West End stars Louise Dearman (Wicked), Tim Driesen (Never Forget), Gerard Carey (Masterclass) and Lucy Sinclair (We Will Rock You) are set to lead a workshop presentation of a brand new musical version of JM Barrie’s Peter Pan tomorrow.
The workshop, which will take place in front of an invited audience at the Lyric Theatre, Shaftesbury Avenue at 1pm on Thursday 28th June, will feature Dearman as Tinker Bell, Driesen as Pan, Carey as Hook and Sinclair as Wendy.
An ensemble of 35 other characters is played by a supporting cast of seven – Allyson Ava-Brown, James Ballanger, Natasha J Barnes, Matt Corner, Anthony Lawrence, Sion Lloyd and Kit Orton – working with a fast-paced, funny new script.
The workshop is directed by Christian Durham (Chicago, We Will Rock You), with movement by Lucie Pankhurst, musical direction by Dean Austin (Taboo, Zorro, Spamalot), casting by Anne Vosser and orchestrations by Tom Curran. Music, book and lyrics are by Jimmy Jewell, with additional book and lyrics by Nick Stimson.
Spellbound: Former Glinda Louise Dearman will appear as Tinker Bell
For further information about the workshop presentation, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
June 27, 2012
I stumbled across this cracking comic strip by Cailey on Tumblr. I love social media geekery.
I love Dolly Parton. I love her little Confucius-style Dollyisms, I love her music, I love the concept of Dollywood. So I’m pretty sure I’ll love the jukebox musical based on her hits, 9 to 5. I must emphasize that I am as critical of the jukebox musical trends as most other lovers of ‘proper’ theatre, but the bottom line is they do well, bring in money and possibly even enable producers to go on and produce something more organic. Plus, lots of them are good, clean fun. The plot is based on the 1980 movie of the same name, with Dolly’s soulful and perky country tunes leading the way for the narrative. Whether it turns out to be a foot-tapper or a flop in the UK, I would still love to be Dolly just for a day… she seems to have such fun with life as well as having such great singing and songwriting talent at the core.
Dolly spoke to BBC Breakfast this morning about 9 to 5, which will start its UK tour at Manchester’s Opera House in October 2012. God love her for a) not throwing a diva strop at being asked to sing and b) still sounding fantastic at 66 (yes…. sixty-bloody-six). The show’s run on Broadway earned it four Tony Award nominations, which speaks highly of it, and if it captures even a little of Dolly’s chutzpah and sparkle, it’ll be a great night out.
June 15, 2012
ALRA (the Academy of Live and Recorded Arts) is based in Wandsworth, south west London, and its third year Acting students are performing these two contemporary plays back-to-back, first at ALRA’s own theatre and then transferring to the nearby Tara Theatre.
Both plays dwell on adolescent sex. Blow jobs on a grubby rubbish tip, drug-deleted rape, sex in the dreams of a horny teenage boy, unprotected sex, naive sex – in the youthful world the ALRA students have created, everyone’s at it.
Apples, adapted by John Retallack from a novel by Richard Milward, is a gritty look at the debauchery and lust of a group of straight-talking teens, very much in the Skins vein. Slutty but charming Eve, miserable Claire, geeky Adam and wideboy Gary narrate their teenage experience in a series of pacy, brutally frank monologues.
The trouble I’ve always had with Skins, and have with Apples, is believing that all of this – daily sex, drugs and general rock’n'roll – is happening to one bunch of teenagers. Perhaps my teen experience was simply too vanilla, but the amount of action the gang get seems pretty hardcore for what appears to be lower-middle class Britain. Realism aside, the story is brilliantly acted, particularly by Maria Louis as Eve, who posesses more than a little Sheridan-Smith-esque star quality fairydust. Her cheeky expression and absolute comfort in her somewhat saddening role (Eve is quite the ‘village bicycle’) make her monologues the highlight of Apples.
Strong support is given by Alexandra da Silva as Eve’s downtrodden friend Claire, whose bleak musings on teen motherhood and being left behind by her friends have a touching sincerity to them. Craig Stratton as the sinister Gary is more than a match for Louis’ effortless Eve – he prowls round the set of rubbish bags, abandoned trolleys and mattresses, kicking rubbish in the air, swilling cheap lager and grabbing whatever he wants – usually his high-on-substances, low-on-self-esteem female classmates. Colour is added by Steph Georgeson as scouse tart Debbie and Ben Bland as the sweetly clueless Adam, though Bland’s acting does have more of a self-conscious, playing-for-laughs twinge than the grittier characters.
The material is bleak and melodramatic at times, but the voices of the characters are vivid and fully-formed, and this cast did a great job of getting the message across.
If You Really Love Me (by Mark Leiren Young) is more of a self-aware, physical representation of teen sex. Using DV8-style movement and a giant patchwork duvet as a backdrop, the cast of five pelt through relationship conundrums including buying condoms, saying you love someone to get laid, teen abstinence and loving the attention being known as easy brings.
This second piece was more scattered and less enjoyable for me – although my guest preferred the energy and inventiveness of it to the earlier play, so the ALRA group certainly offered something for everyone. Some of the dialogue was a little too knowing and preachy – “AIDS is a disease – it doesn’t care who you sleep with” – and the team felt like a particularly witty and lively educational theatre company which should be brought into high schools to shake up sex education a little.
The cast of five – Alexandra Agnew, Robbie Capaldi, Nell Clemency, Sarah Helena Ord and Alex Steadman – charge around the stage between mini-dramas, only stopping to spout quirky historical ideas about contraception. I felt this idea – the ‘if you really love me’ being that you’d sleep with someone there and then, regardless of precautions – could have been more focused and less time spent on other issues.
Both directors (Jack McNamara and Tara Robinson respectively) brought out the best in each performer and kept the material dynamic and engaging. The two sets – one cluttered, one simple – were functional and atmospheric, although not much of the story of Apples seemed set at the rubbish-strewn bridge created by designer Lauren Cameron. The lighting and sound were impeccable and the staging neat and effective.
While the overall combination of the two plays was intense and effective, I was left wishing some of the characters could have seen a bigger picture beyond their own lust, virginity or lack thereof. But that’s a pretty accurate impression of adolescence, isn’t it?
November 14, 2011
I was lucky enough to go along to the Phantom of the Opera 25th Anniversary concert last month, where I was romanced all over again by one of my earliest favourite musicals. Whether you’re largely pro- or anti-Lloyd Webber, you can’t deny the brilliance of the piece as a whole. Its (allegedly filched) arias and duets soar with gothic romance, its dashing goodie and twisted baddie are almost equally fanciable, Christine wears some stonking lingerie – in the movie version, at least – and don’t even get me started on the mist, gondolas and rogue chandeliers. The DVD of the Royal Albert Hall concert that marked the show’s quarter-century is released today and, WEG that I am, I’ve already bought my copy.
The 25th anniversary was as opulent and gaudy as the Opera Populaire should be – see my review here – although it lost a little of its haunting, wistful quality with all the projections and pyrotechnics. Still, it was worth any amount of Vegas-style pomp to see the chemistry explosion that is Ramin Karimloo and Sierra Boggess. Their voices were endlessly impressive, their performances intense and dedicated – this was the Ramin and Sierra show. I’d still rather see the Christine and Phantom show, but you can catch that at Her Majesty’s six nights a week. Incidentally, Karimloo is set to don his convict’s beard and move to Les Mis, and I’ll certainly be booking. Is he too hot to age 20 years and die over the course of an evening? Only time will tell, but he’ll certainly sing the roof off while attempting it.
If you love the music of Phantom, you’ll want to see this daring, fully-staged version. The four tenors’ version of The Music of the Night (featuring Colm Wilkinson, Anthony Warlow, John Owen-Jones and Peter Jöback) at the end was also gorgeous – although you’ll have to grit your teeth through Sarah Brightman’s part-hilarious, part-disturbing appearance. It was sort of Mariah Carey meets Bride of Chucky, via that Whitney Houston appearance on the X Factor. And all with that same 80s hair.
Anyway, some fabulous performances and a sumptuous budget make a fitting celebration of Phantom, and while I don’t think they quite topped the Les Misérables 25th anniversary in terms of emotion and tribute, they certainly had a better casting team. Still shuddering at the thought of Jonas. Enjoy the DVD and let me know your thoughts!
June 19, 2011
Written for The Public Reviews
Sophie-Louise Dann has had a varied musical theatre career, with Forbidden Broadway, 42nd Street and Anything Goes all on her CV, as well as extensive concert and opera work. We chatted about her latest role as diva Diana Divane in new West End gem Lend Me a Tenor.
It’s a fast-paced farce set in the glamorous Thirties in Cleveland, Ohio, where at the opera house there is a great anticipation for a fantastic production of Verdi’s Otello, starring Tito Merelli, who is the biggest star of the day – like Pavarotti, but in the Thirties. Things start to go wrong for Henry Saunders, the general manager, because Tito Merelli is missing. Saunders is on the brink of bankruptcy so if Tito doesn’t turn up, the whole world goes upside down. Throw into the mix my character, Diana Divane, the diva of the opera house, who sees this opportunity as her step up the ladder. Max (played by Damien Humbley) has to step into the shoes of Tito Merelli, with much high jinks and shenanigans involving the drug Phenobarbitol and wine, and lots of chaos ensues.
And the play was a farce originally, with a score written for this production?
The play was a hit in 1986, written by Ken Ludwig. It actually played at the same theatre we’re at now – it was then called the Globe, it’s now the Gielgud – so it’s sort of come back home. I have to say, Brad Carroll’s score is brand new but it sounds like a Gershwin or Berlin classic. What our show invokes is the glamour and the ostentation of the Thirties in America. It’s a feelgood show. It looks beautiful – I get to wear the most glamorous frocks you’ve ever seen, as well as some rather naughty underwear! I have a knockout number in Act 2, May I Have a Moment, which is the song you wait a lifetime to sing. It’s a spoof on lots of operatic arias, so if there are any opera lovers out there, I think they’re going to love it too.
It had its first run at the Theatre Royal Plymouth, with much the same cast. Did you know at that time it was going to do so well?
I’ve worked with the director, Ian Talbot, many times during my career. First of all at Regent’s Park, as an actress, and then at the D’Oyly Carte as an opera singer. We’ve sort of followed each other, and it was lovely when this came along because he thought I was right for the part, and I’ve been thrilled to be involved with the project from page to stage. Nothing is certain in this climate, but I think the passion, as well as the monetary investment, in this show is tangible. It’s a fantastic company; I know it’s a cliché but we’re like a big family. I think that’s key element with farce, because it needs to have a rhythm, it needs team work. That’s actually led from the top with our wonderful Matthew Kelly.
“My absolute joy that I have is being able
to do something original, to put my stamp on something”
Has it been fun working with Matthew?
If I weren’t married to my husband, I’d be touting for Matthew Kelly. He is absolutely the most wonderful, lovely, happy, committed… there are too many adjectives. I can’t praise him enough. The ideal colleague.
You’ve also done Forbidden Broadway in the past – how much fun was that?
Oh my goodness – so much fun. I was lucky enough to do it twice, and it was incredible. That, for me, is everything I’m about. It’s fast-paced, it’s funny and I also love doing cabaret. So to be in such an intimate space with all those fast changes and wisecracks is just brilliant.
What was your favourite show to parody?
I had a favourite character – I loved Julie Andrews. It was quite clever because we spoofed Mary Poppins. I think that was my favourite, in my heart of hearts.
You also appeared in the film version of Phantom of the Opera. That must have been exciting.
I certainly did. I think it’s a sort of blink-and-you’ll-miss-me appearance! But again, dream frocks, and just being involved in the whole process of making a movie is something special. Because of course I’m theatre and concert and opera-based, it was amazing to be on set and see it all happen.
The Stage has compared you to performers like Kristin Chenoweth and Liza Minnelli. Do you think it’s rare for women to be great singers and funny too?
I think it’s a real gift that I’ve been given. I’ve been fortunate enough to work with directors who work to my strengths. It’s tough out there, but if you can find your niche – I think you have to believe in yourself and speak to your gut, play to your strengths. I’m constantly humbled by the comparisons, but it’s absolutely lovely if that’s what people think. I absolutely adore comedy. I’ll tell you what it is, it’s working with a live audience, because what they give you, you can feed off. Just to come on every night and do my number in the show – it’s all the little nuances, and people pick up on different things. It’s fantastic to play every night; I wouldn’t give it up for anything.
“It’s tough out there, but if you can find your niche –
I think you have to believe in yourself and play to your strengths”
What’s next for you after Lend Me a Tenor?
Hopefully we’ll be there for a while, so I’m committed to this project for the moment, and we’ll see what happens thereafter. I do lovely concert work with the BBC Concert Orchestra and Radio 2, so hopefully it’s more of the same. I’m always happy to sing beautiful classics. I wear a lot of hats, and it’s just nice when I’ve got one on for a bit, and I can go, ‘this is me.’
What musical theatre roles would you love to play?
I’m a bit of a different animal; my absolute joy that I have is being able to do something original, to put my stamp on something. There are musicals of the Fifties that have wonderful scores. One was recently revived, Bells Are Ringing, which a friend of mine played, AJ Casey. All the hard hitters like Evita or Piaf, that’s not what I’m about – I’m a real comedy girl. Just great new material, bring it on.
Top photo: Tristram Kenton
Lend Me a Tenor is at the Gielgud Theatre. Click here or call 0844 482 5130 for tickets.
May 9, 2011
by guest blogger Emma West
Do you know the Muffin Man? He lives on Drury Lane. As does the brand new musical version of Shrek, previewing at the Theatre Royal since last Friday. It follows the story familiar to any Dreamworks movie fan: a large green ogre named Shrek (Nigel Lindsay) lives in a swamp that is invaded by homeless fairytale characters evicted from their homes by evil Lord Farquaad (Nigel Harman). In order to remove them from his home, Shrek is challenged by Lord Farquaad to bring him Princess Fiona (Amanda Holden). Of course the story would not be complete without many clever jokes, Donkey (Richard Blackwood) and a host of other characters including the Gingerbread Man, Pinocchio, and Dragon.
The overwhelming feeling after seeing this version of the musical is that it isn’t quite there yet, but has all of the ingredients for a massive hit. The music is beautiful and tells a much deeper story than the original movie. The set, sound and lighting effects are fantastic and the chorus was brilliant, with bundles of energy and comic timing. A lot of effort has gone into this show looking spectacular, the costumes and choreography work well together.
A special mention must be given to the Dragon, voiced well but created amazingly by the people who brought ‘War Horse’ to the stage. She is a wonder to be seen and is mesmerising. Harman’s Lord Farquaad is an outstanding performance (especially as he spends the duration on his knees). He really steals the show, and his dancing, singing and acting were near faultless.
Unfortunately, he stands out all the more due to the lack of energy from the rest of the principle cast. Blackwood does justice to the character of Donkey, synonymous with Eddie Murphy; he acts it well but he seems lacking in confidence in his musical numbers. Lindsay and Holden are missing something more. At times the acting loses pace, the musical numbers are spoken more than sung and those that are sung have the more than occasional bum note.
With all due respect to Holden, who is loved by many for her role on Britain’s Got Talent, she is possibly miscast here. she has worked very hard and it shows, but I would have preferred to see an unknown with a far superior voice rather than a celebrity who is trading on her name to pull in an audience. As for Lindsay, he gave a good performance, but Mike Meyers made this character funny and sadly nothing new was brought to the stage. His clear discomfort in the fat suit was also unfortunate.
Overall, I would highly recommend Shrek to all, especially those who love the movie. There are some cracking jokes and you are left on a high, singing “I’m a Believer” on your way out of the theatre. I would suggest waiting a few months for all of the teething problems to disappear, or even for a cast change. Enjoyable enough, but with the potential to be much better in a few months’ time.
April 20, 2011
Originally written for The Public Reviews
At just 27, Michael Bruce has been making waves on the musical theatre scene since his debut concert in 2009, and his recently-released album Unwritten Songs had critics and fans buzzing with enthusiasm. WEG chats to him about enjoying his success and what’s next.
You first attracted attention when you won the Notes for the Stage writing competition in 2007. What made you enter?
I was working as a musical director on a cruise ship at the time, and a friend of mine told me about it. I had a little bit of leave so I came back to the UK and I thought, I’ll write something and send it off. I’d always been writing songs, and started writing musicals towards the end of my uni education [at LIPA.] I’d already had a show up in Edinburgh, Hey Diddle Diddle, which was a really good first example of putting something in front of an audience that might not work. It worked in a lot of ways, but it wasn’t as well received as I’d been led to believe that it may have been. When you’re at uni, you’ve got very sort of narrow perspective on the entire industry and what the public want, so it was quite a learning curve I think. It was one of the reasons I realised I always need to work with a book writer, because I’d done it all myself and the book was the weakest bit. But it wasn’t until I entered Notes for the Stage that my writing career kind of kicked off.
I know they say you should never have favourites, but do you have secret love for one particular track on Unwritten Songs?
It depends, you see – on the album it’s different to doing live. Because they’re theatre songs, things sometimes don’t translate so well in recording as they do live. Besides Portrait of a Princess, which is probably the most notorious, I’m quite proud of Continental. That’s one of the ones that definitely works better in person, but I think it works quite well on the album. Then I guess Unwritten Song, the last one on the album and the last one that I wrote. I always write for characters; I know the journeys, who the people are, and I can say what I want to through them, but it’s always someone else. Then I had a really weird year last year, I lost family members and things, and it was Paul [Spicer] who suggested I write about that. It was difficult, but I did it. And actually I’m really proud of it because it is more autobiographical than the rest of my work. Completely honestly, ‘Unwritten Song’ was what we’d put at the bottom of the set list because I hadn’t written it yet, but then we thought that would be a really good name, because it was the song that I never wanted to have to write.
Portrait of a Princess is up to 69,000 views on YouTube (view here). Did you ever think that it would get so much attention?
I hoped, because I knew it was something new and because it hadn’t been done before in such a musical theatre context. I guess you always set about to do these things with the view that they will do really well, because what’s the point of doing it if not? I was surprised about how well it’s been received, so quickly. I suppose part of me thinks, well, it should be. I didn’t do the video; I was in meetings about the whole process and how it was going to be, but I was away when it happened, and I owe a lot to the people who produced it and were in it. I don’t feel like it’s something that’s just mine, I think it belongs to everybody who was involved. So I’m pleased it’s doing well for their sake as well as mine.
How does it feel to have the support of people like Stephen Fry?
It’s great. I’d met Stephen once before with Julie, just socially, listening to a bit of my music and things. It’s incredible for somebody that high profile to really get behind this sort of work. He’s really supportive of my writing and musical theatre, and I’m really glad that he managed to come and see the launch, and see what I do, because it’s hard sometimes to get across. That’s why I’m so pleased to have the album now, because for so long you’re saying, “I sort of write this, and I do that,” but unless people are hearing it for themselves, I think it’s difficult to sell yourself as a writer. It’s like I really exist now.
Most of the tracks on Unwritten Songs are cabaret heaven. Will sheet music be available?
Yes – imminently. That’s so exciting, because it’s like you exist even more then, and people will start being able to do the songs. I’m lucky in a way because some people have got hold of the music already, so sometimes I’ve been in an audition where somebody’s sung one of my songs, which is really surreal. I don’t sit on a lot of audition panels anymore, but I’m looking forward to people in drama schools hopefully picking up the songbook and maybe doing it for things. That will help with the album, and the album will help the songbook. I feel bad, because people have been emailing me for the last two years asking for the sheet music for Portrait of a Princess.
How do you go about selecting the actors to sing each song? Were many written with people in mind, or did you just write them and allocate later?
We’ve done a lot of sitting around, thinking about who should sing what songs. Portrait of a Princess was written for Julie, so that was a no-brainer. Some of the other ones were people I worked with – I worked with Ross Hunter on one of the Confused.com adverts [for which Michael arranged the music], and he was so great in the studio that I thought, why don’t we get him to take part? A lot of them are from the Apollo concert two years ago. I remember Emily [Tierney] came and did Continental about two weeks before, because we still hadn’t found anyone who could sing it, and she just nailed it from day one. I’d written that quite a while ago and never found the right voice for it, and then she was it. We tried to find people who were different in their own way and who had come from a slightly different background. We seem to have quite a lot of people from Wicked, but that’s just because a lot of the good people seem to have passed through that show at one time or another! I’ve known Ashleigh [Gray] for years, and she’s a great one.
Have you done much acting or singing yourself?
I did, when I went to uni I started out as a singer-songwriter; I had my own band that were very short-lived and I did a lot of solo piano stuff, singing and playing. I did some things at uni, but professionally since. I remember once, on the cruise ship, having to go on in one of the shows because there were so many people off ill. They had nobody to cover and I had to go on in a production of Buddy and play a backing singer. Before all that I did dancing, that’s how I started out on the stage when I was younger. I was Scottish champion in highland dancing but I did ballet and tap, and modern and jazz and all that stuff too. It was how I started out with showbiz, I guess.
Do you think things like Twitter and online ventures like M Magazine are making things easier for people starting out and working in musical theatre?
Oh definitely. What Twitter’s doing is pulling a [theatre] community together and making everybody aware of what’s going on. What’s great about what we’ve done with the Portrait of a Princess video, it’s sort of pushed itself out of that little sphere and into the wider marketplace. That’s the most exciting thing, because Stephen Fry can say, “Check Michael’s video out,” and he’s got over 2 million people following. It’s free advertising, and it’s that thing of being able to get a community together. With writers, for instance – there are a few of the people who are around at the minute who get in touch with each other on Twitter, and I can only suppose it’s going to get better.
Do you have a muse? Or anyone who you’d love to write a song for in future?
I don’t have a muse, so that’s open if somebody wants to be one! I don’t like writing with people, to be honest. I like collaborating with a book writer on a musical, and I like being in rehearsals and being in a company, but when it comes to actually writing I like to be on my own for that. That’s why I do music and lyrics; I don’t tend to like to collaborate on that, because I find it just makes it much longer and it ends up less good, there’s just more editing going on. There are people who I’d like to see do my songs that I have already; I’d love to see Kristin Chenoweth try Continental. They make stars in America in a way that the West End don’t, because in the West End they take stars from TV and they stick them in shows, but the theatre in New York manages to create stars of its own. A legend like Bernadette Peters would be great to write for. We’ll see.
Would you be thrilled or horrified if Glee featured your songs?
I would love it. I’m half-hoping they get hold of Portrait of a Princess. Maybe I could be on Glee!
Which musicals and writers have influenced you in your career?
Well, my dissertation was on Sondheim and the craft of songwriting, and specifically Sunday in the Park with George, but with reference to other composers at the time such as Jason Robert Brown, Michael LaChiusa and Adam Guettel. So all of their work, probably. And I love Andrew Lloyd Webber as well. When I was studying, there was a bit of stigma attached to that. The tutors always pick Sondheim because it’s very good acting material, but I think Andrew Lloyd Webber has got some great stuff as well. I think what he does is write memorable tunes in a way the mass market are able to relate to. Growing up I loved Diane Warren, who is a pop songwriter. I saw a documentary video about her life and how she worked and everything, and I watched it constantly. She wrote How Do I Live Without You, Don’t Wanna Miss a Thing, Because You Loved Me, lots of 80s and 90s stuff. She did a lot of ballads.
Tell me about Much Ado About Nothing, which you’re working on with Catherine Tate and David Tennant. Is it quite a shaken-up version?
I’m not sure how much I’m allowed to talk about what we’re actually doing with it, but we’re in week two of rehearsals now and it’s going to be really good fun. Really accessible Shakespeare. The two stars, Catherine and David, are lovely and really, really good – I can’t actually express how good they are. But it’s going to be good, fun, summery stuff. It’s almost sold out already, so it’s going to have a good atmosphere, hopefully. Of all the Shakespeares that have been around recently I think it will probably be one that everybody can take something away from. Every scene is great. There are songs in it, and there will be more songs than are in the original – there is a lot of music in it, I can say that. It’s not a musical theatre twist, though.
What’s next for you after Much Ado?
It runs until September, but I’m done on press night. Then I’m doing another gig at the Pheasantry in June, and I’m working on a new show for the Bush Theatre [where he is resident composer] but that’s in its infancy stages at the minute. Then there are a few other bits and bobs of projects that I can pick up again. The Pheasantry gig is a sort of ‘unplugged’ reworking of the album, with some extra bits. I’m going to perform a little bit as well. At the Apollo gig I sang a couple of songs, but what was important about the album was that it wasn’t about my performance, because I’m not Mark Evans or whoever, but I’d quite like to perform some stuff at this one.
What’s the best show you’ve seen lately and why?
Clybourne Park. It was just fabulous, really special. And as they were in Wyndham’s just before us, it was nice to be in the theatre and kind of soak up the surroundings a little bit. But that play itself is just so well done.
What would you say has been the absolute highlight of your career so far?
Probably the Apollo concert [A Little Less Ordinary] in 2009. That was a pretty special night, and I had all of my family there. It all seemed to come together and the atmosphere was just electric that night, I remember, the reaction of the audience. The Delfont Rooms were great as well, but they were so much more intimate and small in scale. The Apollo was one of those moments where it was just kind of, “Wow.” It felt quite epic for me and I enjoyed it, which I thought I wouldn’t. I actually had a lovely time.
Where do you hope to be in 5 years’ time?
I would like to have written some hit musicals, I think. The main plan is that I write. It’s great having the album with stuff from shows, but to have proper, full-scale shows produced and running, either here in the West End or New York – that’s where I want to go. I also want to keep doing comedy, I love doing it and it’s one of the things that keeps me going. I did a show last year, The Great British Country Fete, which a lot of West End people didn’t really know. It was at the Bush Theatre and went on tour and to Latitude festival, and it was a three-hander. I wrote it with the comedian Russell Kane, and it was the height of silly comedy. I’ve never laughed as much as when doing rehearsals for that. It was ridiculous in the way that Continental is ridiculous; it’s just my sense of humour. I also want to cross into film a little bit, but in a new way. It’s early days to talk about it, but I’m looking at making a film out of one of the projects. It will be a musical film, but that’s just a new avenue I’m starting to journey down, which is a bit exciting. A whole new ballgame.
Michael’s next gig, an acoustic reimagining of Unwritten Songs, is at The Pheasantry on June 19th. Tickets £20, contact 0845 602 7017 or Click Here
Unwritten Songs is available from iTunes, Amazon and Dress Circle. The songbook will be available from May 23rd.
It’s very strange when a new show comes out, as the trickle of feeling about it from tweets and preview-goers can give you a real sense of whether it has come together or not. I have followed The Wizard of Oz, like most people, since Over the Rainbow cast its star Danielle Hope last year, and since previews started (it officially opened on Tuesday), there has been a noticeable silence on the subject in cyberland. I expected people to be raving, but all I’ve heard is that Hannah Waddingham is AMAZING in it, and she has this INCREDIBLE song, and WE LOVE HANNAH WADDINGHAM. (Don’t get me wrong, I also love her, but I’m really bored of this kind of bland hype without judgement on their various performances.) So how horrified was I when this clip came to my attention; a clip of said AWESOMEAMAZINGPILEOFYAY song. The Wicked Witch’s Red Shoes Blues.
Waddy is certainly working her ass off to make the moment appealing, but the song is just… nothing. I kept waiting for it to begin. There is nothing memorable, no wow-factor about it, and some of the lyrics are pretty poor, the rhymes downright cringey. It is dire. So if this is the highlight I keep hearing so much about, I’m very concerned for the show’s fate. On top of this, a friend then posted this just-released footage from the show in general.
I had thought when some of the cast performed at the Royal Variety Show that there was something a bit repetitive, flimsy and less-than-dazzling about the material; even Danielle’s much-rehearsed Somewhere Over the Rainbow felt as if it had gone down a notch since the reality show. This video just leaves me speechless; PR footage is supposed to tempt people to the theatre, show some of the magic and leave the glorious singing stuck in our heads. Much of the costume, acting, and to some extent, the set, just look amateur in this clip. The singing (WHY always the Merry Old Land? It’s the worst part of the film, minus the horses) seems thin and lacklustre, the tempo odd. The hurricane moment looks like making the best of a bad job, and the Emerald City costumes are unshamedly, obviously ripped off from Wicked‘s. But without any of its dark, grotesque edge (and soul-stirring score.) It appears to be truly, truly dire.
Now, I must emphasize that I am saying it LOOKS dire. You can’t deliver a damning review without having been to see the show, and it has largely received 3 stars or more from critics (maybe they felt Andrew didn’t deserve two critical flops in a row). But the people whose job it was to put this together had one objective: to show the best bits, and leave people wanting more. They left me mildly shocked that so much money has been spent on this, and fairly glad I hadn’t booked tickets already. PR fail doesn’t quite cover it.
February 25, 2011
Guys & Dolls (New Theatre, Cardiff)
Chess (Bristol Hippodrome)
The History Boys (New Theatre)
Buddy (Bristol Hippodrome)
We Will Rock You tour (Wales Millenium Centre)
Look out for them if you’re a South West-er!