Saturday, 27 June 2020

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

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

She Loves Me

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

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

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

An American in Paris

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

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

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

Ben Platt: Live from Radio City Music Hall

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

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

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

Thanks for reading!

-The Basic Theatre Reviewer

Tuesday, 16 June 2020

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

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

Kinky Boots

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

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

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

The Wiz Live

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

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

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

Madness of King George III

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

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

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

Thanks for reading!

-The Basic Theatre Reviewer

Monday, 8 June 2020

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

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

Buried Child

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

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

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

Putting It Together

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

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

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

Daddy Long Legs

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

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

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

Thanks for reading!

-The Basic Theatre Reviewer

Friday, 5 June 2020

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

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

Holiday Inn

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

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

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

Lady Day at Emerson's Bar and Grill

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

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

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


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

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

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

Thanks for reading!

-The Basic Theatre Reviewer

Monday, 1 June 2020

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

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

A Woman of No Importance

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

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

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

This House

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

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

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

Hairspray Live

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

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

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

Thanks for reading!

-The Basic Theatre Reviewer