Musical Reviews

Emma writes: One of my hobbies is writing reviews of shows, usually musicals, that I’ve seen. Mostly these have been in London, though a few have been elsewhere. This is a little website of those reviews I want to share with people, but which don’t have anywhere else to go. However, if you don’t like amateur reviews then don’t read them.  I’ve also written a lot of the reviews on Website Louise Gold (a Fan -Produced website about one of my favourite Musical Theatre performers)

 

 Flahooley (Performance July/August 1997) - A Review of Ian Marshall-Fisher’s Lost Musicals concert staging of this musical about a puppet-builder who accidentally brings to life a magic Arabian genie who doesn’t understand capitalism and gets hunted by a witch.

  Lost Musicals 1998 (Performances of Summer 1998)  - A review of the 1998 season of Ian Marshall-Fisher’s Lost Musicals at The Barbican. Perhaps the most notable thing about this season of five shows: As Thousands Cheers, On A Clear Day You Can See Forever, Hollywood Pinafore, The Frogs, and, Strike Up The Band, was that the doyenne of the Lost Musicals gang, Louise Gold, was absent, because she was appearing in a Mike Leigh film. Fortunately many other regular members of the gang: Jessica Martin, Stewart Permutt, Myra Sands, and, James Vaughan were present.

 Mamma Mia review 2  (Performance of Tuesday 7 June 2001) - An account of the second time I saw the hit musical Mamma Mia. I sometimes think this might be subtitled “Super Trouper Star Saves Her Own Show” as: Pepper seemed to have mislaid his Chemistry set, Rosie was short of a counterbalance, and I don’t know what Tanya thought she was doing. All I can say is thank goodness for Louise Plowright as Donna The Dynamo.

 Anything Goes (Performance of 4 July 2002) - A review of the Grange Park Opera production, which starred the redoubtable Kim Criswell as Reno Sweeny. Apart from providing a full account of a very full production of Anything Goes, this review is also an opportunity to compare Kim Criswell with both Ethel Merman and Louise Gold.  

  Two’s A Crowd (Performance of 20 October 2002 in Southampton) - A review of a new little musical about Opera versus Jazz, which ends up with an opera diva, played by a real one, Rosalind Plowright, doing a crossover, and very well she does it too.

  Sweeney Todd (Performance of Friday 9 January 2004)  - A review of the Royal Opera House production. Is this an Opera or a Musical? or simply a piece of Music Theatre? Whatever you call it it’s a jolly fine production. All the performers are good. It’s quite a revelation how brilliantly many of these opera singers, among them: Thomas Allen, William Dazeley, and, Rosalind Plowright can act; But the surprise of the evening is Felicity Palmer.

 Shooting Star Gala (Sunday 16 May 2004, Richmond Theatre, Surrey) - A review of a gala at a local theatre. with a wealth of talent, including: Jane Asher, Sarah Greene, Tony Hawks, Jessica Martin, Roger McGough, Tony Robinson, Prunella Scales, and, Timothy West  However, the highlight was the finale starring Maria Friedman  accompanied by Chris Walker and Jason Carr.

 Singin’ In The Rain (Saturday 7 August 2004, Sadlers Wells) - A review of The third Leicester Haymarket Team In London’s musical. Turning a classic film into a good stage show is no mean feat, but under Paul Kerryson’s masterful direction Adam Cooper, Josefina Gabrielle, Simon Coulthard and company make it their own.

 Beauty And The Beast - A Musical Pantomime (Wednesday 29 December 2004, The Lighthouse, Poole) - a review of The Lighthouse Arts Centre in Poole’s Christmas 2004 Pantomime. While Cassidy Janson made a good Beauty and it was nice to see Brian Cant as Beauty’s Father. It is the performances of Darren Bennett as Anton and Louise Plowright as The Sorceress that deserve to be highlighted..

 Silk Stockings (Sunday 22 May 2005) - A review of Ian Marshall-Fisher’s Discovering Lost Musicals concert staging of this musical. Lost Musicals regulars Frank Lazarus, Jessica Martin, Neil McCaul, and James Vaughan, along with Nigel Anthony and Martin Turner, ensure the show measures up to the kind of standard we have come to expect from Ian Marshall-Fisher’s productions.

 Six Pictures Of Lee Miller (Thursday 14 July 2005, The Minerva Theatre, The Chichester Festival Theatre) - a review of a new musical by Jason Carr and Edward Kemp, about early 20th century female photographer Lee Miller, starring Anna Francolini, with strong supporting performances. It’s great charm lies in the fact that it is not trying to be a mass crowd-pulling block buster. It simply concentrates on being a good well-written well-performed piece of sophisticated music theatre.

 Snow White and the Seven Dwarves (Thursday 29 December 2005, The Lighthouse, Poole) - a review of The Lighthouse Arts Centre in Poole’s Christmas 2005 Pantomime. Even better than last year’s Beauty And The Beast (and that was good). Darren Bennett and Anthony Reed make a splendid team. Mark Osmand creates real character, and, Brian Cant is a seasoned entertainer; But the star of the show is supertrouper Louise Plowright who delivers an admirable tour de force as The Wicked Queen.

 Nymph Errant (Sunday 23 April 2006, Lillian Bayliss Theatre Sadlers Wells) – A review of Ian Marshall-Fisher’s Discovering Lost Musicals concert staging of this musical. Dutch Baroness Issy Van Randwyck makes the jolly English title role, and Cole Porter’s songs, very much her own; with strong support from such versatile performers as: Stewart Permitt, Gay Soper, James Vaughan, and, Matt Zimmerman amongst others; while Jason Carr does an admirable job with the musical accompaniment.

 Avenue Q (Tuesday 20 June 2006, Noel Coward Theatre) – A review of the London Production. Four new puppeteers do their best in a fun, feel good, groundbreaking, edifying show. The puppeteers (Julie Atherton, Claire Foster, Simon Lipkin, and, Jon Robyns), clearly have potential, although they lack the polish of experience. The score is quite decent, the lyrics thoughtful, and the book an affectionate edifying take-off of a certain much loved pre-school children’s programme.

 Bad Girls – The Musical (Friday 23 June 2006, The West Yorkshire Playhouse, Leeds) – a review of a rather weird new musical, in the seemingly current trend for musicals-inspired-by-TV-programmes. Does this musical ever quite decide what style or musical it is? or is it a new type of musical? The cast (which includes: Nicole Faraday, Hal Fowler, Neil McDermott, Louise Plowright, Laura Rogers, and, Hannah Waddingham) generally do their best, despite the casting being a little unbalanced in places. The score isn’t bad (there’s at least one number that is actually catchy), but the book is rather odd.

 Follies (Friday 3 November 2006, Royal & Derngate Theatre, Northampton) – A review of a mixed pro-am production starring: Julian Forsyth, Alex Giannini, Jan Hartley, and, Louise Plowright. How does it compare to the Royal Festival Hall’s amazing 2002 production? that production’s Buddy and Phyllis are hard act’s to follow, so  Alexi Gianni and Louise Plowright in particular face some tough challenges (how do measure up when compared to Henry Goodman and Louise Gold?) This review particularly compares the two different portrayals of Phyllis.

 Can Can (Sunday 15 April 2007, Lillian Baylis Studio Theatre, Sadler’s Wells) – A review of Ian Marshall-Fisher’s Discovering Lost Musicals concert staging of this musical. Valerie Cutko’s performance is better than in Silk Stockings, and she does put Live And Let Live where that song truly belongs. Also in her second show Selina Chilton proves to be quite a find. Christopher Dickens is also surprising. While the presence in decent roles of three stalwarts: Stewart Permutt, Myra Sands, and, James Vaughan ensure the show lives up to the Lost Musicals standards.

 Steven Pimlott – A Celebration (Thursday 17 May 2007, Olivier Theatre, National Theatre) – A review of the ‘Memorial Concert’ presented at the National Theatre celebrating the life and work of theatre director Steven Pimlott. Including contributions from: Nicholas Hynter, Edward Kemp, Ruth Mackenzie, Meera Syal, and, Samuel West amongst others. The event also included a musical highlight from Maria Friedman and Philip Quast; and some very special performances by Jeremy Sams and Jason Carr. A unique celebration of the life of a very individual theatre director.

 Around The World In 80 Days (Sunday 1 July 2007, Lillian Baylis Studio Theatre, Sadler’s Wells) – A review of Ian Marshall-Fisher’s Discovering Lost Musicals concert staging of this seemingly impossible to mount, very funny, un-PC musical. In a splendid costume Valerie Cutko gives her best performance in a Lost Musical to date. Valda Avicks too displays an unexpected vivacity. Jack Klaff takes on Orson Wells. Bryan Torfeh engages the audience. But the star of the show is that smart Mr Peter Gale, who really does set all the audience (male and female) agog, proving himself to be up there with the best of the Lost Musicals Leads.

 Chitty Chitty Bang Bang (Friday 6 July 2007, The Mayflower Theatre, Southampton) – A review of the touring production. How would it compare to the show at The Palladium three years ago? Couple Craig McLachlan play an English inventor? Is Alvin Stardust any good on the musical stage? And in particular how would David Henry and Louise Plowright fair tackling the roles once inhabited by Christopher Biggins and Louise Gold? Would they be as good?

 The Drowsy Chaperone (24 July 2007, The Novello Theatre) – A review of the London production. A fun score (by Lisa Lambert and Greg Morrison) with lots of good old-fashioned 1920’s style cheese, and proud of it. A cast which includes: Selina Chilton, Sean Kingsley, Elaine Paige, John Partridge, and, Summer Strallen have a good flapper style frolic, but the show suffers from its production and advertising.

 Cabaret In The House: Rebecca Thornhill & Louise Davidson (Sunday 25 November 2007, Lauderdale House) – A review of one of Lauderdale House’s Sunday afternoon cabarets. In fact what must surely be one of the most entertaining episodes of Cabaret In The House. Rebecca Thornhill and Louise Davidson sing and dance their way through an afternoon of jolly good, mostly 1940s, fun.

 James And The Giant Peach (Tuesday 18 December 2007, The Chichester Festival Theatre) – A Review of Chichester Youth Theatre’s new Christmas musical. A good opportunity to hear a nice tuneful score, by the brilliant contemporary theatre composer Jason Carr; once again back at The Chichester Festival Theatre.

 Park Avenue (Sunday 13 April 2008, Lillian Baylis Studio Theatre, Sadler’s Wells) – Ian Marshall Fisher’s Discovering Lost Musicals does it again. A excellently cast undiscovered delight. All the performers play roles for which they are well suited. Of particular note is ever reliable Peter Gale, and, excellent comedy singer-actor James Vaughan turning out typically brilliant performances, in a cast headed very well by Elizabeth Counsell. A very funny show, which deserves to be rediscovered.

 Avenue 2 review 2 (Wednesday 28 May 2008, Noel Coward Theatre) – A review of the London production with it’s second cast. Four more new puppeteers find their hands, bringing new characterisations to the Avenue Q puppets, in this edifying and entertaining show. Once again the four puppeteers (Daniel Boys, Mary Doherty, Mark Goldthorpe, and, Rebecca Lock) are clearly inexperienced, nevertheless they turn out interesting passable performances, though like their London production predecessors lack the polish of experience. The three live actors also bring new ideas to their characters. The new interpretations demonstrate how the show can change and endure as a new cast attempts to make it its own.

 Blood Brothers (Monday 16 June 2008, Phoenix Theatre) – A review of the long running London production of this show. This performance had four understudies on, including Louise Davidson (rather an experienced West End understudy) holding the show together, along with Amy O’Neil. So would the standards one expects in a show like this be upheld? Is it worth a West End ticket price?

 A Christmas Carol (Saturday 27 December 2008, Chichester Festival Theatre) – A review of Chichester Youth Theatre’s new Christmas musical. A splendid sparkling score from the brilliant, British theatre composer-lyricist-and-orchestrator Jason Carr.

 Oklahoma! (Monday 22 June 2009, Chichester Festival Theatre) – A review of John Doyle’s very surprising Chichester revival. Michael Xavier and Leila Benn Harris basically to a decent job as Curly and Laurey, with admirable support from Craig Els, Michael Rouse, Natalie Casey, and, Michael Matus. However, the true star of the show is a supertrouper leading lady, Louise Plowright, shinning as brightly as she did in Mamma Mia. It’s one of the very best things I’ve seen on the Chichester main stage.

 Johnny Johnson (Sunday 5 July 2009, Lillian Baylis Studio Theatre, Sadler’s Wells) – Ian Marshall-Fisher’s Discovering Lost Musicals once more hit the heights in spectacular style, with a very unusual left wing piece by Kurt Weill and Paul Green. The casting is near perfect, with old experienced hands such as James Vaughan and Myra Sands providing steady supporting roles, and a truly amazing leading man Max Gold whose acting ability and stage presence carries this bizarre piece of music theatre brilliantly. 

 Call Me Madam (Friday 14 August 2009, Upstairs At The Gatehouse, Highgate) – Given that the film really is practically perfect, and fairly close to the original Broadway production (well it starred Ethel Merman), how would this fringe production, starring Beverley Klein fair? Would it be worth seeing? Beverely Klein might not be an obvious choice for a Merman role, but she is a good sensible steady singer-actress. Meanwhile Guido Schmanski and Chris Love rise to the challenge of tackling the legacy of  George Sanders and Donald O’Connor respectively.

 Sam’s Bar (Saturday 24 October 2009, RAFA Twickenham) – A review of  RAFA Group’s once-a-year charity revue, which this year, had an unusual dep pianist, a West End veteran of The Palace, The Palladium and The Playhouse orchestra pits, Kate Young. It has to be said that Irving Berlin’s ‘I love A Piano’ has never sounded so apt.

 White Christmas (Saturday 28 November 2009, The Lowry, Manchester) – Michael Rose’s stage production of White Christmas comes to The Lowry. The cast is headed by Adam Cooper and Aled Jones. The show contains many terrific Irving Berlin numbers. It also has some wonderful performance surprises. Aled Jones has to dance an amount, as does Suzanne Shaw. But the biggest surprise of them all is mighty Louise Plowright belting in the style of Ethel Merman. She sure doesn’t need to be told to sing out...!  She deserves to be up there with Kim Criswell and Louise Gold, as being among the very best magnificent Mermanesque musical theatre singers.

 A Christmas Carol – review 2 (Tuesday 15 December 2009, Birmingham Rep) – Last year’s Chichester Youth Theatre’s production gets a professional revival. Jason Carr’s songs are just as glorious second time round. The standard of the cast is somewhat variable, but, besides Peter Polycarpou, the production does include: Carl Au, Paul-Ryan Carberry, Rosalie Craig, Hadley Fraser, Vicki Lee-Taylor, and Colin Ryan.

 The Snow Queen (Tuesday 29 December 2009, Chichester Festival Theatre) – The latest offering from The Chichester Youth Theatre, once again the piece has been written specifically for them, with book by Bryony Lavery, music and lyrics by Jason Carr. The result is a sort of Youth Opera, rather than a musical. An incredibly sophisticated piece of high quality music theatre.

 The Lady Or The Tiger (Friday 30 January 2010, The Orange Tree) – The Orange Tree, West London’s “Pocket National Theatre” bring back to life a piece of their own history, and in fact a forgotten piece of West End history. Riona O’Connor and Andrew C Wadsworth are both amazingly versatile and extremely impressive.

 Avenue Q review 3 (Friday 12 March 2010, The Gielgud Theatre) – A review of the London production with a third cast, actually two of the Human actors at least have been members of earlier casts. Once again the four puppeteers (Cassidy Janson, Rachel Jerram, Tom Parsons, and Paul Spicer are all quite new to puppetry, but all are talented and have been well taught, though mostly lacking the polish of experience. However, Paul Spicer does turn out a particularly good performance.

 The World Goes Round (Thursday 1 April 2010, The Castle, Wellingborough) – A Kander & Ebb revue performed by a team of five: Sophie Louise Dann, Ashley Day, Louise Plowright, Laura Pitt Paulford, and Dominic Tighe. All do a good job, but Louise Plowright contrives to lead the company with a stellar performance. Revue as a genre clearly suits her talents.

 42nd Street (Monday 23 August 2010, The Chichester Festival Theatre) – Chichester gets a new triumvirate, this time an acting one, as Kathryn Evans, Tim Flavin, and Louise Plowright take to the Chichester main stage in 42nd Street, along with a youngster, Lauren Hall. A fine peice of entertainment put together by the Leicester Haymarket team of Paul Kerryson and his people. A very well cast show, with everyone doing a generally excellent job.

 Company (Sunday 7 November 2010, The Queen Theatre, London) – A concert-staging aiming to reunite the company from the Donmar Warehouse production fifteen years ago. Adrian Lester stars, while Anna Francolini delivers a sterling performance. Other members of that Donmar company include: Paul Bentley, Michael Simkins, Clare Burt, and, Gareth Snook., who all perform to a high standard. There are also quite amazing performances from replacement cast members Haydn Gwynne and Gillian Bevan. This staging of Company is quite an event.

 A Christmas Carol – review 3 (Friday 3 December 2010, The West Yorkshire Playhouse’s Quarry Theatre) – Jason Carr’s rather wonderful Christmas show finds its natural home in Leeds. The best production of this marvellous piece so far. Robert Finlayson, Sarah Moyle and Stuart Neal do pretty well (though not quite as good as their predecessors last year). While Paul Leonard, Beverley Klein, and Philip Whitchurch are perfect casting.

 Alice Through The Looking Glass (Sunday 12 December 2010, The Egg Studio Theatre, Theatre Royal Bath) – A very funny little fringe theatre adaptation of a classic children’s novel based around the game of chess. This joyful romp of a Christmas show has a versatile cast of six, five of whom play a variety of parts. Three of them in particular: Paul Mundell, Kate Copeland, and, Louise Plowright stand out for turning about generally excellent all round performances.

 Avenue Q review 4 (Friday 4 March 2011, Richmond Theatre, Surrey) – A review of seeing Avenue Q now touring the UK on the week it played Richmond, Surrey. As usual the four young puppeteers (Rachel Jerram, Katharine Moraz, Adam Pettigrew, and Chris Thatcher) are all relatively new to puppetry, though two of them have been in the London casts, and it is good to see them stepping up to performing major roles. Rachel Jerram seems to be a talented singer-actress. While Chris Thatcher’s performance as Trekkie is really rather excellent, well worth seeing, he seems to have captured something of the extrovert nature of a certain legendary group of anarchic puppeteers.

 Romeo And Juliet (Thursday 17 March 2011, The Royal Shakespeare Theatre, Stratford-upon-Avon) – Noma Dumezweni, Forbes Mason, Jonjo O’Neill, and. Sam Troughton all contribute strong performances, but it is Mariah Gale’s Juliet that carries this production directed  by Rupert Gould, making it a very special and memorable part of redeveloped The Royal Shakespeare Theatre’s reopening season.

 

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