Flower Crowns and Revolutionaries

Review: It's Only Life, Union Theatre

RATING: ★★★★

I wasn't sure what to expect from It's Only Life because I'd never seen a song cycle show before, but I was absolutely delighted. This beautiful musical revue of songs by John Bucchino has an impressive design and an even more impressive cast. I wasn't familiar with Bucchino's music before seeing the show, but his songs have been recorded by artists including Gavin Creel and Billy Porter.

It's Only Life weaves together stories about relationships, life, and heartbreak. Each song is a story on its own, but together they give a beautiful message of having hope and taking risks. I loved that they mixed up pairings throughout and featured both straight and same-sex couples.

The cast is made up of five brilliant performers who are all very talented in acting through song even when a specific character is only being played for a brief moment. I was particularly impressed by Jordan Shaw's ability to bring me to tears in only a few minutes. Noel Sullivan got to show off his voice's magnificent range, but songs like "Painting My Kitchen" also demonstrated his comedic talent.

Will Carey wows throughout but is at his best in "On My Bedside Table", in which he tries to convince a former lover he's over him. His incredible dancing and hilarious attitude had the audience in stitches. Recent graduate Sammy Graham is absolutely breathtaking in every one of her songs, from sad ballads to more upbeat tunes. (She's definitely one I'll be watching to see what she does next!)

Jennifer Harding was the star of the show for me as she has a gorgeous voice and acting talent in spades. Her "Sweet Dreams" is definitely my favorite number in the show, as she describes two people's paths' crossing as Sammy Graham and Will Carey dance.

I also enjoyed that there was some mild audience interaction in the show (don't worry, nothing too extreme!). During the end of the interval, the cast members come out and chat with the audience. I had a lovely conversation with Noel Sullivan about being in graduate school.

The design of the show was wonderful. Justin Williams and Jonny Rust's set is amazing, with multiple set pieces, a higher platform, and a great pastel color palette. I'd actually like to move into it! It definitely makes the small space of the Union Theatre seem even larger. Clancy Flynn's lighting enhanced the show and really helped with the transitions between numbers.

The show also has a beautiful style of movement, choreographed by William Whelton. Sometimes a show cycle can feel like little more than a concert, I think, but the dance elevated it to a true musical. I loved the show having a pianist that you could see from the audience and the sound was well balanced despite not having microphones.

This little show is well suited to the intimate space that it's currently in, though I would love to see it have a future beyond this run. Under Tania Azevedo's direction, the five performers build many storylines from Bucchino's beautiful music that will tug at your heart. From the gorgeous harmonies to the laugh-out-loud comedy moments, this show has something for everyone.

It's Only Life is running at the Union Theatre until 7 July. I highly recommend checking it out if you have time before them because it's a delightful, meaningful show that left me feeling renewed. You can buy tickets here.

I was given a press ticket to review this show, but all opinions are my own. 
Photo Credit: Pamela Raith 

Review: RADA Summer 2018 Shows (Rotterdam, Journey's End, 3 Winters)

I recently attended all three of the RADA summer 2018 shows which ran from 29 May to 9 June. My best friend Rhiannon studies tech theatre at RADA so I love going to see the shows that she works on. After seeing the shows, I decided that I had to do at least small reviews for them as they were so incredibly good.

Rotterdam (Gielgud Theatre)
RATING: ★★★★
Rotterdam is about a couple navigating one half's transition to being a trans man. His girlfriend struggles with her own identity as a lesbian woman now that her partner is presenting as a man. The show, which played at the Trafalgar Studios in 2016, is an emotional, complicated piece of writing and this production certainly did it justice.

Philippine Velge and Mia Selway brought beautiful depth to Fiona/Adrian and Alice, but my favorite roles were the couple's friends, Lelani (played with wonderful flippancy by Jasmin Hinds) and Josh (played by Josh Fish who has a talent for imbuing lines with greater meaning than they appear to have on the surface).

My favorite part of the production may have been the beautiful projections designed by Ben Bull which helped shift between locations and create the mood for each scene. The show was rather emotionally exhausting, but raised important questions about love, gender, and just how far we're actually willing to go to accept someone.

Journey's End (GBS Theatre)
RATING: ★★★★★
As someone who studied history in undergrad, it's perhaps no surprise that I enjoy a World War One play more than just about anything. RADA's production of Journey's End by R. C. Sherriff was absolutely stunning and gut-wrenching. I appreciated the present day setting with modern fatigues despite having few changes to the script because it allowed several of the traditionally male roles to be played by women without question though the show did still feel rooted in WWI in many ways, perhaps partially because it's so iconically a play from that time.

Journey's End is a moving piece about a group of officers who are stationed at the front line and learn that there is a pending attack from the other side. The action of the play takes place entirely within the officers' quarters, brilliantly designed for this production by James Cotterill. The show was very well suited to the GBS Theatre as the smaller space made it feel as though the audience were there within the bunker too.

Doug Colling was wonderful as the head of the unit Stanhope, a young officer who is well-respected for his skill but has a serious drinking problem. He managed to keep the character likable, despite some of his questionable actions, by portraying an emotion always close to bubbling to the surface. Sabi Perez was lovely as Osborne, an older officer affectionately called 'Uncle', who has a nurturing manner and genuinely cares for her fellow officers. Joe Mott brought a certain charm to Trotter, the everyman, non-gentry officer, and Kwaku Mills brought me to tears several times as the eager new recruit Raleigh. Though it was a smaller role, Josh Zaré stood out as Hibbert, an officer suffering from PTSD. (There's a scene in which he breaks down that I will not soon forget.)

Typically when you see a WWI play or movie, the actors are actually older than the characters they're meant to be playing. There was something horrifyingly emotional about seeing young men and women in these roles, as Stanhope is meant to be 21 and Raleigh 18 years old. I'm not ashamed to say that by the end of the show, I was crying both from the terribly sad storyline itself and from reflecting on the horrible effects that WWI had on a generation of men.

3 Winters (Jerwood Vanbrugh Theatre) 

I admittedly know very little about Croatia so I was a little bit lost for parts of 3 Winters. The play tells the story of three generations of a Croatian family, jumping between 1945, 1990, and 2011. It lost out on stars not for the production itself but for the text, which I found occasionally confusing and a tad longer than it needed to be at over three hours long.

The production did an impressive job switching between the three timelines with one set, designed by Verity Quinn. I was most impressed by Lucie Sword who played Karolina both in the 1945 and 1990 timelines and did an incredible job at seeming two different ages. I also loved Cathryn Benson as Masa and Stella Kammel as Monika.

The play touches on so many things from relationships to the effects of war on a family. After seeing it, I'm so curious about the history of Croatia so it definitely accomplished something!

Photo Credit: Helen Murray 

Review: Broken Wings Album

RATING: ★★★★★

If you're looking for a new musical theatre album to listen to, look no further than Broken Wings, a brand new musical by Nadim Naaman and Dana Al Fardan. The show is based on Kahil Gibran's poetic novel of the same name about forbidden love and fighting against society's expectations in 1912 Lebanon. The music itself is beautiful and the story is incredibly moving.

If you don't know (I certainly didn't), Gibran is the third-best selling poet of all time. His novel Broken Wings uses both poetry and prose to tell the story of a man, modeled after Gibran himself, who falls in love with a beautiful young woman named Selma only to be separated. The story is incredibly relevant today as it deals with the desire to be allowed to be with who you love, gender equality, and religion. It goes between 1923 New York with an older Gibran reminiscing and 1912 Beirut.

The show's music was written by Nadim Naaman and Dana Al Farden, a female Qatari composer. You might recognize Naaman, an actor of Lebanese origins, from his roles in the West End like Raoul in Phantom of the Opera. I think it's incredibly important to support work made by creators of color because I agree with Naaman that one of the best ways to increase diversity onstage is to have more diverse stories being told.

Broken Wings is fairly solo-heavy with some ensemble numbers interspersed as well. The show has many beautiful ballads like "So Many Questions" and "Selma" in addition to more jaunty tunes like "Farris Effandi Karamy". The lyrics are fittingly poetic and the music has gorgeous orchestrations with lots of strings. The music has the same haunting longing as Titanic or Ragtime, but with a clear Middle Eastern influence.

In fact, the rousing instrumental "Overture" is one of my favorite tracks off the album. I also love "All I Longed to See", a beautiful ensemble number that's a lovely introduction to Beirut. "'Til Death Reunites Us" is another favorite. I love the "Prologue" for which Naaman does a very spoken calming monologue including the gorgeous line, "We all remember our first love and try to recapture that strange time".

The album includes many wonderful voices, including well-known West End actors like Rob Houchen and Adam Linstead. It features about 70-80% actors of Middle Eastern or Mediterranean heritage, which is amazing. The voices are remarkably well suited to the roles, especially for a concept album.

The musical is having a semi-staged run at the Theatre Royal Haymarket in London the first week of August. I booked in tickets this week for my family to see it as luckily enough, it falls in the week that they're visiting. I highly recommend buying a ticket if you can because I think it's going to be something incredibly special. I'll likely write a review on here so definitely check back in August!

I recently interviewed Nadim Naaman for BroadwayWorld UK and he had some amazing things to say about the show, how it was created, and the importance of representation. Check it out here!

I honestly can't recommend this album enough. If you love historic shows like Les Mis, Titanic, or Parade, then I think you would absolutely love it. It truly has something in it for everyone and it's a beautifully soothing listen. There have been so many cast albums released recently, but this is by far my favorite one.

2018 Tony Award Predictions

I thought that I would share my predictions for this year's Tony Awards with you all. They may not be correct, but they're my best guesses. Mind you, I've not seen many of the shows this year but I'm basing my predictions off cast albums, reviews, and word of mouth from friends who have seen them. 

If you'd like to hear my reasoning behind these predictions, do check out the Next Best Theatre podcast Episode 5 where I discuss my predictions along with my two co-hosts, Michael and Dan. 

Leading Actor in a Play
Andrew Garfield, Angels in America
Tom Hollander, Travesties
Jamie Parker, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child
Mark Rylance, Farinelli and the King
Denzel Washington, The Iceman Cometh

Leading Actress in a Play
Glenda Jackson, Three Tall Women
Condola Rashad, Saint Joan
Lauren Ridloff, Children of a Lesser God
Amy Schumer, Meteor Shower

Leading Actor in a Musical
Henry Haddon-Paton, My Fair Lady
Joshua Henry, Carousel 
Tony Shaloub, The Band's Visit
Ethan Slater, SpongeBob Squarepants

Leading Actress in a Musical 
Lauren Ambrose, My Fair Lady
Hailey Kilgore, Once On This Island
LaChanze, Summer: The Donna Summer Musical
Katrina Lenk, The Band's Visit
Taylor Louderman, Mean Girls
Jessie Mueller, Carousel

Featured Actor in a Play (I couldn't choose on this one!) 
Anthony Boyle, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child 
Michael Cera, Lobby Hero
Brian Tyree Henry, Lobby Hero
Nathan Lane, Angels in America
David Morse, The Iceman Cometh

Featured Actress in a Play 
Susan Brown, Angels in America
Noma Dumezweni, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child
Deborah Findlay, The Children
Denise Gough, Angels in America
Laurie Metcalf, Three Tall Women

Featured Actor in a Musical 
Norbert Leo Butz, My Fair Lady
Alexander Gemignani, Carousel
Grey Henson, Mean Girls
Gavin Lee, Spongebob Squarepants
Ari'el Stachel, The Band's Visit

Featured Actress in a Musical 
Ariana DeBose, Summer: The Donna Summer Musical
Renée Fleming, Carousel
Lindsay Mendez, Carousel
Ashley Park, Mean Girls
Diana Rigg, My Fair Lady

Best Book of a Musical (I absolutely cannot guess between these two!) 
The Band's Visit
Mean Girls
SpongeBob Squarepants

Best Score
Angels in America
The Band's Visit
Mean Girls
SpongeBob Squarepants

Best Scenic Design of a Play
Three Tall Women
Farinelli and the King
Harry Potter and the Cursed Child 
The Iceman Cometh
Angels in America

Best Scenic Design of a Musical 
Once On This Island
The Band's Visit
Mean Girls
My Fair Lady
SpongeBob Squarepants

Best Costume Design of a Play
Three Tall Women
Farinelli and the King
Harry Potter and the Cursed Child 
The Iceman Cometh
Angels in America

Best Costume Design of a Musical
Once On This Island
Mean Girls
My Fair Lady
SpongeBob Squarepants

Best Lighting Design of a Play
Farinelli and the King
Harry Potter and the Cursed Child 
The Iceman Cometh
Angels in America

Best Lighting Design of a Musical
Once On This Island
The Band's Visit
My Fair Lady
SpongeBob Squarepants 

Best Sound Design of a Play
Harry Potter and the Cursed Child 
The Iceman Cometh
Angels in America

Best Sound Design of a Musical
The Band's Visit
Once On This Island
Mean Girls
SpongeBob Squarepants

Best Direction of a Play
Marianne Elliot, Angels in America
Joe Mantello, Three Tall Women
Patrick Marber, Travesties
John Tiffany, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child
George C Wolfe, The Iceman Cometh

Best Direction of a Musical
Michael Arden, Once On This Island
David Cromer, The Band's Visit
Tina Landau, SpongeBob Squarepants

Best Choreography 
My Fair Lady
SpongeBob Squarepants
Harry Potter and the Cursed Child
Mean Girls

Best Orchestrations
Mean Girls
SpongeBob Squarepants
Once On This Island
The Band's Visit

Best Revival of a Play
Angels in America
Three Tall Women
The Iceman Cometh
Lobby Hero

Best Revival of a Musical
My Fair Lady
Once On This Island

Best Play
The Children
Farinelli and the King
Harry Potter and the Cursed Child
Latin History for Morons

Best Musical 
Mean Girls
SpongeBob Squarepants
The Band's Visit 

What are you predicting to win at this year's Tony Awards? What would you like to see win? Let me know in the comments below x

Shows I Saw in May

I've decided to start a new monthly series here on Flower Crowns and Revolutionaries. While I used to do monthly goal posts, I was growing tired of them and felt neither I nor you readers were enjoying them. Instead, I thought it might be nice to do a round up of all the shows I saw in a month with links to reviews and general thoughts on them. 

The Grinning Man - Video, Blog Post 
It's no secret that I spent most of the winter and spring obsessed with a beautiful strange and haunting musical called The Grinning Man. On 5 May, my friend Rhiannon and I went to the closing night of the London production. I'm desperately hoping that it will get a Broadway or off-Broadway production soon and eagerly awaiting the cast album's release later this summer.

West End Does Magic of Animation Concert - BWW UK Review
I was very excited when Rob Houchen announced that he, along with two others, was starting a concert production company called West End Does. This animated movie themed concert featured some of my favorite Disney songs and some of my favorite West End performers, including Carrie Hope Fletcher, Eva Noblezada, Fra Fee, and Marisha Wallace.

The Writer 
I admittedly wasn't thrilled with The Writer at the Almeida. It definitely spoke to a lot of relevant topics about the life of an artist and how women function in the creative industry and just what it means to be a woman in general and I love seeing new work produced. However, I felt that it was an hour longer than it needed to be and smacked of pretentiousness.

Red - BWW UK Review
Red originated at the Donmar Warehouse in 2009 and I was thrilled to be able to see the new West End production, led by the same creative team and with Alfred Molina reprising his role as artist Mark Rothko. The piece questions what it means to be an artist and what art is, without ever falling into pretentiousness or stuffiness. Alfred Enoch is absolutely lovely as Rothko's assistant, Ken. I'll definitely be returning a second time.

(I'm also feeling incredibly fond of this show because a quote from my review is now up on the side of Wyndham's Theatre. That's definitely a first!)

The Lion King
I went with my friend Aeron to see The Lion King and was reminded of what a truly impressive production it is. It was very nostalgic as The Lion King at the Lyceum Theatre here in London was the first professional show I ever saw, on a family trip when I was seven years old. It felt a bit crazy to return to that same theatre now that I'm living in London and working in the industry. Now I know where my love of animal puppets and revolving stages came from!

The Play That Goes Wrong - Video, Blog Post 
My best friend from home, Alex, was in town for about 30 hours so I decided to take him to see The Play That Goes Wrong as an early birthday present and we were both blown away. It's a technical marvel and delightfully funny as well.

With A Little Bit of Lerner - BWW UK Review
I'm not a huge fan of Alan Jay Lerner's work (aside from Gigi, which I adore) but the Lerner tribute at the Royal Festival Hall was a lovely night. With so many talented performers and a wealth of music to draw from, it was a fitting celebration of a great lyricist's life's work. My personal highlight was Rob singing "On the Street Where You Live" from My Fair Lady.

Confidence - BWW UK Review 
I wanted to like Confidence so badly. I've watched Tanya Burr's YouTube videos for years and love her makeup line, so I was predisposed to like her performance. However, the play itself is bizarre and personally completely unappealing and Tanya was absolutely miscast. I actually cried writing the review, because I hated to give something two stars. But when you end up complimenting the set's carpet while trying to say something nice about a play, you know it's gone wrong.

A Little Princess - BWW UK Review 
I returned to Royal Festival Hall to see the concert staging of Andrew Lippa's A Little Princess and was rather disappointed. I remember the book fondly from reading it multiple times as a child, but this musical fails to capture the charm and spirit of the novel. A talented cast, and especially brilliant child cast, weren't enough to save the show.

Tartuffe - BWW UK Review
While most of the critics didn't, I actually rather enjoyed Tartuffe, a modern reimagining of a classic Molière comedy. It's the West End's first dual-language production and while it was a bit distracting at times having to watch the subtitles for translations of the French half of the play, I thought it was worth it for such a cool and exciting new venture. Plus, I got to see one of my favorite TV and film actors, George Blagden, on stage.

Rotterdam (RADA) - Review Coming Soon
My last show of May was Rotterdam at RADA, where my friend Rhiannon goes to school. Rotterdam is about a trans man coming out to his family and girlfriend and going through his transition. It also focuses strongly on the impact on his girlfriend, who struggles to cope with her own identity as a gay woman now that her partner is male. The RADA production had a beautiful set and incredible performances from all four people in the cast.

What shows have you seen this month? Let me know in the comments down below. x

Review: The Play That Goes Wrong, West End

RATING: ★★★★★

I finally saw The Play That Goes Wrong last weekend and it's wonderfully funny and a technical marvel. I went with my best friend from back home, Alex, who was in town for about 30 hours, as an early birthday present and we were both amazed. The design and the set are definitely the stars of the show. 

I couldn't be more impressed by Nigel Hook, the set designer, for the way that he built a set that is able to fall apart over the course of the play -- and still somehow pass health and safety regulations. In addition to having some amazing functional aspects, it's just a lovely set to look at as well. Kudos also must be given to director Mark Bell for navigating an impressive cast through the piece. 

The Play That Goes Wrong is about a theatre group doing a show called The Murder at Haversham Manor, but things don't exactly go as planned. Between injured actors, forgotten lines, set pieces breaking, and a missing dog, their opening night is a bit of a disaster. Each actor plays two roles: their character and the character that they are playing in the play within the play which is quite good fun as you get to see them slip between the two as mistakes occur. 

I recommend getting to the theatre a bit early as some of the cast members and the 'tech crew' (mostly the understudies and swings, I believe) come out into the theatre and chat with the audience before the show begins. One running gag that I loved was that they're looking for the show's dog, which they've lost. The hijinks continue out in the hallways during the interval: I was handed a flyer for the lost dog on my way to the loo. 

I also would recommend grabbing a programme for the show, as the first part of it is a fake programme for the show within the show which is very amusing. 

Katie Bernstein is delightfully funny as Annie, the stage manager who is last minute thrust into an acting role. Edward Howells is similarly charming as Dennis and very good at the physical comedy aspects of the show. I love Patrick Warner's top of show and top of second act speeches as Chris, the head of the theatre company in addition to playing the lead in the show. 

We also saw understudy James Watterson as Jonathan, I believe, and I would never have guessed that he was the understudy before looking at the programme. My favorite performance though was Graeme Rooney as the tech guy, Trevor, who is absolutely hilarious. 

I highly recommend going to check out this show in the West End, on UK tour, or on Broadway if you have a chance. It's worth it for the technical aspects alone and just a fun night at the theatre. I may have to go see it on tour as well... 

Check out my video review of the show as well:

Photo Credit: Helen Murray of a past West End cast for The Play That Goes Wrong

A Little Life Update

I realized that the last life chat I wrote was in January, so I thought it might be nice to give you all a little update as the summer begins. I'm moving into the last stretch of graduate school and it seems crazy to me that I'll be moving back to the States in just a few months.

I've finished all of my graduate school classes and am just waiting for the results of my second round of essays. I'll be spending the summer working on my dissertation, which questions what factors influence a theatre choosing to film a certain production over another. I'm so excited to get working on it -- and thrilled that I don't have to go to class anymore!

I've been interning at the Donmar Warehouse in the development department since the end of January and I've never been so in love with anything before in my life. I was a little worried that my expectations were too high, but it's blown me away. Not only are the productions incredible (The York Realist is definitely one of my top ten shows I've ever seen), but the people are so wonderful and lovely. I've extended my internship so I'll be staying through to the end of July and I'm already dreading my last day.

I've done some traveling over the spring, from day trips out to Brighton and Oxford to a spring break trip to Paris with my friend Patrizia. We had a great time in Paris and I finally got to visit Victor Hugo's house and burial site so I was very pleased. I've got some amazing travel planned for this summer too, including a trip to Disneyland Paris.

I've also had some lovely visitors in 2018 thus far, including my cousin Kristi and my friend from Elon, Stefanie, and my friend from New York, Julie. I also got to spend some time with my friend Skylar when he visited for his spring break and my best friend from home, Alex, was here over the weekend on a layover for about thirty hours. I'm looking forward to seeing Julie again and having Kimmy visit this summer. But mostly I can't wait for my family to come!

I've continued working at the Dickens Museum one morning every weekend, in addition to picking up the odd additional shift. I continue to absolutely adore it and some of my co-workers have become lovely friends of mine. I have developed a strange fondness for Charles Dickens that has very little to do for his work -- I suppose I'm a bit grateful to him for his former house becoming sort of like my home here in London.

I'm also doing a lot of writing for BroadwayWorld, both interviews and reviewing. I saw a poster for a musical with a quote for a review that I wrote which has long been a pipe-dream of mine, so that absolutely thrilled me.

The other big development of the spring is that I fell head over heels for a musical called The Grinning Man. It's based on a lesser-known Victor Hugo novel and integrated semi-immersive theatre, beautiful puppetry by some of the same people who worked on War Horse, and stunning vocals by an actor called Louis Maskell.

I ended up seeing it six times: the most I've ever seen one production. It also makes it tied for my second most seen show (Les Mis is still number one, but The Grinning Man is tied with Kinky Boots for the number two spot). While it closed earlier this month, I have high hopes that it'll make it to Broadway one day.

I've also been spending a lot more time around the RADA with my friend Rhiannon who studies technical theatre there. I'm looking forward to seeing more of their shows in a couple of weeks.

I'll definitely check back in at the end of the summer, before I head back to the States and end my time in London. What have you all been up to in 2018 thus far? I'd love to hear in the comments below or on Twitter. 

Review: Bright Star, US Tour

A.J. Shively, Carmen Cusack, and Patrick Cummings
RATING: ★★★★★

While I was home in April, I was lucky enough to catch Bright Star on tour with my mom, sister, aunt, and uncle. It was my aunt and uncle who told me about the bluegrass musical a couple of years ago before I spent the summer in New York. I saw the show on Broadway and fell absolutely in love with it and then shared that love with my family (the cast album CD is always in my mom's car now), so it was great for us to be able to treat them to actually see the show.

The show is set in North Carolina from the 1920s to 1940s, so it was really special to get to see it in my home state. (You could tell the audience loved hearing town names that they knew.) The show follows two separate but connected storylines. The first is about young headstrong Alice Murphy and her beau Jimmy Ray, the son of the mayor of the rural town they live in. The second follows an aspiring writer recently returned from World War II named Billy, the girl who loves him, and his editor...Alice Murphy.

It's a charming story that will pull at your heartstrings and might even make you cry. Written by Steve Martin (yes, that Steve Martin) and Edie Brickell, it uses bluegrass music to evoke the North Carolina of the last century. The tour shares the same creative team, including director Walter Bobbie, as the show's original Broadway run in 2016.

A. J. Shively and Carmen Cusack 
Having seen the original Broadway cast and fallen in love with every member of it, I was a little bit nervous about seeing the tour cast. However, for the most part, they absolutely are as brilliant as the original cast and make the roles all their own. Audrey Cardwell plays Alice Murphy and she has a gorgeous, strong voice, even if it's not quite as bluegrass twangy as original Alice, Carmen Cusack. Her acting is similarly strong and I was particularly impressed by how she manages to differentiate her character's young and older versions. She brings a vulnerability to the role that I found compelling and her songs like "If You Knew My Story" and "Way Back in the Day" are definite highlights.

Patrick Cummings is wonderful as the charismatic Jimmy Ray. His two solos, "Whoa Mama" and "Heartbreaker" are my two favorite songs in the show, though they sit at opposite ends of the emotional spectrum, and he absolutely does justice to both. While Henry Gottfried has a great voice as Billy Cane, I felt that his acting occasionally is a bit lacking. In a few scenes, Billy ends up feeling goofy rather than charming.

My favorite performance is definitely Liana Hunt as Margo, Billy's childhood friend. I saw Hunt as Katherine in Newsies a few years ago and was excited to see her in another role. Her big solo, "Asheville", is one of the most tender, lovely moments of the show. She makes me wish that Margo had more scenes!

Carmen Cusack 
Alison Briner-Dardenne (who also played the role in the original Broadway cast) and John Leslie Wolfe are very lovely as Alice's parents. Jeff Austin makes the small role of Mayor Josiah Dobbs, Jimmy Ray's father, actually a bit terrifying. I definitely recognized something in him that I see in many politicians in my country currently, unfortunately.

One of the best parts of the show are the staff at Alice's magazine's office, Daryl and Lucy (played by Kaitlyn Davidson). I remember adoring Jeff Blumenkrantz's hilarious performance as Daryl when I saw the show on Broadway, so I couldn't be more thrilled that he's a part of the tour cast. The pair provide the comic relief, which is much needed are certain points.

The show features beautiful choreography by Josh Rhodes, in particular the swing dance parts and the entire scene around the song "Asheville". The scenic design by Eugene Lee is similarly stunning, with the bluegrass band being located in a small cabin that's moved around the stage and sometimes used by the characters are well. I also love the small train that occasionally goes across a rail at the top of the stage. The costumes by Jane Greenwood are just wonderful; I wish I could wear every single one of Margo's dresses. 

A. J. Shively, Kaitlyn Davidson, and Jeff Blumenkrantz 

While the show was missing a bit of the magic of the original Broadway production, it's still a wonderful heartwarming show and definitely a tour worth seeing. As a North Carolinian, it is so special to see such a beautiful story set in my own state and based on the true story of the Iron Mountain Baby (look it up, but beware that it contains spoilers for the show). If you can't make it to the tour, I recommend checking out the album on iTunes. I personally would love to see the show come to the West End one day...I've already got a dream cast all worked out.

If you live in Texas or North Carolina, you've still got a chance to see the show on its last two tour stops later this summer. 

Photo Credit: Craig Schwartz of the original LA tour cast 

All About SeatPlan.com

One of the biggest struggles that I have when booking tickets for shows is not knowing what the view will be like from a specific seat. Theatres are structured so differently that sometimes a seat in one theatre is great, while in another theatre that same seat might be terrible. Stages tend to be different heights (influencing the view from the front row), seats are spaced differently, and some theatres have columns that obstruct views.

Recently, I was booking tickets to The Play That Goes Wrong as an early birthday treat for my best friend when he comes to visit London later this month. I've never been in the theatre, but I stumbled across SeatPlan.com while trying to find out what the inside of the theatre looks like. Imagine my delight when they contacted me only a few days later to ask if I was interested in reviewing their sight!

The site has seating charts for a bunch of theatres from across the UK, including London, Edinburgh, Milton Keynes, and a few others. (You don't even need to know the name of the theatre; you can search by show.) You can click on specific seats to see reviews of them, complete with star ratings of comfort, legroom, and view. A lot of the reviews also feature photos from the seat which are incredibly helpful.

I recently used SeatPlan to check out the seat that I bought for when I see Heathers at The Other Palace later this summer.

The Other Palace
 You can sign up to the site to submit reviews of your own. If you upload a photo with your review, then you get points which you can later cash in for theatre tokens. I haven't done this yet, but you can bet I'll be doing it in the future! You can also buy tickets directly through SeatPlan which is a great feature.

The Queen's Theatre
Have you guys tried out SeatPlan? Whether you actively submit reviews or just use it to check your seats before purchasing, it's a great resource for the British theatre community.

Advice for Theatre Reviewers

Recently, my editor at BroadwayWorld UK sent out a request for some advice about writing theatre reviews for a new initiative that is starting up. We ended up with a long email chain of advice, much of which I wish I'd heard when I first started writing reviews.

Of course, a lot of theatre reviewing is learning as you go, but I wanted to share with all of you what I sent in response in case any of my readers are thinking about becoming reviewers. I have four main tips:

Don't worry about what other reviewers are saying. 
When I first started writing reviews, I worried if mine differed from other reviewers' and if I was giving a show the same star rating everyone else was. However, I've since come to realize that I often enjoy when reviewers disagree about a show because it gives you a more holistic view of it as someone who hasn't seen it if you hear both the positive and negative opinions of it. Occasionally, I'm at odds with the rest of the critics on something, but I'm accepting that that's okay.

Don't try to take tons of notes during the show.
The first show that I reviewed for BroadwayWorld UK, I was surprised to see lots of other critics scribbling down notes furiously during the play. For the next few shows I saw, I tried to do this too but found it didn't help me that much -- and was disruptive to those around me. Now, I'll have a notebook within reach in case I want to quickly jot something down but most of the time I wait until interval and then the Tube ride home to write down notes. (My exception to this is when I review concerts as I note down who sang what songs.) 

Prepare before you go. 
Before I go to a show, I always make sure that I have whatever production photos I need from the PR and have read the whole press release. If I have time, I'll set up my review documents and even write down the names of the cast and creatives or write my paragraph about the production's history (example: is it a new play? Has this playwright done anything else recently? Is it a revival? If so, when was it last produced?). This makes my job easier when I get home to write my review.

Review the show for what it is. 
Nothing makes me more annoyed than when I read a review that clearly didn't take the show for what it was. For example, a lot of the other critics bashed Ruthless the Musical but I thought it was rather good...for a campy musical. In my review, I said that while it's not for everyone, it's a bit of good fun if that's what you want. Basically, don't review a panto as though it's a serious musical. I always try to acknowledge if something just isn't to my personal tastes, but is still a good production for what it is.

Do you have any tips for reviewing shows? What do you prefer to see in a review? Let me know in the comments or on Twitter.
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