Q&A - Quentin Dentin (The Quentin Dentin Show)

I spoke to Quentin Dentin, the intergalactic star of The Quentin Dentin Show, who has made a cast album to immortalise his game-show musical.
 
 
Can you describe The Quentin Dentin Show for those who haven’t seen it?
I certainly can. The Quentin Dentin Show is a game-show musical, an interactive self-improvement seminar hosted by me, Quentin Dentin, in which human contestants from the audience compete to have all their dreams come true. The grand prize is a one-way ticket to total happiness for everybody in the building, and everlasting stardom for me.

If that all sounds too complicated, just think of it like going to see your doctor - except unlike your doctor, I can sing, dance and prescribe you medication that really works.

What was it like to record an album and immortalise the show?
It was a hoot. I spent six highly enjoyable months in the studio with producer Paul Garred - taught him quite a bit about music, actually. Working with him, and the cast and band of the 2017 production, I was able to immortalise the show with ease. Immortalising things comes naturally to me, since I'm immortal myself.

Do you have a favourite song or moment on the album?
My favourite song is the title track, The Quentin Dentin Show. It's so exciting and punchy, with a dark, catchy tune and great lyrics. It's got a terrific pace to it, and a deft arrangement full of mysterious synths, harsh guitars and sudden stops. My voice is on point too. I liked it so much I made a music video for it.

You’ve said that the album will tell listeners the meaning of life. Obviously they’ll have to listen to find out what that is, but could you give us a little hint?
Life is like a big jigsaw, and people are like little cardboard jigsaw pieces. It's important to fit in, and be part of the big cardboard picture. Ask yourself, what kind of jigsaw piece am I? Do I fit in? If you don't, perhaps you need to change your shape. Perhaps you need someone to come along and change it for you, with a big pair of scissors.

You’ve been described in reviews as ‘the future of musical theatre’. What does that future look like to you?
I think the future is brightest for musicals that can bridge the gap between theatre and live band gig - i.e., musicals that can have about them a sense of social relevance, of crossover appeal, of cool, and that can make themselves essential to be seen live, in an age when almost everything is available online.

Most important is originality, and having something new to say. So many new shows come and go every year. Why do they vanish? Because they were created to fill a spot in a schedule, to iterate on an existing idea or style, or, worst of all, they don't star me! There would be a lot fewer of those, in my future.

Are there any plans for your show to return soon?
There most certainly are. I can't tell you too much yet, but this year I've been pushing my ghost writers harder than ever and they've come up with an entirely new treatment for the show. Twice as many songs, more story, more plot, more costume changes... I have a feeling that it could be a big ticket. But who knows? You'll have to wait and see.

Do you have any closing comments?
Of course. *clears throat* Pre-order your copy of The Quentin Dentin Show album on iTunes now. Ah... it's so nice to have the last word!
 

Review - Heathers The Musical (Theatre Royal Haymarket)

Fresh from its sold out run at The Other Palace, Heathers The Musical has exploded onto the West End with all the wild energy of a rock concert and all the irrelevance of its 1988 film counterpart.
 
Carrie Hope Fletcher and the cast of Heathers The Musical
Photo credit - Pamela Raith Photography
Set in the town of Sherwood, Ohio, Heathers The Musical follows seventeen year old nobody Veronica Sawyer as she is taken under the wing of The Heathers, Westerburg High's vicious mean girls. When Heather Chandler, the "mythic bitch" of The Heathers, is accidentally poisoned to death, Veronica must learn to balance the good and bad of her newfound popularity, and rebuke the homicidal urges of her trench coat wearing boyfriend JD, as she tries to survive the hellish hierarchy of high school. 

Rarely does a musical arrive on the West End with a fan base as fervent as that of Heathers The Musical, but the fact is that Kevin Murphy and Laurence O’Keefe's wicked black comedy taps into so many fears held by those who struggle to belong in a world which presents perfection as normality and rejects those who don't conform.
 
T'Shan Williams, Jodie Steele, and Sophie Isaacs in Heathers The Musical
Photo credit - Pamela Raith Photography
The musical's aggressively catchy score has all the pep and punch of O'Keefe's previous hit musical Legally Blonde, whilst rockier numbers like Candy Store, a domineering showcase of The Heathers' power and influence, and balls to the wall Dead Girl Walking, Veronica's acceptance of her destruction at the hands of Heather Chandler and co., help to give the musical a gritty and gutsy oomph.

Veronica, played with plenty of broad humour and contrasting pathos by Carrie Hope Fletcher, is extremely relatable, and loveable in spite of her many bad decisions. Veronica is just doing what she can to survive the Thunderdome that is high school, and that need to be liked and accepted it one which will resonate with many in the audience.
 
The cast of Heathers The Musical
Photo credit - Pamela Raith Photography
Fletcher, who must have vocal chords of steel to sing the role of Veronica night after night, performs alongside a buzzing cast. In particular, Sophie Isaacs is endearing as the ditzy cheerleader Heather Mcnamara, who hides her troubles underneath a cutesy smile, and Jamie Muscato gives a charming yet disturbing performance as JD, a sort of maniacal Robin Hood who wants to murder the popular kids and raise up those on the fringes of high school society. He gets terrifically creepy as the plot progresses and his plans spiral out of control.

With all the dark humour and pounding musical numbers, it’s easy to almost forget how horrific some of the plot points in Heathers The Musical actually are. There’s murder, suicide, and verbal and physical assault in spades. In one particularly harrowing moment a teenage boy watches his best friend be shot to death by a classmate, attempts to flee, and is subsequently murdered too. The moment is played for laughs but the chilling reality of the scene does seep through.

Heathers The Musical is a dark, cynical, yet strangely uplifting musical, which speaks to all the fears which young people feel today. From beginning to end, every moment is bursting with vivacity. Simply put, it’s a barnstorming success!

Review - Love, Labour and Loss... Shakespeare in Song (Above The Arts)

It's a well known fact that William Shakespeare's writing has been inspiring novelists, poets and songwriters for hundreds of years. Famously, musicals such as West Side Story and Kiss Me Kate repurpose Shakespeare's plays into musical form, whilst many composers have adapted the bard of Stratford-upon-Avon's plays into operas too. 

In their latest concert, Serenade London sought to combine a number different songs inspired by Shakespeare's writing into one big musical celebration. Under the musical direction of Jordan Clarke, four performers acted as the concert's love struck vocalists, weaving their way through the ups and downs of life; through love, labour and loss. Meanwhile, Shakespeare himself appeared regularly to link each song together.  

Luke Lane's lascivious William Shakespeare was a highlight, who entertained the audience with Shakespearian monologues as he observed the lovers, hoping to find inspiration for his next creation. The storyline linking each song together seemed a little underused at times but for the most part it serviced the concert well enough, and Lane did an excellent job of bringing the text to life. He also showcased his vocals and comedic abilities at the beginning of act 2, performing Hard To Be The Bard from Something Rotten, a more recent addition to the ever growing group of musicals inspired by Shakespeare.

The always gorgeous songs of Bernstein's West Side Story marked a few of the concert's highest points. Lawrence Smith and Charlie-Jade Jones' touching and low-key rendition of Tonight was utterly sumptuous, as was Smith's take on Maria, performed with a warmth and youthful bounciness which utterly charmed. 

Charlotte Vaughan was also endlessly entertaining throughout, effortlessly tackling the vocal gymnastics of Je Veux Vivre, a joyful aria from Gounod’s opera Roméo et Juliette. Meanwhile Ifan Gwilym-Jones' found the ideal balance of humour and yearning in his rendition of Where Is The Life That Late I Led from Kiss Me Kate

Celebrating Shakespeare and the multitude of creative works he inspired, Love, Labour and Loss was a thoroughly entertaining evening, filled with a selection of lesser known songs alongside many glorious crowd pleasing classics.

Review - 42nd Street (Theatre Royal Drury Lane)

No overture (regardless of how irresistibly brash and brassy it may be) can prepare audiences for the thrill of the opening number of 42nd Street. The curtain rises on rows and rows of bright eyed, fleet footed dancers, tapping in perfect synchronicity, as if their lives depend on it. It's so good it's practically overwhelming. And from that moment on, 42nd Street just keeps outdoing itself.

The cast of 42nd Street
Photo credit - Brinkhoff/Moegenburg
It's 1933 and powerful Broadway producer Julian Marsh is putting on a show. A musical comedy, in fact, named Pretty Lady. Young out of towner Peggy Sawyer is desperate to make it into the ensemble, but when she clashes with Pretty Lady's demanding leading lady Dorothy Brock, Peggy finds that a life on the stage may be much more challenging than she anticipated. 

The leading light of 42nd Street is undoubtedly Clare Halse, who radiates pure joy as aspiring chorine Peggy. From the moment she enters the stage, it's clear that her Peggy is a star on the rise, a bundle of energy and talent held together with a lucky scarf and a Broadway dream. Halse and Ashley Day, who charms as temperamental tenor Billy Lawlor, showcase what is probably the most awe inspiring, jaw dropping display of dance virtuosity on the West End right now. In fact, the whole ensemble glows with talent a precision, bringing choreographer Randy Skinner's work to life.

Bonnie Langford and Ashley Day in 42nd Street
Photo credit - Brinkhoff/Moegenburg
Additionally, veteran stage and screen star Bonnie Langford is every bit the superstar as Dorothy Brock. In a hilariously ironic stroke of casting genius, the infamously talented dancer plays a character who is cursed with two left feet, but she is still able to shine vocally, and exudes class in a number of gorgeous solos.

The whole production is haloed in glamour (Roger Kirk's ritzy costume design for showstopping sequences such as We're In The Money and the title number transform the cast into a shimmering ocean on stage) whilst maintaining a sense of ramshackle 1930s zeitgeist. 42nd Street does take place right after the Wall Street crash, after all. The dancers make so little that they have to share a teabag between 5 cups of hot water, and the initially unlikable and overbearingly commanding presence of Tom Lister, who barks rather ferociously as Julian Marsh, makes all the more sense when it becomes clear that Pretty Lady may be all that can save him from financial ruin.

The cast of 42nd Street
Photo credit - Brinkhoff/Moegenburg
Being based on a film from way back in 1933, 42nd Street is hardly the most modern musical in London, and some outdated lines and plot points do feel a little uncomfortable, but the musical is so over the top that it never seems malicious at all. 

There is no musical to compare to 42nd Street, in terms of scale, blinding glitz, and sheer joie de vivre. Come and meet those dancing feet at the Theatre Royal Drury Lane until January 2019! 

Q&A - Paul Garred (The Quentin Dentin Show)

Paul Garred may be best known as a founding member of The Kooks, who rose to prominence in the mid-2000s with hits like She Moves in Her Own Way and You Don't Love Me.

Having departed the band in 2012, Garred is following his passion for music in an entirely different direction by working alongside book writer, composer and lyricist Henry Carpenter to produce the self-titled debut album of Quentin Dentin, the intergalactic star of musical The Quentin Dentin Show.

Paul Garred by Luke Freeman
Were you always a musical theatre fan?
I grew up in a family who loved musicals. Specifically my father and sister would watch the 10th Anniversary of Les Miserables, or the film version of Evita on video once a week. We would all go to see touring productions and occasionally, if money wasn’t too tight, a show in the West End.
 
Speaking of Evita, we went as a family to see Marti Webb perform the leading role in 1995 at the Congress Theatre in Eastbourne. The show had a profound effect on me, leading me to consider a future in the industry at some point of my life. I’m more of a fan of the filmic nature of musicals like Miss Saigon, The Phantom of the Opera and Les Miserables, which leads me to believe that I must be more of a fan of modern opera. Henry Carpenter and I visit the Royal Opera House regularly to sit back, learn from, and appreciate the sheer brilliance of some of the world’s finest compositions.
 
I’ve been very lucky to have fulfilled one dream of being in a band and touring the world, but few I’m sure would realise that I originally wanted to be an actor. Once I became a songwriter, musical theatre seemed like the perfect future for me to fuse the two worlds together.
 
How did you get involved with producing the The Quentin Dentin Show album?
I have been working with Henry Carpenter for about 4 years now as a writing duo specifically in musical theatre. We met on a course where we began fusing our similar understandings of story, scale and immediacy.

Henry had already begun his personal journey of writing The Quentin Dentin Show around the time of us meeting each other, so by the time the production had completed its third off West End run, of which I saw all progressive iterations, it seemed logical that I would get on board in one way or another in the future.

My background in composition, lyrics and music production, plus an opinion on how to improve the existing structure of the show for a wider audience on the album, and in future productions, left Henry and producer Hannah Elsy to come to the conclusion of hiring me to polish, re-imagine and deliver the album that exists today.

What has been changed or altered since the musical's previous on-stage iteration?
I wanted to get rid of the notion that we were merely replicating the show and recording what was already there before. The Quentin Dentin Show of the previous iterations had a mild story arc, but I felt it better to present the elements that pleased me most on my visits to see the show, which was the tunes, the energy, and the mayhem.

I’ve stuck closely to the template of my old producer for The Kooks first three records - Tony Hoffer, who was always searching for the biggest weakness in a tune he was presented with.
 
For instance, it was obvious to me the most of the material was performed too slowly, and that tempo was a key component to the music of the New Wave of the late 1970s and early 1980s, for which the show leans on stylistically. The title track had a drum beat that didn’t pump with the bass line, so I re-wrote the drum part and sped the track up considerably.
 
In another tune called Life, Henry had written a suite of three moments joined together with an instrumental part in-between. I suggested a chorus hook which stuck, and we both approved of, improving what was a slightly disjointed composition into more of a pop presentation.

There are many examples of changes - big and small across the board, but I think I would be taking too much time from your readers to explain the minutia.

The other key area for me was scale. I wanted this album to reflect the future of the production, and not the past.

Do you have a favourite song or moment on the album?
I’ve always been a fan of the tune Take Your Medicine. Whilst it encompasses the key message of the show - which is mental health, it delivers it in the most unusual way. I had a lot of fun playing with the middle section where the brain machine is sucking humans’ minds apart, lobotomising them in the process.

Quentin’s mission is ‘to make humanity happy….or kill them trying’. What do you think is the secret to making humanity happy?
I think that the meaning of life is love and balance. The word ‘happy’ is an interesting pursuit. Some of my happiest moments are the simplest, and conversely, some of my unhappiest moments may appear to look great on the outside to others.

I applaud Henry’s vision to play with the idea of what this show’s true meaning is, against the way it is delivered. The audience can take the serious subtext, or leave it and just have a fun evening.
We live in a world where social media is crippling the idea of being happy in yourself, and who you are. We now seem to stretch too far to find our happiness a million miles away. The true social media successes are performed as a business, such as the Kardashian family.

The Quentin Dentin Show has been described in reviews as ‘the future of musical theatre’. What does that future look like to you?
Henry and I regularly discuss the future of the show. We have some exciting ideas to improve and re-landscape, including new songs.

In regards to musical theatre in general, I can only echo my directing hero Hal Prince, who believes that as long as writers think outside the box and are daring with their material, audiences will reap the rewards.

Henry and I hope to be part of that new movement.

Why should people buy this album?
This album is fun. It’s not a record that needs to be taken too seriously, however the message underneath the mayhem is strong. It’s short, like a punk album, and we are hoping that it will leave the audience with a taste for the future of the production.

Interview - Charlie-Jade Jones (Serenade London)

‘I’ve always been kind of across two different genres. You know, I love opera and I love musical theatre.’

In July 2018, Serenade London debuted at The Other Palace with For The Love of Girls, a concert which celebrated the work of female composers and lyricists in musical theatre. 

Ahead of Serenade London's next concert, Love, Labour and Loss, The company's founder, soprano Charlie-Jade Jones, took some time to chat to me about her career, how Serenade London was founded, and what audiences can expect from the company in the future. 


A trained classical singer, Jones graduated from the Royal Academy of Music in 2015, with a Distinction in Musical Theatre. It was around that time that she met fellow performer Ifan Gwillem Jones, who would go on to co-found Serenade London with her a few years later. 

The pair found that although their vocal styles were very different, people enjoyed them as a combination. 'I really I enjoy crossing over. I enjoy doing really different things' Jones explains, 'and Ifan’s kind of the same. He's quite jazzy and poppy, and I'm obviously not in any way. I’m much more classical and legit.' Nevertheless, the unorthodox combination seemed to impress. 'We were digging out old favourites, a lot of Cole Porter stuff, and we found that it really worked.' And from that revelation, Serenade London was born. 'I wanted to create something. And I wanted it to be completely individual' she recalls. 'There was nothing that I knew of which combined musical theatre, opera, and jazz, and just celebrated song'. 

As previously mentioned, in July 2018 Serenade London made its London debut with For The Love Of Girls, a concert in aid of the charity Plan International UK which aims to empower girls at risk of harmful practices like child marriage, female genital mutilation and violence. 'The hundredth anniversary of women's right to vote in the UK was in all the headlines, and I really want to do a nice evening about education, which celebrated girls. And then an advert came on TV for Plan International UK and I guess all of my thoughts kind of aligned.'

‘Pretty much all of the girls that performed are either friends of mine who I've worked with, or friends of friends'. Jones tells me. But although finding performers was relatively easy, compiling the set list proved to be a bit more of a challenge. 'We suddenly realised it would be slightly harder than we first thought' she laughs. Thankfully, a bit of research led to the discovery of some absolutely perfect songs, which would've otherwise never come to mind. 'We loved finding all these gems that we had no idea about. And it was really nice for the girls as well.' Jones was determined to find a selection of songs which would fit her performers perfectly. 'I've been given songs before that just don’t suit me at all' she confesses, 'so I know how horrible it is'.


After the success of For The Love of Girls, the company's next concert has a lot to live up to. Luckily, the concept of follow up show Love, Labour and Loss, is extremely unique, and allows for a pretty fantastic set list! It will be an evening of musical selections inspired by the works of none other than William Shakespeare. 

'There's never really been a musical review on Shakespeare before' says Jones proudly. 'I spoke to The Globe briefly and they said it sounded really interesting and really cool.' The set list will include opera as well as musical theatre, with songs from musicals like West Side Story and Kiss Me Kate featuring alongside numbers from lesser known shows like Swingin The Dream, a depression era jazz musical version of A Midsummer Night's Dream. 'I'm not gonna give away the storyline but there is a vague through line, and there's quite a lot of comedy.'

So what's next for Serenade London? Jones is eager to share the company's future plans, which sound like a dream for music fans of all persuasions. 'We've got Serenade at Christmas in December, which is at St Botolph’s Church in Bishopsgate, the most beautiful church I have ever seen in my life, with stunning candle lit chandeliers. And we're also doing something for Valentine's Day as well'. But, Jones says, it's vital that the concerts maintain a sense of intimacy, no matter what happens. 'There are so many amazing companies doing huge concerts, but we really want to keep ours quite intimate. The whole point is to create really intimate, beautiful concerts where people can go and chat to the singers at the end.That's how we started.' And that's how they mean to go on.

Review - Eugenius! (The Other Palace)

Eugenius! The upbeat 80s musical is back from outer space and zapping joy into the hearts of audiences at The Other Palace once again. The spoofy sci-fi show, with book, music and lyrics by Ben Adams and Chris Wilkins has been building towards cult status since it first appeared on stage at the Palladium Theatre back in 2016, and with its infectious pop score, magnificently silly plot, and overarching message that the geeks shall inherit the earth, it’s easy to see why.
 
Laura Baldwin, Rob Houchen and Daniel Buckley in Eugenius!
Photo credit - Scott Rylander
Eugene is a weedy kid from Ohio whose dreams are inhabited by uber macho superhero Tough Man and his bratty estranged twin Evil Lord Hector, who Eugene immortalises in comic book form. When a Hollywood producer sends one of his lackeys in search of the next big Hollywood script, Eugene‘s comic is snapped up and he is whisked away to sunny Los Angeles, to watch his dreams come true. Literally. As Evil Lord Hector really does appear on set, armed with a laser gun and desperate to coax his brother out of hiding for a final showdown.

Eugenius! is a musical with a lot going for it. It’s fun, flashy (thanks to Andrew Ellis’ pops of neon lighting), and nostalgic, with a cracking cast who bring the story to life, channelling the huge, stereotypical performances which typified 80s flicks.

Rob Houchen leads the cast as Eugene. Houchen has an understated presence compared to his cast mates, but it’s one which instantly endears. Plus, it’s as if he was born to sing the musical’s retro pastiche tunes. Eugene may be the bullies’ verbal (and increasingly, as the plot advances, physical) punching bag, but Houchen is so supremely likable that it’s no wonder his fellow dorks (Laura Baldwin and Daniel Buckley’s Janey and Feris) orbit around him.
 
Laura Baldwin and Rob Houchen in Eugenius!
Photo credit - Scott Rylander
Baldwin gives an absolute gem of a performance. Sweet, gawky, and utterly infatuated with her bestie Eugene, Janey is a character which most people will empathise with. Baldwin also gets to belt out one of Eugenius!’s best songs The Future Is Bright, accompanied by a trio of perfectly synchronised backing singers, with a fan to blow her hair back in true melodramatic 80s music video style! Buckley also gets some prime material as funny friend Feris, getting some of the biggest laughs in the show thanks to a barrage of puerile jokes, sold with a mischievous grin.

The rest of the cast is equally impressive, with particular standout performances coming from Emily Tierney and Simon Thomas as a duo of hapless actors (Tierney is Carrie, a wide eyed wannabe starlet who makes up for her lack of dance ability with full out enthusiasm, meanwhile Thomas plays Gerhard, an actor from the Arnold Schwarzenegger school of flexing).
 
Emily Tierney and the cast of Eugenius!
Photo credit - Scott Rylander
Eugenius! may be over-the-top entertainment, which doesn’t take itself too seriously, but it also tries to tackle some pretty prominent modern day controversies. And unfortunately this is the only area which it really falls short. Comments on Hollywood sleaze and Geek Culture sexism don’t come out quite self-aware enough, and as a result sometimes the protagonists are tinged with a bit of sleaze themselves. Although that being said, its heart is obviously in the right place.

Filled with dorky charm and radiating self-love, friendship and acceptance Eugenius! is an addictive piece of musical theatre which will have audiences singing and dancing all the way to Victoria!

I was invited to review Eugenius! thanks to London Box Office