Hop like a CAT ON A HOT TIN ROOF to get your ticket!

Excitement and anticipation was in the air as people arrived for Press Night on 1st December 2009 at the Novello Theatre, London for Cat on a Hot Tin Roof.

One word sums it up – BRAVO!  This Tennessee Williams play directed by the talented Debbie Allen and played by an all black cast is full of passion, conviction, drama, humor and touching moments.  The unchanging set seemed authentic… making you believe you were in a big beautiful mansion on a Mississippi plantation.  You could see the wealth and prestige of the Pollitt family.  The mirrors on either side of the Stalls seating area in the beautiful Novello Theatre actually made the stage seem bigger.

All the characters play specific contributing roles but James Earl Jones (Big Daddy) was bigger than life – what a presence!  Sometimes you weren’t sure what to think about Big Daddy as he was usually what could be perceived as loud, rude and uncaring.  However, maybe he was who he was from working his way up in the cotton fields to owning the largest plantation this side of the Nile and putting up being surrounded by mendacity.  There were some words (actually one word said a few times) and movements that I wasn’t expecting from James Earl Jones but they seemed to fit the character – so well done.  As Big Daddy faced his mortality, he was trying to figure out who to leave his large estate to… wanting to leave it to his favorite son, Brick, but not knowing he could handle the responsibility while being an alcoholic.

I expected Big Mama played by Phylicia Rashad to be bigger (literally), especially the way Big Daddy talked about her but she played her part really well… the way she acted ‘older’ and as a loving and devoted mother and wife… strong and fearless when she had to be.  You could see her love for Big Daddy though he said he wished he could believe it.  That’s a sad statement after 40 years of marriage though you saw some tenderness between them at the end.  It was odd how sometimes what he said to her made us laugh when in reality, we would have been upset at the harsh tone / words he used disrespecting someone who deserves respect.

Sanaa Lathan as Maggie the Cat and Adrian Lester as Brick the alcoholic husband/son gave outstanding performances.  There were times I had to laugh thinking she is hounding that poor man and does she ever shut up but by the end I was admiring her for her strength and perseverance.  She seemed genuinely concerned for Big Daddy and caring towards Big Mama though at first she did only seem worried (like the others) about what they would inherit.  I found myself wanting to defend or protect Brick as you could feel his pain with the loss of his best ‘friend’ and having to think / talk about that in an unwelcomed heart-to-heart with his father.  Maggie and particularly Brick seemed to have the genuine affections of Big Daddy which was such a stark contrast to how he talked to / treated everyone else.

Nina Sosanya (Mae) and Peter de Jersey (Mae’s husband, Gooper) did great in their supporting roles.  I was just wondering where the fifth kid was as they kept talking about their 5 kids and 1 on the way… usually there were only 4 on the stage that I noticed anyway.  You kind of loved to hate them as they were annoying with their pettiness and greed while appearing upper class / proper.

The show passionately and accurately touches on alcoholism, loss, illness (cancer), facing mortality, family gatherings, greed, family discontent, sibling rivalry, being childless, sexuality, love, pain, and fear.  It has everything.  All the actors gave it their all from Big Daddy to the servants to the children and everyone in between – that was quite obvious.  I liked the references to a ‘Cat on a Hot Tin Roof’ tying the title with the characters / behaviors.

The lighting was well done showing the sun setting, seeing the moon and stars, fireworks, etc.  As mentioned, the set/stage was well done and I thought it was interesting how the whole play took place in Maggie and Brick’s bedroom (due to Brick’s injured ankle) though it had everything needed from a sitting area to a bar complete with radio and television to a couple of doors leading out to the Gallery.

I’m not sure about the two ‘intermissions’ (or the 15 minute interval and 5 minute break).  I’m not sure the 5 minute break is needed unless people know how long it is so they can get back to their seats before the play continues although it gives people an opportunity to stand and stretch their legs.  The intermissions seemed to be timed right though according to what was going on within the play.  The safety curtain was a beautifully painted nature scene of the Mississippi contributing to the feel of the south.

It is certainly worth it to experience this brilliant play with the cast and creative team involved.  They are responsible for making this magnificent version of this play the success it is.  The Novello Theatre is the perfect venue… suitable luxurious-feeling surroundings (with marble and mirrors), comfortable seats… nice view from the Stalls (seemed to be light and spacious).

Bravo, everyone!  Bravo!  And ‘many happy returns’.

by Ann Kamran (stagetalk.co.uk)

[Rating:4.0/5]

Book Tickets for Cat on a Hot Tin Roof at Novello Theatre!

Love Never Dies… The story continues…

Andrew Lloyd Webber unveils his brand new production “LOVE NEVER DIES” at a global launch in Her Majesty’s Theatre Haymarket, London. Phantom of the Opera celebrates its 23rd birthday tomorrow as it first opened at Her Majesty’s Theatre on 9th October 1986 which starred Sarah Brightman and Michael Crawford.  Happy Birthday, Phantom!

A video was shown with highlights of the original Phantom of the Opera describing its immense success and numerous accolades.  Andrew Lloyd Webber took the stage after that to share a bit about how the idea for a sequel came to light and the years it took to get it just right…

He gave a funny and heartfelt introduction to this long-awaited new production.  It continues the story of the main characters of ‘The Phantom of the Opera’ and is set 10 years after the disappearance of ‘The Phantom’ and moves from the Paris Opera House far across the Atlantic Ocean to Coney Island, New York.  Now you will be able to find out what has happened in their lives as Christine arrives in New York with her husband and son to discover who actually has lured her from France to sing. 

We got a little view into the show when The Phantom (Ramin Karimloo) and Christine (Sierra Boggess) took the stage and The Phantom wowed us with a new song as Christine sat regally, watching him attentively.  Ramin is the current Phantom and will move to the sequel to continue to capture audiences.

Be prepared to be drawn in.  This musical has all the makings of a good story – obsession, intrigue, music, pain, love – it has it all.

‘Love Never Dies’, which will be making its home at the Adelphi Theatre, previews from 20th February, with a press night scheduled for 9th March and scheduled to run from 10th March to 23rd October 2010.  It will play Monday to Saturday at 7.30pm and Wednesday and Saturday at 2.30pm.  It is scheduled to open in New York in November 2010 and then in Australia in 2011.  Be the first to see it… book your tickets now!

Book Tickets for Love Never Dies at Adelphi Theatre!

Review: Pick your Pockets so you can go see Oliver!

Oliver the Musical was written by Lionel Bart.  It is directed by Rupert Goold & Matthew Bourne and produced by Cameron Mackintosh in association with the Southbrook Group Limited.  Cast, crew, stagehands, and management (all concerned) have really done a fabulous job with this musical.  The Drury Lane Theatre is a perfect theatre to host this funtastic show.  It is likely one of the larger theatres I’ve been in so far – very grand in size.  It is clean.  Its colors of cream, tan, red curtains, wood stained walls with gold accents add to its style.  The seats are stylish and comfortable enough.  Staff / ushers seem friendly.  There are crests and emblems on the fronts of the boxes adding to the character.  The theatre was a nice temperature.  A couple comments not so favourable would be that the exit doors aren’t very clearly marked.  Oh, they are clearly marked ‘exit’ but do not indicate where they exit to.  People would go out the wrong doors at intermission… doors that lead nowhere, certainly not to the bathroom or bar and we tend to follow the pack so where one goes, others follow.  The soft drinks were room temperature thereby requiring that I get a glass with ice which I dislike as it prevents me from being able to clap properly when the show restarts.  With a bottle and twist cap, I can reseal it when not drinking.  I’m not sure what was going on coming out of the theatre but traffic wasn’t flowing very smoothly (people seemed to be bumping into others or not knowing where to go, etc.) and the bike taxis parked on the sidewalk prevented ease of flow of foot traffic and vehicle traffic.  Minor things really, but just wanted to comment. 

I wouldn’t want to sit further back than Rows R/S in the Stalls as the full stage is used and there are times when there are actors up high (i.e.: on a bridge, etc.).  You can still see them but any further back and you might find yourself leaning forward to see.   Having said that, I think you still get the gist of what is going on. 

I must comment that there are not many shows these days which are totally kid friendly.  While, appreciatively, there was no swearing in this show, there is a pub scene which has some (perhaps unnecessary) adult-related acts / movements / suggestions that kids really don’t need to be exposed to.  Does it add to the musical?  Maybe.  Will it be missed if not there?  Probably not.  Are there other things that can be done to fill the time that would be just as amusing?  Probably.  It’s not as bad as I’ve seen in other shows and sadly enough our kids are exposed to this or worse on a daily basis but does that mean it should be the norm??  No.  Is their death in this show… yes… but not gory to the eyes – thank you for that.

This next comment is for the theatre goers.  They ask you to turn off your mobiles for a reason… it is distracting.  Whether it is ringing or you have it on vibrate… the light is distracting as well.  Unless you’re expecting an emergency / need someone to get hold of you at any time… turn it off all together – please.

Everyone must have heard of Charles Dickens’ Oliver Twist.  It’s a book, movies, and a musical.  And why not… it’s a story everyone can be drawn to with misfortune, love, greed, sadness, and a happy ending.  Really, what’s not to love about this classic story and about this timeless musical?  There’s absolutely not one thing not to love!

I was thoroughly impressed with the whole package… the costumes looked so authentic, the actors all talented, the music absolutely terrific, and the set – well, I cannot say enough about the set.  It is absolutely amazing how you feel like you’re on a London dock on a foggy night or how the cobbled street looks like it goes on for miles or how the night sky looks so real or how you feel you’re underground in Fagin’s accommodations.  The buildings look so real along with everything else.  Also, the use of the walkway on the other side of the Orchestra just gives an added depth / interest.  I could write forever just about the set.  It is truly the most magnificent set I have ever seen.

A gentleman who was sitting beside me, a fellow Canadian, saw Oliver 25 years ago for the first time in London and he was seeing it again last night.  He only had good things to say… about Oliver back then and Oliver now.  He did say that technology has come such a long way.  I was looking on the internet and saw clips of different Oliver Musicals over the years.  I remember seeing one that had just a drawing of buildings as the backdrop and while I’m sure that worked back then, you’ve come a long way, baby!

When the show first started I thought… ‘What’s all the hype about’ but it didn’t take long to get into it (only a few moments – the first musical number had me).  I was totally amazed at the number of children in this musical… and bless them… they were absolutely terrific.  Oliver has a voice of an angel… Dodger is a likeable sort… but the littlest thief stole my heart.  Fagin’s ‘dears’ were all wonderful.  Honestly, I don’t know how the kids do it performance after performance… but they don’t miss a beat and just show so much energy and talent.  Nancy is like a big sister to the children and takes a shining to Oliver Twist who isn’t your run of the mill pickpocket.  Dolly Parton’s ‘bigger sister’ is in the musical – you’ll recognize her when you see her and you will see her.  Bill Sikes is a scary character but you know he does a good job at acting when he makes you hate him.  It’s nice to see him smile after the show is done when they’re taking their bows… he no longer looks menacing.  And Sikes has a pooch (Bull’s Eye?)… a sweet little four-legged character who although not seen much throughout the show, certainly does well when he is playing his parts.  There are so many characters to acknowledge… truly they are all brilliant but I don’t have that much room.  I will touch base on one more though… Fagin, played by Omid Djalili.  He is an absolute scream.  His dances, his songs, his jokes… for not such a nice man, you’ll become endeared to him.  And, what can we say… we have to give mention once more to the namesake… there wouldn’t be a show without OLIVER!

This is a classic story… one which everyone knows and loves.  The way it comes to life on the stage at the Drury Lane Theatre is worth experiencing.  Pick your pockets so you can become engaged with the beloved story of Oliver – only your own pockets though or you’ll be joining Fagin’s ‘dears’ in the workhouse!

by Ann Kamran (stagetalk.co.uk)

[Rating:5.0/5]

Book Tickets for Oliver at Theatre Royal Drury Lane

Review: STOMP, Slap, Clap… You name it, they do it!!!

Stomp, created by Luke Cresswell and Steve McNicholas, has been playing at The Ambassadors Theatre on West Street in London since September 2007.  Prior to that, it was at the Vaudeville Theatre since September 2002.

I always like to talk about what the Theatre is like because it is as important as what shows there.  If anyone were to say they’re all the same, then they haven’t been to them all.  They are as unique as the play or musical showing.  I was trying to think of a word to describe the theatre – intimate comes to mind.  It has two seating sections (Stalls and Dress Circle).  It’s not a large theatre but it is this that makes it possible for the actors to interact with the audience so well… in other words, the venue is perfect for this show.  The Dress Circle is on a steep incline… the seats not very comfortable but fine for the duration of the show.  It’s not so much uncomfortable but old, perhaps and in need of repair or replacement (the seat/cushion came off on the seat beside me).  There were several crests painted that were interesting / gave character along with the ornamentation.  It’s an older looking theatre but in a good way.

For a small stage, it’s a big performance!  There’s just enough room for the 8 performers and their props.  I was pleasantly surprised to find it a full house (at least from what I could see in the Dress Circle, likely the same in the Stalls).  It was nice to see so many attend as the performance is definitely intense and should be appreciated.  I remember thinking before the performance started that the theatre was pretty dusty and had amusingly wondered if it was part of the props… well, yes it was.  It must be from the dancing, shuffling, sweeping, and so on.

Before I go any further, I will say that it may not be everyone’s cup of tea.  It depends on what you’re expecting for ‘West End Theatre’ and if you have the kind of attitude to have fun wherever you go.

However, having said that, I thought it was fabulous.  The performers must get such an intense workout from every performance.  I would think they must be exhausted and/or sore.  It’s amazing the sounds that can be created with everyday things such as brooms, boxes of matches, dustpans/brooms, small garbage cans, large garbage cans, tin buckets, plastic pipes, kitchen sinks (including rubber gloves, dishes, and water), inner tubes, sticks, big blue drums/barrels, garbage bag, lighters, chairs, newspapers, and large water bottles.  That’s just external items… that doesn’t include the music they make just by using their hands and feet – clapping snapping, slapping, tapping.  Not only were they on the stage but on the back wall as well, sometimes in harnesses swinging back and forth – amazing!  They’re bodies just must be vibrating throughout the show.  I know it was loud at times from where I was sitting and that my hands / arms hurt from clapping so much, so I can’t imagine knocking sticks together or banging on garbage cans or slapping your thighs/hands, etc constantly for the approximate 100 minutes they perform (without intermission).

I was very impressed… loved the comedy… loved the talent… loved the stamina… loved the interaction with the audience.  And when I left there, I could hear music everywhere… from my footsteps to the fastening of my seatbelt to the clicking of my tongue (had to make my own music) to the typing on the keyboard.  That’s the way it should be… we should find music everywhere and appreciate it.  Way to go Stomp!

by Ann Kamran (stagetalk.co.uk)

[Rating:4.0/5]

Book Tickets for Stomp at New Ambassadors Theatre

Review: Good Ol’ Boys, Jersey Boys

Note: Jersey Boys was written by Marshall Brickman and Rick Elice, with music by Bob Gaudio and lyrics by Bob Crewe. 

I couldn’t think of a better venue for Jersey Boys than the Prince Edward Theatre on Old Compton Street in London.  What a theatre!  It’s simple on the exterior… nice clean lines.  It has a patio above the entrance.  What a cool feature.  The foyer is posh looking… like stepping back in time – a perfect backdrop for Jersey Boys.  I remember walking down these stylish winding stairs through the bar into the Stalls area and it’s like ‘wow’.  I must say, out of all the theatres I’ve been to thus far, this is the grandest one yet.  It is magnificent and regal.  The ceiling seemed so high and the decor even extended to the ceiling with a vine / leaf cut out letting the lights shine through.  The theatre is beautifully done in red tones and gold.  The seats are very comfortable and plush.  Delfont Mackintosh has outdone themselves.  I must say it was the most comfortable theatre temperature-wise especially on a hot summer night.  We sat central in Row N of the stalls… the best view.  I don’t think there is any bad view there though… it’s wide open.  Staff were terrific, friendly and helpful.  One young man took the time to ask an elderly lady in the row in front of us if she was comfortable… if she needed anything.  That was very thoughtful.

Now on with the show… and what a show it was!  It’s a true story about four boys from Jersey who experienced life together as one of the most famous musical groups of the times.  And while it is most definitely about the lives and successes (and failures) of a musical group, it really highlights the major role of Frankie Valli.  While Tommy seemed to be the force behind the group, Frankie was the leader.  It was a historical look in time.  I had heard of Frankie Valli & the Four Seasons and knew their music but I didn’t know their trial and tribulations, their losses and their successes, their ups and downs.  You get to see the story behind the boys from Jersey and it is an interesting one.  I was surprised at the honesty of it as it looked at prison, gambling, drinking, infidelity, drugs and first times.  I remember thinking it was a tough neighborhood they group up in.  Despite it all, you can’t help but get pulled in especially with the terrific music that they produced.  And the story was told in an unique fashion.

Fifty plus years on and people still know their sound… people still love their music.  Thank goodness for the Musical ‘Jersey Boys’ so it can be introduced to the generations to come.  And bravo that Frankie Valli is still performing… something he has always loved and that was of great importance to him.  The group has always credited the American public for their success (i.e. they couldn’t do it on their own).   Speaking of future generations, it was nice to see some young people in the row in front of us obviously enjoying the music that their parents were intent on sharing with them.

The boys lived by some codes: don’t lie to your mother, don’t tell the truth to your wife, and don’t cross the line with your best friend’s gal.  They also believed in the importance not to forget where you come from.  And through one of the most trying times of Frankie’s life… the death of his daughter, Francine, at the young age of 22… he remembered what his mother had said, ‘This too shall pass’.  The good and the bad both shall pass. 

The show features all the classic hits such as Sherry, Big Girls Don’t Cry, Can’t Take My Eyes Off You, Bye Bye Baby (Baby Goodbye), Working My Way Back To You, Walk Like A Man, December 1963 (Oh What A Night), Rag Doll and more.  You will be tapping your toes, clapping your hands, and singing along.  And at the very end, you will be waiting for them to come back for an encore not wanting the night to end. 

The Jersey accents were perfect!  I was amazed that the actors could sound so authentic as it is a different accent.  And there was Italian in it as well.  The main characters are played by the following: Ryan Molloy (Frankie Valli), Stephen Ashfield (Bob Gaudio), Glenn Carter (Tommy DeVito), and Philip Bulcock (Nick Massi).  Although the performance I attended, I think there may have been some alternates… kudos to all the actors for brilliant performances and of course, the band/orchestra. 

Tommy (DeVito) ended up in Vegas.  Bobby (Gaudio) ended up in Nashville on a riverboat with his family.  For Nicky (Massi), family ended up being more important to him.  Frankie (Valli) continues to perform… because the first time they made that sound, the first time they met… that’s what it’s all about to him.  Family has also become more important to him.

Catch a bit of history… catch a bit of nostalgia… let yourself get enthralled in the fabulous music.  Go see Jersey Boys today!

by Ann Kamran (stagetalk.co.uk)

[Rating:5.0/5]

Hairspray Review: A Toe-tapping Night at the Shaftesbury!

The Shaftesbury Theatre is currently home to Hairspray. It is the perfect spot for a perfect show! The classic, Roman decor is beautiful, the seats very comfortable and the theatre laid out well. The Stalls area was easy to move around in and the number of aisles was perfect to help people get to their seats. There were crystal chandeliers, angels, Roman figures, lions, cherubs… all of great detail. There was even beautiful scenic wall paintings above the box seats. Speaking of boxes, there are 8 boxes that seem to have a good view as they protrude out instead of being flush with the wall. People sitting there seemed to be sitting comfortably and enjoying themselves. The lights and speakers were placed strategically so that they didn’t really stand out or take away from the beauty of the theatre. I would comment that the bars need an extra person or two at intermission. The line-ups were atrocious and after waiting for almost the whole intermission, I got to the counter to be told they didn’t have any bottled water and I had to go to another bar. Other than that… staff seemed friendly / polite, the theatre seemed clean / well-maintained.

I’m afraid I have a new favorite! Sorry Mamma Mia (which has moved to a very close second now). The ‘Welcome’ greeting at the beginning of the shows always help set the mood, it seems. Reminding people that it was Baltimore 1962 before the time of mobiles and hoping we could return to that time, i.e.: turn your mobile off. I enjoyed the movie so figured I would enjoy the theatre version, however, I wasn’t prepared for enjoying it more than the movie or enjoying it more than other favorite theatre shows.

Right from the first note, it was just energy, laughter, and toe-tapping songs. From the first song, ‘Good morning Baltimore’… it just didn’t stop. I couldn’t stop moving involuntarily… either tapping my toes, bobbing my head or dancing in my seat. The audience, myself included seemed so into the show. You felt like you were in the audience of ‘The Corny Collins Show’ or engrossed in the lives of some real people. I loved being part of their lives, so to speak. The family bond of the Turnblads was something so nice to see in an age where family sometimes appears to take a back seat. Adam Price was ‘priceless’ as Wilbur Turnblad. Brian Conley was unbelievably believable as Edna Turnblad. It’s sometimes weird watching a man play a woman’s role but it really wouldn’t be the same otherwise in this instant. Welcome to the show, Brian! Good job! I adored Chloe Hart, who as Tracy Turnblad wanted to make you want to abolish segregation and to follow your dreams. She has a great voice and can really hit those notes. You couldn’t help but root for her… wanting her to obtain her dreams including getting the love of her life, Link Larkin played by Liam Tamne. Speaking of hitting those notes, Link did a pretty good job himself! The dancing of all the cast was excellent but most noticeable was that of Seaweed played by Adrian Hansel. He really had the moves! Motormouth Maybelle (Sandra Marvin) is a great singer and stand-out personality.

It’s not just a fun, happy, energetic show… it has meaning, too. It was a reminder that everyone isn’t equal… that people who look different are treated different… maybe not as much as in 1962 but still so. In particular… ‘big, blond and beautiful’ women and people who are not white get the shaft but that changes with the determination of one young lady and the encouragement of Edna, Wilbur, Motormouth, Link, Seaweed, and best friend Penny Pingleton (played by Verity Rushworth)! Go, Tracy! There were scenes when you could feel the oppression and sympathize and also cheer when ‘colored’ people decided to rise above the oppression and take their rightful place in society even with a start like integrating on a TV show.

Of course, Hairspray, isn’t just the title of the show… it does involve Hairspray and boy, they must go through tons of it. I read that 175 hand-made wigs are used in this production and cast go through 80 cans of hairspray a week.

I enjoyed the ‘I can hear the bells’ song, almost got caught up and clapped with the kids at the Patterson Park High School Sophomore Spring Hair Hop, and couldn’t help but laugh when Edna’s voice got really DEEP like when she says, ‘Excuse Me’ when talking to snooty Velma Von Tussle played by Liz Robertson.

The whole show was absolutely fantastic… no question about it. There is not one part that was ‘so-so’ or where you might be bored. One scene in particular though just had me laughing so hard… it was the ‘You’re Timeless to Me’ scene with Edna and Wilbur Turnblad. I didn’t notice until after I got home but my eyeliner had extended outward with nice black streaks as the tears filled my eyes from laughter and I tried to wipe the tears away. It was also touching… a love song between a husband and wife who obviously loved each other no matter what the other looked like or acted like. They were perfect as they are which is how spouses should feel about their other half. Even Brian and Adam had a hard time with the scene as the crowd roared with laughter and cheered with wild abandonment. The cast must have such a fun time with this show.

‘You can’t stop the beat!’ It will live on. I was so impressed with the energetic and brilliant performances of the cast. This is a show I would go see again. It leaves you wanting more. The audience didn’t want to leave at the end and waited for the performers to come out again. Bravo, Hairspray, bravo! If you want a ‘feel good’ time… go see Hairspray today!

by Ann Kamran (stagetalk.co.uk)

[Rating:5.0/5]

Book Tickets for Hairspray the Musical at Shaftesbury Theatre!

Theatre Review of Sister Act the Musical at the London Palladium

Hallelujah! Singing isn’t the only thing raised to the rafters!  Raise your Praises, as well!

Who knew an evening with Nuns could be so fun!! It started even before ‘Sister Act’ began when the voice of Whoopi Goldberg welcomes you and gives a friendly and amusing warning to turn off your mobiles or she ‘will find you’. Go Whoopi! So, the amusement began before the show.

I think everyone knows the story but for those who’ve never seen the film… this is a little bit about it. Deloris Van Cartier is a singer / performer in Las Vegas. She thinks her boss (and lover), Shank, is going to leave his wife and also encourage her singing career. He does neither, of course. She gets fed up and decides to leave. As she is leaving, she witnesses her man and his thugs killing someone. She goes to the police. At the police station, she is reacquainted with someone she went to school with, Eddie, who is now a police officer but she doesn’t take him very serious (he doesn’t even carry a gun). He suggests the Witness Protection Plan to keep her safe until the trial. He looks for a suitable place for her to hide and much to Deloris’ protest, Eddie places her in a Church with Nuns. The laughter, antics and drama that ensues will keep you engrossed and amused. Deloris or Sister Mary Clarence as she is known to her ‘Sisters’ has a difficult time adjusting to the life of a nun but you see as she bonds with the other nuns… and how they bring the best out in each other not only in every day life but as a choir. She’s no longer just a show girl as you see Deloris grow. And, it’s her spirit and determination that brings the people into the church. And it’s fun and funny watching as the church grows as the community starts taking interest… money starts coming in and the church gets some much needed repairs. If the nuns’ singing is good enough to bring the Pope to the church, it is good enough to keep you entertained. It’s interesting as well to see how Eddie develops / changes and becomes the man he has been inside all along and shows that side to Deloris eventually. I won’t say anything more about the story. We know the ‘good guys’ win but go see it for yourself to experience the fabulous journey to that destination!

It’s always amazing what can be done with scenery in such a seemingly small space of a stage. It was particularly the case with the stage at the London Palladium for Sister Act. It was terrific how it easily transformed from a Las Vegas stage to an alley to Shank’s pad to the Church to a bar and so on. It added to the quality of the show already enhanced by the expertise and interaction of the actors.

I found the crowd really engrossed with the show… cheering, laughing, interested in the love aspect, enjoying the singing (and dancing!) and even turned on by Shank’s thugs during ‘Lady in the Long Black Dress’. TJ, Bones and Dinero had their own fan club, I do believe, and may have got some women’s numbers after the show!

Watching ‘Sweaty Eddie’ change from the mild, meek guy to the sexy, self-assured man was a pleasure to watch during, ‘I Could Be That Guy’.

Mother Superior was terrific as she went from vocally protesting to noticeably protecting their Sister Mary Clarence (aka Deloris). I loved Sister Mary Patrick’s enthusiasm and boundless energy. Sister Mary Robert was sweet and seemed to blossom before our eyes. But, I absolutely adored Sister Mary Lazarus. She gave the best one-liners that kept you in stitches and to watch her go was fun. She reminds you of an Estelle Getty or of my wee Grandmother… spunky! All the nuns were great… their acting, dancing, and singing were inspirational. Monsignor Howard added to it all with his appearances.

Patina Miller’s performance of Deloris / Sister Mary Clarence was top-notch. She was strong in vocals and acting. There were times I could have swore it was Whoopi Goldberg I heard.

I missed some of the songs / hymns from the original movie but that doesn’t take away from the songs included in / made for the show.

It was fantastic how the ‘Poooooooope’ stood and waived to the Sisters in the final act. I thought it was the Conductor but when I looked back a minute later, the Conductor was standing there again and couldn’t have changed that quick or could he. It was priceless and was the cherry on top of the already sweetly, satisfying sundae.

Well done, Whoopi Goldberg and Stage Entertainment!  It’s a two thumbs up to all the cast and crew of ‘Sister Act’.

Sister Act is playing at the classic and stylish London Palladium in London’s fabulous West End.  While it is bound for much success… don’t wait – go see it now!  Be ‘part of one terrific Sister Act’.  You’ll be glad you did!

by Ann Kamran (stagetalk.co.uk)

[Rating:4.0/5]

External Reviews from Popular Press:

Glorious Fun! The Daily Telegraph
 

A divine all singing, all dancing musical comedy! Daily Express
 

Patina Miller – a star is born Magic FM
 

Sheila Hancock is splendid! Daily Express
 

Sister Act answered all my prayers and more! Daily Mail 

Review: Be Prepared to be Swept Away When ‘Kissed by Brel’…

We had the privilege of attending ‘Kissed by Brel‘ tonight in the intimate setting of the Jermyn Street Theatre. It was an entertaining evening… more entertaining than one would expect with only two performers on stage.

The set simple yet effective. The floor and back wall painted a shade of gray (the rest of the room black). Two chairs. Tow Glasses. One piano. Crumpled black paper around the perimeter, looking like leaves when the lights dimmed. A hand fan. And, of course, don’t forget the lighting. That’s it… besides Claire Watling using her scarf to change the look of her outfit. Simple, right? Maybe, but definitely all that was needed.

Seventeen songs… seventy-five minutes. It was 75 minutes jam-packed with talent. It was amazing how Claire performed the songs with such passion and emotion… bringing the stories alive through the words of the captivating and talented Jacques Brel. I could picture the carousel, the bull, the dog… (from ‘Carousel’, ‘The Bulls’, and ‘The Girls and the Dogs’). Her actions, movements, facial expressions, her tears… they all provided images for the songs… brought them alive. You could experience the sadness, humor, love, sarcasm. You felt like you were in Amsterdam. You could see the cinema where Madeleine’s love waited for her. You could envision the dog as she kissed it on it’s nose. That’s how real it was made.

And, the musical accompaniment by Godfrey Johnson definitely cannot go unnoticed. His natural ability added intensity to the songs. No compositions sounded alike. He helped tell the stories. And, it’s easy to see that Claire and Godfrey have a close, wonderful bond.

The lighting, as mentioned above, was well done. One wouldn’t think that there would be much work involved but that is before you see that it is more than a talented singer standing on stage singing. Spotlights, colored lights… it all helped enhance the story as she moved around the stage. Kudos to Lighting Operator, Justin Emrys Smith.

There is much talent and experience between Director Geoffrey Hyland, Performer Claire Watling, and Accompanist Godfrey Johnson. South Africa has been blessed with their gifts and now we are being blessed.  All their abilities shine through in this wonderful production of ‘Kissed by Brel’. You’ll want to see it! You’ll want to experience it!

by Ann Kamran (stagetalk.co.uk)

[Rating:4.0/5]

Review: The residents of Avenue Q take you in and make you part of the ‘family’

The residents of Avenue Q take you in and make you part of the ‘family’. What an enjoyable evening with friends!

Let’s talk about the Theatre so I can get into the Show…

I can’t stress it enough… the Gielgud Theatre is a beautiful theatre… classic, the way a theatre should be… with comfortable seats which is a must when sitting for any length of time. Staff were very friendly and kind! The only negative comment I would have is that it was pretty warm (and quite a few people commented on that or you could see them fanning themselves).

Now… to the show…

Be prepared to have a good evening (or afternoon) when you go to Avenue Q. It’s almost like an adult version of Sesame Street or The Muppets. The characters are cute and you can relate to them. The actors were awesome! There were 7 all together with only 4 of them handled the puppets. Their expressions and movements matched that of the puppets so it’s not like they were just controlling the non-human characters but were part of them. The humans and puppets interacted well and it was like they were genuine friends in a New York neighborhood.  The voices, the singing, the movements… marvellous! And the band… well… hats off to them. The music was funtastic! For the most part (or most what I remember), it was happy, upbeat music. And, of course, I sang the theme song all the way home. The set was great! It’s amazing what can be done with such a seemingly small area. You can see the thought and effort behind the most minor of details that added to the show.  Kudos to those behind the scenes that helped make it all happen.

The commonality between the characters is ‘it sucks to be me’. It is an honest look at life in a comedic light (because if we don’t laugh, we’ll cry – right!). It touches base on every aspect of life… touches base on real issues: graduating from university and not being able to find a job, unemployment or not being able to do the thing you love, dreams, bills/money problems, relationships between friends and between lovers, how everyone is a little racist, an honest look how we laugh at minor misfortunes of others, growing up (and not wanting to), broken hearts, homosexuality, marriage, the internet, porn on the internet (poor Trekkie – the perverted monster who actually has a kind soul), the ‘purpose’ in life, how giving makes you feel good, how our ‘bad idea bears’ influence our thinking, suicide, and yes… even religion.

This show hits on it all and will make you laugh… perhaps you’ll relate to some or all of it! I know I related to the scene between Christmas Eve and Kate Monster how your husband (or the person you love) can drive you crazy yet it’s worth it. It was like, ‘oh my God, I’ve felt that!’ in reference to wanting to hit your spouse with something out of frustration!

There are some touching moments, too!  You could hear the crowd sigh when Princeton touched Kate Monster’s cheek at a tender moment.

The words in the dialogue, songs and on the screens were perfectly chosen. Bravo to the whole company. No wonder it continues to be a success.

Warning: This show is not suitable for kids. There is swearing and nudity (yeah, believe it or not… nude puppets)! Although it may be cute like Sesame Street, it has adult content. Having said that, I must say that the swearing wasn’t as bad as what I had anticipated and the sex scenes were… well, I guess I wasn’t expecting any so they were surprisingly realistic or descriptive. But, that is part of life, as well, so I guess you have to go with the flow and take it all in stride.

The patrons all seemed to enjoy themselves. I know I certainly did. Well done! That is one show I would go and see again! Congrats, Avenue Q! Keep up the great work!

by Ann Kamran (stagetalk.co.uk)

[Rating:4.5/5]

Book Tickets for Avenue Q at Gielgud Theatre

An Inspector Calls Reviews

“Thrilling. Don’t dare miss it!” – Daily Mail

“Outstanding. A genuinely great production, enthralling and visually stunning” – Daily Telegraph

“This is first rate Priestley played with atmosphere, purpose, style and wit” – Financial Times

“Spellbinding. Grabs you by the throat and won’t let you go” – The Guardian