Review - Sweet Charity (In Concert at Cadogan Hall)

On the 21st August, I was invited by a friend to see a concert performance of the popular musical Sweet Charity at Cadogan Hall. I was familiar with the music of Sweet Charity (having covered a large number of the songs in my singing lessons) but had never seen the musical as a whole. Intrigued, I went in knowing very little about the story.
In short, Sweet Charity follows a young taxi dancer named Charity Hope Valentine, a lady with several unhappy relationships behind her, as she searches for romance in New York City. It's a fun tale full of ups and downs, coincidences which could only be found in musicals, and a ton of wonderful, recognisable songs.
As the title character, Denise Van Outen was charismatic and likable, with a strong singing voice and engaging stage presence. The way she kept looking out at the audience and sharing her thoughts and feelings with them ensured that everyone was fully on her side. Although the concert format of the show allowed for script usage, Denise (who had by far the biggest part and the most lines to learn) barely glanced at it throughout the show. This allowed for a smooth , evenly paced show (unlike the extremely long, drawn out How To Succeed In Business concert, which I saw earlier this year, where scripts were relied on much more heavily!
Michael Xavier, who I had previously had the privilege of seeing in Assassins earlier this year, was yet again one of the most impressive highlights of the show. His voice was fantastic and he absolutely nailed his character's comedic moments. For me, he absolutely stole the show!
In the roles of Nickie and Helene, two taxi dancers and Charity's best friends at the club where they all work,  pop star Kimberley Walsh and West End star Kerry Ellis gave lovely performances. I did think that they were rather underused, especially as their duet Baby, Dream Your Dream was a sweet song full of gorgeous harmonies, but this is an issue with the book rather than the specific production. Overall, I found their scenes very enjoyable. The same can also be said for Rodney Earl Clarke as Daddy Brubeck. His song, The Rhythm of Life, was definitely one of the most memorable songs of the evening, and without doubt received the biggest round of applause. It was an electrifying, intense and quite hilarious opening to act 2 that really took everyone by surprise.
I was also thrilled by the performances of the ensemble members, comprising of Arts Ed students. They all gave top notch, professional performances and held their own next to the other, more seasoned performers on stage. Of course, this is exactly what you'd expect from students studying at one of the most prestigious drama schools in the UK, but it was exciting to think that those young actors will no doubt be cropping up everywhere once they've graduated.
All in all, I found the evening hugely enjoyable. The cast was first rate, the music (provided by the Royal Philharmonic Concert Orchestra) was excellent, the musical itself was very enjoyable, and it was great to see a semi-staged production of a show which hasn't been seen on the West End since 2011!
Verdict - 4 stars
Twitter: @OddJazzShoes
Bloglovin: Talkstageytome

Review - The 39 Steps

Having opened in 2006, The 39 Steps is not exactly a show that screams 'review me', and yet given that it sadly closes on the 5th of September and I myself have only just seen it, I wouldn't want anyone else to miss out on seeing this hilarious show like I almost did!
Based on Alfred Hitchcock's brilliant spy drama of the same name, The 39 Steps may connote drama and intrigue, but in this stage adaptation the story in given a comedic spin which really helps to bring the perhaps outdated elements of the plot into the 21st century. It's also given a relatively short running time of just 1 hour 45 minutes, meaning that far from dragging, or trying to translate every scene from film to stage, The 39 Steps moves along at a brisk pace, which really ramps up the excitement and urgency which the spy drama element of the plot creates.
The play's hero Richard Hannay (played with gusto by the charismatic Daniel Llewelyn-Williams) is inadvertently pulled into the middle of a top secret mission, which the fate of the nation depends upon. He is joined by a whole host of characters ranging from a German secret agent to hapless Scottish Policemen. Impressively, all 150 characters within the show are played by just 4 (very versatile and energetic) cast members! As a result the audience in treated to a multitude of hilarious moments where more characters are required on stage than there are actors to fill the roles, and subsequently there are man moments where multirole-ing comes into play in the most ingenious and hilarious ways!
As a comedy, there is no doubt that this Olivier Award winning play succeeds. There are moments of genuine laugh-out-loud humour, and plenty of giggles throughout the show too. It's definitely a play I'd take visiting family or friends too, as it's pretty safe and family friendly, but still features a little bit of adult humour which would no doubt go over younger children's heads.
There are jokes, sight gags, some slapstick comedy and an exciting, fast paced storyline, laced with love and drama. Don't miss out!
Verdict - 4 stars
The 39 Steps closes on September 5th. If you've not seen it yet then you can book tickets here.

Reviewing previews - yes or no?

Hi guys!

This will only be a quick post as I only landed in England a few hours ago after two weeks on holiday in Turkey, but I've been following the drama surrounding the newspapers who published reviews of Hamlet at The Barbican before press night, and subsequently, the uproar in the blogging community as a result of these actions being branded blogger-eque by some, and just wanted to consolidate my thoughts (which I posted over on twitter) into a quick post, so you all know where I stand.

When I began this blog in October 2014, it was solely for my own use. I wanted to practice my reviewing skills as I knew I'd be using them a lot while studying Drama and English Literature at uni. I posted online copies of all of the articles I'd written for my Sixth form magazine, and then began reviewing all the shows that I saw, regardless of whether they were local productions, tours, West End shows or anything else even remotely theatre-y. I shared them on twitter afterwards as it was the easiest way to tell my friends and family about what I'd been seeing. At this point, while I followed a lot of larger theatre blogs such a West End Frame and West End Wilma, I wasn't aware of the larger theatre blogging community (the fabulous #LDNtheatrebloggers and #UKtheatrebloggers) and I was very surprised when people I didn't know began reading and commenting on my blog posts.

During my first few blogging months, I saw two shows during previews, and subsequently posted my thoughts in a review form on this site. The first show, Memphis the Musical, was one I had been eagerly anticipating for months, and the second, City of Angels, was one which I very luckily managed to bag a Barclays Front Row ticket for, as it had sold out months in advance.

At this point, I wasn't aware of embargoes, and didn't realise that reviewing previews was not the done thing. However, I also has a VERY tiny audience, had paid for my tickets and was not being paid or rewarded for sharing my thoughts. I didn't see myself as a "theatre blogger", just a theatre fan who happened to also have a blog. I didn't receive any complaints as a result of posting both of these reviews (possibly due to the fact that I had next to no page views), and several actors read/retweeted my writing. One even put up a link on his Facebook page, which made me (the young, na├»ve blogger) very excited indeed. And that was the end of that.

However, after coming into contact with the #LDNtheatrebloggers via twitter, I decided to take a more professional approach to my blog. I ditched (for the most part) the gushing, in favour of a (slightly) more analytical tone, and quickly learned the theatre bloggers etiquette. I also became aware that reviewing previews was not really the done thing, and so swiftly stopped doing that as well. The last thing I wanted was for my past efforts as a rookie blogger to tarnish my reputation later on!

I know that a lot of theatre bloggers, myself included, would like to be seen as knowledgeable and reliable sources, and  as such, I now try to conduct myself in a professional manner, both in the theatre, and when writing my review or blog posts. Although I have not posted any other preview reviews aside from the two I already mentioned, I now make a conscious discussion to wait until press night (or afterwards) to post my thoughts.

That being said, I am a blogger, not a journalist, and I don't have the privilege of being invited to review every single new show in London. If I want to see as much as possible, then for monetary reasons previews become pretty much my only viable option.

At the end of the day, I really don't know enough to say for certain where bloggers stand in the argument. On one hand, we (for the most part) pay for our own tickets, form totally unbiased opinions of the shows we see, and, like the majority of audience members, we aren't sitting in the best seats in the house. We are normal audience members, and have a right to post what we like (as far as I know). What's the difference, after all, between sharing your thoughts on twitter, and sharing them in a blog post? I'd say that the majority of people who see a show in previews comment about it on some form of social media, and there is no way of censoring every single audience member who steps into the theatre before press night, is there?

However, if I as a blogger have dealings with the show directly, am invited to press nights or blogger nights etc. Basically, if I get invited to review the show, then jumping the gun and reviewing a preview beforehand is a huge no-no and the thought would never even cross my mind!

Those are just my thoughts though, and if I'm wrong then please do correct me in the comments! Although I am ecstatic with how much this blog has grown in the last few months, I'm still quite new to the world of blogging (I don't reach my first birthday until mid October!) and certainly don't know everything there is to know on the subject yet.

Thanks for the support, and for the fascinating conversations on the subject over on twitter too!

Charlotte xx