Actor Charlotte Kennedy may currently be starring as Cosette in the West End production of mega musical Les Miserables, a role which most sopranos would kill for, but she's not your typical stagey musical theatre star.
Labelling herself as 'an underlying stagey', the Mountview Academy of Theatre Arts graduate decided on a career in musical theatre as a teenager. 'I didn't really start until I was about 15. I played the cello since I was 7 and I'd had singing lessons, but I hadn't actually done musical theatre until quite late on' she says of her early musical interests. But although she may have entered the world of musical theatre much later than many other young actors, the deciding factor behind her transition into musical theatre was very similar to others. 'I did a show and got the bug and it changed it all for me'.
Having graduated from a top drama school, Kennedy joined the cast of Les Miserables, where she originally covered the role of Cosette, before eventually taking over as the principle, a responsibility which she says she found 'quite daunting' to begin with. Having been on the West End for 32 years, Les Miserables' characters are totally iconic, and Cosette has definitely been played by a number of hugely impressive musical theatre names, including Rebecca Caine, who originated the role in 1985, and Amanda Seyfried who appeared in the 2012 Tom Hooper film adaptation. The character certainly has an interesting history, but Kennedy reveals that this element did not really weigh on her mind when she first took on the role, stating that 'in a way I was so nervous that I didn't really think about the part that I was playing, and how many people had played it before'. Far from dwelling on past iterations of the part, she explains that 'it's lovely to be able to find new things with it, and do it differently to the ways people have done it before, and put my own stamp on it'.
Les Miserables is undoubtedly an exciting show to be a part of, and it certainly has its super fans too, but what is it that has made the show so popular, and kept audiences coming back? Kennedy has a pretty good idea, explaining that 'I think a lot of people can relate to it. If you look at what's going on in the world at the moment I think that Les Mis is very relevant. It's about an uprising, and people fighting for what they believe in, and I think in the world right now there's a lot of that'.
Kennedy also reveals that her favourite part of the show is One Day More, the unmistakably powerful and poignant song which brings the curtain down on act 1. 'I love One Day More because even though Les Mis has the main characters like Jean Valjean, Javert and the Thenardiers, One Day More is the only part of the show when everyone is on stage'. Quick to label the show as an ensemble piece, Kennedy praises the song, and the way in which it brings the entire cast together. She explains that 'there are amazing solo performances but without the ensemble the show would just not be the same. It's such an ensemble piece that it relies so heavily on everyone else, and that's why I love One Day More. Everyone's there. Everything comes together.'
It's obvious that Charlotte Kennedy is having a fantastic time starring in Les Miserables, and so when considering what she might like to do once her time in the cast comes to and end she admits that 'to be honest I'm just making the most of this at the moment because I never thought that I would have this opportunity. But I'd love to do all of the big soprano roles like Glinda or Christine. One day that would be something that I'd aspire to do.'
Who knows what will happen when tomorrow comes, but for now you can catch Charlotte Kennedy as Cosette in the West End production of Les Miserables. To find out more information about the show visit www.lesmis.com
The 13 year long professional relationship between Kerry Ellis and Brian May has certainly been a busy one. The unlikely pair have worked together on numerous musical collaborations in the past, and are now back again with a brand new musical offering in the form of Golden Days, an album which combines Ellis' unmistakable vocals and May's musical expertise in exciting and somewhat unexpected ways.
West End leading lady Kerry Ellis is perhaps best known for her multiple appearances as Elphaba in Wicked, both in London and on Broadway, meanwhile Brian May may be most recognisable as the lead guitarist of Queen. The pair's collaborations began after Ellis starred as Meat in We Will Rock You, the bizarre smash hit Queen jukebox musical. Since then they have worked together on multiple projects, including Anthems, Ellis' debut album, which May produced.
This April sees the release of their most recent album. Undoubtedly a diversion from the songs which the musical theatre star's fans may expect, Golden Days includes a couple of reimagined show tunes, such as If I Loved You from Carousel, which is without doubt a highlight on the album. A perfect melding of Ellis' voice and May's musical expertise, the easy going and melancholy musical classic is a nice respite from the more unrelenting 'retro-psychedelic' songs, penned by Ellis and May, which feature heavily on the album.
The pair have certainly defined their own unique musical style. Combining powerful rock vocals and a more relaxed musical accompaniment, the whole of Golden Days has a very retro sound. Love In A Rainbow, the opening number which Ellis and May wrote themselves, is a great example of this. While it is not the most enrapturing song on the album, it does set the tone of Golden Days absolutely perfectly, telling listeners exactly what to expect from the 13 track long album.
Other standouts include I Who Have Nothing, a classic soul hit which Ellis' gruff and growly vocals add intensity and drama to, as well as Parisienne Walkways, guitarist Gary Moore's signature song, which acts as a great showcase for both Ellis and May's strongest fortes.
It's a shame that at times Ellis' voice sounds slightly overproduced, and while this does not divert from the obvious natural talent of the vocalist, it seems unnecessary and a little distracting. Additionally, while it's clear that May and Ellis' songwriting is solid, a couple of the tracks do sound quite similar to one another. Similarly, the inclusion of such notable songs as Born Free and Can't Help Falling In Love is lovely but feels like space wasted on an otherwise atypical tracklist.
While it may not be for everyone, fans of Ellis and May's past collaborations will no doubt love Golden Days' invigorating and unconventional sound. With covers of musical theatre staples, soul classics and a couple of completely new original songs, there's certainly variety and talent to admire.
Golden Days will be released on 7th April 2017. Order your copy from Amazon here smarturl.it/GoldenDays_amz
Playwright and actor Ray Cooney is celebrating an unbelievable 70 years in show business, and what better way to do it than with an updated version of his award winning 1990 farce Out Of Order. Having enjoyed a long run on the West End and bagged the 1991 Olivier Award for comedy, it's clear that, at least 25 or so years ago, Cooney's own brand of farcical comedy was hitting the spot for some. Unfortunately though, in 2017 Out Of Order has lost the charm it must have once possessed, and feels decidedly stale.
|James Holmes and Andrew Hall in Out Of Order|
Photo credit - Darren Bell
Starring a cast of well-known faces such as Andrew Hall, Shaun Williamson and James Holmes, the comedy follows the antics of Conservative junior minister Richard 'Dickie' Willey, as he attempts to cover up an affair with Jane Worthington, a typist for the Labour Party, after a body is found wedged in the sash window of their hotel room. Hijinks ensue of course, and as the slimy politician tries his best to cover up his indiscretions as best he can, more and more people are dragged into the mayhem. Misunderstandings, malfunctions and mistaken identity give Out Of Order plenty of promise, but unfortunately the play never really elevates above its predictable beginnings, and as such it becomes a trouncing slog, with an overblown runtime padded by unsavoury jokes, and plenty of sexism and homophobia thrown in for good measure.
The fact that the play begins by introducing the audience to 'Mr Willey' should be all the warning anyone could need that Out Of Order's brash humour isn't exactly for everyone. Certainly plenty of mileage is gotten from the unfortunate surname of the smarmy politician protagonist. The production may boast an updated script, which brings the political aspects of the play into 2017, however while references to May, Corbyn, Trump, and Twitter come thick and fast, all in all Out Of Order feels hugely outdated, with its broad, in yer face, and decidedly unmodish jokes not helping in the slightest.
Slightly troubling for this updated version is the misogynistic language and content, which jars considerably in 2017. All three female characters are presented as nagging annoyances who double up as sex mad fanatics, ready to jump into bed with the first man who asks. Additionally, and equally uncomfortably, laughs are elicited from the outraged gasps of the hotel's stuffy manager, when he mistakenly believes he has discovered two men engaging in a sexual act in a hotel room, and subsequently insists that they leave. It's clearly meant to be a bit of fun, but comes across as mean spirited for the most part.
The success of companies like Mischief Theatre has proven that there is still very much an appetite for farce when done right, but Out Of Order has sadly not been given a sharp enough update, and feels decidedly out of place in 2017. The star cast perform gamely, and throw themselves into the chaos, especially in the second act, but when all is said and done this painfully old fashioned comedy is pretty indefensible.
For more information go to cooneyonstage.com
Based on the hit 1997 movie, which starred Adam Sandler and Drew Barrymore, The Wedding Singer is a laugh a minute musical comedy with tons of poppy 80s inspired songs which are guaranteed to leave audiences clamouring for more! Directed and choreographed by Nick Winston, this new UK tour stars Jon Robyns as the eponymous wedding singer Robbie Hart. Robyns is joined by a top notch cast including Cassie Compton, Ray Quinn and Roxanne Pallett.
|Cassie Compton and Jon Robyns in The Wedding Singer|
Photo credit - Darren Bell
Set in 1985, The Wedding Singer follows one time aspiring rock star turned wedding singer Robbie Hart, who is deterred from singing after being left at the altar by his fiancee Linda, but subsequently sparks up a friendship with waitress Julia, the girlfriend of a smug wall street banker.
Jon Robyns is the perfect actor to lead such a fun musical. Singing and dancing with relentless energy, he's exceedingly watchable as the down-on-his-luck musician, and shines during the show's comedic moments. Memorably the showstopping number Casualty Of Love sees Robbie lead an eclectic group of wedding guests in a song and dance number so audacious that it totally annihilates a poor couple's wedding reception. The number is gleefully irreverent, and a real high point in the show.
Starring as love interest Julia, Cassie Compton's cutesy portrayal is extremely likable too, and together she and Robyns form a couple which is impossible not to root for. Roxanne Pallett is also impressive as Julia's pink bob sporting friend and fellow waitress Holly, and showcases some high octane vocals during the first act's closing number Saturday Night In The City, meanwhile Ray Quinn is suitably slimy as Julia's fiance.
Nick Winston directs with precision, ensuring a swift pace which emphasises the nonstop madcap fun of the plot. Jokes and 80s pop culture references, knowingly sprinkled throughout Chad Beguelin and Tim Herlihy's book, are gratefully received, and only help to further enhance the cheesy over the top tone which is maintained at all times.
To further intensify the fabulously 80s world of The Wedding Singer, Francis O'Connor's costume design accurately emulates the thrift shop chic trend of the time. The whole show exudes a bright, kitschy aesthetic which really helps to amp up the nostalgia, and will no doubt have people wondering why crimped hair ever went out of style?
It's not going to change the world, but there's absolutely no way audiences will leave The Wedding Singer without mega watt smiles on their faces. A party which no one will want to leave, this show will have fans dancing
down in the aisles!
To find out more information visit theweddingsingermusical.co.uk
Set in 1986, The Commitments tells the story of a group of restless young Dubliners who come together to bring soul music to the people of Dublin. Based on Roddy Doyle's popular novel, which was adapted into a film in 1991, The Commitments enjoyed a two year long run on the West End despite receiving a mixed critical response, and is now bringing soul to theatres around the UK on it's very first tour.
Whether or not The Commitments can be considered an enjoyable show is all down to what exactly audiences are hoping to gain from it. If a gritty drama about life in 1980s Dublin, combined with all the bells and whistles of a mega West End musical hit, is what's sought after then unfortunately the show may disappoint. However, if audiences are looking for a jukebox musical packed with a litany of toe-tapping tunes then The Commitments is just what the doctor ordered.
There are, of course, a few technical elements worth admiring. Soutra Gilmour's sets, whilst lacking some of the gears and cogs which made the show's West End predecessor stand out, capture a sort of homespun warmth amid the dour concrete and laminate of 1980s Dublin. The atmosphere is fuelled by Jon Clark's gig-like lighting design, which gives the show's biggest musical numbers a bit of extra impact.
But it is impossible to ignore the fact that what The Commitments lacks is a juicy, compelling plot, and its absence really does affect the show's overall pleasurability. The Commitments' band of pugnacious wannabe musicians are portrayed well by the cast, whose musicianship is equally impactful, but they're given virtually nothing to do and nowhere to go, and as such their seemingly never ending cavalcade of pub brawls and gratuitous effing and blinding gets tired quickly. A lack of character development for supporting characters is also noticeable, which is a shame, as the entire ensemble work tirelessly throughout the show. The lack of plot translates to a slightly lagging pace, but the cast do their best to combat this with their energetic performances.
Andrew Linnie is convincing as Jimmy, the band's passionate leader, and The Commitmentettes are played with vigour and bite by Amy Penston, Leah Penston and Christina Tedders. However, the show really belongs to Brian Gilligan's Deco, whose transition from slob to manic frontman with an ego problem is perfectly handled. He makes the most of each second he is on stage, bounding around and delivering suitably soulful vocals almost nonstop. The show's song list is full of instantly recognisable classics, and while they often do little to move the story along, they're definitely highlights.
The best really is saved until last though, with Brian Gilligan stirring the audience to clap along to familiar crowd-pleasers like Mustang Sally and Try A Little Tenderness. There's no doubt that The Commitments goes out on a high. It's just a shame that the high follows a pretty slow couple of hours. Much like several of its scrappy protagonists at various points during the show, the stage adaptation of The Commitments is all mouth and no trousers.
Actor Jon Robyns has had a long and multifarious career in theatre. Known to many for originating the dual roles of Princeton and Rod in the West End transfer of Avenue Q, or as Enjolras in the 25th anniversary tour of Les Miserables, more recently Robyns' theatre work includes alternating the role of Huey Calhoun in the West End production of Memphis, and starring as Caractacus Potts in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang at the West Yorkshire Playhouse.
This year Jon Robyns is starring as Robbie Hart in the UK Tour of The Wedding Singer, a musical adaptation of the 1997 film which starred Adam Sandler and Drew Barrymore. Like many of the audience members who are flocking to see the new tour, Robyns saw and loved the film when it was first released, also caught the theatrical adaptation when it last toured the UK in 2008. Explaining what drew him to the show he says 'I loved the music, and I thought it was very clever'. The musical features new music and lyrics by Matthew Sklar and Chad Beguelin, in addition to several songs from with original film, which were penned by Adam Sandler and Tim Herlihy. With a familiar title, fun and frothy story and excellent tunes, The Wedding Singer is a difficult show to fault in terms of entertainment value, and subsequently, Robyns says, 'when the producers approached me to do it there was no hesitation at all'.
The Wedding Singer first appeared on stage in 2006 when it debuted on Broadway and was subsequently nominated for a Best New Musical award at the 2006 Tonys. Since then it has toured the US and the UK several times, in addition to a number of other international productions in countries like Australia, Japan and Germany to name but a few. With such an impressive record, it seems obvious that this new production would be received just as well, but, of course, with such a variety of touring theatre on offer, and with audiences tastes constantly changing, nothing is certain. 'The thing is, when you’re rehearsing a show you don’t actually know. You kind of get an inkling for that the people you’re working with are brilliant, or the material is great, or that it looks or sounds great, but until you put it in front of an audience you don’t know.' Robyns explains when discussing whether he got a sense of the show's potential for success during rehearsals. Thankfully though, The Wedding Singer has received a slew of positive reviews, and excellent word of mouth as well. 'We’re very lucky that we’ve had such great creatives, people that knew what was going to work and what wasn’t' Robyns articulated, adding 'I’ve been really lucky to be doing such feel-good shows that people want to see'.
|Jon Robyns and the cast of The Wedding Singer|
Photo credit - Darren Bell
The current touring production of The Wedding Singer started life at the Leicester Curve in February of this year, and is due to tour the UK until October 2017, and this isn't the first time Robyns has worked with creatives at the Curve. In April 2016 he starred as Harvard teaching assistant Emmett Forrest in Legally Blonde, and then took on the role of Philadelphia police officer Eddie Souther in Sister Act, alongside pop star Alexandra Burke. He spent the latter half of 2016 touring with Sister Act before leaving to rehearse and subsequently tour The Wedding Singer. 'Every show has its challenges, and getting it into different size theatres with different size auditoriums and sounds systems can be a challenge, but the joy of a new town discovering a show always makes up for it' says the actor of his busy schedule, summarising that the experience of moving on from one tour to another so quickly has been 'difficult and wonderful all at once'.
A fan of Guns and Roses and Michael Jackson, Robyns has found that he's discovered a lot more 80s music since his involvement with The Wedding Singer began, explaining that 'the music in this show pastiches 80s stuff really well, so I wanted to know what it was pastiching. It’s a wonderful era for music and I think the show captures it really well'. But does the actor have a favourite song in the show itself? 'Somebody Kill Me, a song taken from the film, which Adam Sandler wrote, just because he’s a comic genius and it’s a perfect opportunity to just let rip. I really love those moments'.
Adam Sandler's connection to the role of Robbie Hart is undeniable thanks to his original performance in the film, therefore some audiences may be wondering how the stage adaptation may compare, but Robyns is quick to reassure audiences that as good as the film is, the stage adaptation has its own merits. 'A movie is an interesting entity that I think people sometimes have trouble letting go of, but the stage adaption and the movie are different enough so that everyone can relax into it', he clarifies, adding that 'the writers have done such a great job of coming up with such a 3D character in the script, so as the actor it’s never your job to create what the character is in its first instance. It’s just your job to interpret what the writers have given you, for an audience. As long as you stick to what’s true in the script then you’re fine'.
Clearly Jon Robyns is having a great time bringing The Wedding Singer to audiences around the UK, and is quick to praise director and choreographer Nick Winston for his trust in the cast. Speaking of one particular scene in which his character ruins a couple's wedding day, Robyns recounts that 'the only direction I was given by our incredible, wonderful, loving director Nick Winston was "just go and show off". I do whatever comes into my head each show, which is very liberating and fun!'
It's heartening to hear the actor speak with such enthusiasm about a show, especially as his keenness matches that of audiences. In addition to the great reviews, The Wedding Singer's twitter feed is full of retweets from satisfied audience members, singing its praises. Robyns is eager to express just how varied the audience has been so far, and how it's a show for everyone. 'It’s a brilliant date night show, and we’ve also had quite a few hen nights, it’s a really good show for friends to come and watch. It’s a thoroughly feel-good show. It’s not going to challenge you deeply, or make you think, it’s just thoroughly enjoyable', quite rightly adding that ‘there’s no war, there’s no death, it’s not Les Mis. It’s going to make you happy walking out and I think that’s as valid a reason to go to the theatre as any.’
It sounds like audiences are lapping up The Wedding Singer. Touring until October 2017 there are plenty of chances to catch it at a number of big venues around the UK. Visit theweddingsingermusical.co.uk for more information and to book tickets.
Titusville, Florida, aka 'Space City USA' is such a vital element to Ugly Lies The Bone that it could almost be considered a character itself. The history of the city is integral to Lindsey Ferrentino's new play, and serves as a harsh contrast to the idyllic virtual paradise which protagonist Jess retreats into upon her return from a third tour of Afghanistan, as part of her recovery, after being severely injured by an IED.
|Ralf Little and Kate Fleetwood in Ugly Lies The Bone|
Photo credit - Mark Douet
For the last 50 or so years the city of Titusville has been inextricably linked to the NASA space programme, booming when NASA had missions on the go, and crashing every time the government cut its funding. Ugly Lies The Bones sees Jess returning to Florida in the summer of 2011, just as NASA is preparing to launch its final shuttle. The shops and restaurants are unfamiliar, unemployment is high, and on the verge of getting even worse, Jess' mom is suffering with Alzheimer's and her ex boyfriend is married to someone else. While Jess, who spent over a year recovering from severe burns in a hospital in Texas, and must walk with a metal walking frame due to the tightness of her scarred and grafted skin, is desperate to cling to the past, everything and everyone around her is moving on.
Thus Ugly Lies The Bone, an excruciating examination of the ways in which humans deal with pain and trauma, begins. Jess escapes her mundane, unfamiliar Floridian lifestyle by entering a virtual reality based on the very real SnowWorld VR system, a pain reduction technique used to distract burn victims while their bandages are being changed, which has been proven in some tests to be more effective than Morphine. The VR becomes a necessity to Jess and her rehabilitation, and to emphasise its importance designer Es Devlin has moulder the stage into a large, grey quarter sphere, reminiscent of a giant VR visor. When Jess enters her virtual reality, her world is mapped out onto the set, with impressive projections by Luke Halls. The visuals of Ugly Lies The Bone are among the production's most impressive features!
The play is also impeccably cast, with Kate Fleetwood giving a fierce performance in the role of Jess. She's at her most impressive when she stands alone on stage, exploring her virtual world or getting to grips with her physical one. One particularly devastating scene sees Jess strip off to her underclothes and pull on a dress as she prepares to spend with her ex boyfriend Stevie (Ralf Little is endearingly flappable in the role) watching a shuttle launch. The scene is agonisingly drawn out, and Fleetwood's stiff, restricted movements, combined with her minuscule hums of agony, make it almost unbearable to watch. Meanwhile Kris Marshall is hilarious as Jess' sister Kacie's seemingly classless, yet underestimated boyfriend, and Kacie herself is brought to bubbly life by Olivia Darnley.
It's a shame in a way that while the play spends a lot of time exploring its characters and their interpersonal relationships, it still feels like there's more probing to be done by the end. The exquisitely complex dynamic between Jess and Stevie is fascinating, but feels unfulfilled. There are too many compelling plotlines crammed into the 90 minute run time, and as such some of the raw and emotional elements teased at end up a little bit tame. Nevertheless though, Ugly Lies The Bone is a remarkable visual affair, and Kate Fleetwood's stunning occupation of Jess deserves much adulation.
Find out more about Ugly Lies The Bone by visiting www.nationaltheatre.org.uk/shows/ugly-lies-the-bone