Interview - Bronté Barbé (Beautiful: The Carole King Musical)

'I was always a bit of a performer' actor Bronté Barbé muses, recalling her early roots in acting. 'I remember I was Mary in a nativity play when I was three, and I decided I wanted to be Mary for the next 6 months. I was dressed as Mary and my mum had to take me everywhere as Mary – I think she was a bit embarrassed' she laughs. 

‘A bit method?’ I proffer. 

‘Oh, SO method.'

Bronté, whose previous theatre credits include Princess Fiona in the Shrek The Musical UK Tour, and Nadine in The Wild Party, may be best known to some for her appearance in the 2010 BBC talent series Over The Rainbow, which saw several young actress competing for the role of Dorothy in an upcoming West End production of The Wizard of Oz. After her elimination from the show (which was eventually won by fellow Northerner Danielle Hope), she went on to study musical theatre at Mountview, and has since been seen in many shows around the UK. Now she is taking on the role of songwriting legend Carole King, in the UK and Ireland Tour of hugely successful musical Beautiful: The Carole King Musical, which only recently closed in London.


When discussing the challenges of bringing incredible real life music icon Carole King to life on stage, Bronté reflects that finding the character has been quite a different process. 'It's something that I’ve never done before, and it’s been a big balance between finding it for myself and obviously looking back on research, because I want to stay true to her as much as I can. It’s definitely more of an interpretation rather than an impersonation'. Inevitably portraying such an interesting character on stage has its challenges, 'it spans over a period of about 12 years, and it's sort of plotting her journey throughout that and how she changes.' she explains. It's evident that Bronté has a lot of respect and admiration for the musical and its protagonist, and she admits that some of the songs still make her emotional, stating, 'I really love You’ve Got A Friend, it’s my favourite moment in the show I think – so far. It’s really nice to sing, and it gets me every time, I think "oh god, try not to cry"'.

In fact, one of the element which has undoubtedly made Beautiful: The Carole King Musical so popular is the great songs, such as the aforementioned You've Got a Friend, as well as tunes like Natural Woman, and I Feel The Earth Move Under My Feet, which punctuate the story. As Bronté confesses, 'I’ve had the Tapestry album for quite a long time on vinyl, and I had a few friends in the show – my housemate was in it, so it got overplayed in the house a little bit, but I could never get bored of it!' And it's not just a musical for people who are drawn to music from the '60s and '70s either (although those who are will definitely enjoy the selection of songs which make it into the show'). As Bronté puts it, 'there are so many songs that you don’t even realise are by Carole, or Cynthia and Barry', she says, referring to the vast and surprising catalogue of songs written by both Carole King and her friends, the husband and wife songwriting duo Cynthia Weil and Barry Mann. And Beautiful: The Carole King Musical has more to offer than just great music, as Bronté is quick to point out. 'I remember being so struck by her story when I went to see it. I didn’t know a lot about her personal life. I think she’s an amazing person'.

Of course, for musical theatre fans, the much lauded musical should not be missed on tour, but Bronté asserts that because of its source material, Beautiful: The Carole King Musical may appeal to a wide range of audiences. 'I think, or I hope, that it will bring in a wider audience, because I think everybody has heard of Carole King, or one of the songs that’s in the show'. Yes, it's a fun jukebox musical, filled with great songs, recognisable characters and a healthy dose of nostalgia, but at it's heart Bronté believes that Beautiful: The Carole King Musical is different is some way, and finishes out interview by stating 'I think you go to the theatre to escape for a bit, but also to relate, and I think it’s such an important story that should be told.'

Don't miss Bronté Barbé in Beautiful: The Carole King Musical on its first ever UK and Ireland Tour.

Review - Miss Saigon (UK and Ireland Tour)

It feels like only yesterday that Miss Saigon was preparing for a West End revival, but it's been over a year since Boubil and Schoenberg's ever popular epic closed in London. Happily though, it is touring the UK and Ireland again, and leaving a string of teary eyes behind it wherever it goes.

Set during the Vietnam war and in the years of uncertainty that followed, Miss Saigon tells the story of a doomed romance between Kim, a 17 year old bar girl, and Chris, an American GI, and explores ideas about tradition, survival, and love in many different forms. Inspired by Puccini's Madame Butterfly, Miss Saigon is a timeless story with haunting songs and an unforgettable story, and has captured the hearts of audiences around the world since it was first seen on the West End back in 1989.

Ashley Gilmour and Sooha Kim as Chris and Kim in Miss Saigon
Fans and newbies can rest assured that this touring production absolutely matches up to the titanic scale of the recent West end iteration. Its hugely detailed set is so incredibly intricate that the world of the story feels totally realised, and Miss Saigon's famously scene stealing set pieces are as awe inspiring as ever!

Additionally its monumental scale is bolstered by an impressively large cast, which fills the stage with bustling life and amplifies every ensemble number. The cast shines in songs like Bui Doi, and This Is The Hour, where their talent is palpable.

What is Miss Saigon, though, without a superstar Kim? Like a beacon of light, Sooha Kim is totally transcendent in the role. With a sweet yet powerful voice, and a characterisation of the role which is full of innocence and love, her performance is beautifully nuanced and immensely touching. She carries the show with ease and has the audience on her side from the first moment she steps on stage. Having understudied the role in the West End revival before taking on the lead full time in a more recent production in Japan, it's clear that Kim is a character which Sooha Kim is connected to deeply. Her revelatory performance sticks in the mind long after the curtain comes down.

Opposite Sooha Kim, Ashley Gilmour makes a perfectly dashing Chris. An American GI with a conscious, Chris is potentially a difficult character to pitch, but Gilmour does well to make Chris sympathetic and truthful on stage. And of course, the two leads make an utterly gorgeous couple, with strong chemistry and voices which blend together perfectly.

The are so many unforgettable songs in Miss Saigon, and the several love duets between the musical's central couple are no exception. Most notable perhaps, is Last Night Of The World, a song so full of dramatic irony, and featuring such a stirring melody, it makes the rushed romance between Kim and Chris seem totally believable. However, it is I'd Give My Life For You, Kim's formidable act one closing number, which steals the show. Kim and Chris' love may be powerful, but it's motherly love which dominates the latter half of the Miss Saigon and nowhere is that more evident than in Kim's foreboding solo.

It's not every day that a touring production of this calibre comes around, and if you've not yet crossed Miss Saigon of your to-see list then there has never been a better opportunity. Miss Saigon is touring around the UK and Ireland until late 2018. Catch it at your local theatre or miss out!

Find out more information at www.miss-saigon.com/uk-ireland-tour

Interview - Alan Pearson (Alice's Adventures Underground)

Alice's Adventures Underground, Les Enfants Terribles' bizzaro maze-like piece of immersive theatre, is unlike anything else in London right now. Every inch of the sprawling Waterloo Wonderland is packed from floor to ceiling with curious objects, Easter eggs which evoke Lewis Carroll's original stories, and mysterious details which will have audience members temporarily transported into the psychedelic world. 

But what would Wonderland be without its assortment of kooky characters? Alice's Adventures Underground is crawling with recognisable characters from the books, and one of the most iconic of all, the Hatter, is played at some performances by actor Alan Pearson. 


It's Pearson's first year in Wonderland, and as well as playing the Hatter he also performs as the Mock Turtle, the Joker, the Knave of Hearts and the Wasp in a Wig. Quite an assortment. There are, however, some other parts which he wishes he could have a crack at... 'I’d love to play the Queen of Hearts, I think that’d be a great part to play. There are so many great characters, and the puppet characters are really great fun as well - the Cat and Humpty Dumpty. I think I wouldn’t mind having a go at those.' Without a doubt, the puppetry within the show is extraordinarily clever, and showstopping characters like the fearsome towering Jabberwocky will stay with audiences long after they depart. 

But the Hatter, such a well known and loved character from the books, and woven into popular culture so deeply, is surely a holy grail character for most actors. 'I love the part of the mad hatter, but also I heard so many great things about the piece the last time it was around, it was a bit of a no-brainer really', Pearson says of his initial reaction to being involved in the production. 'I’ve never done anything to this scale. I’ve worked in improvisation before but this sort of level of improvisation where you’re transported into the world - and it is a world, it’s so vast, the space that we’re using – is something I’ve never had to tackle before'  

Speaking of the vast space, the sheer scale and detail of Alice's Adventures Underground is definitely an element which helps the production to feel so real, and for audience members the whole experience of being led through Wonderland can feel extremely disorienting in the best way possible. It's not hard to imagine that the actors in the piece must feel similarly flustered, but Pearson elaborates that despite some early hiccups, his route through Wonderland is ingrained in his muscle memory now. 'I remember in the first week we were running around flapping, lots of us had little bits of paper in our pockets just with details on to tell us exactly where to go, but it’s ingrained now. Now we look at the time and see that we’ve only got 15 seconds until our next scene, but that feels like so much time, it feels like a luxury. But initially the panic would set in, and there was a lot of running involved!' Nevertheless, the finely choreographed nature of the production, which sees several large groups of people navigating through the world at once, is immensely impressive. 'It’s down to the second, so what’s been put in place are sound cues and audio cues, and visual cues to tell the actors "okay you need to move this audience now because in ten seconds another 26 people are coming through". We make it seem very seamless and effortless without the audience members knowing at all. You get a real sense of satisfaction as an actor knowing that you’ve achieved this'.

What with Alice's Adventures Underground being such a unique night out, and very different to a lot of the entertainment which London has to offer, it's interesting to think about exactly what kind of audiences come to see the show. Pearson describes how people come for multiple different reasons, 'we’ve got a lot of creative people that come, actors and such, but also people who just like the idea of Alice in Wonderland. It’s very cult, isn’t it, I suppose.' 

Undoubtedly the crowds are flocking to the show to experience something different, and in Alice's Adventures Underground the audience's interactions do help to shape the show, 'it’s entirely unique and dependent on the audience members that come through, and what they give and offer' Pearson explains. However, as with all shows of its type, it's seen its fair share of unusual audience offerings. 'We’ve got audience members that want to come for more of the party experience, so we’ve had a few, well, a lot of drunken people come through. We had a woman who took her trousers down and pissed on the floor.' Not exactly the sort of behaviour you'd expect to find at your standard West End musical, or anywhere in fact. 'We always find it constantly hilarious because there’s so many audience members coming through each night, there’s always something which is quite strange. But I think weeing in the Tulgey Wood is up there'. It'd be hard to argue with that! 

Alice's Adventures Underground is an exciting addition to London's theatre and nightlife scene, and Alan Pearson's zeal for the production is undeniable, as he enthuses, 'I think it’s magical and the finer details are incredible, and I think everyone gets an incredibly unique experience out of it.' 

Don't miss Alan Pearson in Alice's Adventures Underground, an immersive piece of theatre which you'll want to keep on returning to again and again. 

Find out more information by visiting www.alice-underground.com and read my review of the show at www.talkstageytome.co.uk/2017/05/review-alices-adventures-underground 


Interview - Red Concepcion (Miss Saigon)

Miss Saigon, the blockbuster musical, is back! Setting off on a tour of the UK and Ireland, the show is bound to capture the hearts of many first time audiences, as well as dedicated fans. An exciting cast of performers, old and new, has been assembled for this new tour, and amongst them is Red Concepcion. Hailing from the Philippines, where his achievements in musical theatre include the Aliw Award for Best Actor in a Musical and the Gawad Buhay Award for his performance as Adam/Felicia in Priscilla: Queen of the Desert, in his UK theatre debut Red will be taking on the role of The Engineer, the devious owner of the Dreamland bar and brothel where the events of Miss Saigon begin. As he prepares to hit the road, Red Concepcion speaks about his experience of the show, what the rehearsal process has been like, and what he hopes audiences will take away from it at the end.


Red reflects on his experience so far, remarking that the rehearsal process has been ‘a little overwhelming for someone who hasn’t seen the show, and who comes from another country, because obviously the process it very different, but very exhilarating’. It may surprise people to hear that Red has never seen Miss Saigon before. ‘It went to Manila but I think I was too young to see it, but I’ve been a fan of the music for a long time. It’s beautiful, beautiful music’, he explains, ‘When I was a kid it was very big in the Philippines so I think we listened to the cassette tape. I had the whole album and I used to listen to it a lot’.

In some ways it’s possibly advantageous to be coming into the show fresh. It’s undoubtedly an iconic role, and one which frequently divides audiences. ‘The whole show is kind of a cautionary tale about war, and what war does to people, and The Engineer, although he’s funny and whimsical, more than that I want the audience to see the show to be like “if I ever find myself in war, or in a country in turmoil, or unrest, I should not turn into that guy!” Because he’s very conniving, very scheming, to get what he wants’. However, just like the rest of the characters within the musical, Red identifies that The Engineer is a victim of circumstance too. ‘He kind of has this inherent hatred of who he is. He wants to be an American, so he’s got an inherent hatred of himself, but he’s also knows and admires himself for all his cunning and his smarts, so having those two things in one person, constantly battling is very challenging, but a good challenge to be explored.’
Red Concepcion in rehearsals for the Miss Saigon UK Tour
Photo Credit - Manuel Harlan
The new tour features cast members from the West End production of Miss Saigon, such as leading actress Sooha Kim, who previously understudied the role in London before taking the lead in a production in Japan. However, it also features a load of new faces. It’s not hard to imagine that for a production so big, and with such a reputation, the pressure to get things right would be high, but as Red explains, ‘the creative team is very supportive and you can tell than they want us to do good, so it’s a very gruelling process but also a very encouraging lovable atmosphere.’ Reflecting on his experiences in rehearsals so far he laughs, ‘whenever I feel like I’m about to get stressed, everybody’s so loving and there’s really no cause to lose your mind.’

Speaking more generally about Miss Saigon, it’s not a surprise to hear his favourite part of the show to perform is The American Dream. 'It’s a show stopper, it’s so fun to do, working on it with the choreography and with the rest of the cast, I just love doing it’. Undoubtedly The American Dream, an outlandish dream sequence of a song which features countless dancers flooding the stage, along with a couple of pretty big symbols of wealthy America, is a jaw dropping and memorable highlight of the show which allows the actor playing The Engineer to cut loose for several minutes. He notes however that his favourite part of the show to watch is in fact Morning of The Dragon. ‘They pull out all the stops and they’ve got an amazing cast of dancers, and they just kill it every time’. It’s a lesser spoken about but equally breath-taking moment in the show, which shows a parade in Ho Chi Minh City celebrating the third anniversary of the reunification of Vietnam. The moment acts as a time jump within the story, and is just one of many incredible moments of spectacle within the show.

It’s partly this element of spectacle that Red identifies as a selling point of Miss Saigon. He enthuses that ‘Miss Saigon is a modern classic. There’s nothing like it in terms of its scope and its scale, the music that it has, and the storytelling that it manages to do’. And what does he hope that audiences will gain if they buy a ticket? ‘They’ll be laughing, they’ll be enjoying themselves, and thoroughly entertained, but also it’ll open their minds about a lot of things, like race, and war… everything.’

For more information visit www.miss-saigon.com

Interview - The Cast of Our Ladies of Perpetual Succour

Our Ladies of Perpetual Succour, Lee Hall’s smash hit musical play, has been entertaining, startling and moving audiences around the world since it debuted at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe back in 2015. Having played to audiences in places like America and Australia before transferring to the West End, the sweary Olivier Award winning comedy has a somewhat irresistible appeal.

Sitting backstage at the Duke of York’s Theatre, the cast reflects on the reasons why Our Ladies of Perpetual Succour has been so successful, and shares their own personal experiences with the play…
Frances Mayli McCann (Kylah), Caroline Deyga (Chell), Isis Hainsworth (Orla), Dawn Sievewright (Fionnula), Karen Fishwick (Kay), Kirsty MacLaren (Manda)
Photo credit - Manuel Harlan 
‘Everybody remembers that point in life of being a teenager on the precipice of adulthood, and not really knowing what tomorrow’s going to bring…’Frances Mayli McCann muses. ‘We found when we took it round the world, to Australia and America, that same universal story resonates.’

Aside from its relatable plot, what’s fascinating about Our Ladies of Perpetual Succour is that it’s a piece of theatre which portrays women in such a brutally honest light, showing both the good and bad in each of its six main characters. As Karen Fishwick puts it, ‘there are definitely no shows that represent women the way that we represent them, which is strange because we represent them in a very real way.’ Dawn Sievewright adds, ‘When we did the press night they did this really amazing thing where they talked to quite a lot of people in the business just after they came out, and women just couldn’t believe the sense of joy and empowerment. They can’t believe that 6 young women plus 3 women in the band do this, it’s actually ridiculous.’ As empowering and moving as the play is, it does seem ridiculous that it’s considered scandalous just because it features young women drinking, swearing and engaging in a few family unfriendly conversations. ‘People walk out of our show all the time. We had 18 people walk out in one night,’ Sievewright continues, ‘people think we’re pushing boundaries but actually we’re just telling normal stories.’

In a show featuring such a variety of different characters, all with such relatable issues, and realistic bonds, it’s interesting to think about how the actors’ personalities shaped the story. Caroline Deyga describes that ‘in the auditions they asked everybody, out of all of the characters, who they related to most, and all of us that are playing these parts, all said these parts, which probably says a lot about how much we relate to these characters, because we sort of felt drawn to them, and so did a panel of people that were auditioning us’. It’s also exciting to consider how the actors’ input in the initial rehearsal process will have shaped the show in its future iterations. Deyga enthuses, ‘that’s really exciting as well, that parts of you will always be in that character’.

As Kirsty MacLaren says, ‘As an actor you very rarely get a chance to come at a piece of theatre that’s a skeleton that you get to really invest in, and you get to play with, because normally you come in and the design’s already set and the script’s set, where as in this you got to come in and play as actors, you got to have fun every day at work and make this piece of theatre together’. That sense of creating a piece of theatre as a group is absolutely prevalent in Our Ladies of Perpetual Succour, a play which focuses largely on portraying the immensely strong bonds felt between friends. Interestingly, although 5 of the 6 cast members have been working together from the very beginning of the process, Isis Hainsworth made her professional stage debut when she joined the show for its transfer to the West End. ‘Before I came in, I was so scared,’ Hainsworth expresses, ‘they’d been together for so long, and I’d heard so much about it and everyone said it was the best thing they’d ever seen, and I was like oh shit, but then I came in and I met them and they’re all super lovely, and made me feel at home’.  

But with so many critically acclaimed productions on stage in London right now, why should audiences come and see Our Ladies of Perpetual Succour above anything else? Caroline Deyga has a pretty persuasive answer… ‘It’s as much an experience as it is a piece of theatre. And if you get shocked by it and you walk out then that is an absolutely credible thing to feel. Sorry we made you think.’ She adds with a smile, ‘but to have that strong response to a piece of theatre doesn’t come along all the time, so come and take advantage of it while it is here!’ And isn’t that as good a reason to go to the theatre as any?

Visit ourladiestheplay.co.uk for more information

Review - Our Ladies of Perpetual Succour (Duke of York's Theatre)

'Let's go f*cking mental!' scream the unruly catholic schoolgirls of Our Ladies of Perpetual Succour as they're set free from the confines of their quiet hometown for the day. Ferried into Edinburgh for a choir competition, the rowdy friends shed their stuffy uniforms and embark on an unforgettable day of drinking and partying. Hooches are downed, friendships are tested, and each girl is confronted with the realities of their lives, and their futures beyond high school. 

The cast of Our Ladies of Perpetual Succour
Photo credit - Manuel Harlan 
Best known for writing the screenplay and subsequent stage adaptation of Billy Elliot, Lee Hall has adapted Alan Warner's book The Sopranos into an exuberant and uninhibited play, which bubbles with youthful abandon. Featuring a cast of 6, who play a multitude of different characters in addition to their named roles, and an additional 3 musicians, Our Ladies of Perpetual Succour is brought to life with relentlessly energy which it's impossible not to be totally drawn in by. 

It's so heartening to see 6 female characters on stage, all of whom have completely different, and perfectly defined personalities. Far from dainty school girl stereotypes, each of the choir girls of Our Ladies of Perpetual Succour as feisty, fleshed out and relatable as the next one. It's almost cathartic to see such realistic depictions of young women on stage. 

In addition to Lee Hall's magnetic book, as a play with music Our Ladies of Perpetual Succour benefits from some spine tingling musical performances numbers, performed by the blazingly talented company. Most notably, their adrenalized rendition of ELO's Mr Blue Sky is so energetic, peppy and audacious that it's impossible to resist. 

Most notably though, is that what's so magical about the story is how unremarkable it is in the grand scheme of things. Yes, in real life it's unlikely that 6 school girls could fit so much drinking, chatting and emotional cleansing into one day, but the way the girls interact within the play, the antics they get up to and the struggles they face are far from unheard of in schools up and down the country. Our Ladies of Perpetual Succour portrays young women at their most unguarded, and subsequently each character feels completely real, each action totally justified. 

At times the play feels almost like a rock concert, with blaring music, frenzied choreography and performances which frequently border on manic. It's a full throttle hour and forty five minutes, which jolts its audience through hilarious highs and crushing lows, and never lets up, even for a second. Unmissable is most definitely the word to describe Our Ladies of Perpetual Succour. It's a swirling riot of unbridled teenage spirit which will have you laughing one minute and crying the very next. Grab a ticket, and get ready to go f*cking mental!

Visit ourladiestheplay.co.uk for more information

Interview - Natasha J Barnes (Funny Girl)

Prior to her high profile stint in the Michael Mayer directed London production of Funny Girl back in 2016, rising star Natasha J Barnes may not have been a household name, but there’s a good chance that London based musical theatre fans had already encountered the actor. Having made her West End debut in the relatively short-lived London production of Spring Awakening, also directed by Mayer, Barnes’ previous musical theatre credits included Heather in American Idiot at the Arts Theatre and Svetlana in Chess at the Union Theatre. ‘I did every school play, local poetry competitions, anything I could get my hands on’ the actress expresses, explaining how her love of performing began at a young age. ‘The passion grew from there really, into Theatre studies a-levels, NYMT, YMT and open auditions. An open audition is how I booked Spring Awakening’.


It’s been 6 years since the fateful audition which catapulted Barnes into a professional career in the theatre, and now she is starring as Fanny Brice on many of the stops during Funny Girl's UK tour, sharing the role equally with actor Sheridan Smith. 

Barnes was cast in the ensemble of Funny Girl when it debuted at well-loved off-West End theatre the Menier Chocolate Factory in 2015. However, when the show transferred to the West End in early 2016 Barnes was called upon to temporarily replace Sheridan Smith, after Smith was forced to take a break from the show for personal reasons. Thankfully the public welcomed the up-and-comer with open arms, and Barnes received plaudits from audiences and critics alike. ‘The support I got at the Savoy was unbelievable, from the company, the press, the audience, my family and friends; it was completely overwhelming but it helped me to be bolder and develop my own version of the character’ explains Barnes, who recalls ‘that character evolved over that time into something that sat better inside me, and re-discovering that this year has been really exciting.’

Musical theatre aficionados are undoubtedly aware of how iconic the role of Fanny Brice is. Originated by superstar Barbra Streisand in both the 1963 Broadway production of Funny Girl, and revered 1968 big screen adaptation, the self-professed “greatest star” is a plucky protagonist like no other. ‘Barbra Streisand is a masterclass. Her voice has so many colours and the way she uses the dialogue and music is fascinating to me’ says Barnes who, like so many performers and fans alike, describes herself as ‘a massive fan’ of the 1968 film which introduced mass audiences to songs such as I’m The Greatest Star, Don’t Rain on My Parade, and People, the latter being Barnes’ favourite song in the show. ‘I love singing that song. It's a simple moment but such a defining, human part of the story’ she says of the song, which has become something of a musical theatre staple. In fact, the role of Fanny Brice has topped the dream role list of many a musical theatre performer, whether aspiring or accomplished. The character's life is filled with hope and joy, but besieged with tragedy and heartbreak too. Such an interesting journey, accompanied by Jule Styne and Bob Merrill’s music and lyrics, makes Brice a fascinating powerhouse of a role. ‘I still have moments during the show where somewhere behind the character I light up singing those melodies’ Barnes reveals.  

Natasha J Barnes and Darius Campbell in Funny Girl
Photo credit - Paul Coltas
It’s clear that despite the vocal and emotional demands of the show, as well as the logistics of touring, Barnes is having a great time working on the Funny Girl tour. Describing the touring experience, she says ‘the audiences are different at each venue, they bring a flavour of the community and culture in with them and relate to different parts of the show in different ways. It's always a fresh feeling stepping out onto the stage’. And as if she wasn’t busy enough already, her debut album, which Barnes describes as ‘very personal’ and ‘a step away from musical theatre’, is due to be released in September 2017 as well.

Theatre lovers will undoubtedly be rushing to their nearest tour venues to catch the 5 star production of Funny Girl as it entertains audiences up and down the country. In the words of the star herself, Funny Girl is ‘a slick, glittering, West End quality show with real heart and humanity at the centre of it. It's got laughter and tears and music and movement and it's a wonderful way to escape for the evening!’

Find out more information about the 2017 Funny Girl tour by visiting www.funnygirlthemusical.co.uk

Review - Alice's Adventures Underground (The Vaults)

We're almost halfway through 2017, and London has already seen so many brilliant pieces of theatre, from searing new plays to joyful musicals, and everything in between. However, if audiences are looking for an artsy night out which offers something a bit different, then the answer to their theatregoing dilemma lies in The Vaults underneath Waterloo station, in the sprawling and fantastical world of Wonderland. 

Richard Holt (Hatter) and Phillipa Hogg (March Hare) in Alice's Adventures Underground
Photo credit - Rah Petherbridge 
Yes, the 2015 Olivier Award nominated Alice's Adventures Underground is back, and very literally bigger than ever. The vast and labyrinthic world of Wonderland has yet again been brought to vivid life in an incredibly ambitious piece of immersive theatre which will inspire awe in all who dare to venture down the rabbit hole. 

Audiences are shepherded into Wonderland together, via a room filled to the rafters with eerie Victorian curio. After taking the plunge into Wonderland itself they are met by non other than the White Rabbit,  and are soon siphoned off in different directions, after either eating a growth inducing sweet or drinking a shrinking potion, and subsequently being sorted into a suit (either hearts, diamonds, clubs, or spades) which they swear loyalty too throughout their time in Wonderland.

There are dozens incredible and eclectic characters inhabiting Wonderland, each of which is brought to life through the use of outlandishly designed costumes and makeup, as well as some impressive puppetry. No matter which route is taken, or which suit is selected, audiences are bound to have a blast as they are lead into the bizarre and nonsensical world of Wonderland, and treated to a number of memorable performances, such as a gravity defying gymnastic routine courtesy of Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum, a sombre musical number performed by the Mock Turtle, and even an invitation to join the Hatter, Dormouse and March Hare for tea. 

If only there were enough time to visit every single room, and interact with every single character within the story. Happily though, each group of audience members is taken on their own individual journey, and given enough time in each room to really take in the wondrous world which they are permitted to inhabit, if just for a short while.

Whilst wandering through the unfathomably numerous rooms, each of which are filled with an almost unbelievable level of detail in set design, lighting and sound design, it's almost impossible to imagine how many different rooms there are to explore within the production. Of course the individual paths of each group overlap occasionally, but for a large portion of the time audiences embark on journeys within relatively small groups, and rarely cross each other. 

There really is nothing else in London right now quite like Alice's Adventures Underground. The multitude of different potential paths through Wonderland make it a truly unique piece of immersive theatre which audiences will want to lose themselves in again and again. 

Visit www.alice-underground.com/aau for more information

Review - The Red Shoes (UK Tour)

Inspired by the 1948 film which took inspiration from a Hans Christian Anderson fairytale of the same name, Matthew Bourne's sumptuous ballet is a treat for both fanatics and cautious first timers. The Red Shoes tells the story of a young woman named Victoria Page, who dreams of becoming the world's greatest dancer. It explores the pressures she feels as a rising star in the Ballet Lermontov, where she is overseen by possessive impresario Boris Lermontov, and pursued by struggling composer Julian Craster. It's a dark and enchanting adventure, featuring themes of passion, ambition and obsession, which is guaranteed to set hearts racing. 

Ashley Shaw as Victoria Page in The Red Shoes
Photo credit - Johan Persson 
Matthew Bourne has deservedly earned a reputation for creating unique and unexpected new takes on classic tales, from an all-male Swan Lake to The Car Man, a steamy updated adaptation of Carmen, and so it comes as no surprise that The Red Shoes is just as thrilling. Every scene is filled with gorgeously choreographed moments, such as a whimsical scene set by the beach in glamorous Monte Carlo, and a circus strong man number which takes place on stage at a low rent variety show in a dingy London theatre. Every scene, and every bit of choreography perfectly evokes the time and location, which gives the whole production a vintage charm. 

Lez Brotherston's gorgeously chic costumes and lavish and versatile sets help to further define 40s epoch, and give the The Red Shoes an opulent aesthetic. Each character has their own defined personality, which is imbued into the choreography and externalised in their costumes, with each dancer in the Ballet Lermontov possessing their own totally individual look. 

Taking on the role of Victoria Page, Ashley Shaw is a graceful dancer who portrays both the young dancer's great talent and her vulnerability expertly. Her character goes through a spectrum of emotions, and Shaw's talent as both a beautiful dancer and a wonderfully emotive actor is spellbinding to behold. Similarly Dominic North as Julian Craster, an aspiring composer and Victoria's love interest, instantly enamours the audience to him, and portrays his character's emotional journey with plenty of vitality. In fact every single character is so clearly defined that at any given moment on there's a little character interaction that could easily go unnoticed, which serves to give the whole production a bustling energy and urgency. 

Much like the eponymous red shoes themselves, Matthew Bourne's ballet could easily go on and on entertaining audiences forever. A glittering triumph which will bewitch audiences from beginning to end, The Red Shoes is a truly unmissable.

To find out more information visit new-adventures.net/the-red-shoes

Review - Don Juan In Soho (Wyndham's Theatre)

The legendary figure of Don Juan has been moulded and remoulded a thousand times in order to fit a multitude of different ideas. Patrick Marber's take on the seductive lothario sees DJ, a middle aged gent with zero regard for the men and women around him, attempt to elude the brothers of a woman he pursued, married and then promptly abandoned, as they try to persuade him to abandon his womanizing ways. The events of the play are overseen by Stan, DJ's hapless chauffeur and servant, who only sticks to his job because he is owed tens of thousands of pounds in unpaid wages. 

David Tennant in Don Juan In Soho
Photo credit - Helen Maybanks
Marber's adaptation plants DJ as the villain of the piece, objectifying women (and, on some occasions, men), emotionally manipulating his servant, and mercilessly tricking and teasing whomever he pleases. He's a terrible example of a human being, and yet alluring and almost impossible to hate, despite Stan's frequent pleas that the audience does not succumb to his charms. 

As the eponymous philanderer, David Tennant is very much the star attraction. Charming and charismatic, Tennant makes even the most audacious actions seems less affronting. Admittedly he seems to lack the truly mean streak which the script alludes to, but he makes for a beguiling villain nevertheless, as he casts an alluring spell over everyone he meets, and even has the audience wrapped around his finger by the end of the play. Sharing much of his stage time with Adrian Scarborough's Stan, the pair make an interesting double act, with Scarborough acting as a mouthpiece for the audience by commenting and drawing attention to DJ's never ending barrage of misgivings. 

The production design is slick enough, but for a play set in seedy Soho, is all seems a bit clean and safe, with only a little glimpse into the bawdy neon lights and inescapable pulsations of Soho nightlife granted towards the end. Additionally Don Juan In Soho seems to be lacking in several other areas. The production features multiple dance numbers which feel underpowered and out of place, some of the jokes are rather tasteless, and the final scene seems to come from an entirely different and much more otherworldly play. 

The somewhat juvenile jokes also grate after a while, and a scene in which DJ attempts to bribe a homeless man into blaspheming against Allah feels decidedly misjudged, mean spirited and just plain uncomfortable. And of course, the sleazy way in which DJ regards every woman he meets is hard to defend. Of course, he is the villain of the play and so it is understandable that his actions may come across as inappropriate, but Marber's script tries so hard to endear the audience to him, even giving him a redemptive monologue towards the end, in which he bemoans the new generation's self centered and social media obsessed lifestyles, despite his criticisms seeming tired and overdone.

A bizarre and bawdy dark comedy saved by the winning performances of Tennant and Scarborough, Marber's Don Juan In Soho lacks a certain darkness and subtlety, but is a fairly entertaining night in spite of its pitfalls, as long as audience members aren't too easily flustered. 

Find out more information by visiting www.delfontmackintosh.co.uk/tickets/don-juan-in-soho

Interview - Charlotte Kennedy (Les Miserables)

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

Album Review - Golden Days (Kerry Ellis and Brian May)

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

Review - Out Of Order (UK Tour)

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

Review - The Wedding Singer (UK Tour)

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

Review - The Commitments (UK Tour)

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.

Brian Gilligan as Deco in The Commitments UK Tour
Photo credit - Johan Persson
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. 

Interview - Jon Robyns (The Wedding Singer)

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. 

Review - Ugly Lies The Bone (National Theatre)


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

Review - Honeymoon In Vegas (London Palladium)

The London Musical Theatre Orchestra have done it again! After the success of their last two musicals in concert, their track record is bolstered further by their most recent offering, Andrew Bergman and Jason Robert Brown's Honeymoon in Vegas. For the first time LMTO's founder and principal conductor Freddie Tapner offers up the baton to a guest maestro, and who better to lead an orchestra in a concert performance of one of Jason Robert Brown's most recent Broadway outing than the main man himself?

Maxwell Caulfield, Samantha Barks and Arthur Darvill 
Honeymoon in Vegas is nothing if not good old fashioned entertainment. Based on the 1992 film starring Sarah Jessica Parker and Nicholas Cage, it follows the exploits of Jack, a man haunted by the ghost of his marriage averse mother, as he tries desperately to pluck up enough courage to propose to his girlfriend Betsy. After an ill-fated game of poker sees Jack down $58,000, he's forced to offer up Betsy's company to smarmy gambler Tommy Korman in lieu of payment, but when Korman whisks Betsy off to spend a weekend in Hawaii Jack must do whatever it takes to win her back. It's a madcap romp featuring ghostly apparitions, shady henchpeople, and more skydiving Elvis impersonators than you can shake a stick at, and of course all of the adventure is tied together by the music! 

The London Musical Orchestra delivers a polished and professional performance in every respect. Made up of a combination of experienced orchestra members as well as passionate musicians in training, it's clear that the entire cohort share a passion for playing, which seeps naturally into the atmosphere. The dazzling orchestra perform with gusto, and are joined onstage by an exciting cast of West End vocalists, who help to bring the concert to life. In the role of Jack, Arthur Darvill proves himself yet again to be a real musical talent. After his high profile run as Guy in Once the Musical both on Broadway and in the West End a few years ago it's great to hear him performing musical theatre material again. Hopefully it won't be long until he's back on stage in a starring role once more. Meanwhile in the role of Betsy Samantha Barks is given ample room to show off her incredibly versatile voice. Shining in songs like Anywhere But Here and I've Been Thinking, she leaves audiences wondering if there is anything she can't do. 

LMTO's Honeymoon in Vegas also boasts a scene stealing supporting cast including Rosemary Ashe, who makes the most of her scenes as Jack's deceased mother Bea, Maisey Bawden as sultry Hawaiian guide Mahi, and Simon Lipkin, who doubles as a corny lounge singer and an overly enthusiastic Elvis impersonator. Lipkin brings down the house twice with the impressively sung When I Say Vegas as well as hilarious Elvis parody song Higher Love, in which he is accompanied by the entire male ensemble, who lip curl and hip thrust like their lives depend on it! 

It's such a treat to hear the music, and dialogue, of such an irresistibly joyful musical coming to life, if only for one night, on a West End stage. The orchestra's passion is contagious, the vocalists are first rate and it's such a thrill to see Jason Robert Brown conducting his own work. For musical theatre lovers there really is nothing else to rival the London Musical Theatre Orchestra, and with two further concerts lined up in the coming months there's plenty for fans to look forward to. Given how quickly they have achieved notoriety it's going to be a real thrill to see what other projects may be on the horizon. 

Don't forget to check out www.lmto.org for more information on upcoming projects