Saturday, 27 May 2017

Album Review: Everybody's Talking About Jamie Concept Album

"I'm smoking hot
Cos I got the lot
And what I got
You have not"

What better time to give the concept album for Everybody's Talking About Jamie a proper listen than on my way back to Sheffield, albeit to see a different show. Dan Gillespie Sells and Tom MacRae's musical was a deserved sell-out success earlier this year and to accompany it, this recording of some of the songs, sung by the composer, a couple of the performers and some special guests was available to purchase in the foyer and is still around online. It truly was a cracking show and what this record shows, it is also a stronger score than you might initially give it credit for.

'If I Met Myself Again' is possibly the best track that Dusty Springfield never sang. A torch song of the highest order, replete with plaintive brass motif, Josie Walker (as Jamie's mum) nails the ruminative mood with real heart and zero self-indulgence, it really is a gorgeous song. Walker's second moment in the spotlight comes with 'He's My Boy', a no less moving expression of maternal love in all its restrained passion. Jamie himself - John McCrea - only gets a brief moment to shine on its reprise 'My Man Your Boy' which is a bit of a shame as as emotive a number as it is, it doesn't capture the effervescent star-making quality of his lead performance.

Album Review: Dan & Laura Curtis - Overture

"When the playbill’s gone and your ego’s died, how you gonna feel"

I'm of course naturally inclined towards composing duo Dan & Laura Curtis as the quote that is proudly blazoned across their website is one of mine. It came from my review of their collection Love on 42nd Street which was a pocket-sized treat which stands in real contrast to Overture - The Music of Daniel and Laura Curtis, which brings together well over 20 Broadway and West End stars to fill a double-album's worth of new material.

And their grandly orchestral ambition (not for nothing is the album called Overture) is well realised here. Divided into two 'acts', the pair stretch their songwriting muscle over a range of genres and subject matters but they're most comfortable, and effective, when turning their hand to stirring string-laden balladry. The simple elegance of Rachel John's 'I Won't Let You Go' epitomises this beautifully with its soaring grace, surely a cabaret standard in the making.

Round-up of news and treats and other interesting things

In his first season as artistic director of Theatre N16, Scott Ellis presents a slew of new writing.

Olympilads by Andrew Maddock, produced by Lonesome Schoolboy and directed by Niall Phillips, reunites the team that presented He(art) at Theatre N16 earlier this year. Theatre N16 executive director (and former artistic director) Jamie Eastlake will present his new show Deadline Day by John Hickman and Steve Robertson: a bitter sweet tale about football, greed and the North-South divide.

Ten emerging artists debut a selection of original and varied works exploring feminism today in Maiden Speech: A festival of fresh feminist voices. Theatre N16 will also produce a new play by Sarah Milton, directed by Scott Ellis.

End of the Line Theatre, one of Hull Truck's supported companies, will present Poverty Porn by Catriona Kerridge, followed by a series of military-themed plays (including IED by Martin Mcnamara and Last Man Standing by Judith Cole). Last Man Standing will be run as part of Theatre N16’s First Credits scheme, which will give 7 new graduate actors their first professional experience in the industry.

After the success of The Snow Queen, Theatre N16 will also produce a new telling of Peter Pan, adapted by Frankie Meredith, to play during October half term.

The season will also see the return of N16 Presents: 4 emerging writers will receive 2 months of support culminating in a showcase of 4 brand new short plays.

Scott Ellis says: “My first season puts writers and fine writing at the forefront of every production. I am excited to include 2 brand new commissions, which I will direct myself; returning writers, from the most successful of recent N16 productions and exploring fresh new voices at the cutting edge of the London Fringe scene.”

Theatre N16 is a trailblazing London fringe venue, focused on producing and programming top quality new writing and selected existing works. Theatre N16 is proud of their commitment to the welfare and development of creatives, operating under an Equity Fringe Agreement. This promoting and nurturing of talent means that Theatre N16 is a bastion for development within the context of a society in which the arts are increasingly struggling to stay afloat.



Casting has been announced for Kevin Elyot's play Twilight Song at the Park Theatre this summer. Directed by Anthony Banks, Twilight Song was Elyot's final play before he passed away in June 2014. Set in London, the comedy tracks a family's hidden secrets from 1967 to the present day. The premiere coincides with the 50th anniversary of the passing of the Sexual Offences Act 1967, which decriminalised private homosexual acts between men over 21 in England and Wales.

It will star Adam Garcia, who was last seen on stage in Kenneth Branagh's The Winter's Tale, as Skinner/Gardener, Bryony Hannah (Call the Midwife) as Isabella, and Paul Higgins (Line of Duty) as Barry/Basil. They will be joined by Philip Bretherton as Harry and Hugh Ross as Charles. Elyot's previous work includes The Day I Stood Still at the National, Mouth to Mouth at the Royal Court, and My Night with Reg for which he won an Olivier and Evening Standard Award for Best Comedy.

Twilight Song runs at the Park Theatre from 17 July to 12 August, with previews from 12 July.


Evening Standard Emerging Talent Award winner and Olivier Award nominee Tyrone Huntley (Jesus Christ Superstar) just announced as a special guest for Willemijn Verkaik’s one-night West End concert on Monday 31st July at 7.30pm.

Tyrone Huntley recently received rave reviews for his performance as Judas in Jesus Christ Superstar (Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre) which won him the 2016 Evening Standard Emerging Talent Award. He was nominated for an Olivier Award for Best Actor in a Musical and a Whatsonstage.com Award for Best Supporting Actor in a Musical (both 2017). He is currently performing as C.C White in Dreamgirls (Savoy Theatre) alongside Amber Riley. 

In a follow up to her critically acclaimed 2015 sold out solo concert in The Ambassadors Theatre, Willemijn makes a triumphant return to the stage, performing as herself in a celebration of the most iconic songs that have defined her career to date, as well as showcasing some never before performed material alongside her friends and fellow leading lights of musical theatre.

Originally from The Netherlands, Willemijn Verkaik rose to fame as the voice of Elsa German and Dutch version of Disney’s Blockbuster Frozen. She is currently playing Elphaba as part of the 10 year anniversary cast of Wicked in the West End. She has played the role in 4 countries and after making her Broadway debut in 2013, is the only actress to have performed the role in three languages. Before returning to the West End, Willemijn played a successful run as Kala in Disney’s Musical Tarzan in Germany. 

Joining Willemijn and Tyrone Huntley will be the previously announced Savannah Stevenson, Suzie Mathers and Celinde Schoenmaker.

Friday, 26 May 2017

Get well soon Fred Haig aka Not-A-Review: On The Town, Open Air Theatre


"Just when the fun is starting,
Comes the time for parting"

Fred Haig must have thought that this was his year after landing starring roles in two of the big musicals of the summer but during Monday evening’s performance, he sustained an injury to his foot which has now been confirmed as a fracture. Sadly, this means that he has had to withdraw from On The Town at the Open Air Theatre in Regent's Park (the second actor to do so after Jeremy Taylor withdrew during rehearsals due to injury) and will be replaced by his understudy Jacob Maynard. We'll have to wait and see if he recuperates in time to play Young Buddy in Follies at the National.

It is a real shame for Haig as I was at the show on Monday, scarcely believing that we actually had lovely weather for the first musical this year at the Open Air. And Haig's appealingly charismatic Chip, along with Lizzy Connolly's vibrant Hildy, was among the highlights of Drew McOnie's production and he seemed to be very much on top of the choreography. It is a dance-heavy show, and in McOnie's hands doubly so and as so many in this venue, it is one that benefits from being seen as night falls, to behold the full beauty of Howard Hudson's lighting which is gorgeously conceived.

Thursday, 25 May 2017

Review: Julius Caesar, Crucible

"Why, saw you anything more wonderful?"

Robert Hastie's opening salvo as the new Artistic Director of Sheffield Theatres might not immediately quicken the pulse as we've hardly been lacking for productions of Julius Caesar. But it is soon apparent that this is a canny director at work, making his mark on the Crucible Theatre and how its space is used, on our notions of how Shakespeare is traditionally interpreted, establishing what looks like exciting times ahead for Sheffield.

With designer Ben Stones, Hastie opens out the stage into a space of transformative and unpredictable power - the modern political arena is evoked with its UN-style chambers and mod-cons but it is just as much the powder-keg of changeable public opinion. And the way in which the two intersect, feed into each other, thus feels as informed by hatemongering Sun or Daily Mail headline-grabbing antics as it does by the words of a sixteenth century writer.

Casting announced for Theatre Royal Bath's Racing Demon

Theatre Royal Bath Productions has announced full casting for David Hare’s Racing Demon, directed by Jonathan Church, and ssemingly deliberately designed to challenge my resolve to not see the production which runs from Wednesday 21 June to Saturday 8 July.


As previously announced Olivier Award-winner David Haig will star as Lionel Espy in the multi-award winning play. He will be joined by Sam Alexander, Michelle Bonnard, Anthony Calf, William Chubb, Paapa Essiedu, Ian Gelder, Andrew Fraser, Rebecca Night, Amanda Root and Ashley Russell.

Four clergymen seek to make sense of their mission in inner-city London whilst facing their own personal crises. There’s Lionel Espy, a cleric whose faith is wavering as his parishioners dwindle; tabloid-hounded gay vicar Harry Henderson; ‘Streaky’ Bacon, a genial reverend with a taste for tequila, and a charismatic young curate, Tony Ferris whose arrival is set to fan the flames, whilst his sexual relationship with his lover turns to ash. The day of judgement is at hand for all.


Wednesday, 24 May 2017

Review: Twelfth Night, Shakespeare's Globe

"I would you were as I would have you be"

Emma Rice's Summer of Love got off to a slightly sticky start at the Globe with a mystifying take on Romeo and Juliet from Daniel Kramer and as we move onto Twelfth Night, which she is directing herself, there's a similarly uncompromising attitude in place. For the production reminded me nothing so much as a camp episode of Monarch of the Glen (sadly not Monarch of the Glum) and whilst it is often fun to watch, it's not always the most effective treatment.

Rice's iconoclastic approach is there from the get-go - a prologue set onboard the SS Unity before its shipwreck sees the company dancing merrily to Sister Sledge. And once in this decidedly Celtic Illyria, Orsino has a Lionel Richie mullet, Andrew Aguecheek is a would-be b-boy, serenades are played on cassette decks...why we're in 1979, as good a time as any to explore cross-dressing hijinks of gender exploration. 

Review: Sasha Regan's All Male Mikado, Richmond

(c) Scott Rylander
"They are not young ladies..."

If it ain't broke, why fix it? Sasha Regan alighted on a winning formula with her stripped-back all-male takes on Gilbert and Sullivan's operettas and has toured the likes of The Pirates of Penzance and HMS Pinafore the length and breadth of the country and even to Australia. So it is little surprise to see her turn to The Mikado (or The Town of Titipu) to see if lightning can strike again with joyous shout and ringing cheer.

The production is set in the grounds of a 1950s-ish school camping trip, a canny move which neatly sidesteps some of the Orientalism issues and refocuses G+S's satire on the English political establishment. And with the score for solo piano confidently played by musical director Richard Baker, the harmonious meld of the 16-strong company sounds like a dream, and don't look half bad either delivering Holly Hughes' effervescent choreography.

Round-up of news and treats and other interesting things


Hollywood and Broadway icon Stockard Channing will return to the London stage this summer, to star in a new production of Olivier Award winner Alexi Kaye Campbell’s acclaimed drama Apologia, directed by the multi-award winning Jamie Lloyd.

Opening at the Trafalgar Studios on 29th July, Apologia will see the Tony and Emmy Award winning actor performing in the West End for the first time in over a decade. Channing's hugely popular film and TV credits include starring roles in The West Wing, The Good Wife, her Oscar® and Golden Globe nominated role in Six Degrees of Separation, and the iconic role of Rizzo in the film Grease. An acclaimed Broadway and West End star, Channing’s most recent performances on Broadway, It’s Only a Play and Other Desert Cities (a “peerless” performance -NY Times, for which she was nominated for her seventh Tony Award), have affirmed her position as a true theatrical legend.

Alexi Kaye Campbell’s play is a compelling drama about the importance of family and the pressures commitment and principles exert on it. Apologia follows his critical success with The Pride and his acclaimed plays Sunset at The Villa Thalia at the National Theatre and The Faith Machine at the Royal Court Theatre.

Stockard Channing plays Kristin Miller, a firebrand liberal matriarch of a dynamic family, who is presiding over her birthday celebrations. An eminent art historian, Kristin’s almost evangelical dedication to her career and her political activism has resulted in her sons - Peter, a merchant banker, and Simon, a writer - harbouring deeply rooted and barely suppressed resentments towards her. The fissures in her relationship with them are brought to the fore by the recent publication of her memoir.

Tuesday, 23 May 2017

Not-a-Review: Madame Rubinstein, Park


"You can screw my husband but nobody screws my business"

Short on time this week and Madame Rubinstein finishes its run this week so I'm cheating with this one and just going to say that it is a shame that John Misto's starrily-cast three-hander isn't as much fun as the photo might suggest.

Running time: 2 hours 10 minutes (with interval)
Photo: Simon Annand
Booking until 27th May, returns only

Monday, 22 May 2017

Review: Assata Taught Me, Gate

"That boy is a revolutionary, he just doesn’t know it"

Frankie Bradshaw's design for Assata Taught Me at the Gate Theatre is nothing short of wondrous, with its turquoise walls patched with corrugated iron, faded tiles on the floor. Along with Jack Weir's lighting, all the colourful character of old Havana is evoked, along with the complex history right up to its contemporary situation. And it is in the modern day there that we find Assata Shakur, a woman who has the infamy of being the first woman to make the FBI's Most Wanted list.

Shakur (mother of Tupac FYI) really does live in political exile in Cuba but Kalungi Ssebandeke's play is a work of fiction, imagining the relationship that develops between her and a young law student to whom she starts to teach English. Kenneth Omole's Fanuco isn't aware of who his teacher is, the backstory with which we're briefly acquainted as the show opens but as their lessons progress, it is increasingly clear how diametrically opposed the pair are.

Review: BLUSH, Soho

"Cock, non-bio.
Cock, non-bio.
Cock, non-bio.
Cock."

Charlotte Josephine's BLUSH makes its way to the Soho Theatre after a successful run at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe last year and ahead of a tour across the South of England (and Birmingham). And it's a play that manages to hit two of my bugbear phrases in theatre writing, in that it is both 'darkly comic' and 'extremely timely'. But though reviewers and publicists may desperately overuse both terms, it doesn't make it any less true here.

BLUSH is concerned with revenge porn, weaving together five stories of people who have found themselves swept up in this most modern of afflictions. An older sister looks on helplessly as her 18 year old sibling has intimate photos published online by a boyfriend, a father struggles with his porn addiction, a jilted lover is surprised at the reaction she gets when she posts her ex's nudes, Josephine and her co-performer Daniel Foxsmith show us the many ways in which the issue can impact our lives.