Review - Miss Saigon

I have a confession to make...until this week I had never seen Miss Saigon! I know, I know, a self confessed musical theatre obsessive who had never seen what is often referred to as one of the best musicals of all time! Shocking! Luckily, a few days ago I, along with several other #LDNtheatrebloggers, were given the opportunity to see the newest cast in action at The Prince Edward Theatre, and so thankfully I am now enlightened!
Set during the Vietnam war, the story follows a young Vietnamese bar girl named Kim, who falls in love with an American GI named Chris. He promises to save her from her unhappy life, but before he can help the pair are torn apart by the fall of Saigon! The story is certainly not easy going, in fact, by the end of this epic tale (with a runtime of 2hrs50 including interval) I found myself a bit drained. Perhaps it's Miss Saigon's ability to pull on its audiences heartstrings so effectively that has helped maintain it's popularity for more than 25 years.

In the lead role, Eva Noblezada was a sweet Kim with an effortlessly beautiful voice and a magnetic stage prescence. From her first entrance she had the audience under her spell and was an absolute marvel to watch. Similarly, Chris Peluso made Chris a sympathetic character, which meant that when he had a difficult choice to make, the audience felt his struggle. The pair's duet, 'Last Night Of The World', was so sweet and did a fantastic job of getting everyone on board with their love at first sight. The rest of the cast did a fine job (we saw the full cast minus Jon Jon Briones and Siobhan Dillon. The roles of The Engineer and Ellen were played by Christian Rey Marbella and Claire Parrish.) and I was particularly struck by the honesty and power behind the performance of Sangwoong Jo as Kim's fiancé Thuy.

Given the show's frequent comparisons to another Boublil and Schonberg epic, Les Miserables, I went in expecting a show with incredible scale, and was not disappointed. The huge ensemble helped to give each scene a sense of vastness and chaos, and the amazing lighting effects and large impressive and detailed set pieces thoroughly transported the audience into wartime and later post war Vietnam.
For me though, the element which I was most impressed by was the music! I adore a good sung-through drama and Miss Saigon was brimming with amazing emotional and affecting songs. 'I Still Believe', 'Why God Why' and 'Movie In My Mind' were particularly gutwrenching, 'The Wedding Ceremony' was just beautiful, 'Kim's Nightmare' was perhaps the most tearkerking few minutes of the whole show, and while I did find it a little jarring (although I think that's probably the point), the penultimate song, The Engineer's 'The American Dream' was a showstopper that I really didn't expect! Frankly, there were too many jawdropping moments to count.

Although I did find the story a bit bitty and disjointed, and I felt the ensemble numbers could perhaps have been performed with a bit more enunciation as at points vocals seemed a bit jumbled and muffled (although this may have been a sound problem rather than a problem with the cast) I found Miss Saigon to be a surprising, harrowing and unpredictable show with georgous sets and lighting, memorable music and a brilliant cast.

Oh, and THAT helecopter scene was as epic as everyone says it is!

Head over to The Prince Edward Theatre to catch the new cast of Miss Saigon in action. Just make sure you've packed plenty of tissues in your bag!

Verdict - 3.5 stars

Twitter: @OddJazzShoes
Bloglovin: Talkstageytome

West End Live 2015

West End Live, an event which boasts of a free weekend of musical theatre in trafalga square, was an event I'd been dying to experience for several years, so when my musical theatre obsessed friends suggested we all take a trip down to London for the weekend I whole heartily agreed! Looking back now, I can't believe we missed it for the past couple of years! There is no better event on a musical theatre lover's calendar!
I headed down on the train, met my friends at the station and got into the queue at about 8:40. There were already loads of people queuing at both entrances, but when the gates were opened at just after 10am, we managed to grab a spot about 30 rows from the stage and dead centre! Result!

Throughout the day we were treated to some absolutely fabulous performances, some from shows I was already a fan of, and some from shows I'd not seen before. I loved seeing the 30th anniversary Les Mis cast in action, turned into a proper Righteous Brothers fangirl during the Beautiful: The Carole King Musical set, enjoyed the Miss Saigon performance which wowed everyone and, of course, adored the  Memphis performance, especially as we got to see 3 songs from that particular show including the final song, the crowd pleasing  'Steal Your Rock And Roll!'

We stayed for as long as possible at the event, but had to leave a little bit early in order to check into our youth hostel and freshen up before our evening outing to Memphis (what else could it be?)
The show was, of course, fabulous! It was my 5th visit but one of my friends had never seen it before so it was brilliant to hear what she thought of it afterwards! I won't be writing up a seperate recount because I feel as if every other thing I post on here is Memphis related! We saw the full principle cast, minus Rolan Bell, (Delray was instead played by Simon Ray Harvey) and as usual everyone was top notch! It was nice to see Killian in the role of Huey one last time before he leaves for Kinky Boots, but I digress...back to West End Live...

On day 2 due to the fact that we'd stayed overnight in London we were able to join the queue much earlier. In fact, we were one of the first groups of people there. This was fabulous, as when the gates opened at midday we managed to secure a place in the front row, at the very far left of the stage! The view was amazing and totally worth the early start and long wait!
We stayed for the whole day this time and witnessed too many wonderful performances to count! The Billy Elliot number 'electricity' was an incredibly powerful tearjerker (I need to see that show soon!), Let It Be's The Beatles set was rediculously fun, John Owen Jones made a surprise appearance and the West End Cabaret near the end of the day was wonderful too (Ben Stock and Caroline Sheen's rendition of 'Suddenly Seymour' had me longing for a production of Little Shop Of Horrors which I never knew I wanted). Of course, for me, the best performance of the day yet again came from Memphis. Felicia understudy Rachel John wowed the crowd with a rendition of 'Coloured Woman' which literally brought me to tears!
Then we got our very first taste of Xfactor's Matt Cardle as Huey, singing one of my favourite numbers from the show, the showstopping 'Memphis Lives In Me'. I had been sceptical but he really impressed me! He even went for the 'D' at the end if the song! A promising introduction indeed!
West End Live ended with an amazing surprise- a Rock Of Ages cast reunion! Host Oliver Tompsett announced that he would be singing 'Don't Stop Believing' from "Flock Of Cages", which was incredible to begin with, and even more so when ex cast members including Natalie Andreou, Nathan Amzi and Simon Lipkin to name but a few joined the stage. The atmosphere surrounding the performance was AMAZING and it really made the end of the event memorable.

Sadly, the weekend had come to and end though, which meant saying goodbye to my friends and heading home. Still, the weekend was absolutely the most enjoyable time I've had in ages and I cannot wait to check out some of the shows we caught a glimpse of at the event! I'll definitely be heading down again next year. Can it be June 2016 now, please?

Charlotte x

Were you at West End Live this year? What were your favourite performances?

Twitter: @OddJazzShoes
Bloglovin: Talkstageytome

Review - Oklahoma UK tour

I'm a sucker for an old classic family musical. The Sound of Music was my childhood jam, I went through a long Calamity Jane stage (even bought myself some saspirella cordiel once. I probably still have the bottle somewhere today!) and Oklahoma, being one of my dad's favourite musicals as well as one of mine, was frequently ringing through the house. Imagine my joy then, when the UK tour of Oklahoma arrived at my local theatre, The Marlowe. 

Set in Oklahoma just after the turn of the 20th century, Oklahoma follows headstrong Laurey, a farm girl stuck between two men; proud but playful cowboy Curly and quiet, frankly  unnerving hired hand Jud Fry. As far as family entertainment goes, Oklahoma is a fun and compelling ride!
The show was led by the charming Ashley Day as Curly. I'd previously had the pleasure of seeing Ashley as Elder Price in The Book Of Mormon when he undstudied the role, and was very impressed with his portrayal. I already knew that he had a fantastic singing voice (which very much suited the Rodgers and Hammerstein music of Oklahoma) but at first I thought perhaps he was too clean cut for Curly. However, as soon as his first scene with Laurey ( Charlotte Wakefield) began, my concerns were quashed. He played upon Curly's teasing, boyish nature, which fleshed out his portrayal and made he and Laurey's love hate relationship believable. 

I think one thing that makes Oklahoma so popular (aside from the iconic Rodgers and Hammerstein songs) is the huge array of characters, and the UK tour cast were absolutely brilliant in that respect. Lucy May Barker was hilarious as Ado Annie, and her (impressively sung) 'can't say no' was met with rapturous applause, meanwhile James O'Connell's Will Parker was endearing. The pair were a perfect match. Statuesque Nic Greenshields was an imposing Jud Fry, and Belinda Lang won over the audience almost immediately with her big, raucous and spirited portrayal of Aunt Eller. As casting goes, Oklahoma was pretty much perfect! 

I do wish, however, that we could have seen more of Drew McOnie's fabulous choreography. The infamous dream ballet was brilliant in its tension and sense of foreboding and there were a couple of other entertaining sequences throughout the show, but unfortunately they seemed few and far between. I also found it odd that for well over half of act 1 there was no set change and very little change in lighting. Many of the scenes and songs seemed to take place in the front yard of Laurey and Aunt Eller's house just for the sake of it (such as 'Kansas city') but perhaps this was only brought to my attention because I'm so familiar with the film. Nevertheless, a change of scenery when the plot moved into the smokehouse home of Jud Fry near the end of act 1 was very welcome. 

All in all, Oklahoma was a fabulously fun romp, with equal measures of tension and hilarity. Although the production perhaps lacked the pizzazz that other recent tours have had, I've no doubt that this crowd pleaser will entertain the whole family!

Verdict - 3.5 stars

Twitter: @OddJazzShoes
Bloglovin: Talkstageytome

Review - Memphis the Musical (Double alternate show)

If you've been following my blog for any length of time, you may have noticed that I am particularly fond of Memphis the Musical. The music is a mix of toe tapping numbers and powerful ballads, the choreography is incredible and the story is full of ups and downs, comedy and drama. For me Memphis is everything a great musical should be, and more. I first saw the show all the way back in October, while it was still in previews, and it's been wonderful revisiting it every couple of months and seeing how elements have developed, and how the cast have gotten more and more amazing in their roles every time! 

I am totally in love with the Beverley Knight and Killian Donnelly in the main roles, however, from my very first visit I was also very keen to see both alternate's takes on Huey and Felicia too, and so when I noticed that both leads were due to be off on a Saturday, I made a spur of the moment decision to see the show again.

Day seating was my best friend that day! Although I had to get on the slow train up to London at 5:40am (!!!) to get in the queue for 7:30, when the box office opened at 10am, I managed to buy two almost central front row stalls seats (I decided to treat my sister to an early birthday present) for £20 each! I definitely recommend day seating for this show, as the view was utterly fabulous! 
I'm sure I don't need to tell you that the show was incredible! I raved about it in my last 3 reviews/recounts, so really this post is more of a recount than a review. I do however, want to talk about the Huey and Felicia alternates, Jon Robyns and Rachel John! 


BB14, I could't have asked for better!
I saw Rachel on my last visit and totally loved her portrayal, and so I was very keen to see her in the role again. Her Felicia was strong and confidant and a little bit sarcastic which was fun, but there was also a vulnerability to her portrayal which was really interesting to watch. As before, her vocals were totally mind blowing. I loved all of the little touches she gave her character, which made her seem believable and made her interest in Huey and his propositions more understandable too.  

Jon Robyns was totally brilliant as Huey. The role itself is very over-the-top and funny (and at times a little bit odd) and Jon's Huey totally embraced this and lent in to the weirdness, but never went too far, which was perfect. He definitely made the character his own, with little traits/looks/expressions that were hilarious. There were so many little moments that were just wonderful (such as a mimed interaction between Huey and Bobby while he was in the radio booth (I've no idea what the technical name for that is!) during 'Everybody Wants To Be Black On A Saturday Night.') Little details like this which I hadn't noticed when I'd seen the show previously really helped to make this cast and this visit memorable. 

I was excited to spot this new poster on the tube.
It's great to see future principle Huey Matt Cardle
in costume. Unfortunately the Memphis programes don't feature
understudy slips, which is a shame. The programmes
for Wicked have cards inside with a picture of the understudy
in costume on it, which is a wonderful idea that I wish more
shows would think about replicating. 
The chemistry between the two leads was very strong and compelling and I really, really rooted for them to be together. For this reason, many of the dramatic moments in the show were particularly shocking and/or emotional! I loved the way Huey fawned over Felicia and how Felicia playfully made fun of him. (And I loved the pair's Eskimo kisses (I have never seen that before! It was very cute!)). Overall, as a pairing, there is now no doubt who my favourites are! Jon Robyns and Rachel John are my Huey and Felicia dream team for sure! 

Honestly, no matter who you see in the lead roles, Memphis the Musical is a must see show! I am looking forward to seeing it again next week (my friends and I planned our post West End Live entertainment months before I found out about this scheduled double alternate show. I don't normally return to a show again so quickly, but I'm still ecstatic to be going back again so soon!) and I'll be catching the show again no doubt after X Factor star Matt Cardle takes over from Killian Donnelly in the role of Huey on July 6th). Memphis has become one of my absolute favourite shows, and I cannot recommend it enough! Go, go, go if you get the chance! 

Verdict - 5 stars!

(Information about the cast can be found on the Memphis the Musical website)

Twitter: @OddJazzShoes
Bloglovin: Talkstageytome

Review - Matthew Bourne's The Car Man

I never know how to write about dance shows. I don't know enough dance terminology to accurately write about the performances, and so in the past I've tweeted enthusiastically and left the more in depth reviewing to others more knowledgeable than me. However, having just seen one of the most exciting, engaging shows I think I've ever had the fortune to witness live, a review on this blog is a must! 

I've been a big fan of Matthew Bourne since I saw his Sleeping Beauty televised at Christmas a few years ago. Since then, I've bought all the DVDs and caught every tour that's come through my city (I'm still gutted that I missed Edward Scissorhands! My sister dragged my mom to see it and they adored it!) and naturally when it was announced that Matthew Bournes 'sexy' dance thriller, The Car Man, which follows the jealousy and violence surrounding a mysterious new worker in a 1960s American garage, had been revived as a tour and would be passing through, I immediately bought myself a ticket. 

Finally, after 5 months of waiting, and having finished my 1st year of uni just the day before, the day came...

Aaaand, thank you again Matthew Bourne and New Adventures for providing me with a dynamic night of jaw dropping dance that was nothing short of electrifying. 

Sat in my seat (in the 3rd row, thanks to my local theatre's incredible 16-25 discovery ticket programme), what immediately struck me was the set design. The Car Man's first act took place in a hot, sticky 1960s american garage-diner. The set comprised of a large billboard, the front halves of several cars, a large metal structure which formed a two story office/apartment, and the diner itself. The whole thing looked and felt very fitting, and it seemed as greasy and gritty as you would imagine a place like that would be. Even before the show started I couldn't stop staring and noticing all the little details.

When the show finally began, however, and the audience was confronted by every single worker in the cafe-diner, suddenly there was so much more to look at that it took me a while to decide how to actually watch the show. I felt as if while I was watching one or two characters, three or four others were also doing something. The bustling atmosphere was brilliantly effective. The music used throughout the piece was Bizet's much loved Carmen, but the choreography was entirely new and hugely entertaining. Matthew Bourne's choreography always wows me as he manages to perfectly capture the very essence of the mindsets and emotions of his characters, and translate them into balletic form in the clearest yet most gripping, engrossing ways. The scenes are full of nonstop tension and excitement and I was so enthralled that at points I literally forgot to breath. 

As far as the cast is concerned, as always, every single cast member was absolutely outstanding. Zizi Strallen as Lana Alfano was impossible to take your eyes off. She's an exceptionally talented actress who really commands the stage, and her dancing is obviously fantastic too! She brought just the right amount of passion, cunning and convalescence to the role, and as a result her Lana was a joy to watch. Liam Mower's Angelo also had a fascinating journey, from young innocent to scarred and bloodied malefactor. I definitely found myself rooting for him, and clearly the audience is supposed to. Meanwhile Jonathan Olliver whose character Luca was the mysterious newcomer mechanic at the garage was such a huge presence on stage that frankly I was a little bit scared by how charismatic he was. He seemed to have every single character wrapped around his little finger, and I can totally understand why. His piecing stare and imposing figure demanded attention and both the audience and the characters he shared the stage with were more than happy to oblige him! I was also impressed by the cast members who played the mechanics, as each one had such a clearly defined personality and each brought something different to their roles. For me, cast members Layton Williams, Tom Clark and Danny Reubens gave particularly stand-out performances, although the cast as a whole was totally flawless. 

I feel like I've raved enough at this point, that it's clear I was hugely impressed by this show! So much so, in fact, that as soon as I got home I booked to see it again. What more can I say? With a unique concept, fabulous story (if any show deserves to be described as 'sexy', this one does.) and outstanding cast, The Car Man is guaranteed to drive audiences wild! 

Verdict - 5 Stars

Twitter: @OddJazzShoes
Bloglovin: Talkstageytome

Review - Fall (Entita Theatre (Work in progress))

In one of my first weeks at university, students were invited to see Method In Madness, Entita Theatre's physical theatre re-imagining of Hamlet. The concept itself was enough to excite me, and I was anything but disappointed. Method In Madness was slick, atmospheric and impressed me so much that it was one of the first things I wrote about on this blog!

Flash forward and just over half a year later Entita invited students to yet another one of their fantastically original shows, Fall. Set in a the offices of a city trading company, Fall is a tension filled physical theatre piece, inspired this time by Macbeth.

Yet again, I found myself blown away by the physical theatre. The performers seemed almost weightless as they traveled around the space. Clearly there is an abundance of skill within the cast. The physical theatre, which looked hugely ambitious, was pulled off with ease. I was honestly on the edge of my seat for the whole show. Every miniscule look and movement was carefully orchestrated and the performances were polished and precise.

There were a number of highly memorable scenes, but my personal favourite was the way in which Duncan, who was re-imagined as the boss of the trading company, was dispatched. The whole scene was so tense and even though I'm certain almost everyone at least knows the basic plot of Macbeth, the scene was filled with suspense and ended with one of the most spine tingleingly good scenes I've seen in a long time. I also loved the way which the witches were portrayed as reminiscent of office gossips loitering around the water dispenser, and the way in which the ghosts were brought back in the finale was particularly striking. The only part in which I felt the physical theatre could have perhaps been a little bit clearer was during the downfall of the Lady Macbeth character, but in the grand scheme of things the nature of her demise seemed fitting.

Overall, Fall was an incrediblely original play which I would see again without a second thought. Fortunately, after it's work in progress runs, Entita will be taking it, along with Method In Madness, to the IYAF, and then the Edinburgh Fringe this summer too (and are currently fundraising for this via gofundme). If you are planning on going to either of these festivals then I can't recommend both of these plays enough!

Verdict - 4 stars

Twitter: @OddJazzShoes
Bloglovin: Talkstageytome