Shows I Saw in July

It's not quite the end of July yet, but as my family are coming to visit (they get in today!) I know that I won't be seeing another show until August. I had a great month for theatre in July, seeing some incredible new shows and returning to a couple of my favorite plays.

The Light Princess - Review
I started off the month by seeing The Light Princess in Concert at Cadogan Hall with Rosalie Craig, Hadley Fraser, Louis Maskell, Gabrielle Brooks, and a whole talented cast of people. I fell in love with this beautiful feminist, unconventional fairytale and haven't stopped listening to the cast album since.

Prom Queen - BWW Review
One of the coolest things I got to do this month was go to the workshop of a new musical called Prom Queen at The Other Palace. It's based on the true story of a Canadian teen who sued the Catholic school board when he wasn't allowed to bring his boyfriend to prom. While it was clearly still a work in progress, it showed true potential and was a fun night.

The Lieutenant of Inishmore - BWW Review
This is without a doubt the most I've ever laughed in a theatre. This dark comedy is a satire on terrorism currently starring Aidan Turner (of Poldark fame). It was such a strange delight and definitely one that I'll be returning to in August.

The Diana Tapes
I interviewed James Clements, who both wrote the show and played Andrew Morton for BroadwayWorld UK, and he invited me to come see it. It's based on the story of how Princess Diana smuggled out tapes for Andrew Morton to write his tell-all biography of her. I thought it was a really interesting take on modern celebrity and the press and the cast were all fantastic.

Tartuffe - BWW Review
I already spoke last month for my love for this show but I actually returned twice in July. By the last time, I had stopped using the subtitles and was very proud of myself that I was able to understand about half of the French on my own! I was also very lucky this month because my friend Rhiannon won a backstage tour of the Haymarket and took me along, so I can say that I've been on the set for this show now.

Red - BWW Review
This is another one that I saw (and reviewed) last month and returned to this month with Rhiannon. It was possibly even more wonderful a second time around and I'm so thrilled that they've announced that they're going to stream it to cinemas across the UK and US in November. Definitely get a ticket for that -- I'll be going for round three in the cinema!

Titanic (UK Tour) - Video
After many months of wanting to, I finally saw the Titanic tour and it absolutely blew me away. I love this musical and Maury Yeston's music and this cast and production are insanely wonderful. I was particularly blown away by Niall Sheehy and Greg Castiglioni, two of my favorite actors, who are wonderful in their parts.

Mamma Mia - Review Coming Soon
I went to see Mamma Mia for their special film release celebration night and was in no way prepared for how much I fell in love with it. I had seen the film before, but the stage show is such an absolute delight and this current cast is fantastic.

Exit the King - BWW Review 
This is the only show I saw all month that I didn't like. While Rhys Ifans was fantastic and the set was really cool, I felt the show was far too long...even though it was only one hundred minutes. This is the only one that I wouldn't recommend unless you're a big fan of Rhys Ifans.

Review: OSCiLLATE, Sadler's Wells

RATING: ★★★★

Despite having been a dancer for fifteen years, I rarely go to dance shows and even though I live only a fifteen minute walk from one of the greatest dance venues in the UK, I'd never been to a show at Sadler's Wells before tonight. When I asked to review the UK premiere of OSCiLLATE, an innovative new tap show, I was thrilled.

OSCiLLATE is the first work by a British tap dance company to be performed at Sadler's Wells. It's by Old Kent Road and has been put together by founder and artistic director Avalon Rathgeb and co-choreographer Dre Torres. According to the programme, the show "explores human interaction and the effects of communication on relationships."

I've never seen tap done quite like this. While some of the moves are familiar, it has a clear influence from other styles of dance like lyrical and contemporary. There was even a number where the dancers took off their tap shoes and made the rhythmic noises with just their feet.

One of the coolest things about the show is its electronic music, which was composed for it by Kenneth Mockler. A short video is projected at the beginning which caused me to think more about the music I was hearing. It was amazing how well the electronic beats went with the tap dancing. I also enjoyed the couple of numbers that were done without music, especially the ones with spoken word narration instead.

The piece was also well-lit with the lighting helping to set the mood of the piece. I really enjoyed the number that uses lamps and how the switching off and on of them blended with the sounds of the tap shoes. Is it strange that I also loved that the tap shoes all the dancers wore weren't the typical black, but an off-white color? It seemed to emphasize that this isn't your traditional tap company.

The show is a blend of solos and ensemble pieces. I felt that the way they used partnering was really wonderful and included moves that I'd never seen before. It was great to see two women dancing together as that's rarely seen in tap.

If you have any interest in dance, OSCiLLATE is well worth seeing. In all honesty, I'm not sure I understood the full message or journey of the show, but I certainly enjoyed seeing tap done in a very different and exciting way.

OSCiLLATE is on at the Lillian Bayliss Theatre at Sadler's Wells on 24-25 July.
I was given a press ticket to review this show, but all opinions are my own. 

Review: When the Curtain Falls by Carrie Hope Fletcher

RATING: ★★★★★

Carrie Hope Fletcher's novels are always a wonderful blend of whimsical romance and heartwarming self-discovery and When the Curtain Falls is no different. Carrie's latest novel is a dual-timeline romance set in the same theatre sixty years apart. It shows off Carrie's knowledge of the theatre world and while many of Carrie's past books have included fantasy elements, this is the first with a supernatural ghostly plot line.

The main plot revolves around Olive Green, a West End actress, and Oscar Bright, a famous soap star, who are playing romantic leads in a new production of When the Curtain Falls at the Southern Cross Theatre. They struggle to navigate their feelings for each other amongst the rest of the show's cast, Oscar's insecurities as an actor, and his fame. Before long, it becomes apparent that there are spirits in the theatre. Could it be the ghost of Fawn Burrows, the beautiful young actress who played the lead in the original production of the show back in 1952 before a tragic accident? And what does stage doorman Walter Brown know that he's not letting on?

I was swept into this story immediately upon starting it and ended up reading the book in two days, staying up until 2 am each night because I couldn't put it down. Carrie's writing style is very lyrical, but easy to read. This book is less whimsical than her earlier novels but equally delightful. Some might class it under young adult fiction, but I think it would be appealing to people of many ages, particularly those who love or work in the theatre industry.

My favorite thing about the novel is the characters, both main and supporting. The villain of the piece feels real and truly frightening, while the minor antagonists are fun to hate. I loved all of Olive's friends in the cast and I'd like to be Olive's best friend myself. I found both romances really engaging; I was actively rooting for each couple, but there were enough legitimate obstacles in their way to make me question what was going to happen next.

I loved that the book has little posters for the show, When the Curtain Falls, throughout it for both timelines. I thought that was such a great design touch and it really helps you feel like the characters and the show is real.

I will add a content warning that there are some scenes of violence and a scene of sexual assault within the novel. I think that they're done very tastefully and they're absolutely necessary to the plot and not gratuitous at all, but a warning feels appropriate.

If you love or work in theatre and appreciate novels with beautiful romances, then this book is certainly a good one for you. I'm having to restrain myself from immediately rereading it and I'm recommending it to all my friends in addition to my readers. I'd actually love to see a stage adaptation of this novel one day...

Review: For King and Country, Southwark Playhouse

RATING: ★★★★

When I was at the Southwark Playhouse to see The Rink, I saw a poster on the wall for For King and Country that showed men in World War I uniforms and I went home and booked a ticket immediately after the show finished. World War I has always been one of my favorite periods to study and art written during or about it has long fascinated me. This moving play definitely didn't let me down.

For King and Country is a court room drama set on the Western Front in 1918. Young Private Hamp is on trial for desertion, a representation of the three thousand men who were tried for desertion or cowardice during the war. This production by Dilated Theatre, directed by Paul Tomlinson, is a surprisingly thrilling piece for a WWI play without any front-line action.

The play, written by John Wilson, was first performed in 1964 and was later adapted into the film King and Country. This is the first time it's been performed in London in over thirty years and it commemorates the anniversary of the war beginning in 1918 in support of the Royal British Legion.

In the play, simple Northern boy Private Hamp has deserted somewhat unconsciously and been court-martialed. When Captain Hargreaves is assigned to his defense, he quickly realizes that poor mental health (the term used at the time was "shell shock") was the cause. There is a tension that builds throughout the play as Hamp refuses to believe in the outcome that everyone else expects: death by execution.

Adam Lawrence exudes honesty and simplicity as Private Hamp, though it's clear that there is a general unease underneath his cheery surface. He makes it easy to see why the other soldiers treat him so sympathetically, as he earnestly insists that the trial might go in his favor. Lloyd Everitt, on the other hand, exudes intelligence and gives a beautiful arc as Captain Hargreaves goes from defending Hamp from a sense of duty to a belief that he doesn't deserve to be punished for something done while in a fragile mental state brought on by war. 

The supporting cast do a great job of backing these two men up, providing a range of beliefs on Hamp's innocence. Andrew Cullum plays the Medical Officer O'Sullivan who insists that Hamp is not actually suffering from shell shock but who seems to teeter on the edge of a breakdown himself. 

I was very impressed with Eugene Simon's portrayal of Padre, the young preacher sent to provide support for Hamp, who struggles to reconcile his belief in God in the face of such suffering. Best known for his work on Game of Thrones, Eugene gives a beautiful performance. Even a few weeks later, I'm still haunted by the way he cries when Hamp is told of his fate. 

Jacqueline Gunn's immersive set keeps the audience firmly set within the front lines of the Western Front, even if the action takes place within a court room. It adds to the somber mood of the play and creates a sense of the danger that lurks outside the room. Robbie Butler's lighting design and Philip Matejtshuk's sound design are best on display during the scene changes, during which the ensemble recreate snippets of battle scenes, moving through the space. 

The play has much to say about PTSD and mental health, which are incredibly relevant today, as much of it centers around different characters' opinions on whether or not Hamp truly has shell shock. It also seems a commentary on the effects that war has on men, as we see that many of the characters and not just Hamp are starting to lose their grip. 

The 306 British soldiers who were executed during World War I for desertion or cowardice were officially given a pardon by the British government in 2006. For King and Country is a touching tribute to them that forces the audiences to consider how many men died because of the war's effect on their mental health. If you've any interest in World War I, I highly recommend going to see it before it closes on 21 July. 

Photo Credit: Alex Brenner 

Review: The Light Princess in Concert, Cadogan Hall

RATING: ★★★★★

I had the pleasure of seeing the absolutely delightful concert version of The Light Princess at Cadogan Hall recently. The show's music and lyrics are written by Tori Amos with a book (and lyrics) by Samuel Adamson. This concert staging was produced by Club 11 and the Alex Parker Theatre Company, whose work I always love.

When I saw that Hadley Fraser and Rosalie Craig were doing this back in February, I immediately booked for the chance to see them in a show together. When the additional casting (Louis Maskell, Gabrielle Brooks, Trevor Dion Nicholas) was announced, I was so pleased that I already had a ticket to see this amazing cast. However, I found myself falling in love with this beautiful, unconventional, feminist fairytale itself by a few numbers in.

The show is based on a fairytale written by George MacDonald in 1867. The original production was at the National Theatre back in 2013 and developed a near cult following, even extending past their original run. It was directed by Marianne Elliot, whose work I admire and whose revival of Company I'm so sad to be missing. A cast album was released in 2015 that I really need to listen to!

The tale is about two kingdoms that are at odds, called Lagobel and Sealand. Both countries have suffered the loss of their queens and both kings have become cold and hard in response. However, the royal children have reacted very differently. Princess Althea of Lagobel rejects the sadness that plagues the kingdom after her mother's death and as a result, gravity loses its effect on her and she floats in the air. Her father locks her in a tower with the orphan Piper to focus on his eldest son and heir. 

Meanwhile, the kingdom suspects that the King of Sealand may have killed his wife and thus do not risk publicly mourning for her. Her eldest son Prince Digby becomes morose and never smiles and is known as the "Solemn Prince of Sealand". When the two meet, they find themselves feeling for the first time in years but can they make it work when their kingdoms are at war and they both have unfeeling fathers to stand up to?

Cadogan Hall is a beautiful venue, so any concert staged there is going to be a wonderful experience. I also appreciate anything that Alex Parker conducts as he's a joy to watch. The concert staging did make the plot a bit difficult to follow at times, but luckily there's a fairly comprehensive summary on Wikipedia! 

The music for the show features a wide range of sounds, some of it very traditional musical theatre, some more poppy, and some that almost seem to have alternative influences. A lot of the numbers are very narrative and company driven; there are actually few proper solos in the show. My personal favorites included "Gravity", "Darkest Hour", and "The Whistleblower". "Nothing More Than This" brilliantly showed off Rosalie and Hadley's voices and "Bitter Fate", which is largely a duet between Prince Digby and his younger brother Llewelyn, is my favorite number of the entire show. 

Rosalie Craig reprised her role as Princess Althea and was absolutely astounding. I'd seen Rosalie before in The Ferryman, but had never seen her in a musical and she blew me away. From her stunning vocals to her compelling acting, it was a flawless performance. I loved that she gave Althea real character. She was even perhaps a bit bratty at times, not at all your typical princess. I also enjoyed seeing Rosalie applaud for all her co-stars from the stage; you could feel her love for the show!

Hadley Fraser has been one of my favorite actors for many years, so I jumped at the chance to get to see him in a show with his wife. The two of them are also alums of the Donmar Warehouse, where they've both done numerous shows so it was exciting to see them in something together. Hadley's voice was so well suited for this music; it sounded like the feeling of being wrapped up in a warm blanket. (Does that even make sense?) Hadley brings an intelligence and a dignity to all of his roles that I thought was so well suited to Prince Digby. 

I recently saw Gabrielle Brooks in the Donmar's The Way of the World, but had no idea that she could sing so gorgeously. I felt that she stole every scene she was in as Piper, Althea's best friend. Her song with King Darius was a highlight of the whole show.

You might know Louis Maskell from The Grinning Man, but it was great to see him as Digby's younger brother Llewelyn. His vocals were beautiful as always and his voice blended particularly well with Hadley's. It was a small role, but a rather nice one, and he definitely made the most of it.

Another small role, the Falconer, was played by Laura Pitt Pulford, a name I've often heard but I'd never seen her in anything before. Her parts were another highlight of the show as she has a beautiful voice and, I have to say, her dress was gorgeous.

Trevor Dion Nicholas, best known for playing the Genie, played King Darius, Althea's father. I was so impressed with how wonderful his acting was, especially for a concert staging, and his voice was of course astounding. I loved seeing King Darius's character arc over the course of the show.

Seeing the concert at Cadogan Hall made me wish I'd been in the UK to see the full staging of The Light Princess at the National Theatre as the photos I've seen make it look incredible. However, it was a wonderful night out that reminded me that this gorgeous fairytale deserves a further life.

You can check out my video review of The Light Princess in Concert below:

Blogger Template Created by pipdig