The eek-worthy rumours are true! Idina Menzel has added a London date to her current tour! The Elphaba-creating, Maureen-mooing, Enchanted-starring, barefoot-singing goddess of musical theatre will grace us with her presence (at the Royal Albert Hall, no less) on 6th October. Never have I so wanted summer to hurry the hell up.

Idina MenzelIf you’re not already a huge Idina fan – firstly, get off of my blog. Secondly, this would mean you have missed out on her basically unbeatable performance in Wicked, her show-stealing portrayal of Florence in Chess in Concert (also at the RAH) AND her fabulous cameo as Vocal Adrenaline coach/Gay Dads’ babymama on Glee. Not to mention her definitive performance as Maureen in the original cast and wonderful movie version of Jonathan Larson’s Rent.

As well as being musical theatre royalty, Idina has come out with two very respectable pop-rock albums, including some great tracks on the 2008 release, I Stand. As someone who has never caught her in a show, and fearing she might be settling down to family life more and more with hot hubby Taye Diggs and baby Walker, I am definitely not missing this one.

Videos of Idina live (and her assertion in the Daily Mail that she will go barefoot to perform) suggest she is passionate, committed and almost spiritual when commanding the stage.

The show, ‘a diverse repertoire of musical theatre and classic pop favourites’, will no doubt include some Rent, some Wicked, and maybe a little Funny Girl. I have my fingers crossed for all three. As well as the sheer strength and clarity of Idina’s voice, we will also be treated to the Royal Philharmonic Concert Orchestra, led by songwriting legend Marvin Hamlisch. Lucky London.

Idina, charming as always, recorded this little video message for her London fans (with the help of Mr Diggs):

Tickets are £25-75. Call 0845 401 5045 or book at http://www.royalalberthall.com/

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I wasn’t her biggest fan on Over the Rainbow*, but Lauren Samuels has certainly come a long way. Check out this clip of her riffing her socks off in the studio on composer Chris Passey‘s album, due out this year:

I also heard good things about La Samuels in The Last Five Years earlier this year – my guest reviewer Tom was certainly impressed. Maybe she’s a grower, or perhaps she just needs the right role. I think she comes off a bit Rachel Berry (ruthless ambition glowing in her eyes) – so if they ever make Glee: the musical, she’s a shoe-in.

*(I thought she lacked the charm and humility for Dorothy, not to mention that traumatic ending to her I Could Have Danced All Night)

This time last week I had the pleasure of interviewing Julie Atherton, who I’ve long admired since seeing her early on in Avenue Q and later in The Last Five Years. She’s performing at The Pheasantry on the Kings Road tonight and tomorrow night, and although she didn’t give much away in our chat, you can bet it will be a stunning show.

Since then two more pieces of Atherton news have popped up (every interviewer’s nightmare – just missing the big questions by a week): her biggest solo gig to date at the Apollo Theatre on 26th June, and her casting as Sister Mary Robert in the Sister Act UK tour.

Julie had hinted at a tour in our interview, but news of this role came as a surprise.  It was posted on the BroadwayWorld message boards and confirmed by the lady herself on Twitter today. Not many people have both the charm and the lungs for the role originated by Katie Rowley Jones, but Miss Atherton has oodles of both. I’m really looking forward to seeing what she brings to it.

Julie Atherton As Julie has focused her energy on performing and promoting new work, mainly in London and on the fringe, for the past few years, a regional tour should earn her many more fans.

I had a great time at Sister Act when I went in its first week, and thought it closed far too quickly. We still haven’t found out who will be our Deloris – I have my fingers crossed for some fabulous unknown talent from the open auditions – but with this piece of news further casting announcements can’t be far behind.*

Look out for a review of the Apollo gig on here – I’m looking forward to seeing Julie paired with guests such as Daniel Boys for some great songs; she has impeccable taste when it comes to up and coming musical theatre. She’s set to perform tracks from her brilliantly-received album No Space for Air, alongside songs from her most famous shows. Favoured composers Lance Horne and Michael Bruce will even pop up to accompany her, and Richard Fleeshman is taking a break from his Ghost duties to join her for a duet.

Congrats to Julie on the new role, the new concert, and her Pheasantry shows this weekend. If you aren’t yet a fan, get yourself to one of these – I promise you will be afterwards.

*Rumours are rife that Deloris will be played by Cynthia Erivo of Umbrellas of Cherbourg fame. Cynthia reportedly announced the casting in a tweet some weeks ago – unlike the demure Patina Miller, she’s pretty outspoken on Twitter, so WEG has high hopes for some Van Cartier attitude! However, the tweet and a blog post about it have both been removed, so this isn’t 100% official.

The theatrical among us are often likely to be fairly romantic, waffley and write in a constant stream of thoughts. There are ample theatre bloggers out there; some, like me, have tried to keep to a more magazine-y format of reviews, interviews and theatre features. Others are bold enough just to offer their thoughts on life, art and love. Here is my pick of the theatrical blogosphere…

Gavin Creel Click on the little thought-bubble logo at the top and you’ll read the Hair star’s well-documented thoughts and opinions. One of the chattier, more off-the-cuff blogs on this list, as the actor/bloggers tend to be. But be warned: Gav never met a capitalised word that he didn’t like.

Alexandra Silber This post caught my eye a while ago, for being very frank and cathartic-sounding. Actress and singer Silber blogs about people in her life, her work, and even charming little lists of her favourite things.

Jason Robert Brown On the other side of the piano, but as much of an artiste as the actor types, JRB’s blog is great reading. He uses it to post setlists from his gigs, answer fan questions and set the record straight about pretty much anything. An essential for the hardcore admirer [that would sound less creepy if they had a ‘Renthead’-style name. JRBrains? Answers on a postcard.]

Mark Evans Time for a Brit. Our brand spanking new Fiyero has been blogging about the build-up to taking on the role. He also uses the space to answer fan questions and give an insight into his work. I loved him in Oklahoma last year and really hope to catch him in Wicked soon.

West End Whingers Absolutely, 100% reviewing Marmite. I’ve heard seething accounts and raucous praise for these gents, but I’ve always found it to be a witty read, and a fab alternative to the mainstream, greying purist critics’ drivel that Michael Coveney keeps banging on about.

Love Theatre A young, fresh, British perspective on the theatre world. As well as reviews and interviews, check out the most recent post for Catherine’s guide to getting your thespian fix on a shoestring budget.

Kooman & Dimond This writing duo (and winners of the 2010 Larson Award) blog from New York blog about people singing their songs, preparations for their musical Dani Girl, and recently & passionately, on the closure of Broadway show The Scottsboro Boys.

Ought to Be Clowns For reviews with a pulse, (see again Coveney’s flatlining efforts), this blog opens reviews with a meaningful quote, and deconstructs a production in a chatty, accessible way.

Life & Musicals Looking for someone who blogs with their heart on their sleeve, but remains articulate (and punctuated)? That’s Ava. My only criticism would be that she doesn’t blog enough!

So to summarize, Michael Coveney can kiss my West End butt; bloggers and online reviews enrich my cultural experience, send me off on different creative paths and often offer the most stripped-down, honest opinions on the industry.

If you’d like to add your blog to my list, just comment below with a link and a quick summary of your site.

GeekTube

January 9, 2011

One of the reasons I started West End Geek was that I became increasingly aware of a new breed of theatregoer that was young, enthusiastic and genuinely wanted to spend their money on seeing as many shows as possible. This is a generation that has nothing to do with the fusty, middle-aged white men writing reviews for the broadsheets, but who get excited about new talent, talk in terms of original casts, revivals and favourite leads, and who quite possibly perform themselves, be it Am-dram or training professionally. Joining Twitter last year, I found a buzzing community of people putting out 140-character reviews, reporting from opening nights and sharing news and gossip. This online wave of theatre-geekery has enabled us to come out of the closet, share our love of all things sparkly, perky and camp and discover fabulous voices and performances every day.

YouTube video Brandweer Nederweert

YouTube: hot stuff

Added to this is the wonder of YouTube. There are billions of videos out there by musical theatre fans; some are clever homages to certain shows, some behind-the-scenes nosy, some dodgily-recorded clips of shows. I’m not praising or promoting these bootleg vids, but it is darn useful to confirm whether you want to see a certain new lead, for instance. If you search around for something normal (a Wicked clip, for example) you’ll often find something crazy (someone has genuinely put together an ‘Elphaba-off’ – matching clips of the same ambitious parts of Defying Gravity sung by different actresses).  Here are ten vids you might enjoy – don’t worry, no Rachel Berry-style home performances…

Kerry Ellis and Brian May talk about her recent album, Anthems

Kez and Brian chat about the production process, cut in with lots of clips of her doing her thing. Always good to appreciate someone who is every bit as good live in the studio as the final cut.

Wickeder – Forbidden Broadway

Not strictly video, but this audio clip of the hilarious Wicked parody by the creators of witty cabaret Forbidden Broadway is an absolute geekfest. Not only are the vocalists spot on in their roasting of Idina and Kristin, but the lyrics are phenomenal and the tale of their competition for Broadway darling and Tony Award winner is brilliantly summarized.

Angeline sings Les Miserables

Hilarious because my sisters and I also sang along to this epic musical in the car as little-uns, 5-year-old Angeline gives a strong performance as Convict 1, Javert AND Jean Valjean while listening to the opening of the show. A WEG in the making.

Good Morning Voldemort

What do you get when you cross a crazed Harry Potter fan with a crazed Hairspray fan? This bizarre version of Tracy Turnblad’s belter of a song is oddly brilliant. Even if the miming is slightly hysterical.

Oklahoma Cast do Lady Gaga

Being on tour can do funny things to you. Luckily this cast’s dose of crazy was also ha-ha funny, as they recreated Lady Gaga’s Telephone video almost frame-by-frame. Some exceptional dancing, miming and direction here, a world away from Surrey with the Fringe on Top.

Lea Salonga’s audition for Miss Saigon

This is fascinating as a piece of musical theatre history; Lea Salonga was only 17 when she auditioned for the lead role in Miss Saigon (during the producers’ international search for a young Asian star) and her voice is already so beautiful and pure in this clip. A few months of rehearsal later, you can also see her promotional performance on Wogan as the show opened in 1989.

Legally Blonde on Broadway

Legally Blonde was one of the first musicals to use TV to increase its profile. MTV broadcast the whole production, available in parts on YouTube, and then created a casting show to find the next Elle Woods. This was the first time I’d seen a televised, well-filmed stage show, and I think it really works (without decreasing the appeal of the live version) – when it came to London I knew I wanted to see it.

Prop 8: The Musical

When California’s ‘Proposition 8’ was passed in 2008, revoking the right of same-sex couples to marry legally in the state, there was outrage throughout the entertainment industry as well as the gay community. Marc Shaiman decided to write a witty musical about the issue, and this genius clip stars Jack Black and Neil Patrick Harris among others.

Ghost: the musical preview

This hotly-anticipated musical has truly milked its online coverage, but luckily the songs sound fab. Watch my girl-crush Caissie Levy, Sharon D. Clarke and the creative team showcase the material on this film about their Abbey Road studio sessions.

Cheno on Glee

For anyone else who thought Kristin Chenoweth was the absolute highlight of Glee’s season 1 guest stars, this is a cute little insight into the filming of her first episode. For my all-time favourite, Chenoweth moment, see Taylor the Latte Boy.

Can’t wait to see…

December 1, 2010

Shrek the Musical. The West End could use another dose of humour and fantasy – Wicked’s still a classic, but we’re about due something new. Previews start 6 May 2010. This preview video was posted today:

Here are some other projects I’m hoping to catch in the new year…

Newbies
The Wizard of Oz (opens 7 February)
Ghost (sometime in June)
Rebecca (Spring 2011)
Betty Blue Eyes (19 March)

Oldies
South Pacific (hitting the Barbican in 2011)
We Will Rock You (Cardiff from 18 March)
As You Like it (Shakespeare’s Globe tour)
Jekyll and Hyde (touring from Jan 2011)

Crazy For You (Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre from July)

Company (Southwark Playhouse from Feb)

Drink with Me

November 30, 2010

WEG is a long-term fan, but 2010 has truly been the year of Les Misérables. Stupidly, I had my 25th anniversary concert DVD delivered to my parents’, where I’m spending Christmas, and now am having major viewing envy as theatre fans tweet their reactions to receiving their copy. For those who didn’t catch the O2 extravaganza, here is my take on it.

Today a documentary about the quarter-century celebrations was brought to my attention, which will air on 29 December (BBC1, 8pm.) Les Mis at 25: Matt Lucas Dreams the Dream will show Matt Lucas behind the scenes and in rehearsals for the O2. As a fully outed WEG, I am dying to see this.

For those of you lucky things tearing open your DVD or Blu-ray full of barricade-y, whore-y goodness, I propose a little festive fun: the Les Mis Drinking Game.

I’ll come up with a few rules, and you can comment with your own. For example:

You must drink for the duration of every ‘24601‘ sung

Boys drink whenever a new female character enters, girls for every new male

Drink whenever the On My Own theme plays (more than you might think)

Drink throughout every solo sung by Nick Jonas – this is for your own benefit

One Day More: Each person in the room must pick a character line each – if you mess up your lyrics, down it

Keep the boozy suggestions coming...