Review - Sunset Boulevard (UK tour)

Followers of theatre news are likely to remember April last year when during a run of Sunset Boulevard at the ENO, actress Glenn Close fell ill and understudy Ria Jones took on the leading role of Norma Desmond, winning over audiences and receiving raves for her performance. The musical, with book and lyrics by Don Black and Christopher Hampton and music by Andrew Lloyd Webber, has been a firm favourite with musical theatre fans for years, and the juicy leading role is one which any actress would surely love to take on. Well, now Jones is back in that role again, this time in director Nikolai Foster's touring production. Stunning audiences with her refined acting and immense vocal power, she gives a performance which is hard to forget.

Danny Mac, Ria Jones and Adam Pearce in Sunset Boulevard
Photo credit - Manuel Harlan
As Norma Desmond, a faded silent movie star desperate to make a return to the limelight in Hollywood, Ria Jones captivates from her very first entrance. Clad head to toe in decadent and outlandishly glamorous attire, she carries herself airily, and it is clear that she is a woman living in her own world, unaware that her audience has left her behind. As well as some enthralling acting, Jones sings the role staggeringly well. Accompanied by a sumptuous live orchestra, Jones lends her thrilling vocals to iconic numbers such as With One Look and As If We Never Said Goodbye, bringing the house down in several occasions.

Opposite Jones, Hollyoaks and Strictly Come Dancing star Danny Mac proves himself to be a charming leading man as Joe Gillis, a down on his luck screenwriter who accidentally stumbles into Norma's home one night and finds himself thrust into her world of fantasy. His cynical narration ties the story together, and he plays his own part in Norma's illusion without hesitancy. Impressively, in a musical full of showstoppers for its female lead, Mac holds his own and performs the title number passionately, showcasing strong vocals. Following his turn as Warner Huntington III in the Leicester Curve's production of Legally Blonde last year, and more recently Gabey in the Regent's Park Open Air Theatre's On The Town, it seems as if his musical theatre career is on the rise!

Aside from the masterful performances, set and costume designer Colin Richmond's gorgeous designs are undoubtedly the highlight of this touring production. Cleverly playing on the idea of Norma's life mirroring the artificial facade of Hollywood, the set pieces break apart throughout the show to reveal their fakeness. Car chase scenes are played like something from a movie, with the bare bones of a vehicle being swayed by a barely disguised stage hand whilst the road is projected on a screen behind it. Yet despite this, the production maintains a sense of old Hollywood glamour. This is further emphasised by Ben Cracknell's lighting design, which is full of glorious brightness and warmth, and serves to increase the filmic aspect of the production design.

Sunset Boulevard is undoubtedly one of the most well known and loved musicals to have ever been written, and this touring production does an excellent job of showing just exactly why that is. With countless sublime musical numbers, a wonderfully atmospoheric design and a couple of exemplary leading performances, this production of Sunset Boulevard should not be missed.

Review - 42nd Street (Theatre Royal Drury Lane)

'You're going out a youngster, but you've got to come back a star!' 

That immortal quote has never rung truer than today, as the classic Broadway smash hit 42nd Street taps its way back into the hearts of London audiences. At a time when atypical musicals such as the outrageous The Book of Mormon, and the rap sensation that is Hamilton, are ruling in the hearts of musical theatre lovers, it's easy to envision a good old fashioned musical like 42nd Street missing the mark and being rejected in favour of more modern hits. Thankfully though, it seems as if there is room for both old and new in the West End, as 42nd Street wows from start to finish, and never feels anything but fresh and vibrant.

The cast of 42nd Street
photo credit - Brinkhoff & Moegenburg 
The plot is your standard rags to riches fairytale. When the out of town tryout of legendary theatre director Julian Marsh's next big hit Pretty Lady is halted by the indisposition of his demanding leading lady Dorothy Brock, young chorus girl Peggy Sawyer is thrust into the limelight. Luckily the story's formula is a winning one in the case of 42nd Street, which revels in showing every single thrill and spill. It's a show about show business, and the hyperdramatic will-she-won't-she element fits in perfectly with that, and doesn't seem stale or overplayed at all. Admittedly the musical does show its age elsewhere, such as in songs like Keep Young And Beautiful, which reminds women to 'keep young and beautiful if you want to be loved'. But 42nd Street has so much deliberate hokiness and self-awareness that it could be said that the retro sexist aspects are just a reflection of the era in which the musical is set. 

It's an utter joy to see 42nd Street thriving at the Theatre Royal Drury Lane. It's hard to resist the megawatt smiles of the ensemble, currently the biggest on the West End, as they set the stage alight in popular numbers such as Lullaby Of Broadway and the titular Forty-Second Street. Special praise must also go to Stuart Neal as self professed temperamental tenor Billy Lawlor. He leads the gigantic ensemble in huge production numbers such as We're In The Money, a moment which is sure to delight even the most stoic audience members. However, amid all the pomp and circumstance, it is young star Clare Halse who truly steals the show as Peggy Sawyer. From the moment she stumbles onto stage unassumingly, only to reveal herself as a formidable hoofer, Peggy has her co-workers beguiled, and it doesn't take long for Halse to have the audience following suit. 

42nd Street is nothing less than showstopping in every sense. From the moment the curtain rises to reveal the 50 strong cast furiously tapping away to the opening routine, it's abundantly clear that no expense has been spared on this production. From the cast of first rate performers to the feast of spectacle which oozes from the sets and gorgeous costumes, this is what a big budget West End musical should aspire to be. It's a giant, glitzy, eye-popping production with enough energy to light up the whole of Theatreland. 

Review - An American In Paris (Dominion Theatre)

The glorious elegance of Paris meets the malaise of post war Europe in An American In Paris, which transfers to London after a hugely successful Broadway run. The production is based on the 1951 film of the same name, and is directed by Christopher Wheeldon, the acclaimed contemporary ballet choreographer. Wheeldon's expertise inflects each dance sequence with sensation, and is notable throughout the production as a whole, which moves smoothly and kinetically from start to end. Meanwhile, the music and lyrics of George and Ira Gershwin are irresistibly charming and full of flair.

Haydn Oakley and the cast of An American In Paris
Photo credit - Johan Persson 
In a Paris racked with guilt and haunted by the events of the war, Jewish-American Pianist Adam Hochberg narrates a story in which he is curiously sidelined, about how his friend, American Lieutenant Jerry Mulligan, arrives in Paris after its liberation, and decides to stay and pursue artistic endeavours. Hochberg and Mulligan team up with Henri Baurel, the son of a wealthy family obsessed with appearances, who dreams of being an entertainer. The trio are brought together by their artistic interests, and inexorably linked by their attraction to a talented and demure ballet dancer named Lise, whose talent and spirit enraptures them all.

Bob Crowley's production design is gorgeously painted in a light dreamy pallet, which transports the audience to some of Paris' most recognisable and evocative locations. In a uniformly excellent cast of performers, Royal Ballet star Leanne Cope shines as Lise, with a sweet voice and unmatched dancing skills, which is only to be expected given her impressive career prior to her star turn originating the role of Lise of Broadway in 2015. She effortlessly sells Lise's remarkable talent as a ballet dancer to be reckoned with, and adds innocence and personality to Christopher Wheeldon's striking choreography. 

However, despite its heavenly design and mesmerizing choreography, An American In Paris doesn't quite hit every mark. Like many musicals originating several decades ago, what constitutes 'romance' within the setting of 1940s France comes of as a little bit uncomfortable by today's standards. Certainly, having three men lust after the same woman after she initially shows very minimal interest in any of them can be a little unnerving. This is made all the more noticeable as we're currently in the midst of an outpouring of allegations of sexual assault in the arts. Of course, within the context of the story, it's not intended to be anything more than an innocent tale of a woman opening herself up to love after enduring emotional trauma, but nevertheless to an audience in 2017 the story's connotations could be seen as a little uncomfortable. 

Additionally, the production maintains a sleepy pace throughout, which works in its favour in many ways, but does mean that more urgent or even just flashier moments jar with the piece's tone. Henri's act two dream sequence I'll Build A Stairway To Paradise seems to come out of nowhere, and is enjoyable but bizarre after the production has established a subdued and grounded tone throughout. Similarly, the unmistakably brave and angsty 'Laurey's Dream From Oklahoma'-esque abstract ballet sequence which brings the second act near enough to a close, is exciting and fabulously performed, but seems incongruous with the musical's mellowness, which is maintained for the majority of the show.

All of that being said, dance lovers will no doubt adore An American In Paris' gorgeous ballet scenes, which are undoubtedly the musical's main draw. Full of joie de vivre, it calls back to a time when musicals were easy breezy, but also contains a bit of bite for modern day audiences to get their teeth into. 

Interview - Belinda Lang (Duet For One)

When asked for a brief overview of her career, Belinda Lang admits, 'I've been doing this for over 40 years, I suppose I must have been in dozens and dozens and dozens of plays, and a lot of telly as well, so I really don't think I can summarise it'. An enviable answer, and totally founded. Lang has been working as an actor since 1980, and made a name for herself in the 90s, in sitcoms Seconds Thoughts and 2point4 Children. Since then her CV has filled up with a massive variety of roles across several different mediums. In fact, you may have seen her earlier this year as Aunt Eller, in the BBC's Oklahoma Proms, reprising the role she played on tour a few years ago. And now she's returning to the stage yet again, to play Stephanie Abrahams in the UK tour of Tom Kempinski's award-winning play Duet For One


Based loosely on the real life musician Jacqueline du Pré, Duet For One is the sparkling and moving story of concert a violinist who is forced to consult a psychiatrist after being diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis, a life changing disease which forces her to reevaluate her life. Being a two hander, focusing on such an affecting subject, it's interesting to hear Lang describe the play as 'actually quite funny', before adding, 'you wouldn't think it would be.' In fact, despite playing a character whose life has been shaken by such a significant health issue, Lang maintains that Duet For One is not an upsetting play to watch or be a part of.  'Of course it's moving in that it's about a person who is struggling, but she's a very feisty woman and it's the not MS that going to get her. She's not dying. She's dealing with her life, and she goes about it in a very spirited fashion'. It seems as if Lang has a lot of admiration for the character she plays, which is understandable. Especially as she adds 'it's not a play about somebody in decline, it's a play about someone learning to live with themselves as they are, rather than as they thought they were going to be.'

Due to the two hander nature of the play, Duet For One has its own specific set of challenges, not least because sharing the stage with just one other actor is hugely exposing. Even when the actor opposite you is wildly successful writer and actor Oliver Cotton. Lang explains that 'every play brings different challenges', before elaborating that 'the main challenge in this [play] is learning it, because there are only two of us so there's a lot to take in, but it's very well written so once you know it it kind of sweeps you along.' That being said, she does joke that 'it's hard remembering it all in the right order!' It's surprising and heartening to hear such a seasoned actor talk so candidly and humbly about the challenges which such a play presents, with Lang admitting that 'you can't not concentrate for a single second, and of course, when you're in a play you should be concentrating, but it's frightening to know that if you drop your concentration then the whole thing could hit the deck.'

Belinda Lang in Duet For One
Understandably, the two-hander nature of the play affects the dynamic of the relationships between actors on stage, but interesting Lang explains that it also alters the connection between the actors and audience too. 'It's very personal. The fact that there's only two of us, and the fact that it's a conversation, sucks the audience into it. They get drawn in like a vortex, and when the bits come that are quite quiet you can feel the concentration. They concentrate with you, and they go through the process with you, which they might not so much if it was dissipated by other scenes and other characters. They do seem to come on a journey with us.' 

And it's that journey which Lang describes as Duet For One's main selling point Particularly in regards to her character's exploration of her feelings, and attitudes towards her new life. Lang describes how' 'a lot of people either have been through therapy, or haven't and wonder what it's like, and this does give you a sort of bird's eye view of what can happen. Therapy is a space to explore your feelings, some of which are aggressive, and it's a safe place to let off steam. I think people who've been there would recognise it, and for other people it's quite interesting. A revelation.' 

Interview - Orlando Seale (Manhattan Parisienne)

Actor Orlando Seale is currently appearing in a work in progress production of Alain Boublil's Manhattan Parisienne at The Other Palace. Following on from its world premier in 59E59 theatres, New York, in December 2015, this piece, featuring songs from the classic French and American songbooks, tells the story of a French actress and an American musician, both of whom have a connection to Paris. 

The importance of music within the piece is paramount, and with that in mind, cast member Orlando Seale, who is currently playing Gerard in the play, took a little bit of time out of his schedule of rehearsals and performances, to talk about his own relationship to music, the experience of working on a work-in-progress, and his affinity for Paris. 


'I think the audience reactions have been really positive' Seale says of the work-in-progress nature of the piece. 'It’s not supposed to be a performance, in a sense, it more just showing 5 or 6 days' worth of rehearsals.' Fascinatingly, because of the ever changing nature of the piece, it's very likely that what audiences who come later in the run see will be very different to what audiences saw at the beginning of it. Seale explains that he does what he can to explore the piece, and revels in the evolution of the show, explaining that 'they’re taking things out, putting new things in, trying different things out, and Bruce [Guthrie] the director has been really clear with the audience about that, so the audience has been very supportive. They’ve been coming in with a spirit of understanding that this is very much a work-in-progress, and it might change radically.'

That approach very much reflects Seale's attitude towards his own musical creations, which he described as 'post punk DIY stuff'. It's refreshing to hear the actor's views on how creating music should be accessible to everyone, with him expressing that 'I like the idea of everyone making music. You don’t have to qualified in some special way to do it. Of course it helps, but it’s nice the idea that everyone can get up and sing a song.'

And Seale's musical beginnings are a result of just that, as he describes how he didn't study a musical instrument in school, but was lucky enough to be invited to join the school band nevertheless. However, his obsessions with creating music didn't start until much later, when he was living in Los Angeles, and his then-girlfriend introduced him to a whole host of amazing music. He recalls driving around L.A in his car, his own personal soundbooth, 'I’d always written poetry and things, and I started wanting to see if I could sing songs. It partly came out of feeling like I wanted to make things of my own, that weren't just dependent on being cast. I became completely obsessed and I couldn’t stop'.

Seale recalls enjoying working on music projects, and finding himself searching for a way to combine his love of music and of theatre, having never done a musical before. Whilst teaching at the Associate Studios performing arts academy he was impressed with the hard work and talent of the musical theatre students, and says that curiosity led to him seeking out more opportunities to perform in music heavy pieces. 

'When this opportunity came up I thought it’d be really fascinating to go and spend a few weeks with people who were unbelievably talented, who were at the top of their game, and see how they did things.' As a show which relies so heavily on the use of music, Manhattan Parisienne, sd you would expect, has assembled a great team for its performances at The Other Palace. Seale is quick to praise the musical talent of everyone involved, stating that he is 'really impressed by the level of musicianship of all of the players and singers who play multiple instruments, and sing, and dance', whilst also marvelling at the skills of the director, choreographer, and band.

Given the name of the piece, asking about Orlando Seale's personal relationship with the titular boroughs, and of course his answers are extremely interesting. 'I’ve not only been to Paris, I lived in Paris, and I loved it so much. I’m a massive Francophile, and I have a lot of French friends, and I was actually at drama school in Paris at The Conservatoire National Supérieur D’Art Dramatique, so I go back as often as I can. The first time I went to New York was with the RSC years ago when we were on tour, and I absolutely love it. I haven’t spent as much time there, but I’d jump on any opportunity to go back!'

Unfortunately Seale doesn't know what the future holds for Manhattan Parisienne, but suggests that the creative team are taking audience comments on board and are eager to know what works and what doesn't. He is also full of praise for the play in its current iteration, stating 'I think it’s got a lot of charm, and it’s an opportunity to enjoy the American and the French song books, in a really charming way that brings the two together. I love the subtitle that Alain [Boublil] gave it; the songs he wished he’d written. I think that’s really beautiful, and for someone who’s been involved with such enormous hits, that's a really charming and humble thing to say.'

Interview - Ria Jones (Sunset Boulevard)

'It’s taken years but it’s worth the wait.'

26 years after she created the role in a workshop which took place during one of Andrew Lloyd Webber's exclusive Sydmonton Festivals, Welsh musical theatre star Ria Jones is finally getting the chance to play the iconic role of Norma Desmond in Sunset Boulevard


Having first workshopped Sunset Boulevard aged just 24, Ria Jones is thrilled to be returning to the role now. Especially because, the way she sees it, there aren't many roles out there for older women. 'I think the other one that this compares to is Mamma Rose in Gypsy, and that’s another role that I’d love to play, but apart from that there aren’t that many great female roles. I suppose there's Hello Dolly, Mame, Gypsy and Sunset Boulevard, and Reno Sweeney in Anything Goes can be played by an older actress, but there aren’t as many as when you’re in your twenties and thirties'. 

Recalling how she first became involved in the show during its conception, she says 'I was in Cats and working closely with Andrew Lloyd Webber, and I heard he was writing a musical called Sunset Boulevard. I didn’t really know much more about it than that really'. But soon she would be whisked away to Lloyd Webber's house in Sydmonton, where a chapel in the grounds had been converted into a theatre. 'I spent weeks there working with other actors, creating the role and working on the very first draft, and showing the musical in front of producers, agents and friends who he’d invited over to show his new piece'. Despite loving the score, Ria was fully aware that, being in her early twenties at the time, the role of Norma Desmond, a faded silent movie star in her fifties, was not a great fit. Indeed, when the show opened in the West End in 1993, Norma was played by none other than Patti Lupone. 'I jokingly said to Andrew that I’d do the revival one day' Jones laughs, 'And now I’m doing it in my own right, at the right age, and in an exciting new production.'

Danny Mac, Ria Jones and Adam Pearce in Sunset Boulevard
Photo credit - Manuel Harlan
Of course, this isn't the first production of Sunset Boulevard that Jones has appeared in since her early encounters with the show. In 2016 she made headlines when she went on as the understudy for Glenn Close whilst the show was playing at the London Coliseum. Despite a whirlwind of media hysteria, and some initial grumblings from one or two audience members, by the time the curtain came down at the end of her first show, Jones had totally won over naysayers and went on to receive an influx of rave reviews from both news outlets and general audiences alike. In fact, the response was so positive that it led to her being asked to star in the UK tour. 'Andrew Lloyd Webber was so thrilled when I went on in the Coliseum. He left me a lovely message on my phone, saying how delighted he was and how unbelievable it was that the original Norma Desmond was now playing the role at the London Coliseum. He was so thrilled and so disappointed that he wasn’t there because he was in New York working on School of Rock, I think. But he heard all the reports. Michael Harrison, David Ian and Curve, the producers of the Sunset Boulevard tour, were in for my last show. I got a call the next day saying would I be interested in touring it.'

Despite being a dream role, playing Norma Desmond does come with its challenges, especially when playing the role is combined with the demands of the touring lifestyle. 'I’ve got to pace the show 8 times a week, because, especially on two show days it’s very emotional because there’s a lot of shouting as well as singing, and sometimes shouting can tire out your voice more than singing'. However, for Ria Jones, the thrill of performing in Sunset Boulevard outweighs the pitfalls of touring by far, and her enthusiasm for the show, and in particular, its music, is extremely apparent. 'The score is so beautiful, it’s a cinematic score. I think it’s one of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s best works. It’s certainly a favourite of mine to listen to. I often put it on just to hear the overture and the entr’acte, just gorgeous.' And interestingly it seems that the UK touring production, directed by Leicester Curve Artistic Director Nikolai Foster, is different from past productions of Sunset Boulevard in many ways as well, adding a new element of excitement for fans. 'Nikolai Foster’s vision is incredible' Jones enthuses, 'It’s breathtakingly visually, as well as sounding fabulous, because we have one of the biggest orchestras touring at the moment. We have 16 in the orchestra and with extra padding out in the keyboards, it’s going to sound like a full orchestra, and I don’t think you can do this show on anything less because it would be sad not to, because it’s so beautiful. You need to hear the strings, you need to hear the harp, because it’s written with such detail and it’s so cinematic. You need that full luscious score. With the new set, and costumes, and lighting, it’s just going to take the show to the next level.' And she's also very complimentary towards her castmates, including Strictly Come Dancing 2016 competitor Danny Mac, who she describes as 'lovely to work with', along with musical theatre performers Molly Lynch and Adam Pearce. 'It’s just a lovely atmosphere, and of course you create your best work when you’re happy!'


If Ria Jones' passion is anything to go by then the UK tour of Sunset Boulevard should be on every musical theatre fan's to-see list. Now you've read about Jones' fascinating history with the show, make sure you catch her as Norma Desmond. Details of the tour can be found by visiting uktour.sunsetboulevardthemusical.com


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