Tag Archives: London

Review of Les Misérables – the concert @ Gielgud Theatre london by Patrck Downes

5 out of 5 stars (5 / 5)

Based on Victor Hugo’s door-stopper of a novel, it follows one man’s story of survival in the face of persecution amidst social and political upheavals in 19th Century Paris.

The original London show, a collaboration between the Royal Shakespeare Company and Cameron Mackintosh, opened at the Barbican on 8 October 1985. It then moved to the Palace Theatre, when in 2004, moved to it’s current home of the Queen’s Theatre. The Queen’s is currently being refurbished, and whilst this happens, Les Mis has moved next door to the Giegud as a concert version.

Starring some of the biggest names to have graced Les Mis, this version strips back from the acting and provides some of the most powerful versions of the most famous songs in musical theatre.

From the very first bar to the last encore, Les Mis the concert does not fail to entertain, and to take you on an emotional journey a normal musical would find it difficult to achieve.

With Alfie Boe as Jean Valjean, and Michael Ball as Javert, leave no doubt in anyone’s mind that this is a star-studded cast that have the “miz” running through their veins. Add into the mix Carrie Hope Fletcher as Fantine (who’s previously played young Éponine and older Éponine), and Matt Lucas – probably known best for comedy with Little Britain and in Dr Who) – you have one of the finest casts to hit London’s West End in many a year.

With a musical concert, the main staging is different, and the orchestra becomes the backdrop. This also helps I feel bring a different level of emotion to the soundtrack. You feel you’re completely immersed in the sound. That together with the lighting brings this production to a different level to a normal musical.

Stand out moments for me include Carrie’s “I dreamed a dream”. You could feel she knows the character inside out so knew how to being the emotion from within the lyrics. Also, Alfie Boe’s “Bring him home”. I would say it’s one the most amazing performances I’ve seen, if I could say I saw it, as I spent pretty much the entire last 2/3 of the song with tears running down my face (damn Hay Fever).

I will admit to being not the biggest Michael Ball fan. Having seen him previously in Hairspray, wasn’t really expecting much (sorry Michael), but was pleasantly surprised. Having previously played Marius in the original production in 1985, becoming Javert certainly made me appreciate how good Michael is.

Favourite Matt Lucas moment happens when Jean Valjean comes to take Cossette from the Thénardier’s. If you know the plot, then you’d know where the songs fit and their meaning. If you weren’t a massive fan, then Matt Lucas questioning who Jean was and what’s he doing there may have just confused you a little. That aside, Matt Lucas is one of musical theatre’s hidden gems!

Your opportunity to see this amazing show is quite limited (end of November 2019), and I’m hoping there’ll be a filmed version released so more people can witness how brilliant this show is.

I went into the Gielgud Theatre as someone who’d seen the musical few years back and quite liked it. I came out as a massive fanboy. The cast, the staging, the sound – all amazing!

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Review by Patrick Downes

REVIEW: School of Rock – London 25th May 2019 by Patrick Downes

What you get it you cross a film from 2003, one of musical theatreland’s legends plus add in a little piece of youthful magic – School of Rock!

Based on the 2003 film that starred Jack Black, overly enthusiastic guitarist Dewey Finn gets thrown out of his band and finds himself in desperate need of work. Posing as a substitute music teacher at an elite private elementary school, he exposes his students to the hard rock gods he idolizes and emulates — much to the consternation of the uptight principal. As he gets his privileged and precocious charges in touch with their inner rock ‘n’ roll animals, he imagines redemption at a local Battle of the Bands.

Set at the Gillian Lynne Theatre, the theatre has more a studio feel than an auditorium, but this brings everyone closer to the sound. I was fortunate enough to get the ticket lottery for the evening performance, meaning I paid £30 for a pair of tickets valued at £160 – and good seats too!

Craig Gallivan stars as Dewey (he was Stella’s son Luke in the Sky 1 show), and for those who weren’t aware, the boy can sing, plus has the Jack Black act to a tee. As for the kids, what can be said? Very talented musicians in their own right – plus having proud parents – one of which was sat in front of me!



Andrew Lloyd Webber and Julian Fellowes would not be the first two people I’d associate with a production like this, but underneath, every part of the production is polished. From the stage direction, the sound, and the performances.

Generally speaking, musicals based on films can be a little fractious with songs crowbarred in, but School Of Rock bucks this idea with having a plot and musical cues to suit.

It’s the perfect way to introduce children into the theatre, it’s entertaining with an all rounded quality cast and production. You’d be put into detention if you didn’t consider School of Rock as your next London musical adventure!


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Review: Patrick Downes

REVIEW Aladdin the Musical #London 27th May 2019 by Patrick Downes

A little bit of Disney magic, one of musical theatres most loved lyricists & composers, and some of the most iconic musical sequences in animation history all add up to Aladdin the musical in London.

Nearing the end of it’s time at the Prince Edward Theatre, you still have a matter of weeks to catch this before 24th August 2019.

In the town of Agrabah, Princess Jasmine is feeling hemmed in by her father’s desire to find her a royal groom. Meanwhile, the Sultan’s right-hand man, Jafar, is plotting to take over the throne. When Jasmine sneaks out one evening, she forms an instant connection with Aladdin, a charming street urchin and reformed thief. After being discovered together, Aladdin is sentenced to death, but Jafar saves him by ordering him to fetch a lamp from the Cave of Wonders. There’s a lamp, and where there’s a Genie, and once Aladdin unwittingly lets this one out, anything can happen!

It’s everything you could expect from a Disney musical, although it took a few songs for the sound to flow through the theatre. There was a tendency for it to be a little bit panto at times, but generally speaking I was entertained all the way through.



Aladdin played by Matthew Croke might be a reformed thief, but Trevor Dion Nicholas as Genie, stole the show. The set pieces of Whole new world, Friend Like Me, and Prince Ali all make this one incredible production. The staging and the ensemble sounded brilliant, but only thing that stops me giving these five stars is some parts of the singing felt a little “screechy”. Maybe that’s just my opinion but it didn’t spoil what was a magical flight on a magic carpet ride.



It closes at the end of August to make way for the other Disney masterpiece that is Mary Poppins, so you’ve got limited time to enjoy some Arabian Nights.

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Review: Patrick Downes

REVIEW: Waitress #London 25th May 2019 by Patrick Downes


Back in 2018 visiting New York for a few days I happened to chance upon Waitress. The main reason for this being the theatre was 50 metres away from our hotel (honesty being the best policy I believe). That aside, it also had an extra bonus in that Sara Bareilles – the composer & lyricist was appearing as Jenna.

If you don’t know much about Waitress, it was a quirky little film from 2007, written by the late Adrienne Shelly and starred Keri Russell in the lead role. It was bought by Fox Searchlight pictures for about $6 million, and went on to make $16 million, winning plaudits along the way.



It tells the story of a young woman trapped in a little town, a loveless marriage and a dead-end job as a waitress, who falls into the next trap of an unwanted pregnancy. Escape beckons when she falls in love with her gynaecologist, but he hesitates to leave his practice and his wife.

It began in London earlier this year with Katharine McPhee (American Idol runner up) in the starring role.

Staging wise it’s like nothing you’ll have seen before. There’re not the effects like Wicked, or Frozen, but in its own way, the Adelphi Theatre is a small venue and that adds to the cosiness of the musical. It’s a little piece of small town USA in the heart of London town (plus the smells of pie resonate throughout the foyer and bar areas).

Musically, it feels right – with lyrics written and performed by Sara Bareilles. It has a country contemporary feel that oozes emotion with each note. Before seeing it in NY, I’d not heard any of the score, but once was enough and it left me wanting more – so much so, upon arriving back in the UK I bought the original cast album and Sara’s album of songs from the musical. And since it’s been a regular playlist in my car.

It did start a little rusty, but within a few numbers, you could feel the production spring to life.

As the lead, Katherine McPhee brings to the role something special. I’d go as far and say that her “She used to be mine” is the best I’ve heard in any musical production.

Marisha Wallace as Becky (a role once taken by Keala Settle – her that now is part of The Greatest Showman), together with Laura Baldwin as Dawn provide the perfect harmony and backing to the main story, and both excel with their own story arcs.

David Hunter as Dr Pomatter plays Jenna’s love interest with brilliant comic timing and voice, as does Jack McBrayer as Ogie for Dawn. His “Never ever getting rid of me” performance ranks as one of my favourite musical theatre moments, plus he’s the voice of Fx It Felix from WreckIt Ralph!

After seeing the NY production I did question whether would this work with UK audiences? The musical style is intrinsically American country – so would audiences in the UK buy into it? Simple answer, yes!

If you’re a fan of Sara Bareilles, the film Waitress, or a beautifully written musical that will send you away with a song in your heart, and the taste of pie in your belly, this is for you.


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Review: Patrick Downes


NB. Katherine McPhee and Laura Baldwin will be ending their runs shortly, with Laura returning after the Summer.

Review Wait Until Dark, New Theatre, Cardiff by Jane Bissett

4 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)

As I made my way to the Theatre on a dark and wet November evening I was unaware of the theatrical experience that is Wait Untill Dark would have on my walk home – in darkness…..

WAIT UNTIL DARK is a cautionary tale set in the mid 1960s. About a young photographer (Sam) who in agreeing to assist a fellow passenger on an aircarft flight from Amsterdam sets in motion a chain of events that will affect his household in a way he could not fore tell nor indeed understand.

Human beings are either able to embrace darkness or have an inate fear of it. There is something about the isolation of being in the dark which enduces our inner fears of the things we cannot see or understand.

This story centres on Susy the newly married wife of Sam. Susy is blind and learning to live her life in darkness following an accident.

As the story unfolds we watch as a small gang of vilains are trying to discover the whereabouts of a missing doll which has been used as a carrier for drugs.

The gang mistakenly believable Susy knows the whereabouts of the doll although is unaware of its value. They set in motion an elaborate plan to retrieve the doll by deception and fear.

Using a tried and tested method of operation the gang gain access to the basement flat and conduct their search with the assistance of Susy who now believes her husband is in danger and if the doll is discovered in his possession he maybe under suspicion of a murder of the woman who originally asked him to take care of the doll.

Despite her blindness Susy soon becomes aware of what is happening as she hears and senses the strange behaviour of the men and is suspicious of their real motives.

With the assistance of her neighbours daughter she sets out to change the power balance to her advantage and to keep herself alive until her husband can get home.

Although set in the 1960s this story could have taken place at any time and in any context and is the stuff that good thrillers are made of.

All the action takes place in a basement flat and the set design was true to the time period in which it was set. A mention must be made of the use of the stair case and we can only commend the cast on their fitness levels as they negotiated the stairs all evening.

Katrina Jones portrayal of Susy was outstanding, a smart woman, in love with her husband and astutely aware of her surroundings. Indeed it was only at the curtain call that it entered my mind that Jones was actually blind.

Shannon Rewcroft gave an amazing performance as Gloria (age 12), so much so that it became believable that she was 12.

The gentlemen of the cast brought the play to life and Tim Treloar’s performance as the gang mastermind ‘Roat’ sent a shiver up the spine.

The whole atmosphere of the play hinged on the set design, lighting and sound and to this end I must commend David Woodhead, Chris Withers and Giles Thomas for bringing to the stage the visual and audio experience that left us all wanting more.

During the final act, as the story reached it climax, the effects on stage not only heightened the scenses of the audience but pulled them further into the action that was taking place in front of their eyes and the tension was almost tangible.

Playwright Frederick Knott’s (1916-2002) legacy to the theatre was believable drama where he set the scene and delivered a thriller that has stood the test of time.

Director Alistair Whatley gave us an evening of sheer pleasure and this amazing cast brought the play to life to create an unforgettable evening of thrilling theatre at its best.

WAIT UNTIL DARK plays at Cardiff’s New Theatre from;

Tuesday 14 – Saturday 18 November at 7.30pm

On Wednesday, Thursday and Saturday there are performances at 2.30pm.

For further details about the show or to book tickets call the Box Office on 02920878889.

Would you like to join us for a creative conversation?

 

Image credit: Barbara Lavelle

Would you like to join us for a creative conversation?
Saturday, 23rd September, Central Cardiff.
We welcome your thoughts & insights, and value your opinions.
You are invited to join us LIVE in Cardiff at 2.30 – 4.30pm GMT
or on FB Live at 14.30 – 16.30 GMT; 09.30 – 11.30 EST; 06.30-08.30 PST. 

Dress Code: Up to you. 
RSVP (Places are limited)   

Purposefully, I deconstructed our activities and found creative listening rose to the top of our raw materials. The critiquing and response to Arts and Culture requires sharp and sensitive listening first and foremost.  

                             

We are thrilled to bring you Wales’ first Hot Tub salon. The topic: Creative Listening. Brought to you by Get The Chance, delivered by Third Act Critics, and presented as part of the Gwanwyn Festival of Creativity for Older People in Wales, funded by Wales Government and the Arts Council of Wales.

Creative Listening follows Advantage of Age’s successful season of hot tub salons in London. A of A received funding from Arts Council of England and were recently featured in The Sunday Times  and is, for all intents and purposes, the launch of Advantages of Age Wales. Thanks to Suzanne Noble from Advantages of Age for her support.

The event is also partnered with NYC-based producer Jonathan Pillot, who will launch the NYC Advantages of Age on Sunday, 17 September. If you’re in NYC, all the details are here Thanks to Jonathan for his support, too.

I took inspiration from his project Listening to America in the run-up to the US Presidential Election. Pillot took a Studs Terkel-esque road trip and produced a series of unscripted interviews with real people in the uneasy weeks running up to the November 2017 election. The election campaign really split opinions in the USA; at the same time BREXIT was splitting opinions in the UK. It left me pondering on the necessity of listening as a critical tool to progressing big ideas and forging change. I endorse promoting big ideas and forging change, and I believe in doing so by starting in a small, slow and steady fashion. I sensed a Listening to Wales project would be a powerful way to reach people here. Creative Listening is a small step in that direction.

Advantages Of Age’s hot tub salons were set up ‘as a platform to curate and host a series of performance salons incorporating an array of creatives united in their refusal to ‘grow old gracefully’ and to challenge the mainstream narrative of age. The events featured an array of creatives celebrating alternative narratives of age through creativity, querying, and rebelliousness.’  Creative Listening echoes those sentiments and explains why we are getting into a hot tub here in Cardiff, Wales.

I do not have a degree in Listening; I am not an expert in the field. But I am a human being — who has lived on this planet for 50+ years. For that reason alone, I believe that I and those others who fall into that broad category, have something to offer a conversation on listening.

To put a finer point on it, I have trained and studied performing arts and worked in the creative industries and the media throughout my life and career. Purposefully, I deconstructed Get The Chance’s activities and found creative listening rose to the top of our raw materials. The critiquing of and responding to Arts and Culture requires sharp and sensitive listening first and foremost.

We will be a gathering of human beings investing a few hours on a Saturday afternoon in September sitting in and around a hot tub exploring what creative listening means. I hope it doesn’t sound too banal. If it does sound banal to you, and you can’t be bothered to actually be there, perhaps you will check it out on the FB Live stream, and join us that way. That would be less of an investment in time and effort, so perhaps you will get something out of it via this alternative option.

I am excited by it. If you are excited by it, too, but cannot make it on the day, you can join us on the FB Live Stream, from anywhere. Hosted by Advantages of Age, the FB Live Stream will enable you to stay dry and still participate. Your contributions will be welcomed and valued, and our social media monitor will be sharing as many of your views as possible.

JOIN THE CREATIVE LISTENING FB PAGE AND WATCH FOR DETAILS ON HOW TO JOIN THE EVENT VIA LIVE STREAMING.

When I conceived of the idea for an event called Creative Listening, I thought I’d made the term up. I had no idea that there were so many different types of ‘listening’ out there, including ‘creative’, which had already been coined. ‘Creative’ I found was only one of a number of nouvelle and trendy labels for this very primitive activity. Other labels such as Deep Listening and Active Listening indicate that what might previously have been considered passive was being re-evaluated and now required energy, (the definition of active is ‘ready to engage in physically energetic pursuits’) and was making a profound impact (the definition of deep is ‘very intense or extreme’).

I was motivated by the amount of relevant material I was finding on this topic, and I knew that there was much to explore. Whilst working on the event, I was further motivated by the realisation that creative listening has a strong relevance to other themes I am inspired by and a synergy with other projects I am working on. If they are fusing together it has to be more than a coincidence. It is more likely because it is meant to be.

A final word about Get The Chance. I’ve really enjoyed and benefitted from being a Third Act Critic and being associated with Get The Chance for a number of years now. When I left my full-time career in the creative industries (for personal reasons) at the turn of the century, I did not realise it would be so difficult to return and especially to return with the status I had worked so hard to achieve. There is something very wonderful about being given a chance. There is something very powerful in a community-based social enterprise that supports you to get a platform to do what you really want to do. That there is a mutual benefit, and that the rewards are reciprocal, is even more rewarding.

Leslie R Herman
Producer
9 September 2017

Spice Time Credits- The day I went from Londoner to Tourist

As some of you may or may not know, Get The Chance Wales has a lovely relationship with Spice Time Credits.

As reviewers we earn our credits from our reviews and they can be used for pretty much anything.

Today is my last day in London for a while as I traipse off to America for a bit. As a self confessed Londoner of 2 1/2 years I thought I’d be a tourist for the day and use my Time Credits.

I previously took my parents to the Tower of London – astounded at the money saved and value of experience we got from this.

Spending Time Credits at the Tower of London by Hannah Goslin

Today I saw parts of London I had never seen- views from the MBNA clipper that floated us down the Thames, going crazy fast when water seemed more open – which was tonnes of fun.

The famous Tower Bridge- looking down at the small ant like people below through the glass floor. Queasy feeling this experience but ever so cool none the less.

As most Londoners know – most things are within walking distance. So I trotted up to The Monument. An almost non recognisable statue in a city of architecture, The Monument is to commemorate the Great Fire of London.  Inside are 311 steps – and boy does it feel it! While I’m hardly fit, even the fittest struggled but it’s well worth it for the beautiful view at the top and the certificate you get at the end for climbing it.

Finally a short distance away is St Paul’s Cathedral. Well recognised and providing cameos in plenty of TV and films, it is a highlight of London. Inside is ornate and rich, the ceilings phenomenal and gold, with beautiful imagery. To reach the very high up whispering gallery in the main dome, it’s another never ending staircase but very much worth it for what you see.

Time Credits have allowed me to experience parts of London I do not think I ever would have chosen to see on my own and felt like a wonderful reward.

Get Started With Time Credits