Romance Romance is a musical in two acts; The first takes place ‘in and around turn-of-the-century Vienna’ focusing on the relationship between Valentin and Alfred, both coming from wealthy backgrounds go in disguise to have an affair with someone from a poorer background but both fool each other and make up stories that in the end they both have to come clean. It turns out, because they both actually come from the same social background, they can be together but because the whole relationship is built on lies, will it work? The second act fast forwards to modern day and set in an apartment where two couples are shacking up for the summer in the Hamptons. We see two best friends, Jeremy and Sam, sharing details about their partners, Leonard and Benjamin, and their marriages. Hidden feelings come up and they come clean to each other but will their marriages survive? Act one was a true musical farce and the writing reflected this style through and through. The direction and choreography all embraced this style and it was a really enjoyable story to watch unfold, the devises used also really complimented the story and is executed incredibility well. Jordan Lee Davies plays Valentin with Blair Robertson playing Alfred, the connection they had was both romantic but also passionate which we loved to watch as an audience. In the second act we follow Ryan Anderson as Jeremy and Alex Lodge as Sam. What these two actors achieve is an underlying sexual tension the whole way through. We truly believed there was much more to the story than we were seeing. This act is far more modern in its style, considering it was originally written in the 1980’s it feels very current with the updates from the creative team. The flaws lay in the piece as a whole, the two acts stand alone very well separately but to put the two side by side makes us ask questions and the relevance between the two stories and what we can learn from comparing them. In the direction, none of the devises used made a return in the second act so it really felt like we were watching two completely different shows. Upon reflection I’m not sure what the relevance was between the two and it would have been nicer if the style and choices made in the first act could have followed through. Act one also could do with a few cuts, considering the length of Act Two it seems slightly out of place to have Act one the length that it is. Blair Robertson really plays his part well, his choices are quite different to those of his colleagues but it really blends so well with his characters. As Alfred in the first act, his vocals were really smooth and fitted the genre perfectly. Ryan Anderson plays Jeremy in the second act, considering this is only three days after the opening of the show he seems very comfortable and in control of his character. His solo number blew the roof off and pulled on your heart strings. Alex Lodge plays Anderson's best friend, Sam, and as an audience we see him totally torn on his choices. We’re behind him completely, even though what he is doing might not be the right thing to do! His vocals were effortless and stunning with some really strong acting, I’m sure we’ll be seeing a lot more from this actor. Jordan Lee Davies plays Valentin in the first act and he is a stand out in the show, his comedy timing is just perfect but what makes him a stand out is his ability to also make you feel his vulnerability and sensitivity at the same time. Even in his smaller part in Act 2, I couldn’t stop watching him. A 5 star performance from Davies. This is an enjoyable two parter with some fantastic performances from a super talented group of actors. Considering this show has been completely changed (it was actually original done with straight couples on Broadway) and completely modernised its a really charming piece with an interesting insight to some romantic relationships. Brilliant original and new musical theatre done well by a talented, intelligent and polished creative team. Review by Mark Swale Rating: ★★★★Seat: B13 | Price of Ticket: £27.50
March 15, 2019
Mark Goucher and first-time producer Jason Donovan have today announced that their brand-new production of the much-loved glittering hit musical Priscilla, Queen of the Desert the Musical will extend its UK tour dates through to 2020. The show, which was announced last year, and will star Strictly Come Dancingwinner Joe McFadden, will tour the UK and Ireland from September 2019. It marks Donovan’s first time as a producer, having performed in the cast of the original West End production and two subsequent UK tours. The producing team is completed by Gavin Kalin and Matthew Gale. Priscilla, Queen of the Desert the Musical will preview in Dartford from 5 September 2019.Full tour dates include: Dartford; Bradford; Rhyl; Milton Keynes; Wimbledon; Malvern; Blackpool; Leicester; Edinburgh; Liverpool; Inverness; Manchester; Brighton; Southampton; Plymouth; Nottingham; Dublin; Cambridge; Newcastle; Southend; Sheffield; Carlisle; Woking; Ipswich; Hull; Oxford; Birmingham; Northampton; Glasgow; Cardiff; Bristol. Full casting for the production has also been announced today. Previously announced Joe McFadden will play Tick/Mitzi, Laurence Olivier Award Winner Miles Western will take on the role as Bernadette and Nick Hayes will play Adam/Felicia. They are joined by Daniel Fletcher (Bob), Miranda Wilford (Marion), Kevin Yates (Miss Understanding), Jacqui Sanchez (Cynthia). The Divas will be played by Nikki Bentley, Claudia Kariuki, Rosie Glossop and the cast is completed by Jak Allen-Anderson, Natalie Chua, Emma Crossley, Jordan Cunningham, Martin Harding, Justin-Lee Jones, Nell Martin and Edwin Ray.The iconic hit musical has more glitter than ever before, featuring a dazzling array of stunning costumes, fabulous feathers and a non-stop parade of dance-floor classics including It’s Raining Men, I Will Survive, I Love The Nightlife, Finally and many more.Based on the Oscar-winning film, PRISCILLA is the hilarious adventure of three friends who hop aboard a battered old bus bound for Alice Springs to put on the show of a lifetime. Their epic journey is a heart-warming story of self-discovery, sassiness and acceptance. This brand new production comes from the team behind the critically acclaimed UK tours of Hairspray; with direction by Paul Kerryson, choreography by Tom Jackson-Greaves with designs by Phil R Daniels and Charles Cusick Smith, musical supervision by Stephen ‘Spud’ Murphy, musical direction from Sean Green, lighting design by Ben Cracknell and sound design by Ben Harrison. Casting by David Grindrod Associates.
March 15, 2019
‘The Ginger Snapped’ is Jinkx Monsoon’s newest tour following the total sell out tour of ‘The Vaudevillians’, and its not hard to see how Jinkx’s tours sell out. This cabaret showcases Jinkx’ and Major Scales’ second album (following the popular 2014 album ‘The Inevitable Album’) and is an absolute treat, from comedic genius, to serious attention to detail, before hitting you with a powerful and moving message that leaves you gasping for more.Jinkx Monsoon is the alter ego of Portland-born Jericho Hoffer, who is infamous for being a winner of season 5 of Rupaul’s Drag Race (RPDR). A notoriously strong year where you need considerable charisma, uniqueness, nerve and talent to get noticed, let alone win. And teaming up with Major Scale for ‘The Ginger Snapped’ oh do they prove they still ooze bucket loads of this. They dominate the stage like the true star they are with masterful comedic timing, bringing unpredictability whilst having the audience in the palm of their hand. One of the most memorable sections for me (being a RPDR fan) is their Bianca Del Rio section, leaving little time to recover between one laugh and the next, with the most memorable and deliciously shady quote of the evening with ‘Who’s Tyra?’It’s also easy to forget that whilst being a phenomenal drag queen, Jinkx has a stunning voice that truly dazzles. ‘This Town’ shines as the ballad of the night, giving me chills with flawless vocals! The album gives a great variety of song styles too, from musical theatre, to pop, to ballads. Jinkx and Major Scales deliver it fantastically and with class.That brings me to Major Scales (also known as Richard Andriessen). The musician, writer and performer from Seattle is a fantastic anchor for the show, serving as both the pianist and Jinkx’s therapist, fully complementing her fabulousness whilst having a couple of moments to shine, proving he’s a force to be reckoned with.Overall it is an absolute must to see, especially if you already are a RPDR fan. Even if you’ve never watched an episode in your life though, Jinkx and Major Scales’ professionalism and natural chemistry shine through giving an evening full of delight that makes you fall in love with them over and over again. Review by Adam YorkeRating: ★★★★★Seat: E16 | Price of Ticket: £23.25
March 14, 2019
9 to 5 originally ran on Broadway 10 years ago with Megan Hilty, Stephanie J Block and Allison Janney in the leading roles. This was followed closely with a UK tour production, similar to the broadway production but with a few tweaks and song changes. What is amazing is that it has taken 10 years for the show to finally make it to the West End, ever since I first heard the cast recording I have been dying to see it come to London, I got my wish and it is running at the Savoy Theatre in a ‘strictly limited season’. Inspired by the original 1980 film starring Dolly Parton, Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin, 9 to 5 tells the story of three work colleagues who find themselves having to conjure up a plan whilst they kidnap their boss and take over the office, running it the way it should be. The show is very relevant to whats going on in our world today; equality is a big factor to this show and its portrayed in such a crude way by Franklin Hart, Jr (played by Brian Conley) that it is shocking. Although the issues are important unfortunately the writing doesn't handle them in the best way, it comes across a little too crass when it could be a little more subtle. Franklin often tells random jokes over the course of the show that are sexist and they just feel like they’re in there for show and not for any contribution to the story. In saying this, what we expect from this show is exactly what you get. With the nature of the piece, it is going to attract a less theatre originated audience and more of a ‘hen party’ kind of scene. Keeping this in mind, it does exactly what it needs to do.The score, by Dolly Parton herself, is catchy and memorable. With some very Dolly style songs thrown in we can also enjoy some pure musical theatre songs too, Get Out and Stay Out has to be, in my opinion, one of the best songs in theatre. This production has been moved from the 70’s into the 80’s and the design doesn't let you forget that. The set was very innovative, particularly the framing of the theatre with the computer desks. But the costumes were just a little too much, the 80’s style was very much thrown in your face throughout the whole thing. Often costumes would match for some unknown reason and looked very un-naturalistic. Natalie McQueen is a star. She reminds you that this is a character and not an impersonation of Dolly herself. She manages to play the attributes of the character and adds so much of her own flare to it and with her brilliant comic timing, its a recipe for success. And on top of this, her voice is to die for. Her rendition of Backwards Barbie was by far one of the standout numbers of the show. Caroline Sheen plays the role of Violet, originally played by Lily Tomlin. She has clearly studied Tomlin and her portrayal of the character, not so much thats she’s copied her but she has the comedy element of the character down to a T! She brings a sarcastic and humorous side to the role whilst also bringing heart and vulnerability to it. Caroline leaves the show on the 23rd March where Louise Redknapp takes over the role. She sure has big shoes to fill, thats for sure! Amber Davies, from Love Island fame, plays the role originally played by Jane Fonda, Judy. Its slightly confusing that the point of the character is that she’s meant to have been a housewife for so long that she doesn't know how to fend for herself, although the part has been made 21 to suit Davies. It slightly takes away from the characters depth and we look at her more as a young, privileged rich girl rather than a struggling divorcee. But taking this all into consideration, Amber does do a good job in the role. Her vocals prove she is not just from a reality show but is a true musical theatre performer. I worry that her acting choices may be missed in a theatre this size, although I could see the cogs going I’m not sure anyone 5 rows back will see the same. Bonnie Langford returns after having previously played the role of Roz in the UK Tour of the show in 2012, she proves why she is West End royalty in this show. Her voice could challenge anyone in Theatre Land and her high kicks are in true Strallen Family style. Franklin Hart Jnr, is played by Brian Conley. Although I struggled to understand what he was singing or saying at times, he is very good in this role and really embraces the mean side of him. I must mention Christopher Jordan Marshall, who plays Joe, Violets love interest. His performance was really sweet and he showcased some beautiful vocals. Although this isn’t really an ensemble heavy show, when they were on it was slick and exciting. Special mentions to Victoria Anderson and Natasha Mould, I couldn't take my eyes off both of them. I realise I have unpicked this show a little however with the type of show it is and how it is presented, it actually does exactly what it says on the tin. Everything you’d want from a show like this, you get in this production. Its an uplifting show with catchy and memorable music. And to be honest, its two hours of escapism from this world. Which is exactly what this country needs right now. This may be a limited run but I have a feeling it might be hanging around for a little longer. Review by Mark Swale Rating: ★★★★Seat: Dress Circle, B4 | Price of Ticket: £77.50
March 13, 2019
After a hugely successful run on Broadway, Waitress finally has made its way into the West End. As one of the most anticipated shows of 2019, unfortunately this show doesn't live up to the hype and is at the bottom of the list of shows opening this year. The story follows Jenna, a waitress in a diner who bakes the most incredible pies. Her creativity and life is poured into the creation of these recipes and we see her express her problems through the baking of these pies. She falls pregnant with her abusive husband’s baby and ends up having an affair with her Doctor, Uh-Oh! Her two colleagues and friends, Becky and Dawn, Help her through this and end up with their own relationship stories. Sara Bareilles has written the score for the show and its beautiful, the music is perfect for the genre and tells the story with a wonderful intelligence and grace. Unfortunately the flaws in the show come from the Book by Jessie Nelson; the plot has huge holes in and so much of it just doesn't makes sense.The characters of Becky and Dawn felt half written, their stories could have been cut and made no difference to the final piece. For a start, they instantly knew Jenna was pregnant even though they say “We didn’t think you slept with your husband anymore”. It doesn't make sense and added nothing but confusion to the story. Marisha Wallace and Laura Baldwin gave brilliant performances however; Marisha plays Becky and her comic timing was on point and she provided power house vocals in her solo number in act 2. You couldn’t help but fall in love with Laura as Dawn, she sounded wonderful and had a geeky charm about her. Despite the girls incredible talents, they were let down by the writing of the roles, neither was very well rounded and there was a lot of strings left untied. We don’t know enough about Beckys husband even though he’s spoken about all the time and nothing is explained as to why Dawn wants to find a boyfriend even though she expresses all the reasons why she doesn’t want one. The Doctor, played by David Hunter, is written in a way that makes you fall in love with him. Brilliantly played by Mr Hunter, he comes across as slightly awkward but adorable with a vocal tone that was just perfect for this role. However when we find out he has a wife, the writing still leads to you believe he is a good person. Nothing about his marriage is explained other than his wife is a lovely lady and Jenna just forgives him and leaves it in a positive way. Although I admire how this storyline goes, there's so much missing from this and its frustrating from an audience point of view because there's things that have been completely missed by the writer. Dawns love interest Ogie, is played by Jack McBrayer of 30 Rock fame. Although his character and acting is 100% right for this role, his vocals were 100% wrong. The majority of his part involved a big musical number in which he was incapable of singing it. Katherine McPhee stars in the show as Jenna, although her voice is beautiful and is perfect for the score her acting falls flat. She has restrictions that means that she is unable to portray the emotions required in this role. The movement and choreography felt slightly out of place in this production, in such a naturalistic story and set the elements of the movement were very abstract and this wasn’t justified in the choices within the direction. This show features a pretty score sung and performed wonderfully by the cast, but the writing really lets this production down. In a time where we have some incredible and exciting things happening in the West End, Waitress may fall slightly flat in the mix. Review by Mark Swale Rating: ★★Seat: F12 | Price of Ticket: £72.50
March 07, 2019