Tag Archives: West End

Review The King and I, New Theatre Cardiff by Jane Bissett.

 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)

This is the first time I have been to the theatre since lockdown and this was a most wonderful reintroduction. There is nothing that compares to live theatre and this opportunity did not disappoint and I would certainly recommend this musical to everyone.

When composer Richard Rodgers and lyricist-dramatist Oscar Hammerstein teamed up they became the greatest musical partnership of all time. Their influence and innovation to theatre musicals has been celebrated the globe over.

This production of The King and I comes to Cardiff following a critically-acclaimed season at The London Palladium where it was no surprise that it was a sell out!
 

From curtain up the audience was transported and transfixed to another world far from the mundane. For many the bench mark for this elaborate musical is the 1956 film with screen performances of Deborah Kerr (Anna) and Yul Brynner (King Mongkut).

The West End’s Annalene Beechey and Broadway’s Darren Lee did not disappoint with their interpretation and performances that transported us to the Siam of Margaret Landon’s novel Anna and the King of Siam on which the musical is based.

The story follows Anna, a widow, and her son as they travel to Bangkok, where Anna has been assigned as a tutor to the King’s children. Anna soon finds herself having cultural clashes and differences with the King whilst endearing herself to both the children and the king’s many wives.

The Royal children were a delight, completing the illusion of being in a far country at a different time.

There are also the side stories of star crossed lovers and references to slavery. These must be viewed in context but the female narrative cannot be ignored and gives additional depth to the story as a whole.

The stand out actor for me was Caleb Lagayan, who excelled as a truly believable Prince Chulalongkorn. His voice was powerful, captivating and commanded the stage.

From the golden age of musicals, The King and I is one of the greatest, with what many would consider one of the finest scores ever written.

Many in the audience seemed to genuinely find it difficult not to sing along to the familiar songs including Whistle a Happy Tune and Shall We Dance.
 
Tony Award-winning director Bartlett Sher and his internationally renowned creative team created the atmosphere of old Siam. The wonderful full-scale orchestra led by Christoper Munday, must be given credit for keeping us spell bound all evening, even before the curtain rose.

A truly memorable evening I would recommend to everyone.

Review: Theatre Diner Café, London 23.10.22 by Patrick Downes

The idea behind this brand-new diner in the middle of London’s Theatreland has its origins in the heart of New York’s theatreland. Based on Ellen’s Stardust Diner, theatre goers can now be fed and entertained just a stone’s throw from the beating heart of the West End.

For those who may fear the idea of being serenaded, I can dispel that fear straight away. You can be involved or want your own space as much as you’d like. Either way, you’ll feel comfortable here.

Food is standard American diner fayre, burgers, hot dogs, potato skins, onion rings – all with a musical theatre named slant (Show me the meaning of being loaded my personal favourite – potato skins with cheese and chive and bacon bits). Honestly didn’t think the food would be that great – quite surprised – full of flavour and cooked well. Okay, so you weren’t expecting a full dining review here I know, but what makes this diner special and worth the price you pay for food, is the entertainment.

Like Ellen’s Stardust Diner in NY, your server’s will at some point pick up the microphone and start belting out a West End anthem. Whilst we were there, we had two numbers from Six, Les Mis and You’ll be back from Hamilton.

This is where this diner becomes something special. Yes, you can have food at any of the other establishments along Shaftesbury Avenue, but I’m hazarding a guess the staff there aren’t as fun – or friendly, or talented too!

It’s possible on a sitting eating a Aaron Bur-ger, you could be witnessing some nugget of West End talent before their big break happens. This is one of the reason this diner exists. Not everyone can be working in musical theatre, and who knows that one lucky break could be a portion of fries away.

We do have footage of our time in the Diner with some of the talented people we witnessed, and I’m sure we’ll share this eventually. But for now, you’re only chance is if you book a table (walk ins not guaranteed), and as the song from Hamiliton goes, you’ll be Back!

Review: @ImPatrickDownes

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

 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!

✶ ✶ ✶ ✶ ✶

Review by Patrick
Downes

Review The Nether, Duke of York by Hannah Goslin

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Critically acclaimed, The Nether was a show I was very eager to watch. I did not immediately decide to find the story line out, as I feel this somewhat limits the surprise at times. However, seeing advertising media about this production, it was safe to assume that it was a futuristic or technological based world from the sci-fi aesthetic.
The story is about a progression that could be argued as possible in our own future, where the internet or ‘The Nether’ is predominant. Virtual reality is very much a common realistic event. Here we see a detective, investigating the known ‘Papa’ who has created a world unlike before; with the ability to trigger the senses and make it all seem very real. The gruesome part of this is that this world lets users undertake paedophilic fantasies and yet, still be able to feel the act itself.
The set was phenomenal – a large screen took the background where video images, sound recording and so on was mixed in a collage. This rose after a computer graphic-ed outline of the virtual reality world was formed and then appeared on stage in a higher imbedded area. Papa had made this world-old fashioned – Victorian styled yet there was always a sense of this being a different world and technology fuelled.
The narrative itself is a hard one to sit through. Yet, the theatricality of it is fantastic, giving a sense of fear and uneasiness with its’ content and how likely this future could be. The actors are all brilliant. Their skills and dominance of the stage is overwhelming and also admiring to their ability to take on such a story. There was the ability to be emotional and to hit us with this, but also naturalism; the characters could have been as real as the person walking by you in the street, which, for a production about virtual reality and a future world, it would seem strange to be so natural in.
Overall, I enjoyed this taboo busting production. In the middle of a section of theatre land where you would expect to see mostly musicals and popular plays, something that really contrasts to this is a breath of fresh air. You come away in awe but also with a sense that you should not have enjoyed it due to the content, but you cannot help but admire the guts to put on such a hard hitting production. And surely, this is an area of theatre that should be more prominent in the West End.