Starring: Sarah Harlington Director: Cressida Carré
2016 was the second time I saw this show. Since the first time I have become absolutely immersed in the songs, the album being one of my go to put ons to turn a day around. As an add-on I booked a box (It did NOT matter that the view was not perfect), took a bottle of champagne and just totally loved every moment. My number two show of all-time. The cast were brilliant, down to the last nuance, the theatre (Manchester Palace) was totally cool, the hospitallity was a real smile-broadener, I could not have asked or wished for more. Thank-you Robert Lopez, you deserve the EGOT.
Starring: A.J. Holmes, Billy Harrigan Tighe, Alexia Khadime, about 18 more brilliant cast members
It’s the weirdest thing writing this review, as there is definitely a lot of extraneous influences which colour my personal take on this. Throughout 2014 I have been going down to London on a Tuesday at the beginning of the months, and going to the Price Edward theatre to put our names in the draw for cheap front row tickets for this show. Every time we have ‘failed’ so, instead, have gone down to the box office on Leicester Square 350 yards away, and bought cheap tickets to see another show. After the first one ( Jersey Boys ) I thought “Well that isn’t so bad”. (Actually I thought that was one of the most awesome fucking things I had ever seen and I was absolutely hyper). After four more I have come to realise I didn’t really want to be pulled! Shows are just the best thing ever, along with seeing my kids, exploring London is cool, and I love train journeys and I never wanted it to end. And now it has. . 2014 has been a good year, but these trips will go down as the most illuminating, fun, memorable things I have done, and If this review makes just one person go to Cross Country and look up the £10 train tickets for purchase to do exactly the same thing I will have done something good. I hope it is actually the end of a first chapter, and that I can go to see six shows every year. Hang in there Julia!
Oh... what was Book Of Mormon like?
Starring: Tim Pigott-Smith, Margot Leicester, Oliver Chris, Lydia Wilson, Richard Goulding, Adam James, Nicholas Rowe Director: Rupert Goold
With West End theatre it is like the extraordinary becomes mundane. Once again I have come back from a night in London exhilarated, Excited and, above all, thoroughly entertained. I want you to see this so we can discuss the story and especially the characters, who had me from the get go. The sparse music set up a perfect ambience, you look down from our 15 quid eyrie at the front of the top balcony and you see the royal family! I think the Wyndham may be my favourite theatre, very steep but excellent views and I suppose the only acoustic criterium is no bounce, but everything seemed right. As for the play, it was like part of Shakespeare's canon, with lyrical soliloquies that Quentin Tarantino or Kevin Smith would have been proud of. Please don't go to this play thinking it will be the best thing you are ever going to see, it very probably won't, but If you want to see something thought provoking, occasionally amusing and somewhat disquieting, you could do a lot worse than this.
Starring: John Lloyd Young
How do I start, after giving something a mere 8 when the experience was as good a night out as one could ever hope for? Start by re-iterating, that if a cinema improves an enjoyment quotient by two, a theatre does it by 5, i.e. I walked out of this having defied the laws of enjoyment with a buzz of thirteen ! Does that make sense? So I've rated it as if I was watching it as a film on telly at home.
Good story, fantastic songs, all the right ingredients in all the right places, laughter and tears in the eyes, on the top tier of the Picadilly theatre for £22 apiece, wine, ice cream, a hostel for a tenner and a direct train back tomorrow morning for less than £8. I am going to do this once a month.
Hey. I only just found out that John Lloyd Young who played Frankie Valli was like the Idina Menzel of Jersey Boys, in that he was the original Broadway star and is going to be in the Clint Eastwood film.
Starring: Peter Lockyear, David Thaxton, Carrie Hope Fletcher
Ah the London trips. If I had half a brain I would book my next ticket now. When people say this is top of the must see list I can understand it... I would agree. That is not to say I enjoyed it more than War Horse or Jersey Boys. Unfortunately I have seen the 25th anniversary DVD and the 2013 film, so the shock and awe was somewhat less shocking, but this is just a seminal show which uses every musical cliché available to stir the emotions. Brilliant sets and lighting, and those glorious counterpoints they sing. I'm off to the cross country ticket site for October!
Starring: Jack O'Connell, Mark Addy, John Astley, Dermot Crowley, Ralf Little Director: Richard Wilson
Thanks Julia! I can't believe I didn't see a in 2015! We had second row seats and it was like almost in the round, so up close and personal, in a play where the cast gained stature as the show progressed. The word bandied about was engrossing. No spoilers, but some incredibly risky scenes were pulled off, and that gave the whole production a nervous edge which, I think, is a good thing. I don't want to be a star-struck gayboy, but Jack O'Connell, who was the film actor of the year for me in 2014? Mark Addy - King Robert Baratheon?? - the whole cast were terrific, but I understand these two have a bloody high face value!
Note to self. Go and see more shows..
Starring: Northern BalletChoreographerDavid Nixon
Look, I didn't hate it. Ballet must push some people's buttons but not mine. Opera likewise. I ponder that it may because Opera North and Northern Ballet are not hungry? It doesn't matter what they do, they will always get paid. I can't help thinking the funding they get would be much better spent on local rep, because theatre is truly wonderful, but these productions, though magnificent, lack va va voom. On this particular show, it started beautifully, but after five minutes seemed to gring down to a few scenes extended to encompass showing off. Like Julia said, " A fire-eater might be brilliant, but two hours would be just tedious. Oh, I don't know. - I was glad I went
Starring: Jack Monaghan Directors: Marianne Elliott and Tom Morris
Watching this has kind of made me re-evaluate my attempts to objectify the value of entertainment. I reckon if a work is given a mark out of ten (0=arghhh, 5 = neutral, 10= as good a thing as that can be reasonably imagined), going to the pictures adds 2 to a film, and I thought the theatre might add 4, thus making a great theatre experience worth 14 out of 10! I think that may diminish the value of a live show. Everything about this hit the button, in terms of originality, lighting, story, pace, music. The film was relatively ordinary, but this was something completely different. If you haven't seen it yet there is only one thing to put on your 'to do' list, that is, get a train into London, walk down to Leicester Square and get cheap tickets in the first few rows on a weekday for this show, walk the half mile or so to Drury Lane, and laugh at your own fallibility as you turn to see your tears reflected in the faces of everyone else watching who has at least one percent of a soul! I love my nights in London! AWESOME!!!!!!!
Starring: Jennifer DiNoia, Savannah Stevenson, Jeremy Taylor, Liza Sadovy, Martyn Ellis, Katie Rowley Jones, Sam Lupton, Philip Childs
Save the best 'till last.
So what made the best night's entertainment I've ever had bar one?
Well first off it's the theatre, so as you can read above, there is something about a live show which transcends mere story-telling, something that evokes very deep emotions which a student of psychology might be very much better able to quantify than me. Nevertheless, it is a real, sustained step change of value that manifests itself in emotion, emerges as tears and joy combining like some most divine sweet and savoury dish in an ever surprising, fascinatingly curious yet deeply joyful experience
OK, so far so good, trust me I don't want to be pretentious here, so let's look at the nuts and bolts of what's going on...
Of all the shows I've seen this had the most magnificent sets, the most sophisticated choreography and the most glorious costumes. Colourful, detailed, intricate, the changes were magical, the scenery quite remarkable.
The cast: I would imagine that you could go and watch Book Of Mormon 18 times and focus on each individual cast member on each visit and be thoroughly captivated every time. In this, I do believe the chorus are more of a support group, but that adds to the strength of the production, and that under analysis one might see how different members play different parts conducting a feat of illusion beyond detection. Is their lack of individuality as personalities deliberate? Whatever, they provide this massive platform to frame and reveal the main cast members, no more so than the top tier of Elphaba and Galinda. I cannot fault any of the dramatis personae, and the people who played them in this production nailed it. The switches which Martyn Ellis as the Wizard made from dialogue to song and back were remarkable. Julia loved Nessa (Katie Rowley Jones), I loved them all. Said Julia has seen the show seven times and states that Jennifer DiNoia and Savannah Stevenson were as good as any Elpahba and Galinda, and went so far as to suggest the former rivalled Adele Dazeem herself!!!. To watch how this cast replicate the show yet bring their own soul to it is both remarkable and satisfying.
The characters are a perfect microcosm of humanity. Of course I identify with Elfie, I may be wrong to do so, but I can't help think that all I want is good for the world, especially those close to me, and all I get from swathes of them is vilification and marginalisation. These people will never truly empathise with this wonderful show.
Likewise the story arc becomes more relevant with each analysis.I am a pessimist for the reasons expounded so lucidly, starkly, musically, poetically and realistically in this absolute triumph of human creation.
We had a quick trip around The National Gallery a few hours before this show, twenty minutes to gaze upon some of the most famous, beautiful paintings created by man. These, the works of Monet, Manet, Turner, Stubbs, Van Gogh, Carravagio, Seurat et al are interpretations of nature. Singing and story telling is nature; it is us humans displaying our weird beauty as surely as a peacock spreads its tail or a flower signals pollinators. We are so precious and we don't realise it. :(
Woops! I digress. Whatever it's worth a watch
PS, There is only one show I've ever enjoyed more - Wicked the last time I saw it
Starring: Stuart Fox, Gwynfor Jones Director: Robin Herford
This... This is what I go to London for. The pedantic train guards and rude natives, the crowded trains, the ridiculous palaver to get a Boris Bike, the rip off prices (£16 into St Paul's), the suited and cellphoned wankers in first class playing Candy Crush Saga and sat around pubs making money from commodities made in the North, In Scotland, in Taiwan, In China, ANYWHERE bar the south east of England, the wanker bus drivers and cruel arrogant taxi drivers, the PM10s and other ingredients in the cocktail of pollutants you are forced to consume, the false smiles of the never ending stream of hucksters, the tawdry souvenirs, the Emperors New Clothes... All this is worth it for sitting through a first half which is good and a second half which blows you away, repeatedly engendering emotions that very rarely occur nowadays even singly. I left this show open mouthed in surprise and wonder! How could two men, a few lights, a few sound effects, and half a dozen props including a coat hat and scarf do that to me? Julia's kids are going straight to acting school.