Review: The Key is to Laugh when you’re Grumpy Old Women!

Grumpy Old Women Live 2 has moved to the West End.  It’s playing at the majestic Novello Theatre until 5th June 2010.

What better way to spend an evening (or afternoon) than sitting in a beautifully decorated room in comfortable, luxurious-looking seats having three very funny ladies keep you entertained!

Grumpy Old Women Jenny Eclair, Susie Blake and Wendi Peters are recruiting GOW’s for The Grumpy Revolution!  And, you don’t have to be an ‘old’ woman to sign up… they’ll take any lady who can grump with the best of them – no minimum age requirement.

They have opinions on how to make the world better… to do with everything you can think of like elections (particularly the 2010 election), stopping the ‘yankiness’, reclaiming the handshake, men being a bachelor until they are DIY able, bringing back politeness/manners… to name a few.  I love their idea of a ‘Chin Up Era’ which includes my favorite – contestants aren’t allowed to cry on the talent shows like X-Factor and Over the Rainbow.  If you cry you get booted out.  Spot on except they’d be out of contestants after the 2nd week.

They address everything from finances (recession) and thereby banks and bankers; how to save money like feeding your family of 4 by visiting someone at dinner time or growing your own veggies though may be tasteless; royalty; having fun on a budget with examples like Kitchen Disco; their own version of Olympics (Grumpathalon); having a 3 day Christmas only – once every 3 years due to the stress; getting rid of all the bank holidays but don’t worry they created their own; having a woman run the country.

Then the ‘Grumpy Old Women Unite’ banner drops and there’s a seemingly short intermission.  They come back introduced with an appropriate combo of ‘Here Comes The Girls’ and ‘Who Let The Dogs Out’.  They continue entertaining us with a comedic look at real life issues concerning the middle years like invisibility syndrome and menopause (or adaptly called change of life) and how it changes your periods, breasts, and sleep ability or lack of bringing with it forgetfulness.  They continue with discussing diet food, GOW Diet Do’s & Dont’s, GOW Army, men’s snoring, shopping, things that drive GOW crazy, romance in a long-term relationship, sex, and the ‘Before I Die’ To Do List.  

Don’t forget, we all have grumpiness in us from the time we’re born – and the GOW have a chart to show the evolution of grumpiness.

Young or Old(er), you should be able to relate to everything they put before you and you can have a ‘Ah Ha’ Ha Ha.  The impromptu bits (or unexpected occurrences)add humor to an already funny show.  Don’t go thinking that three ‘Grumpy Old Women’ are just going to stand stationary on stage telling jokes / making fun… they don’t stop moving, smiling, laughing, entertaining using their lines, their wits, their passion.  And, you may grump about the price of the Souvenir Programme but it’s worth it as it continues to amuse you.  It’s not like most Programmes and is actually all about the show, the history of Grumpy Old Women, the people involved, Grumpy World Hot Spots, and even tips on how to tackle the recession.

by Ann Kamran (stagetalk.co.uk)

[Rating:3.5/5]

Sign up today!  Join the Revolution!  Grumpy Old Women need you!

Hair The Musical at Gielgud Theatre Press Reviews!

HAIR is about a group of young people in New York City’s East Village who band together as a TRIBE. They are a New York contingent of flower children, (a freeform phenomenon that had begun a little earlier in Haight-Ashbury, San Francisco and would subsequently spread to Europe & elsewhere). Taking on the feel of an American Indian tribe, they question authority and the society they are living in and the war in Asia. They seek to find a new way. They yearn to change the world. They begin by recreating themselves. They find a potent organic natural esthetic; the most dramatic visible element, all the men grow their hair long. They tune in to Eastern thought & meditation. They turn on and drop out. They hang out in self-made clouds of incense and grass. They laugh and cavort, as they find a new freedom of expression and camaraderie. They live in crash pads, in the parks and on the streets. Unkempt, wild, free, and deep, they are unique, colorful, something genuinely original and beautiful…and so hip (yet in a different style from the earlier hipsters and beatniks). A new word is coined to identify them. They come to be called hippies. They try to live by the philosophy of “Peace and Love.” They are on a trip of liberation. They commune, join hands in protest and in song. Within the context of the play, they struggle for the light, but are forced to fight & die, only to be reborn, again to suffer more, then to rise from the ashes, to glow, to shine…

HAIR The Musical Press Reviews:

The first great rock musical turns out to be a one-off masterpiece in its deployment of blues, jazz, bass rhythms, brass riffs and flat out melodic anthems, paving the way, no doubt, for Tommy and Jesus Christ Superstar but absolutely on its own as a lexicon of the jargon, taboos and post-war high school rebellion that shaped and stamped a whole generation. And who says making love, not war, is a bad idea anyway?
Michael Coveney for Whatsonstage.com (www.whatsonstage.com)
[Rating:4.0/5]

This sense of darkness is intensified by Will Swenson’s comic but deliberately un-endearing performance in the leading role of Berger. For all his posturing and sloganeering, he leaves no doubt that his character is more interested in getting high, getting his end away and being the leader of the gang than he is in politics or peace.
Charles Spencer for Telegraph (www.telegraph.co.uk)
[Rating:5.0/5]

The show was born out of protest, but its spirit is one of affirmation. It’s a sobering fact that by the end of LBJ’s presidency in 1969, the number of American servicemen killed and wounded was 222,351. By an eerie irony, that is very close to the number of “visible hippy dropouts” identified by an American sociologist, Professor Lewis Yablonsky, in the summer of 1967. Hair is very much an assertion of their credo. Today we may find their faith in flower power, astrology and chemical experiments naive. But Hair brought counter-cultural values to a mass audience and helped loosen up a whole generation.
Michael Billington for Guardian (www.guardian.co.uk)
[Rating:4.0/5]

It will never feel like the age of Aquarius’s first dawning in 1968 when Hair delivered a liberating pro-love, anti-Vietnam war message. Yet the hippy musical still feels good. And in an era when war still rages, the first act climax with the cast standing before us naked, remains a poignant reminder of the vulnerability of the human body.
John Nathan for THEJC.COM (www.thejc.com)
[Rating:4.0/5]

This is not a show for anyone squeamish about interacting with the cast. Even before I’d reached my seat, one of the friskier performers had loudly coveted my friend’s headgear.
Henry Hitchings for Evening Standard (www.thisislondon.co.uk)
[Rating:4.0/5]

Will Swenson is magnificent in the role of Berger, oozing ambiguous sexual appeal and flirting openly with most of the audience throughout the show. Despite Swenson’s obvious charms, it needs a huge leap of faith to imagine that he had dropped out from high school that decade, let alone that morning. Gavin Creel is marvellous as Claude, marrying the exuberance of I Got Life with the tortured drama of both his home life and his refusal to ignore the draft.
Paul Vale for TheStage (www.thestage.co.uk)

For more information about show and tickets, click here!

Mrs Warren’s Profession at Comedy Theatre Reviews!

What is Mrs Warren’s profession? Her daughter Vivie has never really known much about her mother. A prim young woman, she has enjoyed a comfortable upbringing, a Cambridge education and a generous monthly allowance. Now she has ambitions to go into Law. Is it conceivablethat all this privilege and respectability has been financed from the proceeds of the oldest profession? How will Vivie react when she finds out the awful truth about her mother’s ill-gotten gains?

Shaw’s ultimate test of a mother-daughter relationship is one of his most witty and provocative plays. Written in 1894 but banned from performance until the racy 1920s, Mrs Warren’s Profession lays bare the rampant hypocrisy of Victorian society and its constrained morals

Mrs Warren’s Profession Press Reviews:

There is something bird-like in her trim physique, sheathed in glistening satins of scarlet, silver and dove grey, gathered to a 12-inch waist and topped in the last act with a Martita Hunt-style pill-box hat.
Michael Coveney for Whatsonstage.com (www.whatsonstage.com)
[Rating:2.0/5]

“If you want to pick and choose your acquaintance on moral grounds,” he tells Vivie, whom he absurdly wants to marry, “you’d better clear out of the country”. The play has its implausible, melodramatic and preachy moments, yet Rudman’s revival has the energy to keep you engrossed. That, in spite of a questionable performance or two. Should Yelland really be so much the sauntering Chekhovian roué in the white suit, so little the coarse brute Shaw wanted? And couldn’t Kendal be a bit more the woman others see as “brazen”, she herself calls a “vulgarian”, and a stage direction asks to lapse into her old Cockney self?
Benedict Nightingale for Times Online (www.timesonline.co.uk)
[Rating:3.0/5]

“If you want to pick and choose your acquaintance on moral grounds,” he tells Vivie, whom he absurdly wants to marry, “you’d better clear out of the country”. The play has its implausible, melodramatic and preachy moments, yet Rudman’s revival has the energy to keep you engrossed. That, in spite of a questionable performance or two. Should Yelland really be so much the sauntering Chekhovian roué in the white suit, so little the coarse brute Shaw wanted? And couldn’t Kendal be a bit more the woman others see as “brazen”, she herself calls a “vulgarian”, and a stage direction asks to lapse into her old Cockney self?
Henry Hitchings for Evening Standard (www.thisislondon.co.uk)
[Rating:3.0/5]

Michael Rudman’s production, with a determinedly unappealing Felicity Kendal at its centre, goes some way to put flesh on Shaw’s arguments. Kendal’s Kitty Warren, the rich brothel-keeper, and Lucy Briggs-Owen as Vivie, her clever mathematician daughter, make good sparring partners.
Heather Neill for TheStage (www.thestage.co.uk)

Much as I normally enjoy Miss Kendal’s art, I’m afraid she doesn’t show us enough of Mr s Warren’s undoubted steel, or amorality, or devilishness, or sexual hunger, or whatever it is. I didn’t feel she had quite worked out what made the character tick.
Quentin Letts for The Daily Mail (www.dailymail.co.uk)
[Rating:2.0/5]

For more information about show and tickets, click here!

Review: Avenue Q has a new home at Wyndham’s Theatre

The music and lyrics of Avenue Q were created by Robert Lopez and Jeff Marx.  It originally opened off-Broadway then transferred to Broadway in 2003, crossing the Atlantic in 2006 to entertain UK audiences where it thankfully continues now into its 5th year.  It resided at the Noël Coward Theatre, the Gielgud Theatre, and recently moved to Wyndham’s Theatre.

Speaking of Wyndham’s Theatre… what a beautiful theatre.  I was there to see ‘An Inspector Calls’ (a great classic), however, the theatre was dark and there was no intermission so didn’t really get to appreciate the interior.  It has attractive pastel paint details and murals with gold accents, lovely applications/figures, and a beautiful chandelier.  Even the washroom was nicely decorated and very clean.  Staff are friendly and helpful.

Back to the show!  One word – FUNtastic!  This musical, originally created for a possible TV series, touches on all aspects of life.  It’s an adult version of Sesame Street.  The use of puppets is superb and the actors do well to mold with their character/s.  It takes an honest look at life’s issues and does so with humor and a beat.  Where else can you find love, homosexuality, life’s purpose, friendship, racism, interracial relationships, porn on the internet, loneliness, life’s lessons, life altering experiences – all tied up in one energetic, fun, musical package?  It touches base on wishing for the past… going back in time to college days to escape the stresses of ‘adult’ life.  Who hasn’t thought that at some point?  Who hasn’t wanted to go back in time to simpler days?  It incorporates ‘schadenfreude’ which is an actual German word meaning ‘to take pleasure in another’s misfortunes’.  Who hasn’t laughed when something has happened to someone (like walking into a door or dropping / breaking dishes, etc.)… not to be mean but because it touches us somewhere inside – now we know there is a term for that!  It addresses the ‘feel good’ factor in helping others – when you help others, you help yourself.  It reminds us that we have to go after what we want.  And finally, it reaffirms that life is only temporary.

All of this is brilliantly portrayed in word, movement and song by 7 fabulous actors (only 4 which mainly handle the 9 puppets).  They include Cassidy Janson (Kate Monster & Lucy the Slut), Paul Spicer (Princeton & Rod), Rachel Jerram (Mrs T, Bear, & others), Tom Parsons (Nicky, Trekkie Monster & Bear), Sion Lloyd (Brian), Jacqueline Tate (Christmas Eve), and Delroy Atkinson (Gary Coleman).  The talented actors bring with them much experience in television, theatre, commercials, and (serious) music.  That’s not to forget the swing and ensemble cast and the fabulous band, not mentioned specifically but appreciated just the same. 

It’s kudos to all responsible for bringing to us a summary of life in such an entertaining way. 

Keep in mind, there is a recommended age for a reason… due to some scenes and the language, it may not be suitable for children under 12.  Children under 5 will not be admitted.  Given the musical addresses sex, drinking, and using the web for porn, you use your judgement/discretion if your teenager should see this.  Having said that, the evening performances start at 8pm and the show is approximately 2 hours 15 minutes long so may be a late night for some youth.
 
If you like to laugh and be entertained, go now and enjoy!

by Ann Kamran (stagetalk.co.uk)

[Rating:4.5/5]

Book Tickets for Avenue Q at Wyndham’s Theatre!

Opening Night: Love Never Dies Press Reviews!

Ramin Karimloo and Sierra Boggess in Love Never Dies (© Catherine Ashmore)
© Catherine Ashmore

With the official opening night of Love Never Dies having taken place last night, 9 March 2010, it is what everyone is talking about.  There are mixed reviews of Andrew Lloyd-Webber’s newest show some finding it weak in plot and perhaps a bit gloomy but one certainly can’t fault the music, the effort of the actors, and the charisma between the two main leads, Phantom (Ramin Karimloo) and Christine (Sierra Boggess).  Many find it a disappointment because they were expecting the same as Phantom of the Opera.  If it was going to be the same, there would be no need for a new show.

This mix of the heart-stopping and the stomach-lurching (a true kinaesthetic experience) characterises some of the best sequences in Love Never Dies, Andrew Lloyd Webber’s much-heralded follow-up to The Phantom of the Opera. This latter was – and is – the most commercially successful show in theatre history and, by virtue of that fact, is not an easy piece for which to write a sequel (the fans – or “phans” – are very possessive about the original) nor is it one which self-evidently demands a dramatic extension.
Paul Taylor at the Independent (www.independent.co.uk)
[Rating:5.0/5]

There is much to enjoy in Andrew Lloyd Webber’s new musical. The score is one of the composer’s most seductive. Bob Crowley’s design and Jack O’Brien’s direction have a beautiful kaleidoscopic fluidity. And the performances are good. The problems lie within the book, chiefly credited to Lloyd Webber himself and Ben Elton, which lacks the weight to support the imaginative superstructure.
Michael Billington for The Guardian (www.guardian.co.uk)
[Rating:3.0/5]

But then this Phantom is not the phantom we knew. The “poisoned gargoyle who burns in hell” has clearly taken an anger management course in New York. True, he fills his eyrie with oddities, like the skeleton who pushes a cocktail trolley, but he’s very much the considerate gentleman, eager impresario and, soon, doting father. Would he whimsically hang the backstage crew or send a chandelier crashing into a crowd? Not any more. Even his blemish, which only ever looked as if an aspiring seamstress had done a little sewing practice on his face, seems tidier. Beside, say, the Elephant Man, Karimloo’s urbane, melodic, not-so-sinister Phantom might be Cary Grant. Maybe the tattooed giant in his retinue is a plastic surgeon or a pre-Freudian shrink.
Benedict Nightingale for The Times (www.timesonline.co.uk)
[Rating:2.0/5]

I must admit I attended Andrew Lloyd Webber’s long-awaited sequel to his world-conquering Phantom of the Opera with a degree of trepidation. Sequels often prove pale shadows of the original work that inspired them, and trail a disagreeable odour of the opportunistic cash-in. More ominously still, many of Lloyd Webber’s most fervent admirers appear to have turned against the new show.
Charles Spencer in the Telegraph (www.telegraph.co.uk)
[Rating:4.0/5]

So: a hit? Not quite. It is too much an also-ran to the prequel, and its opening is too stodgy. But if it is a miss, it is — like Christine — a noble miss, noble because Lloyd Webber’s increasingly operatic music tries to lift us to a higher plane.
Quentin Letts in the Daily Mail (www.dailymail.co.uk)
[Rating:0.0/5]

It’s easily the pick of his typically lush melodies. Sets and special effects cannot be faulted, the singing is terrific. Director Jack O’Brien cranks up the melodramatic tension to a stunning ending. But phantastic? Afraid not.
Bill Hagerty for The Sun (www.thesun.co.uk)
[Rating:0.0/5]

The music is a more mixed bag. Several numbers are waltz- based, and these are the best part. “Look With Your Heart” is a wistful three-step. Madame Giry’s daughter Meg, a hoochie- coochie dancer, does a vaudeville turn in the strip-tease number “Bathing Beauty.”
Warwick Thompson at Bloomberg (www.bloomberg.com)
[Rating:3.0/5]

That’s the concluding number of the first act, and it actually has some energy. But true to self-sabotaging form, this musical follows that song with the bizarrely unexciting postscript of Mrs. Danvers, I mean Mme. Giry, tossing the kid’s jacket down a stairwell. This is matched, in the second act climax, by what feels like the longest death scene of all time. Relax, I’m not going to tell you who dies (while gasping out a reprise of the title song). Why bother, when from beginning to end, “Love Never Dies” is its very own spoiler.
Ben Brantley at The New York Times (www.nytimes.com)
[Rating:0.0/5]

With director Jack O’Brien, lyricist Glenn Slater and co-librettist Ben Elton, Lloyd Webber has fashioned a deeply personal story once again of re-awakening his own talent, which in the Phantom?s case is an expression of sexual love, and meditating on the transmission of that talent from one generation to the next (from his own father, perhaps and onwards? to whom?). Expert musical supervision by Simon Lee, orchestrations by the ever crucial David Cullen, and lighting to die for by Paule Constable all contribute to this outstanding and heart-stopping occasion.
Michael Coveney at Whatsonstage (www.whatsonstage.com)
[Rating:5.0/5]

Visually, the show is stunning in places, with projections designed by Jon Driscoll. This is technology Lloyd Webber first played with in The Woman in White and here they form a large part of the backdrop, particularly in the opening sequence, during which a grey and deserted Coney Island is cleverly brought back to life.
Matthew Hemley The Stage (www.thestage.co.uk)
[Rating:0.0/5]

Phantom may be the most commercially successful entertainment ever devised. Its aficionados are legion. Love Never Dies is both an attempt to mobilise them and a risky revival of motifs and characters that the original seemed decisively to have put to bed.
Henry Hitchings for The Evening Standard (thisislondon.co.uk)
[Rating:2.0/5]

The audience, packed with stars including Sir Michael Caine, Lord Bragg, Graham Norton, Gerard Butler, Sir Terry Wogan and Chris Evans, rose to their feet and cheered as the show reached its climax. Lloyd Webber bowed and blew a kiss to the audience, and kissed those on the stage. The biggest cheers of the night were saved for Ramin Karimloo, who plays the Phantom, and Sierra Boggess, who plays Christine.
Jody Thompson by Mirror.co.uk (www.mirror.co.uk)
[Rating:0.0/5]

What is interesting is that there is usually a love/hate relationship when most shows first start. Look at Phantom of the Opera, for example. Critics were not particularly taken with it either when it first opened in 1986 but it has gone on to perform in 149 cities (in more than 25 countries), has been seen by an estimated 100 million people in a minimum of 14 languages, and has won over 50 major awards. Only time will tell but we wish Love Never Dies and all involved much success.

Book Tickets for Love Never Dies at Adelphi Theatre!

Review: You Will Believe ‘Love Never Dies’ After Seeing This…

Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Love Never Dies opened on Monday, 22 February 2010 at London’s Adelphi Theatre to a packed house full of excited theatregoers and Andrew Lloyd Webber himself.  The audience was all a buzz with anticipation.  It seems that a lot of time had passed since this new show was announced formally at the press launch on 8 October 2009 at London’s Her Majesty’s Theatre but it is here now and is a must see!  The world premiere performance of Love Never Dies is scheduled for 9 March 2010.  

It is unimaginable all the people required to make a production like this but a thank you goes out to all involved for making such a remarkable and history-making musical.  Bravo.  Andrew Lloyd Webber must be very proud seeing this idea finally come to life. 

It opens on the pier at Coney Island on a dreary, cold, moonlit night with Madame Giry (played by Liz Robertson) reminiscing of Coney Island in its day.  The sound effects complimented the set with seagulls and the wind blowing.  Even the moon turned into a ferris wheel – how imaginative.  The visual effects were stunning as screens and projections enhanced / portrayed what she was thinking about.  The tall man, acrobats, fire baton performer, trapeze artists and the circus acts were terrific and their costumes authentic looking.  This is just the beginning as it only gets better. 

© Tracey Nolan

Before I go further into the story, I must comment on the fabulous music written by Andrew Lloyd Webber and conducted by Simon Lee.  It intensified and supported what was being performed by the talented actors.  Be prepared to get shivers when you hear The Phantom (passionately and perfectly played by Ramin Karimloo) sing ‘Til I Hear You Sing.  All the songs are special but my three favorite are ‘Til I Hear You Sing, Look with Your Heart, and Love Never Dies.  

The wonderful actors are commended on delivering such convincing performances.  A list of the main characters follows but it is not to disregard the ensemble who all add to a successful show. 

The Phantom is absolutely perfectly played by the talented Ramin Karimloo.  The beautiful Sierra Bogges makes her West end debut playing Christine Daae.  Christine’s husband, Raoul, is played by Joseph Millson.  As mentioned above, Madam Giry (manager) is played by Liz Robertson and her daughter (and performer), Meg Giry is played by Summer StrallenThe Phantom’s devoted trio Fleck, Squelch, and Gangle were played by Niamh Perry, Adam Pearce, and Jami Reid-Quarrel.  And last, but not least… Christine’s son, Gustave (the only new character) is played by a multitude of children but on this night, the character was wonderfully played by Harry Child who sang with a pure voice. 

I must reiterate Ramin Karimloo plays such a passionate character.  You can feel it in his songs, you can see it in his actions.  He is absolutely brilliant.  Sierra Boggess is beautiful and delicate with a softer voice.  All of the actors are talented in their own right, of course.  It is easy to see why everyone got a standing ovation. 

This may be a continuation of the most famous love story but it is a separate story all it’s own.  Taking place 10 years after the infamous Paris Opera House, it offers one surprise after another. The Phantom is a Man in his own right having created a mysterious and intriguing world on Coney Island, his Phantasma.  He sends for Christine to perform there.  Due to monetary problems, Christine accepts and brings her husband and son with her, no one realizing who Mr Y is.  Her husband seems like a pompous jerk who complains about everything but her child seems to share her qualities and is kind and innocent.  Just when they think no one is there to meet them at the dock, a ‘glass’ horse and a seemingly empty carriage with a glass skeleton driver pulls up.  The door opens and The Phantom’s Devoted Trio get out to greet them and take them to their master.  The visual imagery projected was terrific as it showed ‘the carriage’ travelling over a bridge and a map showing where they were going from and travelling to.  The combination of projection, the actual scenery/stage set, and live actors complimented one another and helped to portray the story. 

My first opinion of Raoul is confirmed by the way he treats his son and talks to his wife soon after they arrive at the Hotel.  He does nothing but complain and his drinking problem evident (which is added to by the gambling problem referred to more than once).  Their son, Gustave, has a pure voice to match his pure heart and it is easy to see that Christine loves him dearly.  It’s even apparent that she loves her husband and is devoted to him though one wonders why.  Raoul leaves for ‘fresh air’ (at the local bar) and Gustave goes to bed after his mother comforts him when he questions if his father loves him.  Then Christine, left alone, plays the musical toy that was given to her son and recognizes the music.  She is standing there obviously feeling a presence as The Phantom enters from the balcony.  They sing the ‘why’ and ‘what if’ game.  The love, history, and attraction is so transparent but she remains the dutiful wife.  By the way, the detail in the hotel room, particularly the door / balcony was splendid.  Gustave awakens from a nightmare and meets his mother’s ‘friend’, Mr Y (the man who brought them there). 

The next day, Christine and Gustave go backstage at Phantasma for business-related reasons when who should she run into but Meg Giry.  They are joined by Raoul and Madame Giry where they have a surprise reunion.  As they sing, Dear Old Friend, it is apparent that it is an awkward reunion and not a welcomed one especially for Meg and Madam Giry.  This is when Raoul finds out who the boss is and he is not pleased about the news. 

The Phantom calls for Gustave and his devoted trio brings the boy to his room.  The boy is intrigued with all the inventions / gadgets (like the walking skeleton with lady’s legs) which pushes a table across the stage).  He also plays the piano for The Phantom.  The Phantom marvels at his musical talent and enjoys that Gustave is at home there.  There is some important news that is revealed before the intermission and not something that makes everyone happy. 

After the intermission, the Orchestra plays Entr’acte, a beautiful introduction to Part II.  The rest of the scenes are as good as the first half.  There are humorous parts throughout the musical… one being in the bar when The Phantom (pretending to be a bartender) reveals himself to Raoul.  That was a good scene between the two men in Christine’s life.  I will say that Christine obviously will have to make a choice but I won’t say any more.  I don’t want to spoil anything so will just continue that it is full of intrigue, surprise, laughter, tears, and an undying love.  The ending was very unexpected but again I can’t divulge more because I want you to go and enjoy it.  I want you to be surprised and moved.  Whether you’re a hopeless romantic or a sceptic of love or whether you just want to see how the story continues… you’ll want to see Love Never Dies.  Go, take it in, feel it, and enjoy! 

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S P O I L E R   A L E R T

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If you want to know more, please read on… if not, PLEASE READ NO FURTHER!!! 

The Phantom figures out before intermission that Gustave is his son (which I also figured out so may not be a surprise to you).  At the altercation at the bar, the men make an agreement… if Christine performs that evening, Raoul will leave.  If she does not perform, The Phantom will let her be and will pay all of Raoul’s debts.  It is touch and go what she will do as she is almost pulled in by Raoul’s words.  Her love for The Phantom though is too strong and at the last minute while on the stage, she starts to sing.  She sings Love Never Dies… Raoul surprisingly honors the deal made or maybe just realizes he has no chance and leaves.  She has chosen her true love.  Just when you delightedly think there will be a happy-ever-after ending… there is more – Meg has taken Gustave.  She is saddened by the realization that her boss loves another and feels used for all the years she gave to him.  She is beside herself with grief.  After a chase / search on the streets of Coney Island, they are found on the pier.  Gustave is scared.  Meg lets him go and he flees to the protective arms of his mother.  Meg then pulls out a gun… The Phantom’s gun and points it at him while The Phantom and her mother try to talk her out of doing anything stupid or dangerous.  She then turns the gun to herself when The Phantom talks her (or sings her) out of doing any self-harm… you think everything is fine until he accidentally calls her Christine at the end.  That pushes her over the edge and she almost unknowingly fires the gun at Christine’s direction.  Yes, Christine is shot to the dismay of all, even her shooter whom she forgives before she dies.  She also reveals to Gustave who his father is and helps him accept it.  The Phantom and Christine share a love-filled, emotional kiss and embrace before she tragically dies.  The scene ends with Gustave removing his father’s mask and touching his face – a form of acceptance and a moving moment between father and son indicating that they will be okay.

by Ann Kamran (stagetalk.co.uk)

[Rating:5.0/5]

Book Tickets for Love Never Dies at Adelphi Theatre London!

OMIGOD – You have to see Legally Blonde!

Legally Blonde The Musical playing at London’s Savoy Theatre is full of fun from start to finish!  Just from sitting in the spacious Stalls before the show looking at the screen on stage with silk look material as a backdrop for the silver bracelet laid in the shape of a heart with a heart shape locket saying Elle Woods with the Delta Nu symbol, you could feel the anticipation.

I was very pleasantly surprised with this West End production.  I liked the movie but didn’t know how it could be successfully done on stage.  Well, it could be.

The whole show is full of energy, good lines, good songs and lots of humor.

Sheridan Smith who plays Elle Woods is an absolute Star.  You couldn’t help but like her character… feel for her… root for her.  Although she’s first perceived as a spoiled, rich homecoming queen, she is put in the position of the underdog when going up against her peers having to prove herself to be more than just a beautiful blonde.  Duncan James (Warner Huntington III) has a very nice, strong voice even when singing a song to break up with Elle who thinks he’s going to propose.  Elle follows Warner to Harvard to show she can be the smart, successful woman he could marry but in doing so finds herself and realizes she doesn’t need Warner.  You can see the friendship evolve between Elle and Emmett (played by Alex Gaumond) and the on-stage connection – perfectly cast.  It’s a star-studded show with Peter Davison as Professor Callahan, Caroline Keiff as Vivienne Kensington, Aoife Mulholland as Brooke Wyndham, Jill Halfpenny as Paulette, and Chris Ellis-Stanton as the UPS Guy just to name a few.  The audience loved the scenes with the UPS guy strutting his stuff.  

The whole cast is top-notch but the two 4-legged characters stole the show.  Elle’s dog Bruiser and Paulette’s dog Rufus were adorable.

The show is packed with entertaining songs and scenes of which Elle (Sheridan Smith) sings 16 of the 18 songs.  You’ll have fun watching the ‘bend and snap’ scene and the relationship between Paulette and Kyle (Mr UPS) unfold.  The courtroom scene is hilarious and you feel pride watching Elle solve the case clearing exercise guru Brooke Wyndham of murder.

‘OMIGOD’ get’s a lot of mileage in this show and is infectious.

If you want to see a funny, cute, feel-good show, go see Legally Blonde The Musical.  It’s a guaranteed enjoyable time.

by Ann Kamran (stagetalk.co.uk)

[Rating:4.0/5]

Book Tickets for Legally Blonde at Savoy Theatre!

An Inspector Calls… or does he? Go find out!

An Inspector Calls was written by J B Priestley in 1945 with it’s first debut in 1946.  It has had a long, successful history over the years and is currently playing at Wyndham’s Theatre.  It is a very popular, well-known thriller that has won numerous awards and it is easy to see why.  It grabs your attention right from the beginning when the first child comes on stage looking around.  You’re intrigued at what he’s doing and it then begins and doesn’t stop for the whole 1 hour 45 minutes it is playing.  You are so engrossed that the time seems to go quickly even with no intermission.

It is superbly cast and the set and effects are unique.  It is always amazing to see what can be done with a set and you’d be surprised at what all goes on on this seemingly small stage.  The rain and fog add to the mystery and bring a touch of realism.

The year is 1912 and the scene is the home of successful industrialist Arthur Birling (David Roper).  A stranger interrupts an important family dinner – the housekeeper Edna (Elizabeth Ross) announces an Inspector Goole (brilliantly played by Nicholas Woodeson) is there to see them.  Inspector Goole is there to enquire about the family’s role / involvement in the life and death of Eva Smith (also known by different names by different family members).  He talks to each of them – Father Arthur Birling who fired Eva from his factory; Daughter Sheila Birling (Marianne Oldham) who got Eva fired from his shop clerk job; Son Eric Birling (Robin Whiting) who had a relationship with Eva and got her pregnant; Sheila’s Fiancé, Gerald Croft (Timothy Watson) who also knew Eva and had provided accommodations for her / had a relationship; and last but not least, Mother Sybil Birling (Sandra Duncan) who, with a condemning and superior attitude, refused to help the pregnant girl (not realizing until it was too late that it was actually her own grandchild).

Amazingly, each person had an interactive role in what happened to poor Eva and contributed somehow to her death even if it was technically by her own hand.  It goes to show though, as a society, that we each have a responsibility to the other and how our actions have consequences although we may not know what they are.  Be kind to one another.

I don’t want to give too much away as it is very entertaining and enthralling to see.  It keeps you engrossed.  I will just say that the ‘Inspector’ may not be who he seemed so who was he and why was he there.  Perhaps we all need someone who makes us question/evaluate ourselves and our actions and to keep us accountable.

Bravo to the talented cast and to the crew, directors, designers and all involved for a job well-done.

by Ann Kamran (stagetalk.co.uk)

[Rating:4.0/5]

Book Tickets for An Inspector Calls at Wyndham’s Theatre!

Wicked The Musical Press Reviews

“…This is a truly eccentric affair but it comes to us laden with Broadway awards. To judge from the way the first-night audience was cheering as at a rock concert from the outset, I suspect it may, like The Lion King, prove triumphant over here for its sheer spectacle… The book by Winnie Holzman, and the production by Joe Mantello are more ambitious than the original story by L Frank Baum… In a vast and spectacular stage event and with a cast of almost 40, a lot of that original simplicity has been lost in the eccentric language – and a score by Stephen Schwartz. While no Sondheim, Schwartz writes a succession of songs which admirably for the fast-changing moods…” The Daily Express

“No musical as weird or steeped in fairy-tale magic as Wicked has cast its multi-million pound spell upon the London stage in decades… It is the spectacle, the experience of a magical mystery tour through the fantasy land of Oz that takes and holds attention… Sailing on the waves of escapist fantasy on which many of us depend for pleasure, the musical tracks back to the celluloid Wizard of Oz. It begins where the movie ends and dreams up a fresh narrative from the witches’ viewpoints… Joe Mantello’s production expertly marshals this remarkable kaleidoscope of magical shocks, surprises and sensations. Wicked works like a dream.” The London Evening Standard

“…For the first half the story swings along quite merrily. There is a certain zest about the love-hate relationship between the despised Elphaba and the glamorous Glinda, who are college contemporaries… Having whetted our appetites, Wicked lapses into knowingness and moralism… Joe Mantello’s direction and Eugene Lee’s clock-based designs do their work efficiently.” The Guardian

“…Unexpectedly witty, enjoyable… at times the show undoubtedly slips into the preachy, but mercifully Winnie Holzman’s script keeps the gags coming as it cleverly subverts the film that spawned it. And Joe Mantello’s production is packed with spectacular coups de theatre and some magical lighting effects by Kenneth Posner. Stephen Schwartz’s lyrics are occasionally touched with wit, but what he really specialises in are big gloopy power ballads that allow the two female leads to stand centre stage and soar into the stratospheric. This they do with some style…” The Daily Telegraph

Book Tickets for Wicked the Musical at Apollo Victoria Theatre!

 

Emma Edgeley: The Phantom of The Opera Review!

To most of us The Phantom of the Opera is synonymous with Andrew Lloyd Webber’s phenomenally successful operetta. It may then come as a bit of a surprise to learn that Ken Hill’s original 1976 version of Gaston Leroux’s chilling roman à clef, actually spearheaded the way for the Lloyd Webber hit.

However, Hill’s Phantom couldn’t be stylistically further apart from its more prolific cousin. A tragi-comic parody, it exposes the pretension of the opera world and offers a refreshing alternative to the serious stuff. The storyline closely follows Leroux’s novel and includes the torture chamber and the Persian, although the masquerade ball which is a highlight in Lloyd Webber’s version does not feature, and Alan Miller Bunford’s set design and Reuven Robert Britten’s costumes pale in comparison.

For those who have yet to encounter the man with the mask, the Phantom is a facially disfigured recluse who resides beneath the Paris Opera House. He develops an all-consuming, unrequited love for his young musical protégé: a beautiful opera singer called Christine. But Christine loves the opera manager’s son Raoul, and in a jealous rage, the Phantom whisks her away to his underground chapel where he plans to make her his bride.

Donning the white mask is Michael McCarthy who delivers a suitably controlling and commanding performance. A powerful physical presence, McCarthy’s haunting voice is as passionate as it is devilish.

Sarah Ryan’s Christine is soft, feminine and eager to please but with an inner strength. Her Christine works well with Jay Marcus’s Raoul who is laughingly waggish one minute, over-brimming with passion the next. His rendition of “How Dare She” in the first act is particularly good.

Out of a sound supporting cast, Fascinating Aida’s Adele Anderson makes light work of Madame Giry. Her Madame is like a French-styled Morticia, all gothic looking and foreboding.

Although not in the same league as Lloyd Webber’s heart-stopping scores, Hill’s version features some nicely composed arias. “To Pain My Heart Selfishly Dooms Me” draws together the inter-connected suffering of the love triangle, and the Phantom’s “While Floating High Above” and Christine’s “All of My Dreams Faded Suddenly” are moving yet unsentimental.

The final verdict: although it lacks the psychological depth and attractive packaging of Lloyd Webber’s big-budget extravaganza, Hill’s Phantom has much to recommend it.

by Emma Edgeley (whatsonstage.com)

Book Tickets for the Phantom of The Opera at Her Majestys Theatre!