre: 'Frankenstein', 'Cyprus Avenue' and '21 Chump Street'

Hey readers!
Following on from my previous three posts, I have continued to view the various theatrical productions which have kindly been placed online by producers for free. Productions such as these started streaming a number of weeks ago, and it has really brought a number of theatregoers, including myself, a lot of joy. Without further ado, here are the shows that I have seen since my last post:


"Childlike in his innocence but grotesque in form, Frankenstein’s bewildered creature is cast out into a hostile universe by his horror-struck maker. Meeting with cruelty wherever he goes, the increasingly desperate and vengeful Creature determines to track down his creator and strike a terrifying deal."

I studied Mary Shelley's Frankenstein a number of years ago in quite extensive detail, and I am consequently rather familiar with the source material on which this play is based. This is a really interesting adaptation, and the focus on the Creature, as opposed to Frankenstein, worked very well from a narrative stand-point. I felt that the Creature was really developed from what we see in the book, and it was refreshing to see a new take on the character. The particular version of the play that I watched had Benedict Cumberbatch portraying Creature, and he was well and truly extraordinary. He gives a masterclass in physicality, and the way he used his body to convey the character was astonishing. He made the Creature very believable indeed, making it very easy to empathise with him. Jonny Lee Miller was also outstanding as Victor Frankenstein, proving both an intense and impassioned performance. Creatively, this production of Frankenstein is stunning. The most striking element is arguably the costume, make-up and wig of the Creature; all of these were very effective, and really helped to aid Benedict Cumberbatch's spectacular transformation. 

Frankenstein can no longer be watched on YouTube for free. 

Cyprus Avenue

"Eric Miller is a Belfast Loyalist. He believes his five-week old granddaughter is Gerry Adams. His family keep telling him to stop living in the past and fighting old battles that nobody cares about anymore but his cultural heritage is under siege. He must act. The story of one man struggling with the past and terrified of the future."

Cyprus Avenue proved to be a rather thought-provoking play, and included a number of very interesting themes. The play acts as a cautionary tale, and demonstrates the many ways in which prejudice can consume an individual. Additionally, the exploration into themes relating to The Troubles was also rather compelling. In the leading role of Eric Miller starred Stephen Rea, who gave a performance that was truly incredible. He was very convincing in the part, and the character's decent into madness was performed very skilfully indeed. 

Cyprus Avenue can be watched on YouTube for free here:

21 Chump Street

"21 Chump Street is a cautionary tale of a high school honors student who falls for a cute transfer girl. He goes to great lengths to oblige her request for marijuana in the hopes of winning her affection - only to find out his crush is actually an undercover cop planted in the school to find drug dealers."

21 Chump Street is inspired by true events, which only makes this heartbreaking tale even more tragic. The main character, Justin, is a very sympathetic figure, and one can only feel great sorrow when reflecting upon his story. It really opened my eyes to the war on drugs that takes place within the United States, and I would be very interested to learn more about this real-life case. The musical score of 21 Chump Street was written by Lin Manuel-Miranda, who is known across the globe for having written 'In the Heights' and 'Hamilton'. The score was excellent, delivering a handful of memorable and catchy tunes. Anthony Ramos, in the leading role of Justin Laboy, was remarkable. His characterisation of the role made it really easy to relate with the character, and in turn made him very likeable. In addition to this, he was a very gifted singer, and proved be a skilled dancer as well. 

21 Chump Street can be watched on YouTube for free here:

Thanks for reading!

-The Basic Theatre Reviewer