Sunday, 26 July 2020

Review: Mascherato

Hey readers!
It's time for my review of Mascherato.
Set in the heart of 18th century Venice, the story follows Luca and Elena who meet and fall in love at the famous carnival. However, when the pair are separated by war, they must fight against the forces of fate in order to be reunited.

Mascherato is a brand new musical, having gone through the initial development stages and a staged workshop within recent years. Shortly after the COVID-19 pandemic lockdown was partially lifted, Mascherato was recorded as a concept album at the well-known Abbey Road studios. Taking into account that theatres across the globe have been forced to cease activity, this is a brilliant way to keep the arts alive during these uncertain times. Whilst many are obviously yearning to return to live theatre, projects such as Mascherato are excellent ways to still engage with this much-loved form of art. It is important to note that Mascherato is an entirely original musical, with a plot and musical score that has been written exclusively for the show. This can be quite a rarity in the UK and, truth be told, I cannot even recall the last time there was an entirely original West End musical. This demonstrates that Mascherato is quite an ambitious project, and should thus be commended. The fact that this album gives us a glimpse into the early stages of the show's creation is also fascinating, and I would be very interested to see how Mascherato develops further. It certainly has the potential to go to the West End someday, and I am sure it would prove very popular.

The original score, by Michael Elderkin, is utterly wonderful. It's truly enchanting, and feels as if it should belong to a fairytale. Each song is unique in its own way, and there are several memorable tunes featured throughout. The song 'See Her Again', which depicts an army general reminiscing over memories of his deceased wife, proved to be a particular highlight. With a beautiful melody accompanied by heart-breaking lyrics, it is a real stand-out. From a narrative stand-point, the song also proves useful, as it really adds depth to the character of General Attilo, and makes his eventual fate all the more tragic. Additionally, James Spilling's rendition of it is completely faultless. Another highlight to be found within the score is 'What's in a Memory?', which is equally as heart-breaking. The lyrics of this song are both profound and haunting, and it proves to be very impactful emotionally.

Mascherato's story is very charming, and I very much enjoyed following the narrative as it went on. Despite not actually watching it, the show is easy to envision, which demonstrates that the storytelling was done very well indeed. Narration and dialogue featured throughout, and I felt that this proved beneficial in advancing, as well as helping the listeners to understand, the narrative. The characters featured are also well-written, and I really felt myself rooting for the main characters of Luca and Elena to succeed. My only slight critique of Mascherato's story would be its ending, which I would have liked to have seen more fleshed out. For example, towards the show's ending, the character of Lenadros, an Ottoman general, vows to murder Luca, and yet this confrontation never actually takes place. It should be noted however that, as previously stated, the show is still in development. As a consequence of this, plot points such as these may evolve, should Mascherato ever make it to the stage.

The cast of Mascherato are all excellent, and the performers all portrayed their characters very well. In spite of the fact we could not see the actors, there was still clear characterisation, which demonstrates the extent of their talents. Rob Houchen, as Luca, was remarkable, and really embodied the role flawlessly. The character's excitable nature really came through, which was well conveyed by Houchen. Beyond that, he also boasts an incredible voice, as seen through his rendition of 'What's in a Memory?'. Oscar Colon-Murray, as Corto, Timeo and Pasqualin, is also worthy of a special mention. Conlon-Murray portrayed three different roles, which is no easy task, and yet he did so with great skill. As a performer he is naturally funny, and that is evident throughout the recording.

Thanks for reading!

-The Basic Theatre Reviewer

Sunday, 19 July 2020

Online Theatre: 'The Grinning Man', 'Hamilton' and 'Newsies

Hey readers!
It's time for my mini-reviews of The Grinning Man, Hamilton and Newsies.

The Grinning Man

"The king is dead, but who the hell cares? A strange new act has arrived at the fair in the centre of the capital, a grotesque oasis of entertainment. Soon everyone from the gutter-rats to the new queen has fallen for the hand-made freak Grinpayne and his hideously beautiful face. But who is he really? And how did he come to be so marked? Together with an old man, a blind girl and wolf, he has a story to tell. A tale so tragic and so strange that not even he can guess how it will end."

I saw The Grinning Man during its run in London's West End, and was quite taken by it. It was an extremely unique show, and quite different from anything else playing in London at the time. One of the show's most commendable elements is its entirely original score, jointly composed by Carl Grose, Tom Morris, Tim Phillips and Marc Teitler. The music proves to be quite haunting, and is thus well-suited to the show's dark and gritty demeanour. The songs 'Beauty and the Beast' and 'Labyrinth' are among my personal favourites, with compelling lyrics and affecting melodies. In addition to this, the puppetry, directed and designed by Finn Caldwell and Toby Olié, is also quite incredible. The puppets are all extremely realistic, and really help the story spring to life.

The Grinning Man can no longer be watched on YouTube for free.


"The musical centres on the life of Alexander Hamilton, who was orphaned and moved to New York in hope of a better life. While there, the smart up-start impressed with his hunger for revolution and reform, to take the United States away from British forces. The story sees Hamilton become George Washington’s right-hand-man, fall in love, and go on to become the first Secretary of the Treasury of the United States."

I should begin this mini-review by outright stating that Hamilton is my favourite musical of all time; I have seen it live a grand total of four times, and I doubt I will ever tire of it. In my personal opinion, it is a true work of art, and I see it to be flawless in almost every aspect. The narrative of Hamilton is one I find to be extremely compelling for a variety of different reasons. First and foremost, each character featured within the show is captivating within their own right. They are all flawed individuals, but this is in fact what makes them so spellbinding. Secondly, Hamilton's story is important from a historical perspective. It tells the story of a mostly-forgotten Founding Father, and details his remarkable life in the most extraordinary way. The show gives us a fascinating insight into the American Revolution as well, and is a must-watch for all historians. The musical score, with music and lyrics by Lin Manuel-Miranda, is also exceptional. There's so many different layers to every single lyric, and the music does a phenomenal job at conveying the story in an effective manner. 

Hamilton can be watched on Disney+ here (please note that a subscription is needed in order to view): Hamilton.


"Homeless New York City newsboy Jack "Cowboy" Kelly (Christian Bale) befriends two newcomers to his trade, brothers David (David Moscow) and Les Jacobs (Luke Edwards). When publisher Joseph Pulitzer (Robert Duvall) sets new rules that make it harder for the young newspaper salesmen to make a buck, the boys go on strike."

The musical score of Newsies, written by Alan Menken and Jack Feldman, is utterly magnificent. There are some very meaningful and moving songs featured, which are particularly helpful at furthering character development. The song 'Santa Fe' was a particular highlight, and gave us a clear insight into Jack Kelly's hopes and desires. The choreography, by Christopher Gattelli, is flawless, and superbly carried out by a very talented ensemble of dancers. Their synchronisation with one another was remarkable, and the big dance numbers certainly made for enjoyable viewing. This production also benefitted from a stellar cast, all of which were incredible. The lead role of Jack was played by Jeremy Jordan, who proved phenomenal. Jordan has a marvellous voice, and his rendition of 'Santa Fe' was astonishing. 

Newsies can be watched on Disney+ here (please note that a subscription is needed in order to view): Newsies.

Thanks for reading!

-The Basic Theatre Reviewer